The first time you visit San Francisco, a trip to the infamous Alcatraz is a must.

You can get a ferry from Fisherman’s Warf to the island. Pre-booking on the internet saves some money and means you get on the departure time you want, as it is jam-packed in peak season. We went with Alcatraz Cruises.

Arriving into Alcatraz

The ferry ride to Alcatraz gives you a view of the city from the Bay, and you’ll probably spot some of the many sea lions that have made the city their home. Even if it is a warm sunny day, remember to bring some layers. It can get quite windy out on the Bay.

Sea Lions at Fisherman's Warf

Sea Lions lazing at Fisherman’s Warf

The rocky island is a reasonable size, and you are free to roam around the prison and the old fort buildings, which guarded the Bay long before the prison arrived.

An audio tour is available around the prison and is well worth doing as it brings to light the escapes and gun battles on the island. Our kids loved the audio tour (it’s not really graphic or disturbing), though it won’t hold the attention of very young kids.

Despite the prison’s reputation, the cell sizes are quite large, and there’s plenty of light too. Unlike some of the old prison buildings in the UK, which are a few hundred years older than Alcatraz.

Alactraz Prison Cell

As prisons go, this cell isn’t too bad.

Of course, there’s an opportunity to put your kids in jail. 😉

Kids in Jail

Who wouldn’t lock them up?

If the weather is kind to you, and the Bay Area fog hasn’t descended, Alcatraz gives you a fantastic view of the City.

View of SF from Alcatraz

View of San Francisco from Alcatraz. The city is surprisingly close.

Once you have done the tours, you can hop on a ferry back to San Francisco. Apart from the last ferry, there’s no set return time so you can enjoy being imprisoned there as much as you like.

Golden Gate Bridge from Alcatraz

We took this picture of the Golden Gate Bridget from the rec yard on Alcatraz

In the next post, we’ll cover a few more sights and sounds of San Francisco.

USA West Coast Fly-Drive Series

Continue reading; click on the next article in the series.
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  • Airport Hacks

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  • Vegas, Desert, and Mountains

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  • Welcome to San Francisco

    Arriving in San Francisco was.... interesting Read more >

  • Alcatraz

    A visit to 'The Rock' is a must when visiting San Francisco Read more >

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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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  1. Hi loved reading about your travels it’s something I think we will try in April when we go. We w ere going to fly from Vegas to San Fran but your drive sounds fabulous. Did you by chance head down Pacific coast drive? I’d be interested to hear. We are flying into LAX n internal flight to las Vegas n then driving loop to San Fran n back to LAX so any further tips etc would be great! Our kids are grown up n doing their own travelling so now it’s our turn?

  2. Hi loving the trip so far. It’s definataly on our family of fives bucket list. How much roughly did the whole trip cost?

    • About 10 grand and many years saving! We could have done it a bit cheaper but most of the cost goes on flights. We didn’t do Disney, which would have made it more expensive.

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