Another fun tourist attraction we visited while my parents were in town was Alcatraz. Ferries run all day to and from the prison, but we opted to take the night tour, which meant smaller crowds and a view of a beautiful sunset from the prison grounds. A ferry carried us on a 20-minute-ride from a dock in San Francisco to Alcatraz Island in the middle of the bay.
The last prisoners at Alcatraz left the prison in 1963, and since 1973 the island has been a major tourist attraction. Although the buildings on Alcatraz haven't housed any convicts for over 40 years, an air of dread still hangs over the grounds. Seeing the incredibly small spaces where the prisoners at Alcatraz lived was sobering, and hearing about the lengths that men went to in their attempts to break out of the prison was shocking. We were given an audio tour as we entered the prison, and the voices of former guards and prisoners guided us all around the prison grounds. We were even allowed to enter some of the prison cells.
I was surprised by how much I learned about Alcatraz on the the tour. I'm so glad we did the night tour. Being there in the dark added another spooky element to the tour, and watching the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge was beautiful.
Alcatraz Cruises runs cruises multiple times a day. Prices range from $16-33 per person. See their website here.