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San Francisco, California

Alcatraz San Francisco Reviews

mika_beck mika_beck
2 reviews
china town san francisco May 22, 2011
After we had checked into our hotel and walked 2 block up California to tour Grace Cathedral out next venture was to start walking down toward the wharf area past Chinatown. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday and when we entered Chinatown the town was just buzzing with activity not of tourist, but the Chinese community.

We walked through a couple of the streets and then happened upon Portsmouth Square Plaza between Washington and Clay Streets. This is where the real action was. Most of the pictures from Chinatown this day were taken in the park. There were a number of different card games going with both women and men. They were segregated groups and while you could see the women's game going on up close there were so many men around the men card games you really couldn't get close enough to see what was being wagered in each game.

They also had a live band playing traditional Chinese music. A few days later we went back through the same area and it was very quiet as the men and women who were there on Sunday enjoying there day off were I'm sure hard at work.

So my advice is if you really want to get a good flavor for what Chinatown is all about venture a little bit off the beaten path were all the stores catering to tourist are and go the parks and churches in the area where the "real" community works and plays.
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Chalte Chalte
3 reviews
A must see Mar 18, 2011
I know... It is a pain to get tickets, wait in line and find out you cannot get tickets until 3 days from now. BUT... It is well worth it all.

Alcatraz is an awesome experience. I suggest gettig the headset and hear the history of the prison island in details. Feel the place. Can you imagine what went through these people's minds, try escaping this place, or living there as a guard?

One word: GO!!!!
TravelingB Travelin…
1 reviews
an intense historical place Jun 13, 2011
Alcatraz island is a spectacular historical sight nestled next to the golden gate bridge. I found it fascinating how it used to be a military installation then converted to a prison later. Surrounded by bitter cold water it seemed impossible to escape. Yet many have tried and some succeeded!
fritabandita fritaban…
15 reviews
Alcatraz Island Nov 15, 2010
Once they began boarding, we made it to the upper deck as quickly as possible. We couldnt hear the captain very well as he rolled fact after fact off his tongue, but we did snap a few pictures of the city, the bay, the bridges, and Alcatraz as we approached. Once we arrived, we were ushered off and were given a break down by one of the park rangers. We chose to venture off on our own, instead of take a group tour (because we were also taking an audio tour). On our way up to the prison, we met Frank Heaney. He was the youngest correctional officer to work at Alcatraz and wrote a tell all book called Inside These Walls. He had a lot of interesting stories (how many people can say they played poker with machine gun kelly and capone?) and was eager to answer all of our questions, take photos, and sign copies of his book for you. Once he left, we continued on our journey up to the prison. The climb was a bit steep, but we made it. Once we entered the prison, we veered off to the left to pick up our cassette tapes (Yes, cassette tapes.) and pointed in the right direction. The audio tour led you cell to cell of some of the prisons most famous residents, the galley, the library, the yard, and so on. It was narrated by prisoners, guards, and a few of the family members that lived on the island. We learned about the history of the island and were able to hear personal insights, as well. Once the tour was over, we headed over to the gift shop. Its a bit pricey, but were able to find several items unique to that paticular gift ship. The trip is well worth it and something all ages could enjoy.

Because we were using our San Francisco Go Cards, we were unable to make reservations. If your able to do so, it will save you a lot of time and heart break- since it is such a popular attraction and they have a limited number of tickets each day. I would also recommend eating some sort of snack before you go because you are not allowed to bring any sort of food or beverage on board. And.. if your interested in taking photos of the island, sit on the outer deck of the boat. The captain will circle the island once before docking. Its a great opportunity to take photos of the island, the city, the bridges, and so on.
My mom, Frank Heaney, and I.
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
milltownmeadow milltown…
10 reviews
Nov 15, 2007
As a small boy living in the UK I was always fascinated with prisons and jails. I had been to San Francisco a number of times but never to Alcatraz; then my chance came so I bought a ticket and went.I waited around a very good gift shop until I was able to board the boat. It was a pleasant ride and you are able to watch the Island come closer and closer. I thought about the men with that only had a one-way ticket! After docking, the guide gave us some facts about Alcatraz and then to my surprise, he said, "We have a real treat today-- one of the last inmates is here doing a book signing. His name is Darwin Coon." The prison was only in use from 1934 until 1963-- Darwin Coon was there from 1959 till it closed. He told me he was one of the last 4 inmates to leave. He was nothing like you might imagine; I found him to be very gentle and of a quite nature. For the four years that he was there, he he described his behaviour as all "by the book." He worked mostly in the dining room and kitchen; this way he got first choice of all foods prepared.

The guided tour is very good and takes about one hour, after which you can wander around on you own to take photos and wander through the cells and different buildings. Just before I left, I went back to see Darwin and asked if I could take his photo. He smiled and said sure.

I bought his book called "Alcatraz the True End of the Line." It is very good reading--what I thought was very interesting is that he and his wife Marge had a safe house for children in the years following his release from prison. They had 94 different children come to live with them. Darwin Coon lost his wife a few years ago and is now living in California.
From the boat ride over.
Exercise yard
One of the very small cells
The walkway between the cells was …
milltownmeadow says:
Thanks Raquel,sorry no ghost stories,but you know when in England last summer I stayed at a friend house its 400 years old and haunted I heard the ghost one night so did my Mother also one morning all the door were open!
Posted on: Nov 15, 2007

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