Escape to Alcatraz: 5 Reasons to Visit the Famous Prison

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There are few places in the world with the kind of reputation Alcatraz has. Nicknamed “The Rock” way before Dwayne Johnson, this island once operated a maximum security prison that housed notorious criminals such as Al Capone and the ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’. Remote, isolated and often shrouded by Carl the Fog, Alcatraz should be on your list to visit if you find yourself in the bay area. Here are 10 reasons why you should visit the famous prison island.

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  1. MYSTERIES AS THICK AS THE FOG

Alcatraz has a dark history of violence and even death. It was an “escape-proof” prison, meaning no one got out alive… or so we think. Out of the 1,576 inmates Alcatraz housed, only 36 attempted to get off the island. The majority of them were captured, some were shot and some drowned, but the most mysterious of them all was the escape of brothers John and Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris. Digging their way out of their cells with spoons and fooling the guards with decoys, their escape is something right out of a movie. What happened next was a mystery. Some speculate they might have drowned, but their bodies were never found.

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2. HOME TO HOLLYWOOD’S FAVOURITE CRIMINALS

Anyone interested in visiting Alcatraz already knows the prison was home to some of the world’s most notorious criminals. Alcatraz’s most famous inmate, Al Capone, reportedly told a guard that the conditions at Alcatraz broke him. The convicts sent to Alcatraz were those that needed the most whooping into shape. The point of sending them to Alcatraz was so the harsh conditions will force them to reform and become model prisoners.

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3. THE ISLAND OF THE BIRDS

I bet you didn’t know Alcatraz was home to over a thousand species of birds. The name “Alcatraz” came from the Spanish word “Los Alcatraces”, meaning “pelican”. These days, visitors to the island can observe these birds up close. If you’re lucky enough, you may leave the island with the coveted white badge of honor.

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4. CATCH THE BEST VIEWS OF SAN FRANCISCO

If you have no interest in history, mystery or birds, the view from Alcatraz along is worth the ferry ride. From Alcatraz, you can see all of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Oakland Bay Bridge. Fingers crossed that Carl the Fog takes a day off whenever you visit. But even so, it gives San Francisco an ominous glow that is breathtaking.

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5. IT IS PART OF THE US’ MOST POPULAR NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SITE

You may think the most visited National Park Service Site might be the Grand Canyon or even the Lincoln Memorial. In fact, Alcatraz is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes sites like Muir Woods National Monument and Chrissy Field. It sees over 15 million visitors a year, making it quite difficult to snag a ticket. You can’t visit Alcatraz without a ticket, and those sell out months in advance. If you're planning to visit in the summer, be sure to book your visit at least 2 months prior, or else you won’t make it to the island.

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SO DO YOU WANT TO VISIT PRISON YET?

Alcatraz is an island with so much more to explore than its world-famous prison. Your visit to Alcatraz will include an audio tour as well as many scheduled activities the island has to offer. Visiting Alcatraz is informative, fun, and gives you a small glimpse into life was like on the elusive prison island. And if you’re lucky enough to visit Alcatraz, you’ll be one of the luckier ones to make it off the island alive.

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GENERAL TIPS FOR VISITING ALCATRAZ

  • Book your visit way in advance especially if you’re visiting during the summer months (at least 2 months prior).

  • Night tours are available but these are the most popular so plan your booking accordingly.

  • Bring a jacket! No matter which season you’re visiting. As Mark Twain famously said, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco”. This is especially true when you’re on the ferry to Alcatraz (and on the island itself).

  • Wear comfortable shoes! You’ll be doing a lot of walking. A LOT. The climb up to the main prison building is equivalent to 13 floors of a building. Although the incline is gradual, the walking you do on the tour in addition to the climb up will be a lot.

  • For those with disabilities, do not worry! There is a tram that you can take from the dock to the main prison building.

To book your Alcatraz visit and tour, click here!

Sources from this post include NPS, CNN, HISTORY CHANNEL.

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Till next time

xx

Clare