With the start of the new primetime show Alcatraz, which I watched for the first time tonight on Citytv.com, I started thinking back to my trip to The Rock last December, and how I never posted any pictures from Alcatraz on here. Visiting San Francisco last year, I knew that the one “must-see” for me was Alcatraz. Even though countless locals had told me to skip The Rock, as it was too touristy to be worth the ticket price, I knew I desperately wanted to go.
We booked our tickets in advance, through the Alcatraz Cruises website, since we had heard that tickets sell out quickly, especially on weekends. Tours run from 9:10am to 1:55pm, and then there are night tours which begin at 4:20pm on some nights. A night tour would definitely be a fun (and eerie) option, and if I’m ever lucky enough to be back in San Francisco one day, I will be sure to book one. We ended up going on the morning tour though, at 9:10am, figuring it would be less crowded when exploring the island.
Ever since watching the Shawshank Redemption as a kid, I have had a fascination with prison movies - for me, listening to the audio tours at Alcatraz was a treat. So many stories lie behind the bars at Alcatraz, and the history of the island and those who lived on it (other than the prisoners) was so interesting to listen to. The children of the guards and prison staff actually lived on the island, and took the boat across the water to go to school each morning. Can you imagine what that must have been like?
I found our trip to Alcatraz to be eerily wonderful, and it was definitely a high-light of my time in San Francisco. It was a rainy, dreary day, and a thick blanket of fog covered the city. I remember being astonished at the beautiful vegetation that covered the island now, especially the wonderful succulents hugging the rocky cliffs.
Here are some helpful tips for visiting The Rock:
- We stayed on the island for about 2 hours. Coupled with getting on the boat and waiting times, the whole excursion took us about 3 hours. If you’re super interested in the island, you can stay as long as you’d like, with the last departure being 4:25pm.
- If you’re looking for a fun “experience” while at The Rock, ask to be locked up in D Block, in one of the solitary confinement cells. The “guard” will lock you (and fellow brave tourists) in “the hole” in complete darkness. Seriously, I thought this would be fun. Unfortunately, after we were left in there a leeeetle too long, I started to get nervous! I guess it makes the experience feel more authentic?? Think twice about doing this if you’re a chicken like me :)
- Bring some food and drinks with you, which you can eat on the dock. Food is prohibited on the grounds of Alcatraz, but after a morning of exploring, we were glad to have packed some granola and bottled water.
- It’s slippery! If you’re there on a damp day like we were (and let’s face it, San Francisco commonly has these wet weather days), make sure to watch your footing. The pathways are a bit rugged and kind of slick, so wearing good walking shoes with some grip on the bottoms is a good idea.
- Bring photo ID when picking up your tickets (it’s required), and leave the bulky backpacks or luggage at home (they’re prohibited).
- Do listen to a walking tour. It was so interesting to hear, through their own words, the stories of some of the individuals who lived and worked at Alcatraz. It’s guided in a way that makes the crowds spread out and creates a steady, even-paced flow of people, so you never feel like you’re in the way of others, or that you can’t see something.
Anybody watching Alcatraz the tv series? I’m not sure what to think about it yet… Seems a bit far-fetched for my liking, but it’s definitely cool to see the scenic shots of San Francisco and Alcatraz.