If you are going to take a tour of Alcatraz there are a couple of movies I recommend watching before you go. The 1996 movie “The Rock” starring Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery, “Escape from Alcatraz” with the famous Clint Eastwood, “The Birdman” starring Burt Lancaster and “Murder in the First” with Kevin Bacon.
Alcatraz, Day or Night Tour, my advice – do both. If you are doing the day tour of Alcatraz get the tickets for early departure as you can stay until the last day ferry. We booked the tour with Alcatrazislandtickets
For our first tour to Alcatraz we arrived at Pier 33 for an early morning tour. During the 10 minute trip across the bay on the ferry we spotted Sea Lions playing on and around the buoys, so keep an eye out. The Bay was rough, cold and windy but a beautiful trip all the same. The ferry trip is also the last chance to have something to eat and drink prior to arriving as food and drink are not allowed on the island.
The walk from the pier up to the Cell House is rather steep, glad we had our walking shoes on. After having watched the movies I have mentioned above it was surreal finally arriving on this island. Once we set foot on the island we realized how isolated this place was. The cold, wet and dull weather matched the feeling of this concrete prison.
We received our audio headsets and then we were off to see and experience. Wandering through the rooms while following the story of the inmates. Picturing them and the stories as they unfolded, hearing of attempts to escape and riots rang through our ears as we walked the deserted hallways and cells. Once the audio had finished we took time to look around the outside.
On our night tour we had found an open doorway leading in to the exercise yard. It was getting late in the day and the coldness of the wind seemed to blow through to our bones. The wind was that strong even the seagulls were forced by the wind to walk sideways. Making our way across the yard we stepped through another open door. Here we were on the side of the island, outside the prison and standing in this beautiful garden. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the City of San Francisco was breathtaking. Seagulls started to settle on the side of the hill as we enjoyed watching the sun get lower in the sky.
In our experience we enjoyed the night tour a little more. This could be that it was our second time on Alcatraz however with this tour we had the opportunity to get locked into a solitary confinement cell. I stepped in and heard the clanging of the cell door slide closed and then the thud of the big steel door behind that. I stood in the cold dark room even placing my hand in front of my face to see if I could see it. Nope not at all. Cold as cold and pitch black.
On the night tour we also had the opportunity to watch the opening and closing of the cell doors. We were given a time for the group to line up along a cell row, pretty sure it was the Broadway row, as we all looked to the second story of cells the doors slammed closed in unison. I can imagine the sad, hollow feeling the inmates would have felt as they lay in their beds each night hearing that loud clang, locked in for the night.