We arrived in San Francisco just after 6pm and it was FREEZING! The local homeless were feeling it too and had already sparked up a barbie* – right outside our hostel - welcome to Tenderloin! While our first impression of the city was lacking, once we overcame the strong stench of stale marijuana smoke, and learned to dodge used needles in the gutter - it soon became a place we enjoyed visiting.
If you are headed here, these tips may help you enjoy yourself as much as we did;
This end of town is also home to Golden Gate Park. While the Park itself is free for you to wander, some of the garden exhibits have an entry fee. Again, avoid bike hire and just walk or use the free shuttle inside the park.
Of course the highlight for us was Alcatraz Island, located in the centre of San Francisco Bay. This national parkland has served as a fortress, military prison and as a maximum-security federal penitentiary. To get here you will have two options. The first, best and only option I will tell you about is with Alcatraz Tours (www.alcatrazcruises.com) as they are the ‘official’ government concessioner for tours of the Island. What this means is you will only pay $30. The other tour options will charge a commission and everything else on top so don’t waste your time or money. Speaking of time, be sure to book in advance. Tickets sell fast.
Once on the island, head straight for the orientation video. It’s a short 17 minute presentation providing an excellent introduction to the island. The National Park Service (NPS) also operates interpretive programs highlighting different eras of the island’s history. We were lucky enough to join one interpretive tour that took us into a closed area that we wouldn't have seen otherwise.
Then pick up an audio tour and join former inmates and correctional officers as they reminisce about life on Alcatraz. The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes and is included in your admission. It will answer the questions you are dying to know such as the all-important…did anyone ever escape the island?
After all that history you will be hungry so head to China Town and feast on dim sum. It’s cheap and tasty!
*Barbie – short for barbecue, in case you are not an Aussie and think the homeless were desecrating a children’s toy…
Videos by Global Runaways