Month: March 2015

Amador’s Four Fires Festival – It’s where to go for the next “round”

Amador - Grapes

Wine and culinary enthusiasts will be crushing on Amador County this year as the Amador Four Fires Festival makes its debut on May 2, 2015.

Four celebrated wine regions inspire the craft of Amador’s winemakers and winegrowers while paired with the cuisine of star chefs who will all be cooking with open flame.

“We are thrilled to offer a full day of fun, informative, delectable and entertaining activities to festival goers interested in more than ‘just another tasting,’” comments Deirdre Mueller, co-creator of the event.

The Amador Four Fires Festival will offer a variety of culinary activities all designed to complement the fine wines of Amador County, including tastings that explore everything from local olive oils, handcrafted candies, honeys, cheeses, cider and craft beer to some of the best wines vetted by a panel of judges. The festivities will also showcase multiple cooking demonstrations, including a cowboy campfire, a sensory station and seminars covering topics from food and wine pairings, winemaking, tasting tips and “101” mini-courses. Rounding out the day are exclusive wine sales, a County Store and live music at two venues.

Craig Palmer comments “The idea of Amador Four Fires is to showcase the best of Amador County, capturing the spirit of family-owned winemakers, winegrowers, premier chefs and local artisan purveyors and artistic talent.

Yorba Vineyard

Taking place at the Amador County Fairgrounds in Plymouth, California, the Amador Four Fires Festival will feature over 200 wines available for tasting from more than 40 wineries, including Renwood Winery, Vino Noceta, Yorba Wines, Terra d’Oro Winery, Jeff Runquist Wines and Bellagrace Vineyards, to name a few (full vendor list at amadorfourfires.com). Guests will enjoy the four celebrated wine regions that inspire the art of Amador’s winemakers and growers: syrahs, mouvedres and grenaches from Southern France, Italian barberas, sangioveses, Super Tuscans, tempranillos and garnachas from the Iberian Peninsula and from California’s legendary heritage, true old vine Zinfandels.

In addition to a unique blend of wine tastings, the food will be extraordinary, inspired by the fiery traditions of cooking on an open flame from each of these wine regions, prepared with high drama and culinary expertise by Amador’s finest star chefs, namely Mark Berkner, Beth Sogaard, David Alvarez and showman Richard Lee.

Tickets and additional information available at amadorfourfires.com.

Proceeds Benefit the Amador County Fair Foundation.

Travel Tips:

  1. Any season of the year is a great time to visit Amador County, so for those that can’t make the festival, customize a trip to enjoy the many attractions of this
  2. Although the Amador Four Fires Festival is a one-day event, visitors will want to make a weekend out of the excursion. Suggested accommodations are The National Hotel in Jackson (www. com) or the Hotel Sutter in Sutter Creek (www.hotelsutter.com).
  3. While festival attendees may get their fill of great tastings during the festival, visiting some of the wineries for more personal tastings should also tempt the palate. Some favorites include Sobon Estate, Shenandoah Vineyards, Renwood Winery, Terra d’Oro and Vino Noceto.
  4. Other diversions include cycling through the golden, rolling hills; fishing in one of the many rivers or lakes; golfing at one of two courses; exploring the many historical sites; antiquing in any of the county’s many charming shops; canvassing through the caverns and strange rock formations; and dining in the farm to fork eateries.
  5. To plan your trip, visit touramador.com.

Alcatraz Cruises Features Alcatraz Island and Angel Island Combination Tour

imgres

Alcatraz Cruises offers a great value for visitors to San Francisco with the Alcatraz Island and Angel Island Combination Tour.

In collaboration with California State Parks and the National Park Service, Alcatraz Cruises offers a seasonal tour including both Angel Island State Park and Alcatraz Island. This combination tour runs during the spring and summer seasons and is available through October 26, 2015.  Ticket prices are $63.50 per adult/junior (12-61); $42.75 for children (5-11); $61.75 for seniors (62+); and free for toddlers (0-4).

images

The combination tour is a 5½ hour journey. Ticket prices include the ferry rides to both islands, a one-hour historic tram tour on Angel Island and the cell-house audio tour on Alcatraz. (Note: the tour of the Angel Island Immigration Station is not included in the Alcatraz & Angel Island Combination Tour).

