Alcatraz is, without any doubt, the most famous prison in the world. The fact that it is isolated on an island, of maximum security and with plenty of stories and questions, makes it so much more interesting, and definitely a curiosity for endless crowds that come daily, like us, to see with their own eyes what it's all about.
Now, let me begin by saying that if you want to visit Alcatraz, plan accordingly and book in advance. Tours get booked and sold out fast and so you don't want to ruin your adventure just by not being able to get there. We booked our tickets about two months prior to the actual trip so I'm not exactly sure how far in advance you'd have to do it. Just as soon as you settle your heart on going to San Francisco/Alcatraz start checking. We used this website and it advises that tickets sell out weeks in advance.
We were blessed with perfect weather and so we could clearly see it as we were approaching the island. I must say I was surprised, in a pleasant way.
To be honest, I never really cared about Alcatraz before and it definitely wasn't on my bucket list, but it was on hubby's and that's what you do - you compromise to make one another happy.
I can't say I changed my opinion about the actual prison, but the island itself is breathtaking.
As soon as we got off the boat, I could not help but notice the nice architectural touches all over the island, and if you follow me, you know I have a thing for that. So I was intrigued.
We wanted to explore the island on our own so we didn't wait for a tour guide or any information really, and went on our way. We spent two hours there - that's how long it took us to see it all, but you can spend as much time as you want, but you must leave with the last ferry (check for those since they are subject to change), unless you're taking the night tour (brave!).
As I mentioned before, the architecture on the island is quite beautiful, but truth be told, much of it is ruins now, which, made it so much more attractive for me.
The first ruin we saw was what's left of the Officer's club, where they used to have their "social gatherings" - it must've been pretty nice, judging by the views and the building itself.
What surprised me the most here was the vegetation and landscape, with an abundance of colorful flowers and even trees, that you run into at your every turn.
The first building we entered led us to this room that I found to be very creepy and ghostly cold. The paint peeling, the dirty, mossy walls did not make it any nicer, however, we allowed ourselves a few minutes to see what it was about.
We still haven't figured out what this area was, maybe a kitchen of sorts? We made our way out after a few minutes - there was so much more to see.
Once out of there, we found what used to be a chapel, later transformed into bachelors' quarters. It had a friendlier atmosphere and so we had a short, impromptu photo shoot - I couldn't help it, you know I have a thing for white walls.
Once we saw all the areas leading to the cells, we headed inside.
We received the audio tour kits and went exploring. By the way, do make sure you get an audio tour kit - it's not your usual boring guide - people who worked, lived or were prisoners on the island tell you the stories themselves. For someone completely uninterested in any of these things, I found it to be very interesting.
This is where it all began for prisoners arriving at this facility - they would leave their belongings here, and get their necessities instead, before being locked into their cells.
I'm sure everyone is familiar with the story of inmates escaping from Alcatraz. I am not sure who is who, but these are how the cells of the two of them looked, when discovered. Impressive, right?
As much as I found the cell-house interesting, I enjoyed the outdoors more.
We found the second ruin, overlooking the San Francisco Bay. This is what's left of the Wardens House
Behind the cell-house is a gorgeous garden (The Gardens of Alcatraz), with 180 degrees-views of San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge.
The garden leads to the Recreation Yard, on top of those stairs, that once again, offer amazing views of Golden Gate Bridge (not visible from the actual recreation yard).
As I stated at the beginning of this post, Alcatraz has surprised me in a nice way, exceeding my expectations - I did not do any research prior to going there, I have heard the stories/saw "The Escape From Alcatraz" movie, but I had no idea of how the actual island was, and, once I visited it, I recommend you do to, if you ever have the chance - after all it is part of our history and, who knows, maybe one day the mysteries surrounding it, will be solved.
If you want to find out more about Alcatraz, there is a myriad of information about it out there, but I enjoyed reading the facts on this page. Just don't read too much about the actual place - you want to let yourself be surprised just like I was.
Have you been to Alcatraz? Or do you plan on going there?
I hope you enjoyed this post - I'd love to hear your opinion about it in the comments.
Thanks for reading and take care!
from the Author
Through travel one gets to know the outer world as well as the world within.