Despite numerous visits to SF as a kid and living there for 3 years, I had never been to Alcatraz. It’s like being from NJ I’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty. Sometimes when you live somewhere, you end up skipping the major tourist destinations.
So when I made my bucket list, I knew a visit to Alcatraz had to be on it.
I didn’t know how good Alcatraz would be really. I was skeptical that it was over-hyped, and it always seemed weird to me that a prison was such a destination. This is a place where dangerous people were locked up, kept in an extremely unpleasant environment, detained from the rest of the world. Is this somewhere that should really be an attraction? Then again I’ve toured catacombs in Europe and that’s also a strange idea when you think about it, so why not tour a famous prison? And I’d heard good things about the Alcatraz tour so I was curious to see what it was like.
It was great. I went with my family and we were all so impressed with the tour. It was informative, full of interesting stories, and, as a tourist attraction, it kept everyone moving very well so there was never a back up of people hovering in one spot.
Yes it is a prison, and some of the most dangerous people were held here. But what I didn’t realize was that Alcatraz was created to scare the country – it was meant to be a high security prison that would strike fear into criminals in the hopes to quell crime. The impression of Alcatraz that is so famous was created on purpose. This fact somehow makes me more curious about what it was like to live in the mob boss and gangster era.
Mixed in with the history of the prison and daily activities of inmates were fascinating stories of escape attempts and well-known prisoners. And did you know that in 1970 a group of Native Americans took over the island in protest? I didn’t.
Now having gone to Alcatraz, I highly recommend it to people. It was definitely worth the trip. Our only sadness about our visit was that the rest of the island was closed for bird mating season. My dad had heard wonderful things about the gardens, so we were a little disappointed we couldn’t see them. If you have all year to go to Alcatraz, try to go when the whole island is open.
One day I hope to return to the night tour – it’s the only time the hospital is open, and I hear it is especially eerie.