So we (and by we, really me) decided that we were going to pack up the kids and go to Alcatraz. There was an art installation by Ai Weiwei that was in its last week at Alcatraz, and so I managed to find tickets for the first boat out on a Saturday–which is 8:45am!!! I was a bit hesitant about going with an infant and toddler, but it was actually pretty easy (mostly because no one had a meltdown).
The whole place is actually handicap friendly, which means you can easily take the stroller. We actually kept Oliver in the stroller most of the time because it was a lot of walking, and I knew that he would get tired of walking. From the dock to the prison is a pretty steep hill for young kids, but it was probably the safest for Oliver to walk so long as you let your fellow travelers go ahead of you. The prison has way too many people milling about and it was just easier to keep Oliver in his stroller. So if you do ’86 the stroller, just be prepared to shield your child from the stampede as he/she slowly saunters about.
There is no food on Alcatraz!!! There’s a snack bar on the boat that sells hot drinks and then junky food, like hot dogs and nachos. It’s probably safest to pack some snacks for your wee ones and yourself. You also aren’t allowed to eat in the prison, but the people there didn’t mind Oliver munching away when he was in his stroller. You can eat by the dock, and there are benches to make it more comfortable. You can only drink water in the prison; all other drinks must be consumed outside.
I kept Sammy in the Ergo, which was super easy. If baby wearing is still comfortable for you, I highly recommend doing that as it just eliminates navigating a stroller through a crowd. It also meant that Sammy could just easily take a nap whenever and where ever without me missing a beat.
However, I did have to pause my audio tour to feed Sammy. You could technically try feeding the baby in a jail cell, which would make for an amusing photo. But there are many people trying to take photos of themselves in these cells, so it’s best not to monopolize the time with your feeding session. I fed Sammy in the library; we sat on the bench closest to the wall so that she wouldn’t be so distracted by the hoards of people coming into the library or walking down the halls. The cafeteria also has many benches. Outside the prison, there’s a few benches when you go through the warden’s office, although that area is pretty busy because you do have a great view of San Francisco from there. There’s also a bench at the entrance to the prison and then the benches by the dock.
As for the prison itself… it’s great for the adults, not very valuable for young kids. I kept telling Oliver this was the place where bad people used to live. But he didn’t really care. We also brought Oliver’s Leap Frog laptop with him to keep him occupied. Ordinarily this would be problem, say in a museum. But since your Alcatraz ticket comes with an audio tour, no one got distracted by the noises coming from his toy (from what I could tell at least). He did walk around a little bit in the prison, once for a photo of him in solitary confinement and then another point because he was tired of being in his stroller. But again, it was easiest to keep him in the stroller because of the crowd.
The first boat that leaves for Alcatraz is 8:45am, but you have to show up 30 minutes early to sort out tickets and wait in line to get on the boat. I believe the boats leave every 30 minutes. The 8:45 start time was super early for us, but it worked out in the end. It just made for a very long day. For an adult, you will spend at least 2 hours on the island, but you should probably tack on an additional half hour to an hour to that when you are with children. Because my husband and I have already done Alcatraz in the past, we just did the parts we enjoyed. So we were able to make it back to the mainland in time for a noon lunch.
Alcatraz is definitely doable with young kids. Just make sure you are very prepared and take your time while you are there. I know that sounds counterintuitive as a parent because you are just anticipating that meltdown. But if you are well prepared you can prevent the meltdowns and actually enjoy your tour!