Away from the city of San Francisco lies an island that was once a place of darkness and gloom - Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary - for notorious crime offenders. This maximum high-security prison held inmates from 1933 to 1963, before becoming a tourist attraction. In 1973, the national park opened the attraction to the public for the first time and it has attracted a constant flow of tourists since then.
Arriving at the Alcatraz on the ferry
The Alcatraz is a very popular attraction in the city of San Francisco, so tickets can get snapped up very quickly. To get to Alcatraz island, you have to take a ferry across the water. If Alcatraz is an attraction that you do not wish to miss, you are strongly encouraged to purchase your tickets online. You can do so 90 days before your visit date. Once purchased, the e-tickets will be emailed to you and you can print it out for boarding, which save you time in collecting or buying the tickets in queue.
Across the Alcatraz is the modern city of San Francisco
Boarding is at Pier 33 of the Fisherman Wharf at San Francisco city so you can enjoy a ferry ride while admiring the skyline of the city. Alcatraz island is just situated across the modern city. If you want a seat, it is best to queue early. You can board 30 minutes before the departure time. In the queue line to board the cruise, the staff will also take pictures of visitors standing against a board with the Alcatraz as the background picture. Interested visitors can purchase their pictures upon return from the Alcatraz tour. However, do note that the photograph is taken against a picture board of Alcatraz. It is not the actual Alcatraz as the background.
Catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge on the cruise to Alcatraz
Located 2.4km away from mainland San Francisco, the 2-storey ferry will take you to the Alcatraz island in less than 10 minutes. During this short journey, you will be able to enjoy the view of the Golden Gate Bridge The 1st level of the ferry is enclosed while the 2nd level is open-air. If you have motion-sickness, you may wish to consider heading up to the 2nd level for the fresh air.
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Gentle slopes make it easy for walking
Upon arrival on the island of Alcatraz, the staff will welcome all visitors with a short introduction of the island. After the 5-minutes introduction, you may head to the Alcatraz. The gently but long slope heading up may be challenging for those who have mobility difficulties. If so, you can contact the staff and they will arrange for the SEAT –Sustainable Easy Access Transport – an electric shuttle to bring you up. This is a popular option for many senior visitors who are interested in visiting the Alcatraz. These slopes are also wheelchair-friendly.
Experience the life of prisoners in Alcatraz through the audio guide
You will be able to collect your audio set, which is part of the ticket, at the entrance whereby the staff will set the audio guide according to the language of your choice. This audio guide will lead you through the various stations of the Alcatraz. Listen carefully for information at each area or each prison cell to hear about the life of the prisoners in the cell as well as the great escape at the Alcatraz where 3 prisoners slipped out of the cell. Till date, no one know if they did escaped successfully or if they drowned in the water as none of them were ever found.
Explore the space hidden away from the city
The backyard is deemed as the best place for the prisoners in Alcatraz. The open space allowed them to enjoy the fresh air and the sun. It was mentioned that prisoners who were punished for offences in the prison such as fighting with another inmate, are denied an opportunity from going to the backyard for a short period of time. Again, the audio guide will present you with good information around the prison so listen carefully to the information.
Visualize yourself in the darkest moments of the prisoners
The Alcatraz island visit offers you a rare opportunity to experience the darkest moments of the prisoners. Situated across the modern city of San Francisco, the Alcatraz remains standing despite more than 80 years and you are highly recommended to take a tour here when you are in San Francisco.
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