Alcatraz! (San Francisco – Day 2, Part 2)

I’m a procrastinator and sometimes that gets me into trouble. You’d think at 32 I would’ve learned my lesson, but nah.

So what does that have to do with Alcatraz?

Back in March when I was planning this trip, all the night tours to Alcatraz were already sold out, but there were plenty of other times. When I checked again in early May? Completely sold out every day we were there.

Not gonna lie, y’all, I cried. Alcatraz was the number one thing we both wanted to do, and I let us both down.

BUT there’s a happy ending! A lot of online posts suggested standing in line when the ticket window opened because they reserve tickets to sell the day of. However, most of those posts also said people get there at 4:30 am or sleep there. Nope, not this gal. Option 2: search for companies that package Alcatraz with another excursion. Bazinga! (Autocorrect changes “bazinga” to “blazing a” and I kind of love that. Can we make “blazing a” a thing??)

My excitement when we finally picked up our Alcatraz tickets!

Anyway. I found a night tour to Alcatraz packaged with a catamaran sail in the bay which actually sounded kind of cool. More on that later!

We picked up our tickets, waited for the call, and loaded onto the ferry.

The ferry ride was about 15-20 minutes. According to the captain, the night tour is the only tour where they drive you around the whole island to see it from all sides. They told us a lot of stories about the history of the buildings and multiple escape attempts (and a success!).

I hope I’m getting this correct, but I think the first white building in the picture above is where the families of the prison guards lived. Seriously. It makes sense that the families lived on the island, but how terrifying is that to think about? And apparently it wasn’t a big deal to the wives and kids who lived there.

There wasn’t a lot that I knew about Alcatraz, but one thing I learned that was really surprising (and should be talked about more) is that after the prison closed for good in 1963, Native Americans several times tried to occupy the prison and land around it. It’s really a fascinating period of history that never gets mentioned, so if you’re interested in the full story, this is a great article to check out: “Native American Activists Occupy Alcatraz Island, 45 Years Ago.”

Once we got off the ferry and made our way inside, we were given headphones for an audio tour that guided us through the prison. I love audio tours because you can go at your own pace and pause it if you want to take a bit longer looking around. This tour included audio from previous prison guards and prisoners, which made it really fascinating (and oftentimes disturbing).

The plus side to a night tour is that there are several special programs throughout the evening like demonstrations of how the cell doors worked or in-depth stories of escapes.

I’m so happy that we were able to make Alcatraz work. I know it’s an incredibly touristy place to spend your time in San Francisco, but we love visiting places that are the center of so many stories. And apparently we enjoy visiting jails together (this time last year in Scotland we visited Inveraray).

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