Scenes from Alcatraz

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Alcatraz had been teasing me for years. Every time I visited San Francisco, I would see the island sitting out there in the bay, showing off its history and grandeur, but I was unable to visit. To be safe, you have to book your visit in advance, which I finally did this time so I wouldn’t miss out.

Alcatraz, of course, is the infamous prison where the country’s most notorious convicts were locked away from 1933 to 1963. Now a tourist attraction, it provides the opportunity to see what an old-time high-security facility looked like.

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One of the best things about Alcatraz is that, unlike most historic sites, it starts off with a ride. The ferry trip over to the island only takes a few minutes and it offers great views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Alcatraz looks like a fortress as the ferry approaches.

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After a brief speech from the NPS ranger, you’re on your own, and you can walk around and explore the island.

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You can see why this was a scary place back in the day. Even now, there are still plenty of hidden, isolated corners that give off an eerie feeling.

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And then there’s the morgue. Yeesh.

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Inside the buildings is where things get interesting, as you can visit some of the cell blocks.

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Inside, you can see the dining facility and the visitation windows. There’s also a door leading to what was the recreational courtyard for inmates who were allowed some outdoor time.

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And back outside, some of the abandoned buildings and skeleton structures give more of a sense of just how bleak this place would have been to live in.

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family housing

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Once I finally soaked in all the history and intensity of the island, I took pictures of the San Francisco skyline until the return ferry to the mainland arrived. Alcatraz was worth the time and effort, and now I feel silly for waiting so long to check it out.

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

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