For bookings, visithttp://www.alcatrazcruises.com/website/buy-tickets.aspx or call 415-981-7625. If booking the combination tour for a group of 15 or more, please contact Alcatraz Cruises Group Services Department at (415) 438-8361 or emailgroups@alcatrazcruises.com.

About Alcatraz:

Most people know that Alcatraz was once a world-famous federal penitentiary, but the island’s history before and after the penitentiary era is less well known. For example, few realize that it was also the site of the first American lighthouse on the West Coast and that the island served as a huge harbor defense fort during the Civil War. After the fort became obsolete, the U.S. Army turned the island into a military prison. Following the closing of the penitentiary, Alcatraz became the site of an American Indian protest movement that would change modern American history.

About Angel Island:

Angel Island is known as the “Ellis Island of the West”. Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, immigrants that came to America’s West Coast were processed at Angel Island. They were detained for days, sometimes months or years, while waiting to enter the country. The United States Immigration Station on Angel Island is now a newly renovated museum that offers visitors a chance to learn about this important part of U.S. history. The museum is open for self-guided tours between 11:00am to 3:00pm, Wednesday-Sunday.

#  #  #

Alcatraz Cruises is the National Park Service concessioner of ferry service to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.  Alcatraz Cruises hosts nearly 1.5 million visitors annually.  Alcatraz Cruises designed, built and operates the first hybrid ferry in the United States.  The Hornblower Hybrid’s revolutionary design has reduced fuel consumption by 75% and has already begun to be implemented in other parts of the country.  For more information visit: www.alcatrazcruises.com.

Traveling? Items to keep you mobile devices connected.

imgres

Tech-savvy travelers not only have to pack their essentials, but also their mobile devices. Shane Broesky and Steven DeVries, co-founders of Farbe Technik, a global manufacturer of mobile accessories for Apple, Blackberry and Samsung, highlight several must-have accessories travelers need to stay connected:

Charging Cable: While this essential may be a given, it is often the obvious essentials that are overlooked and, more often than not, forgotten. It is useful to bring an extra cable, in case one is stolen, lost or stops working altogether. For those who bring several mobile devices for travel, consider getting a charging cable with multiple heads.

Wall Plug: The ideal wall plugs (like the ones that can be connected to a USB adapter) offer flexibility and allow travelers to charge all USB-supported devices using the same wall plug. A universal adaptor for international travel ensures devices will charge properly in countries that have a different type of electric socket.

Backup Battery / Power Bank: It can be incredibly difficult to find an electric socket to charge mobile devices while traveling. A power bank allows for charging, at any given time or location. Because power banks come in different capacities and sizes, it is ideal to get a power bank with a large capacity, especially when charging multiple devices.

Protective Case: Whether going on a trip to the beach or to a city, it is important that a device is secure in a protective case, which can minimize the damage to a dropped mobile device. For those traveling near the water, consider waterproof cases, making devices water and beach-safe.

Get ​$500 Savings on 2015 Italy by Train Package

With the dollar gaining strength daily—and the euro losing it—traveling in Italy is a bargain this year.  And nowhere is it more evident than in the $500 per couple savings on TourCrafters’ 2015 Rome, Florence and Venice by Train package. Last year the very same package cost $2,479 per person and this year it’s only $2,229.

The package includes an arrival transfer from airport to hotel, daily Italian buffet breakfast, four nights’ hotel accommodation in Rome, a 48-hour Hop On Hop Off bus tour, a walking tour of Rome, train from Rome to Florence, four nights’ hotel in Florence, a cooking class of Tuscan specialties with dinner, a full-day tour to Siena, San Gimignano and Chianti, a full-day tour to the Italian Riviera’s Cinque Terre, train from Florence to Venice, two nights’ hotel in Venice, and a walking tour of Venice.

