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  • Writer's pictureJenna

The Alcatraz Experience

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

Alcatraz prison sure was eerie, but it was something that anyone visiting San Francisco should experience. Find out about the history of Alcatraz as well as about the tour they offer below!

Happy week before Christmas :D Vince and I are having our own little party this weekend for the two of us. We also have been quarantining the past few weeks so that we can see my parents next week. I am so excited to see them and hopefully have a normal Christmas during these crazy times!! A couple years back while I was in San Francisco we had the opportunity to visit Alcatraz, a former high security prison. Here is a little bit about the eerie experience we encountered :)

Alcatraz Island stands out in San Francisco, not only because it is such a big piece of land out in the water, but also because of the spooky history of the prison that sits on it. The prison opened its doors (prison gates?.. dumb joke, I know..), in 1934 and closed in 1963. Although only open for 29 years there were very dangerous people that were imprisoned here and at the time, was known as the toughest prison in the US. Another interesting fact about the island is that there were many people that tried to escape, but being out in the choppy Bay water, it was really difficult (check out all of the escape attempts here!). There is only a group of two men that are believed to have survived escaping. Lastly, notable inmates that were imprisoned at Alcatraz included Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and Alvin Karpis. This wasn't a place you wanted to be; as an inmate, a security guard, or a warden.

Fast forward to 1973, just ten years later after closing, the island and prison was opened up to the public for viewing. 50,000 people came to the island in the first year! The tours are still happening to this day, and is still a very popular thing to do when you are visiting San Francisco. Be warned! You should plan ahead and get your tickets early because they do sell out quick! The price of admission is $39.90 and you can find out everything else you need to know about admission here! Also, they offer two types of tours, day and night. We did the day tour, but I am sure the night tour is more scary!

Since the prison is out on an island, you have to take a boat to get there. This honestly was a really fun part of the day, because I got to look back on the city of San Francisco and also see the Golden Gate Bridge from a different perspective as well! Enjoy the open air and calmness, because it is a totally different atmosphere when you get to the island/prison!

Once you arrive on the island, you get to roam as you want. There are many different parts of the island you can see, and take your time and see as much as you want, there is no time limit on how long you are there (besides not missing the last boat at the end of the night!). There is an exhibit about how the Native American's occupied the land for almost two years before it became a prison, and shows how they left their mark on the island. There are also many scenic points on the island you can take in the views of San Francisco. And of course, you get to go through the whole prison itself.

My favorite part about the tour is that you are given headphones at the beginning of your tour (may be different now with COVID), and you get a audio tour of the prison. And you know who gives you that tour? FORMER INMATES! They tell stories of their time in Alcatraz and you get to hear sound effects like you are actually living there. It adds to the spooky factor, and I definitely feel like this was a great touch to really get the full experience of what the prison was like. Walking through the prison was something so unique too. We were able to see how small the cells really were, we got to take a walk through D-Block (which is where the worst criminals were put in confinement), and walked through the area where the community showers were.

Even with all the “eerieness” and “spookiness”, I had so much going to Alcatraz. I learned so much throughout the tour, and honestly could not believe people lived on that island (or even worked at the prison!) If you go, try to really put yourself in the prisoners or guards shoes while you are there. It really does make the experience even better. When I go back to San Francisco someday, I would love to try out the night tour as well. If I can get past being scared, ha! It is an experience like no other and I highly recommend it to anyone who is visiting San Francisco! 

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