Life Behind Bars
Hornblower Alcatraz Landing
San Francisco, CA 94133
+1 415 981 7625 (Tickets and Reservations) / +1 415 561 4900 (Ranger Station)
Nestled in the cold bay of San Francisco, this isolated patch of rock known as Alcatraz Island is probably most well-known as the infamous federal prison that held many of the United States' most notorious criminals. Before an inmate ever stepped foot on Alcatraz Island, it was discovered by the Spaniards in 1775 and called "La Isla de los Alcatraces," which translates into "Island of the Lilies." In 1848, the island was purchased by the US, and construction began on what would become a coastal battery, which is how it remained for the next 50 years. The island was first used as a military prison in 1907, and with the rise in crime in the '30s, a federal prison was established in 1934 to hold the nation's most notorious criminals, and individuals who had attempted escape from other facilities. Given Alcatraz's innovative design and isolated location surrounded by freezing waters, it was deemed nearly impossible to escape. Not one prisoner has ever been officially recorded as having escaped, although there has been several attempts including one in 1962, which many people speculate was successful. Today, the tour at Alcatraz takes you through the jail house, and recaptures the daily lives of its most famous former inhabitants, including Al Capone, Robert "The Birdman" Stroud, and George "Machine Gun" Kelly. Visitors can see artifacts from the mess hall, items used in escape attempts, and see what it looks like from the other side of the bars. They'll even learn about the 18-month Native American occupation of the island.
Nearest Train or Bus:
MUNI BUS: 32
Best Modes of Transportation: Automobile/Car Bicycle Bus Ferry/Boat Motorbike/Scooter Taxi Walking
Notes: These are forms of transportation to the pier, not to the island.
Parking Availability: Limited
Notes: Parking in the Fisherman's Wharf area can be difficult. Metered parking spaces are limited to two hours maximum, while a visit to Alcatraz and back takes about 2.5 hours. The closest lot is at 80 Francisco at Kearny, one block away across the Embarcadero.
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