Rich in history, Alcatraz Island in the chilly waters of California’s San Francisco Bay, offers a close-up look at the site of the first lighthouse and US built fort on the West Coast, the infamous federal penitentiary long off-limits to the public, and the 18-month occupation by Indians of All Tribes. There is also a natural side to ‘the Rock’ – as the prison was nicknamed – such as gardens, tide pools, bird colonies, and bay views beyond compare. So, regardless what your interests are, this fascinating island promises a full day, and night, of exploring and entertainment.
The federal prison, for which Alcatraz Island is best known, housed some of America’s most notorious and dangerous felons during its years of operation from 1934 to 1963. Among those who served time at the maximum-security facility were the gangster Al “Scarface” Capone (1899-1947) and murderer Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud (1890-1963). Although it is believed that no inmate ever successfully escaped, there were a dozen known attempts made over the years. Today, Alcatraz Island is a popular tourist destination, offering visitors a fascinating view of an important part of the San Francisco Bay history.
During the early 20th century, inmate labor fueled the construction of a new Cellhouse (the 600-cell structure still stands today) on Alcatraz, along with a hospital, mess hall and other prison buildings. According to the National Park Service, this complex was the world’s largest reinforced concrete building when finished in 1912.
The federal penitentiary at Alcatraz was shut down in 1963 because its operating expenses were much higher than those of other federal facilities at the time. The prison’s island location meant all food and supplies had to be shipped in, at great expense. Furthermore, the isolated island buildings were beginning to crumble due to exposure to the salty sea air. During nearly three decades of operation, Alcatraz housed a total of 1,576 men. In 1972 the island became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and was opened to the public a year later. Today, some 1 million tourists visit Alcatraz each year.
During your visit to The Rock, you will have the opportunity to explore the clues to the Island’s fascinating past…a tunnel here, an underground jail there, and special gardens with stunning views. The most popular are the day and night trips of the prison.
The Day Tour to Alcatraz Island is self-guided tour, with an excellent audio presentation guiding you through the history. The stories and facts will satisfy your curiosity for the secrets of Alcatraz and its haunted history.
The Alcatraz Night Tour is a unique program limited to just a few hundred visitors per evening, for which you have to book long in advance. It includes special programs, tours and activities not offered during the day. A ‘Behind the Scenes Tour’ includes all the night tour activities, but takes you further into hidden rooms, passageways, and underground cells of an Alcatraz Island long forgotten. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the many moods of Alcatraz Island during an evening visit.
You can also tour the Cellhouse at your own pace with the award-winning audio presentation “Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour”. Stop along the way to picture yourself in a dark solitary confinement cell and hear the stories of life inside from real prisoners…
For more insights, and to explore the island around the prison, take advantage of the special Park Programs during the course of the evening tour and enjoy breathtaking sunset and city lights of San Francisco as night falls.
After the tour, you may want to spend some time at the souvenir shop on the Island, where you can purchase an array of items from the prison times.
To enjoy a carefree and relaxed visit to Alcatraz Island, it is best to book your tickets way in advance. Golden Horizon Tours, your personal and exclusive tour planner, can assist you with all the arrangements to avoid you standing in long queues to enter.