Monday, September 24, 2012

San Francisco - a Visit to Alcatraz

Its hard to believe that we have already been home from our amazing trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley for over a week!  We had a such an amazing time and I have so much to share with everyone.  To begin, I figured I would cover a major San Francisco attraction: Alcatraz Island.  On my first visit to San Francisco, I chose to skip this stop, but after taking a ferry by the island, I realized that I should have made the trip.  However, you have to book your tickets ahead of time because they sell out quickly, sometimes weeks in advance.  Knowing this and not wanting to miss out, I bought out tickets two months before our trip!

It was a beautiful day for our expedition to the Island.  After a short ferry ride, we arrived and gathered around a park ranger who told us a little bit about what to expect and where things were, and then we were off to explore.  We first checked out a video that gave a great overview of the history of Alcatraz Island and then caught up with another park ranger giving a a more in-depth tour, so we decided to follow him and were so happy we did!  These park ranger tours take you into places of the Island you otherwise could not go.  The rangers have such a love for Alcatraz and enjoy sharing their knowledge.  Following the tour we headed up to the cell block where we did the guided audio tour.  Normally I avoid these, but here it is a must.  The tour is narrated/directed by Correctional Officers and prisoners from when Alcatraz was a Federal Prison and gives such a unique, in-depth view of life on the Island.  We ended up spending about three hours on the Island and it was such a fantastic, touristy thing to do!  Needless to say, I got plenty of photos - get ready!

View from the ferry: Coit Tower and the Trans America Building
Arriving at the Island

In the 1970's a group of Native Americans occupied Alcatraz in an effort to have more lands recognized in the states
Where the Officers and their Families lived
We Made It! 
Cheap concrete and iron does not hold up in the harsh, salty conditions of the Bay
The gate we got to go behind
Various foundations from the civil war era as a base, to today
Tunnel to bring the gun powder from one side of the Island to the other
In the tunnel...
Looking up to the cell block
Views out towards Angel Island
Cell Block Entrance
Nick learning...
An example of a typical prison cell...
The Hole - AKA solitary confinement
In jail...
In front of the administration building - so close (1.5 miles) to the shore that inmates could hear people in the city!
Fog rolling in and hiding the Golden Gate Bridge (plenty of photos of that in another post...)
The City
Such a cool view... 
In the 1960's three men actually attempted an escape from Alcatraz.  Initial reports indicated this could not happen and they must have died in the water, but the Government recently admitted that evidence was found suggesting these men actually made it in their make-shift raft and life vests (pieces of the life vests were found on Angel Island), and that a car was reported stolen in a nearby suburb the night of the escape.  The brains of the operation, who actually did not attempt to leave the island, was working on fixing the roof and had access to many different areas of the prison and materials to make the escape a reality.  The park ranger said that the families of the escapees gathered to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the escape and that Federal Marshalls were on hand, just in case any of the three prisoners brazenly came with them!  Of course, Whitey Bulger wrote a note to the families members after he was caught saying he know the truth.  Isn't Whitey always involved!?

A diagram of the escape
Holes carved out around the radiator with spoons.  They used cardboard, painted in the correct colors and grid pattern to cover the hole
More Views...

The Rec Yard
At the rec yard
Needless to say, we had an amazing time exploring Alcatraz and learned so much!  I would highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in San Francisco.  One tip we learned (while in Dubai of all places) was to get on an early boat because the Island gets crowded quickly.

There will be plenty more posts coming.  This is just to get your feet wet!


  1. Gorgeous photos! Alcatraz is so cool/interesting/creepy!

  2. I had so much fun exploring Alcatraz. Interestingly enough, I made a spontaneous decision to tour it and got tickets easily that very morning!!

  3. I would also love to visit Alcatraz one day! Thanks for sharing your pics and adventures. And yes, great tip to get on an early boat!

  4. I can't wait to see more of your San Fran recaps - it's just getting me more excited for when we go next summer!

  5. I've been on a couple of very quick trips to SF but haven't made it to Alcatraz. Definitely will have to next time!

  6. So cool! Definitely on my list of places to check out.

  7. I went to Alcatraz about 7 years ago. It was nowhere near as clear and beautiful out as in your photos. The water looks so pretty!

  8. So neat! As much as I've been to SF, I've always been too lazy to make this visit. Probably should make it happen next time I go to see my brother :)


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