Alcatraz is an island located in the San Francisco Bay. To get there, you must first fly to San Francisco, then find your way to Pier 39. Here are a few considerations:
- Transportation to Alcatraz is provided by the Blue and Gold Fleet. Call for reservations two days in advance at 415-705-5555.
- Weather on Alcatraz is often foggy and cool, even in the summer months. Bring a jacket.
- There is no food served on Alcatraz, though vendors sell bottled water. If you want to eat while you are there, bring your own lunch and expect to eat it in the picnic grounds on the dock. There is no eating or smoking allowed elsewhere on the island. Many people eat before or after their visit on Fisherman's Wharf.
- A ranger will greet you as you disembark. It is a good idea to listen to her or him describe the events of the day. A movie about the history of Alcatraz is shown in the visitor center nearby.
- If you have any kind of mobility problems, the Park Service has a tram. The hill to the Cell House is steep. If you are out of condition, pace yourself.
- If you want to meet a former inmate or guard, go to the bookshop at the Visitor Center. Here you will often meet one or the other signing books. Say hello for me.
- If you don't manage to get tickets to Alcatraz, it is possible to arrange for a boat tour around the island. From the boat, you can see many historically important points not visible to island visitors. Check out the National Park Service's Circumnavigation Tour (written by yours truly!) for more information.
- The dungeons (or lowest level of the original fortress) used by the Army and by the Bureau of Prisons during the 1930s are currently closed.
- Areas are roped off for good reason. Sensitive wildlife inhabit some sections and others are dangerous due to the deterioration of the Rock's human constructs. Respect all barriers and signs.
- The Cell House Audio Tour is worth renting. When you take it yourself, you will understand many of the strange actions taken by tourists wearing the walkmen.
- Part of the island is closed for most of the year to allow seabirds to nest. The best time to go if you want to enjoy the whole island is roughly from August through January.
- When you are done with the Cell House Tour, return your walkman and go out to the south side of the island. An overlook allows you a spectacular view of the City and also of Barker Beach, the small, rocky cove where Arthur "Doc" Barker (son of "Ma" Barker) was killed in 1939 during an escape attempt.
- Alcatraz is also justly famous for its floral displays. Visit it in the Spring.
- It is possible for organized groups to spend the night in Alcatraz's D-Block. You are expected to give the Park Service a $600 nonrefundable deposit and spend some hours doing cleanup or other conservation work around the island. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Alcatraz's history, click here.