It’s not everyday that you head out on the rough seas to one of the most notorious federal penitentiaries in the history of the United States. The last time I visited “The Rock” I was barely entering middle school and all I could remember was how frigid it was, all day. Since it had been some time since I visited, I figured why not? Last Monday we departed on Alcatraz Cruises at 11:30am, which was perfect timing for us to get down to the Embarcadero and eat breakfast before the adventure begun. Although it was a Monday, the place was packed with tourists (not a bad thing!) eager to walk inside the tall walls of the penitentiary. This was an especially exciting trip because John had never been there before! Due to the Ai Weiwei exhibit on the island, parts of the eerie and long hospital wing which are usually closed to the public were open for the exhibit.
During our visit, @Large, an exhibit by activist and artist Ai Weiwei, was on display and I couldn’t help but admire to his colorful, significant and powerful pieces. Due to Ai Weiwei’s history of vocal criticisms of the Chinese government, he is currently not permitted to travel outside of China and as a result, was unable to visit his exhibit on Alcatraz in person. In any case, he developed the amazing and diverse works and planning from his Beijing studio. The exhibit has transformed Alcatraz’s Industries Building into a public space to discuss individual rights, liberty and justice, as well as our personal responsibilities to address these subjects. In the main prison, Weiwei’s Blossom and Stay Tuned pieces within the Hospital ward of the penitentiary were on display. In addition, Refraction, the intricate With Wind displays (above), and the million Lego pieces used to create Trace took my breath away and was an added bonus when we visited The Rock!
Visiting the inside of the cellhouse was both an informative and surreal experience. The audio guide you follow is super interesting and makes you realize how intense the experience was at the prison. You will learn about the most famous men who served time at Alcatraz, have the chance to walk into a few different cells and witness the escape plan put into motion by a handful prisoners. Of course, after the tour you’ll be lead into the gift shop where you can actually find a few neat things. We went straight to the Ai Weiwei exhibit after, but make sure to stop and snap a few good photographs of the city’s skyline on your way to the next building.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE HEADING TO THE ROCK
Tickets do and will sell out! Make it easier on yourself by printing out tickets beforehand.
Don’t let clear blue skies fool you. It’s cold and you really do want to wear comfortable footwear.
An audio tour is included in your ticket so no need to purchase any additional stuff.
The experience is good for all ages, but beware…there is a great deal of walking (and inclines).
There’s no food on the island and there’s only coffee, chips and pretzels on the boat.
You can also embark on the Alcatraz Night Tour Alcatraz Cruises offers if you dare!
It is best to go during the spring months before tourist season kicks into high gear for summer.
If possible, take public transportation. There are close parking lots but it’ll cost you a lot.
To learn more about Ai Weiwei and the movement, The Huffington Post features a great and informative article The Artist is Absent. Have you visited Alcatraz yet? Are you looking to learn more about events going on in the Bay Area? Then be sure to connect with Modern Daydream Living on Facebook for weekly updated on my travels.