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November 3, 2011
From journal San Francisco - Top Five
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October 17, 2010
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June 6, 2000
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October 18, 2007
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August 15, 2006
From journal Fun in the sun in San Francisco
January 12, 2006
Alcatraz Island has much more history than just the infamous prison that once operated there. In the 1800s, it became the West Coast's first US military fort. It is also home to the West Coast's oldest lighthouse.
Before the federal penitentiary took hold of the island, Alcatraz was also known for its gardens and nature. Today, the flora and fauna that flourish there isolated from the mainland are protected and researched intently by the National Park Service. Though the gardens are no longer curated, they serve as a reminder of the people who once thought of the island as a home.
Visitors board cruises that periodically make the trip out to Alcatraz from piers 39 and 41 on the mainland. There are several different type of cruises to suit different groups well, some historically minded, some more focused on nature. Tourists can pick and choose whatever trip would interest them the most.
Visitors of the island are welcome to tour the old buildings of the prison and the other parts of the island as well. It is open from 9am to 4:30pm and guided tours are available for those who wish to become more informed. There is also a very nice self-guided tour package that consists of a map and written guide that can be obtained for a $1 at the bookshop. By far the most interesting is the "cellhouse recorded tour," a taped 35 minutes in the words of former inmates and prison guards. You can put yourself in their shoes!
Perhaps the most underrated thing about Alcatraz is its impeccable view of the San Francisco Bay and city. You can see everything from here (fog permitting), and it offers a unique, unobstructed viewpoint.
It is recommended to make tour reservations a week in advance, especially during busier tourist times, like the summer months. Tickets are available at www.blueandgoldfleet.com
From journal San Francisco, CA
October 24, 2003
Next, we proceeded up the 1/4 mile, 12% grade to the Administration Building/Cellhouse, where we picked up our audio equipment for our tour. The audio tour is made up of interviews and comments from both former guards and former "guests" and really brings the tour to life. With the tales told while walking through the prison, you get a better perspective of how things were during the time that Alcatraz was in full use. Stories are related about a near-riot over spaghetti, a foiled escape due to the key being pushed too hard into the lock, and listening for a woman's voice as the echo of New Year's Eve revelers came across the water from Fisherman's Wharf.
If you have any interest in history, you'll enjoy this tour. Be sure to carry a jacket with you when you go - while we were there, the fog rolled in and the wind picked up. It got cool enough that I probably could have gotten a decent price for my jacket from some of the poor souls in shorts and T-shirts. Oh, and by the way: Sean Connery's furnace room in the movie "The Rock" was all Hollywood.
From journal Seeing the sights of San Fran