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San Francisco, CA, United States
NileGuide Expert tip:
To get there, take the Alcatraz ferry from Fisherman's Wharf, but be sure to purchase Alcatraz Ferry tickets in advance, as they book up fast. They can be obtained on the Alcatraz Cruises web site.
"The Rock," as Alcatraz is known locally, has a formidable past. Most people don't know it served as a lighthouse, military outpost, and military prison before becoming the notorious federal prison that held the likes of Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and Robert Stroud, a.k.a. "The Birdman of Alcatraz." The tiny island only miles from the San Francisco shore was considered the perfect detainment spot due to the surrounding shark-infested, frigid waters. Today visitors can safely enjoy guided tours of Alcatraz, including various cells, the mess hall, the exercise yard, and the surprisingly beautiful natural features of the island. Tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and relish regaling visitors with quirky stories of prisoners past. The truly brave can get locked up in a darkened cell for several minutes—all the more exhilarating considering the penitentiary's claim that all 14 escape attempts in the prison's 29 years of operation failed!