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Escape to Alcatraz

Escape to Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island is one of San Francisco’s most-visited historic tourist attractions, best known for the federal prison that operated there from 1934 to 1963. Today, Alcatraz visitors can tour the cells that once housed some of the world’s most infamous criminals, including Al "Scarface" Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly.

 

Tours of this scenic San Francisco landmark take visitors from its earliest European visitors through its stint as the oldest, still-operating lighthouse on the West Coast, touching on its roles as a harbor defense fort and a Civil War military prison. Alcatraz also served as an important touchstone for American Indian rights when a group of Native Americans from San Francisco occupied the island for more than 19 months from 1969-1971. While learning of its rich history, visitors can also see rare flowers and plants, nesting seagulls, marine wildlife, and sea birds - along with fantastic views of the San Francisco Bay and skyline.

 

Most visitors come because of the prison days, wandering through the cell blocks to see the cells of the most infamous inmates, while listening to some of their voices on the highly-recommended audio tours.

 

The National Park Service operates Alcatraz Island as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. 

How to Get to Alcatraz Island

The prison’s ominous presence is offset by its location in the beautiful San Francisco Bay.

 

To reach Alcatraz Island, you have to take a boat. While many local bay cruises and tours include Alcatraz in their tour descriptions, most will only cruise by, letting you see it from a distance. If you actually want to visit the island itself, Alcatraz Cruises is the company you're looking for. Visit their website for information about ferry schedules and ticket prices.

 

It will take about half a day to visit Alcatraz, counting the ferry ride and time to explore. As the boats serve limited concessions and no food is sold on the island, it's wise to take some water and snacks along. 

 

Tickets often sell out in advance, so it's best to reserve ahead of time through the Alcatraz Cruises website, especially in summer and during school holidays. Tickets are available up to 90 days in advance. Tours are offered during the day, and their night tours are especially interesting, as you also see the city skyline when it's lighted up.

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