on October 18, 2007
A night tour of Alcatraz Island provides more features than daytime tours. You have a guide up to the prison, then walk your way through listening to the audio tour. At the end, there are several options - extra guided tours, movies, or just time on your own. The boat ride across the bay has many photo ops of the city, Golden Gate Bridge and the island itself. As you disembark the boat, a guide welcomes you, explains the history of Alcatraz - first as a military fort in the Civil War days, then the federal penitentiary, and finally the Indian occupation during the late 1960s. It is presently operated by the National Park Service. Visitors walk through the Guard house and Sally Port, just as the arriving prisoners did. You walk the same path as Al Capone, "Creepy" Karpis and other renowned inmates. The former Officer's CLub was destroyed by fire in 1970 but served as a backdrop in the movie, "The Rock." You climb your way uphill and finally enter the cellhouse, in the same receiving and shower area the inmates used. Here you are given the audio equipment and go upstairs to the cellblocks. It's an eerie feeling walking around the prison cells, especially as the sun sets and night falls. The tape has actual voices of inmates and guards; you continually hear the slamming of the cell doors/bars. Seeing the sights and hearing the sounds one can imagine what life in the pen was like. At one point, you can go outside the warden's office area. At that time of the evening, the setting sun beyond the Golden Gate Bridge was a beautiful sight. The shimmering buildings of downtown San Francisco provide a scenic backdrop to the abandoned ones on Alcatraz. As the audio reminds you, the city lights and sounds are so close yet were unattainable to the inmates of the prison. Your tour ends in the gift shop with options for additional tours or video before the last boat leaves for the night.
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