Sunday, February 3, 2013

Alcatraz Island - San Francisco, California

In October of 2012 we decided to travel to California.  This is not a big surprise to those who know us or have been following this blog ;-)  Instead of spending our entire vacation in the greater Los Angeles area - we decided to start our vacation further North.  That way we could check out the many great sites San Francisco has to offer and even visit a redwood forest!!!!!

This blog post is about our adventure on Alcatraz Island.  I'm not going to show you everything so there are some surprises when you visit.  But there are some things that I think might be helpful to know.  Keep in mind, things change!!!  This visit was much different than the one I took about 12 or so years ago.  This blog post was based on my experience in October 2012.

There is only one "business" that will get you to the island for a tour (others will boat around it but not actually drop you off at the island).    

The gate to the San Francisco side of the tour
 (where you get on the boat to get to the island and where you return to). 

One thing was the same as I experienced in the past - it is nearly impossible to just walk up to the ticket booth and purchase tickets for that day.  They are always sold out of tickets at least one day out!!!  I always order our tickets online in advance and just hope for good weather.  Oh - and always bring a sweatshirt or something for the chilly air!

The boat (you can sit inside or outside).

Snacks and beverages to eat while you are in line waiting to board the boat.
Food and beverages are not allowed on the island so take advantage of your time in line and on the boat.

Tickets:  We were told to arrive at least 30 minutes before our departure time.
When we did this we were offered an opportunity to get on the earlier boat that was getting ready to board.
We took advantage of that offer.  

Map of the island.

There's always fog in San Francisco so be prepared to possibly not get a good picture of
things like the golden gate bridge.  In this case, even the later boat trips to Alcatraz were fog covered.

Snack and drink opportunities on the boat.

We can finally get a good picture of the island!
Due to fog we couldn't see it well until we were close to it.

When you get off the boat you are greeted by a park ranger  (the island is a national park).
There you will see maps/guides to purchase for only $1.
They come in many languages so make sure you buy the right one!!

There is an interesting video you can watch as part of your tour that
explains this and more about the history of Alcatraz.

Be prepared to walk up some steep hills to get to the prison!!

The "play yard" of the prison.

Sample cell.

Yes - there are some cells you can walk into.
Notice the headset - you can take a guided tour (highly recommend) that
is included in the price you paid.

Another area where you can buy an interesting brochure
on the history of the island for only $1.
There is a great gift shop on the island!  And since it is a national park you can get your park passport stamped!

The price of your admission/cruise also includes many walking tours given by park employees.  A variety of tours are offered through the day.  The one that started right after our arrival to the island was of the islands gardens.  There are many unique plants on the island that were brought there to make the "non-prison" areas beautiful.  

Before you get on the boat to Alcatraz they take your picture.
These pictures are ready for you to purchase (optional) when you return back to the main land.
I think they were 2 - 5X7 photos for $18.
Since we don't often get a picture with the entire family we decided to buy ours.
See more of our San Francisco vacation.

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