Alcatraz Island

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Alcatraz is hands-down one of the best bets for your tourist buck, starting with the scenic ferry ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to the island. The formidable fortress in the middle of San Francisco Bay known as “The Rock” started out as a lighthouse station in 1854, but its isolated location made it an ideal spot for a penal colony. Converted to a military prison in the 1870s, it became a maximum-security penitentiary in 1934, housing some of the country’s most notorious and incorrigible criminals, among them Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Robert “The Birdman” Stroud. A tour of Alcatraz offers a fascinating look at local history and lore, including the Native American occupation of the island in the 1970s, a protest sparked by activists who, based on a treaty between the Sioux and the U.S. government, believed the island rightfully belonged to its original native inhabitants. Be sure to get the audio cellhouse tour, narrated by former inmates and guards, which offers harrowing accounts of prison riots and escape attempts. Tours sail daily from Pier 33, 8:45am–3:50pm. March–Nov; check schedule for winter hours. There’s also a very popular extra-creepy night tour, which leaves in the late afternoon. Plan to spend at least two to three hours on the island and be sure to bring a warm jacket—the place is notoriously windy and fog-shrouded year round.

Place Categories: Attractions

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