The San Francisco in a Nutshell Tour starts with a trip to Alcatraz. Alcatraz has a checkered history, which makes it fascinating to visit. At various times it has served as a lighthouse, a fortress and an infamous prison. It is now part of a National Park.
The grim reputation of the island comes from its 29 years as a federal penitentiary. Isolated by cold and dangerous currents, it was pretty much escape-proof, although many prisoners tried. Notorious inmates included Al Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud, the ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’.
The ferry ride from San Francisco to Alcatraz takes approximately 10-15 minutes. There are no formal guided tours of Alcatraz as such – visiting the island is primarily a self-guided experience which you can do at your own pace. Once you arrive on the island, a brief presentation of the island's history and advice on touring the prison are given. You will enjoy a gripping audio presentation, ‘Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cell house Tour’, featuring recordings of former inmates, prison guards and prison wardens.
It takes roughly 2 to 2 ½ hours to do the full tour of Alcatraz (including the audio tour). Apart from the prison, other features of interest on Alcatraz include the historic lighthouse, early fortifications and visible reminders of the American Indian occupation that began after the prison closed. You will also see stupendous panoramas of the coastline.
When you have thoroughly explored Alcatraz you can catch a ferry back to Pier 33. Ferries leave around every 30 minutes.
Back on the mainland you can catch a bite to eat and get ready for your city sightseeing excursion in the afternoon.
At 1:40pm, you will be picked up in a mini-bus or mini-van from the Radisson Hotel at 250 Beach Street by your driver/guide and taken for an urban adventure in the ‘City by the Bay’. You will be shown a wide variety of places of interest, including some that only insiders know about.
Your guide will take you to a wide range of key sights, and you can also ask to visit places you especially want to see. Depending on the wishes of the group, the tour might include some or all of the following:
Golden Gate Bridge: Painted in glowing International Orange, this is one of the world’s most famous bridges. When completed in 1937 it was the longest single span bridge in the world.
Bay Bridge: (Also known as the Oakland Bay Bridge) A series of bridges, which together have the longest span in the world.
Golden Gate Park: An immense public space, this is San Francisco’s answer to New York’s Central Park. It was carved out of sand and shore dunes in the 1860s.
Ocean Beach: A fine beach adjacent to Golden Gate Park. The strong currents and fierce waves here make it popular among serious surfers.
Lombard Street: An east-west street in San Francisco famous for having a steep, one-block section that consists of tight hairpin turns.
Coit Tower: A splendid art deco tower built with a bequest from benefactress Lillian Coit, one of the San Francisco’s more eccentric characters.
Twin Peaks: Named for its two virtually identical summits, Twin Peaks stands at an elevation of about 922 feet, the second highest hill in San Francisco.
Fisherman’s Wharf: In the early days, this was where dock workers unloaded cargo and fishermen sold their catch. Today, it’s a lively place with lots of entertainment.
Candlestick Park: Original home of the San Francisco Giants Baseball Team. (The team have now relocated to AT&T Park.)The legendary Beatles played their last live commercial concert at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966.
Your sightseeing tour lasts 4 to 5 hours. At the end (around 6:30pm - 7:00pm) you will be dropped off at the Golden Gate Bridge where you can take their time strolling over the bridge, take pictures as you enjoy the views and then make your own way back to hotel.