Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez
I take pride in myself as being the token friend my peeps go to when it comes to the following phrase: “Hey, I’m going to this place and need off-the-beaten-path recommendations on where to go and what to see and eat.”
That being said, when I got the invitation from one of my girls from back home to go to Alcatraz while she was in town, I had some mixed feelings (sorry Brandie!!). Taking a ferry to check out Alcatraz conjures up images of silly shirts that say “Alcatraz Swim Team” or weird and boring tours led by overly-enthusiastic guides. But, I had the chance to take the Alcatraz Night Tour and it was pretty freaking fun. All of my biased expectations were thrown out the window…And into the chilly waters of the Bay.
If you’re even remotely thinking of visiting Alcatraz while you’re in town, you better get your tickets early. Time slots to visit “The Rock” sell out like hotcakes and it may be nearly impossible if you’re trying to buy tickets for a day out. You can visit the island throughout the day, but I recommend you enjoy the city by day and line up for the Alcatraz Night Tour around sundown.
The ride to Alcatraz is quick so make sure you grab a seat upstairs and outside for the best view. Once you disembark, you’ll be guided on a semi-steep walk up to the entrance into the cell house through the shower house. Grab a pair of headphones and start the self-guided walking tour, available in 11 languages.
The story of Alcatraz is pretty unbelievable and the audio tour is about 45 minutes. It’s all self-paced so if you want to spend some extra time learning about famous inmates or at “The Hole,” you can do that too. Make some time to check out the hospital, which is not part of the audio tour, and see what other programs and presentations are on the schedule.
While the Gardens of Alcatraz won’t be visible at night, thrill seekers will definitely appreciate the extra time they have peering around the cell block avenues, the library and dining hall. Alcatraz, which spans over 12 acres, is definitely something to experience in person, even for a skeptical like me. While it may look extremely touristy from the outside — or the mainland — it’s definitely something worth checking out at night.
For more information, visit http://www.alcatrazcruises.com.