Alcatraz Island has served as a lighthouse, a military fort, and a federal prison.
Just as Elvis spun romance into the prison scene with his hip-slinging Jailhouse Rock, seeing Alcatraz at night can cast the infamous Rock in a romantic light. Do it through a National Park Service Alcatraz After Dark tour. It's more intimate than by day and the views of San Francisco are magnificent. On average, 4,000 people visit the Rock by day. At night, that number diminishes to about 600. Night visitors gain access to areas otherwise closed to crowds. Recent tour themes have been "Sanity and Survival at the Rock" (focusing on how the prisoners dealt with the conditions of their imprisonment), "Escapes of All Sorts" (a tour of the Alcatraz hospital, including stories about the Birdman and Al Capone), "Small Town Alcatraz" (about the families who lived on the island), and "Sound of the Slammer" (a cell door operation demonstration).
Whether you join a tour or wander the prison on your own, night tours are a fascinating way to experience the infamous island prison. Night tours are available Thursday through Sunday, from Pier 41. Through September 30, the tours depart at 6:20 p.m. and 7:05 p.m., and return at 8:15 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. For more information, contact the Blue & Gold Fleet, (415) 705-5555 or www.blueandgoldfleet.com. Or visit www.nps.gov/alcatraz.
Photography courtesy of Abrahami/Wikimedia Commons
This article was first published in September 2001. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.