Top Ten Prisons to Visit

Alcatraz, San Francisco, California
Alcatraz, San Francisco, California
Hell's Walkway: The emptied and cleaned version of Alcatraz (John A. Martini/Alcatraz Cruises)

7. Welcome to The Rock
Long before Sean Connery fictionally escaped its walls by rolling through a flame-throwing death tunnel and swimming frigid waters to the still incredibly hostile mainland, Alcatraz was already one of the more famous prisons in the world. In its day, the prison was the securest of secure and home to the most harsh living conditions one can imagine. Tour the historic cells at night, with a boat cruise around the island as well as a guided tour from the dock to the main prison building.

The Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour is narrated by the men who once populated the rusty bars and those who were paid to ensure they didn't escape. Prisoners and guards guide you through a first-hand experience of the inescapable prison—though actual numbers vary, it's said that 34 bold men attempted the unattemptable, two of them trying more than once. Seven were killed by guards' bullets, two sank to their death, five are still unaccounted for, and the rest were caught and sent to enjoy some time in solitary confinement. We'll give them an A for effort.

Though the one-time inhibitors of this picturesque island may never have gotten to enjoy it, the sun setting over the Golden Gate Bridge and the cityscape of San Francisco's night lights are memorable and breathtaking views, experienced from a front row seat on your cruise back to free-man territory. Once back on dry land, stay close to the waterfront for dinner and drinks. Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and Ghirardelli Square are all bay-hugging areas lined with sidewalk seafood vendors, marina-based sea lions, and local flair in the form of festivals, street performers, and seasonal events.


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