When our group decided to purchase tickets to visit Alcatraz, I had decided early on that I didn’t want to go. I’m not sure why, because looking back, I’m so glad I changed my mind. For those of you contemplating a visit, know that that tickets must be purchased months in advance. Yes, months. As it turns out, Alcatraz , once home to America’s most notorious prisoners is a popular tourist destination.
The day of our tour was overcast and grey, and reflected the nature of what we were to see. Taking the ferry over to the island was easy, only 2.4 km from San Francisco, and once on Alcatraz Island, we were each handed headphones to aid us in our individual audio tours. I was impressed the tour was available in ten languages!
The prison on Alcatraz Island has quite the collection of stories from its time as a federal prison from 1933 to 1963. As I walked through the prison on my own tour, I looked around and wondered what it would have been like to be a prisoner within those walls, all those years ago.
As I made my way out to the recreation yard, I could see San Francisco in the distance. How did it feel to be confined to this place, with freedom just over there, on the other side of San Francisco Bay? I bet the view was a daily tease and bitter reminder of the freedom once had.
The June 1962 Alcatraz escape was probably one of the most famous, when three inmates left the island on an inflatable raft. Eerily, the FBI have been unable even to this day to confirm whether or not the men successfully escaped or died trying. The 1979 movie Escape to Alcatraz dramatizes this story, and a couple of weeks following my visit I tuned in to the movie, as it just happened to be playing one night on the television. It was that much more interesting, as I was brought back to the day of my visit.
Think you might want to visit? Tickets can be purchased here and I would recommend going in September, when San Francisco’s weather is usually at its best. Answers to some frequently asked questions on Alcatraz can also be found here.