For a long time, I actually had no intention of seeing Alcatraz during my visit to San Francisco. My reasoning being that it was a prison, and I never wanted to enter a prison no matter the reason. Well, as time drew closer, and friends who’d actually visited the place praised the experience highly, my opinion started to sway. I ended up going on the very first tour of the day, on my last day in San Francisco.
The trip from Pier 33 takes about 15 minutes, and was very calm and enjoyable on this particular day. Alcatraz quickly came closer, while we were also treated to beautiful views of the city.
They could hardly have made the place look any creepier had they tried, in my opinion..
..but it also had a sort of ominous beauty in certain places.
Once you get there you’ll walk from the docks up to the main prison, and there you will get an audio guide which will show you around. I was very surprised at how well this was done – the voices are from former officers AND inmates, complete with sound effects and everything.
Really made the place come to life.
The tour started in the main building where you would be told to ‘walk over there or there, look into that cell – listen to this’. So many interesting facts and stories.
I ran into a guy who was also staying in my hostel, and we ended up keeping each other company for the entire trip.
We got the chance to see ‘The Slammer’ being demonstrated – the mechanism that could open and close all of the doors in one row at once. Smart system – incredible sound, and apparently one that has been used extensively in movies.
Done with the main building, we walked past the office and break room of the guards, and outside.
This ruin used to be the house of the Chief (whatever his title was) and his family. They had a garden, and one of the more peaceful inmates would help with housekeeping.
After the tour, we went to the Dining Hall where one of the guides was talking about Al Capone and Robert ‘The Birdman’ Stroud and their time at the prison. Very interesting and entertaining. We were there for about 3 hours, before we finally went back to the mainland, filled up with impressions.
All in all, I was so happy that I made the decision to go out there. Incredible experience – and not a bad move to go on the first tour of the day, as you got some time without the massive crowds that would arrive later in the day. Have you been to Alcatraz? What was your experience of the place? Please do tell in the comments below.