How Alcatraz Island Transformed During The Pandemic
The 2020 Pandemic forced the tourism industry into survival mode. In California, attractions and hospitality businesses still face looking for any opportunities to innovate, while hoping to reopen to pandemic-weary visitors with renewed safety guidelines.
As the Bay Area is now well into its second Stay at Home ‘lockdown’ and the anguishing year has ended, Alcatraz Cruises would like to reflect on the lessons 2020 brought–as the City’s number one attraction, Alcatraz Island, transformed to meet the needs of a pandemic.
Alcatraz Is Your National Park
For some it might seem obvious, but many Bay Area residents might need a refresher: Alcatraz Island is a National Park. Its multilayered story envelops the history of Indigenous Peoples, the Civil War, the notorious penitentiary era, and the Native American Occupation.
In 2020, the number of tourists in San Francisco dwindled in comparison to any other year. The normally sold-out attraction became accessible to Bay Area residents without needing to purchase tickets months in advance. Safety necessitated reduced departure times and lower ferry capacities, so Alcatraz Island became an ideal outdoor getaway for locals.
The Alcatraz Gardens Are Worth A Day Trip
The historic Alcatraz Gardens have long been enjoyed by residents, visitors, and Island staff. Often, their beauty is a pleasant surprise for visitors, and sometimes the bright blooms can be seen from the City.
The Island’s history and its gardens go together, as they have been maintained by inmates, families of the guards, and recently by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and volunteers. As COVID-safety requirements restricted access to many indoor areas on the Island, the beautifully maintained gardens and their caretakers received much deserved attention from visitors and the press.
The Alcatraz Family Is Resilient
Alcatraz Cruises is one leg of a partnership supporting the Alcatraz Island Experience. After four months of ceased operations, the National Park Service, the National Parks Conservancy, and the Alcatraz Cruises’ crew, reframed the Alcatraz Island Day Tour making Alcatraz Island accessible again in August 2020.
The mostly outdoor experience included a Special Edition Audio Tour, downloadable via a smartphone app, with stories narrated by the Island’s staff and volunteers. Many of the stories about the Island’s history relate to current events, and the true passion for Alcatraz and its history can be heard in the narrators’ voices.
Mother Nature Can Change Everything
The power of COVID-19 wasn’t the only reason Alcatraz closed to visitors in 2020. On September 09, 2020, Bay Area residents awoke to an ominous, orange sky caused by blocked sunlight filtering through a thick layer of smoke and ash from forest fires in Northern California and Oregon. Visitors took the bizarre ferry ride to ‘The Rock’ that morning for what was hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In the following days, as the air quality in the Bay Area worsened, the Island was once again closed to visitors until the Air Quality Index improved. As disheartening as it is to find this National Park treasure without daily explorers, it underscores the priority placed on the wellbeing of visitors, crew, and Island staff.
Now Is The Time–Please Visit
In time, the Island will once again be open for visitors, providing opportunities for local day-trippers to escape. Now is the time to plan your trip to the Island. Please take advantage of the opportunity to visit without the usual crowds and support your National Park and the National Parks Conservancy.
Tickets are currently on sale for dates though March 2021, and Alcatraz Cruises is prepared to welcome visitors once again.
The Alcatraz Cruises family wishes everyone a safe and happy New Year and we look forward to welcoming you to your National Park.