San Francisco Day Tripping – Essential Tips For Visiting Alcatraz Island

October 23, 2015 | By More
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Don’t Miss San Francico’s Most Popular Day Trip, Legendary Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island San Francicso

Surrounded by a sea of emotions, Alcatraz Island will have you experiencing the feeling of liberty as well as fearing the isolation of captivity in a single day trip. Both these terms are quite contrary to each other, yet both are omnipresent on a visit to Alcatraz.  A unique day trip experience to be sure.

Majority of the people who are planning a trip to San Francisco know that Alcatraz Island is located in San Francisco Bay, about one and a half miles offshore from the city center. On this rocky offshore island, America’s first high security federal prison was built.  Alcatraz operated from 1934 to 1963 and was known for housing infamous inmates and was considered escape proof (though it has many stories of escape attempts). Today Alcatraz Island is a famous national park with ruins of the prison, natural features like rock pools and a seabird colony.

Allow me to get you acquainted with the things you need to know before your visit which will help you tremendously, once you are there.

Access to the Island

The sole access to Alcatraz island is through comfortable ferry rides organized by a private ferry company-Alcatraz Cruises. The ferry service starts from Pier 33, near Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco. Ferries leave for the island at half-hour intervals.

The most important thing you must keep in mind is that the tickets to the island need to be booked 2-3 weeks in advance to avoid disappointment of sold-out tickets during the peak summer season.

People prefer coming early to board the ferry in order to get the seat of their choice. But, I advise you not to be bothered about this as people also prefer standing along the railings to get a better view of the surroundings once the cruise gets underway. They generally leave their seats to stand at the railings. So seats will be left vacant. Wait!! Do you really want to sit when there are breathtaking views and the beautiful San Francisco skyline ahead of you?

For Alcatraz Tours last minute ticket, you need to line up early in the morning and this generally works during the off seasons – I would not rely on this plan during high season. You can also keep an eye on the cancelled tickets which were booked in advance and wait for your lucky stars to show a miracle. Another strategy is to go for a combo ticket.   Some companies sell tickets for combination guided tours, which include a tour of the island as well Alcatraz prison.

Major Attractions

Enjoy the scenic beauty while on the roundtrip ferry. The Golden Gate Bridge adds to the aesthetic value of the amazing views.

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

The visit to Alcatraz Prison itself is really dramatic as you get to witness the insides of the old prison. The visit to the prison includes a 45 minute audio tape tour. While you move through the cell blocks, you will listen to the real life incidents narrated by the security guards and the prison inmates, describing their prison life. It also shares some horrible accounts of the escape attempts, but it is believed that nobody succeeded in coming out alive. This audio tour leaves everyone spellbound.

Alcatraz Prison San Francisco

Recalling my own memories, this visit made me think about the life of the prisoners in this high security bondage and the cruelty of the law system of that era. After visiting the prison, which left me pondering over the sentiments of bondage, I was free to walk and explore the island all by myself. Notice the irony!! Nowhere in the world have I experienced such a combination of emotions.

Alcatraz Island is the most popular tourist destinations in San Francisco where visitors can enjoy a full day of sightseeing that includes the natural beauty of the sea and the island. One can seriously not afford to miss visiting this wonderful experience in San Francisco.

Alcatraz Souvenirs

If you too love collecting souvenirs of places you visit like I do, I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.  There are some souvenirs at the bookstore and a plenty of them in the gift shop (up the hill) once you move out of the prison. These include mugs, posters, t-shirts, hats and even replicas of prison keys, prison clothing and stuff of the sort. You can collect whatever fascinates you. Your mind will definitely be left boggled about what to pick and what to leave.

General Advice

  • The weather on the island is highly unpredictable. Even if the day starts off sunny, it may rain at anytime. So it is advisable to keep jackets, hats and perhaps an umbrella in your carry-all. Dressing in layers would be a smart choice.
  • Avoid wearing high heels, sandals and uncomfortable footwear as there may be potholes along the way. Wear sneakers so you can walk around the island and on uneven surfaces for the whole day without any discomfort.
  • There is no arrangement of food on the island except for water. Ferries do have a snack bar. You may carry your own snacks, so my suggestion is to packing a few in your backpack or purse.
  • Skateboards and bikes are not allowed on the island. You have to walk around yourself to explore the island.
  • Do not bring suitcases or any kind of heavy luggage as they are not allowed on the island and you will have to leave them behind before you board a ferry.

Wishing you a wonderful and a remarkable trip to San Francisco and to Alcatraz Island !!

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Category: California Travel Tips, Featured, San Francisco Tips, Trip Reports

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