on February 21, 2007
Alcatraz, the infamous federal penitentiary, housed some of the most notorious criminals of our time. During its 29 years as a prison, Al Capone, Bird Man of Alcatraz, George Machine Gun Kelly, and Arthur Doc Baker were some of the most famous prisoners. This decaying structure was the first operating lighthouse on the west coast and served as a fortress. In 1933 Alcatraz became what it is most known for today, a maximum security prison. Today it is part of the National Park Service and this is why it is still standing today, SAVE THE ROCK.It is best to purchase tickets ahead of time, they sell out fast. The ferry leaves from pier 33 at 9:30am and runs until either 6:30pm in the summer or 4:30pm the rest of the year. The ride takes about 1/2 hour. I would suggest taking the morning ferry so you are not rushed. Most tickets include the audio tour that is given by former inmates and runs about 50 minutes. The tape tells you blow by blow stories of their experiences. The former inmates reminisce about the cell blocks (Broadway, CD Street) the attempted escapes, the day the marines came to take back Alcatraz. I thought it was well put together.Take time to explore the grounds. As you enter on the pier you are greeted by a park ranger that advise you of important information about the prison and special movies and tours that are shown that day. As you walk up to the main cell house you will pass the water tower and the military barracks. Keep going and you will run into the lighthouse. Once inside the main building, an audio cassette is given to you and your tour begins. You will cover every part of the main building, including the main cell block, dinner hall, Warden’s office, visitation room, and administration office. The dinning room was considered one of the most dangerous areas. You could only imagine having 200 or more inmates all together in one room with utensils!!Once you are finished with the audio tour, take a walk outside. You have magnificent views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge. Do not forget to stop in the gift shop. There are very interesting books on the history of Alcatraz besides your normal souvenirs. One way you can contribute to Saving the Rocks is by buying of piece of it. An actual piece of the rock is told for about $5.When visiting San Francisco, a must see attractions is Alcatraz. Please do not miss it.
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