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Is Alcatraz worth visiting over a 3 day weekend?

My boyfriend and I only have three days in the city so I don't want to waste time. He really wants to see Alcatraz but I think it looks like a tourist trap. Thoughts?

4 Answers

top answer by
Debbie from San Francisco

But it's so fun to ride the ferry back and forth!  It's also fascinating to hear about the history there.  I think that if neither of you have ever been, it's totally worth visiting at least once.

Here's something else to think about: the beauty of making your way to Alcatraz is that you'll also be killing two birds with one stone (actually more!) because on the way to, and around where you board the ferry (which is Pier 33) are A LOT of attractions that travelers come to San Francisco to see. 

You can walk all along the pier, dine at the famous Pier 23 Cafe, walk around Pier 39, look at sea lions at Fisherman's Wharf, have the famous Irish Coffees at the The Buena Vista Cafe, etc. If you don't mind a little walking, the Ferry Building is at Pier 1, less than a mile down from the ferry dock and that's a great place to start your day off with some sight-seeing and breakfast.

Once you get to Alcatraz, you can see views of San Francisco, and other surrounding islands and areas that you might not otherwise see, like the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Tiburon, etc.

Otherwise, if you don't want to go to Alcatraz, you two could also go your separate ways for a few hours and meet up again later.  Always fun to explore the city by yourself, too! ;)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Pier 33 (attraction)
  2. Pier 23 Cafe (restaurant)
  3. Pier 39 (attraction)
  4. Fisherman's Wharf (attraction)
  5. The Buena Vista Cafe (restaurant)
  6. Ferry Building (attraction)
  7. Golden Gate Bridge (attraction)
  8. Angel Island (attraction)
  9. Tiburon (city)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Robert from San Francisco

Alcatraz is awesome.  If you go, look up "Ranger Craig." Craig Glassner is a ranger on the island and he knows EVERYTHING about this very interesting national park. Here he is on Twitter:

While you're in the area of the ferry terminal, also check out the  Ferry Building.  If you go there, look up Thomas Hawk. He works in the building and is a great photographer, and can show you around.

Something else cool to visit in the area is the  Cable Car Museum.  This is a great free place to go for an hour. You see some history of San Francisco, get to see the machines that make the system work, and after that you are in  San Francisco Chinatown, so can get some awesome food nearby.

If you want to get away from the Embarcadero crowd and head in a different direction, head to the  Presidio after Alcatraz. If you can, try to get a tour of Lucas Films here. It's where all the magic is made.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Alcatraz (attraction)
  2. Ferry Building (attraction)
  3. Cable Car Museum (attraction)
  4. San Francisco Chinatown (attraction)
  5. Presidio (neighborhood)
  6. Lucas Films (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
Andy from San Francisco

I had the same thought before I went to Alcatraz , and I ended up having a great time! The audio tour is definitely the way to go. The tour was very informative and really gave me an idea of what life was like as an inmate at Alcatraz. It also helped that I am a big fan of the movie The Rock. 

Another option is to take the night tour of Alcatraz. I haven't done that myself but it looks like a great way to see the night time skyline of the city.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Alcatraz (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Mel from Louisiana

Alcatraz is worth the visit!  Be sure to take the audio tour.  I really like to go in the late afternoon so I can be there when it begins to get dark.  Get your reservation online well in advance.  Bring a good camera and have fun!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Alcatraz (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)

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