The Rock. No not the movie that my husband insists we sit through every time it pops up on cable. I am talking about the ominous island out in the San Francisco Bay that held some of the most notorious criminals of its day; Alcatraz.
Alcatraz closed it doors as a federal prison in 1963 and opened its doors as a member of the National Park Service in 1972. Now visitors can get up close and personal with the very cell blocks that Al Capone and the Birdman once spent their days. I strongly encourage visitors to buy their tickets ahead of time because the tours do sell out quickly. The only way to reach Alcatraz is by ferry and the trip out there is an adventure in itself. The day we went, we left the blue skies of the pier and headed towards the fog shrouded prison. I was glad that the weather got dreary as we got closer. It only added to the atmosphere.
During the day you can take self guided audio tours. The audio tour is quite comprehensive and very interesting. It was narrated by people who had lived on Alcatraz at one time, whether it be the prisoners who were locked in its cells or the people who helped run the facilities. We had fun posing Ben and Mari (who were infants at the time) behind the cells bars. I think kids old enough to listen to headphones for an extended period of time would really enjoy this tour. Its hard not to get excited about a place so filled with lore and mystery.
In addition to the cell block tour, you should take time to explore the Alcatraz Gardens, check out the multitude of sea birds (Alcatraz is a bird sanctuary) and take in the amazing views. Expect to spend at least 2.5 hours on the island. Keep in mind that there is no food service at Alcatraz so be sure to pack snacks for little ones. Weather is extremely unpredictable in San Francisco so dress in layers. You could arrive at Alcatraz when it is sunny and warm and leave in cold and windy weather. If you would like more information on Alcatraz click here.