why we went: Alcatraz was a popular topic when I was a kid, though our kids knew nothing about it. I thought it was the most interesting choice of San Francisco attractions for the whole family.
when we went: We took a 12:30 boat, which gave us enough time to drive into the city, park, and walk to the pier. There’s a toll for the Golden Gate Bridge, but a camera simply snaps a shot of your license plate and sends you a bill. I looked it up and paid it online later. Traffic was heavy, but moved along.
what we found: This is a popular tourist attraction and tour times can fill up weeks in advance, even on a weekday in early November. The whole process worked well, though – book online, pickup tickets, get in line to board the boat. When you arrive on the island, a park ranger gives a quick talk about where visitors can go. There is a moderate amount of walking which may be challenging for the young and old.
how long we were there: I think we were there for a couple hours. We followed the audio tour, then walked down to the yard where prisoners played ball. There was more to explore, but the kids were ready to leave.
what it cost: Adults are $33, kids are $20.50. Even though it’s part of a designated National Recreation Area, our National Park Pass did not apply to the boat ticket. This is also the case for Fort Sumter, which we decided not to do.
what we thought: I thought it was interesting to see the inside of the infamous prison, where the toughest and most dangerous criminals were held. The free audio tour was good for all of us, even Anne. At the time, we were not aware of the Junior Ranger program, so I’m disappointed it wasn’t specifically mentioned during the welcome talk. A badge from Alcatraz would be cool to have.