I have lived in San Francisco all my life and had never been to Alcatraz. My friends from college came to visit me last weekend and the one thing they wanted to do was visit “The Rock” and I was more than happy to explore the island with them for the first time.
If you go to Alcatraz, go early. We bought tickets for the 10:30 am ferry to the island a week in advance, which I also recommend doing because tickets can sell out fast especially on the weekend. It was less crowded in the morning so I could take pictures on the ride over without crowds in the way and when you are walking around the island itself you won’t be marching around in a big group but can roam freely.
You are free to do as you please on the island. You don’t have to walk around in a tour. My friends briefly looked at the museum at the base of the island and walked up the hills to the prison cells. Here you can get an audio guide that is included in the price of your ticket. This was my favorite part of the experience because former inmates themselves spoke on the audio about their time on the island and infamous events were replayed as you walked in the spots where they all happened.
Obviously, the cells are dark, cold, and depressing. The day I visited Alcatraz was an exceptionally sunny and beautiful day that was even more apparent when you stepped outside after you had been walking into and around prison cells. I can’t imagine what the cells must be like on a darker day and after spending just a couple minutes in one cell my self, I can’t image what it must feel like to spend even one night in a cell.
I got to see a view of San Francisco I had never seen before. At the top of the hill, behind the prison cells, is a lookout point of the city that was gorgeous. With the Bay Bridge to my left and the Golden Gate to my right, I loved seeing the perfect rows of hills smack dab in the middle. It was the most perfect view of the city.
It’s a common thing to live in a city your entire life and not once experience it’s main attraction. I’m glad I took the time to finally visit Alcatraz. If you long to travel somewhere far away, remember that there might be something out your front door that is just as worthy of exploring.