Alcatraz at Night
Although I have been to San Francisco several times, I never took the time to see Alcatraz. Honestly, I thought it was one of those “touristy” things I really didn’t need to do. But now I am so glad I finally did it!
We decided to take the tour and asked our concierge at the hotel about making reservations. He was the one who told us to take the last evening ferry cruise to Alcatraz and it made all the difference in the experience. The Night Tours of Alcatraz are about 3 hours long. There are also additional activities that they don’t do during the day tours. The tickets are a few dollars more, but it’s worth it for so many reasons.
By going on the last ferry ride over, it is just before sunset. You can catch some great views and pictures on the bay. The first perk to the night tour is that this ferry goes all the way around Alcatraz before they dock at the Rock. The daytime ferries do not do this.
After you dock, they have guides that take groups up the hill and stop along the way to share history and truly interesting facts about life on Alcatraz. They take you up to the prison where you line up for the audio tour.
Now, necessity helped me discover a really good tip - when we arrived at the top, I had to use the restroom before we started the tour. The guide pointed up the hill further to the restrooms. When we got up there, we were so lucky to see San Francisco and the Golden Gate bridge at sunset! If we had gone straight inside for the tour, we still wouldn’t have been in that area of the prison grounds until well after sunset and would have missed out on this picture perfect scene! (So, I recommend asking for the restroom before you enter the tour!).
After you complete the audio tour of the prison and the grounds, the night tour offers about 3 or 4 different activities to attend, or you can talk to people who work there that were former guards or prisoners and even explore on your own for awhile. We watched the demonstration of the opening and closing of the prison doors and I highly recommend it. It’s amazing to see the “inventions” they came up with for this prison.
Above all else, being in the prison at night takes on a whole other level of creepiness. Especially when you walk through the solitary areas and even out on the grounds. You can feel the cold night air and see the beautiful lights of the city. It really drives home the stories you hear during the audio tour about how it tortured the prisoners to be so close to freedom while being stuck out on the Rock.
On the ferry back, make sure you have a jacket or sweater - no matter what time of year, night on the water in San Francisco can get very cold! [more ]
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