The 4-star hotels chosen for this package are all quite splendid and conveniently-located.  In Rome it’s the historic Hotel Quirinale, whose verdant garden has a passageway to the Rome Opera House.  In art-filled Florence, the elegant Grand Hotel Baglioni, a former princes’ residence, overlooks the Duomo and in romantic Venice, the stylish Hotel Royal San Marco is just steps from St. Mark’s Square.

florence

The extras make this package especially appealing: tours of Rome and Venice, a special Tuscan cooking class with dinner, excursions to the picturesque fishing villages of the Cinque Terre and the lovely landscape, Chianti vineyards and medieval towns of Tuscany.

All prices quoted are per person, double occupancy, do not include air fare, departure transfer or city tax, and are subject to availability.  Note that these prices are valid only on weekdays and are for 4-star hotels.  A package with very good 3-star hotels is also available, at a lower price with lesser savings.

For more information about the Rome, Florence and Venice by Train package, log onto http://sales.tourcrafters.com/tour.lasso?ID=213 and then click “Dates & Prices.”  TourCrafters’ toll-free telephone number is 800-482-5995.

New Chef at San Francisco’s Papito Potrero Is Serving Up Great, Organic Mexican Cuisine

calamari copy 2

Tucked in a cozy little corner of San Francisco’s Potrero Hill, Papito has recently introduced a hot new chef, Efren Villalobos. Complementing some of the restaurant’s iconic signature dishes, Villalobos has spiced up the menu with the Calamar Taco (grilled fresh calamari, avacadi, Veracruzana sauce, Oaxaca cheese and pico de gallo); Hawaiano Taco (pan seared tuna, avocado, house-made pickles, sesame oil and chipotle aioli); and the Rustic Shrimp Enchilada (sautéed garlic shrimp, coloradito sauce, black beans and jack cheese); to name a few.

For starters, don’t miss out on the generous portion of home-made guacamole and tuna crudo for appetizers as well as the elote asado (corn on the fork). As for our favorite entrees, we opted for the chef’s recommendations and enjoyed the duck confit tacos “Carnitas de Pato”; fried chicken tacos “Milanesa”; the vegetarian “Enchilada Rojas” burrito; and slow-cooked Berkshire pork “Carnitas Quesadilla.” We departed satiated to the sombrero and enough left-overs for a week of meals.

While small, Papito’s intimate setting sets the stage for a mouth-watering dining fiesta. The exhibition kitchen sets the stage and the gracious hospitality delivers.

Papito is located at 317 Connecticut Street, near 18th Street, in San Francisco, and is open daily serving weekday lunch, weekend brunch and dinner. Hours are Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Weekend brunch service runs until 3:00 p.m. The Web address is http://www.papitosf.com and the telephone number is (415) 695-0147.

Pacifica is the Perfect Spring Break Getaway

Located just 15 minutes south of San Francisco, the beautiful beach-front town of Pacifica is the perfect family getaway for Spring Break and long weekends.

imgres

As a small coastal destination with a myriad of diversions, Pacifica hops into the spring season with activities that appeal to the whole family.  With everything from Easter-inspired festivities to outdoor activities.  Here are a few of the favorite things:

Easter Egg Hunts:

  • Friday, April 3 at 4:00 p.m.; Fairmont Park, 629 Parkview Circle, Pacifica
  • Saturday, April 4 at 10:00 a.m.; Frontierland Park, Humboldt Court
  • For more information, call 650-738-7381 or visit http//www.cityofpacifi ca.orgdepts./recdepartment/special event

Easter Sunrise Service Hike:

  • Sunday, April 5; sunrise service hike up to Sweeny Ridge; for families, the hike begins at 6:00 a.m. from the upper end of Fassler Boulevard; service beings at sunrise, 6:50 a.m. from the summit at the top of Sweeney Ridge.
  • Holy Cross Lutheran Church (1165 Seville Drive) will host an Easter breakfast after the hike from 7:00-9:30 a.m.
  • For more information, visit http://www.mercurynews.com/pacifica/ci_17884684

Hiking/Biking Trails:

Earth Day & Eco Fest:

  • The Pacifica Beach Coalition will host a creek and beach clean up with hundreds of volunteers on Saturday, April 18; then, the public is welcome to join in the Eco Fest at Linda Mar Beach from 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. where live music and interactive booths will be at the center of attention.
  • For more information, visit http://pacificabeachcoalition.org/take-action/earth-day-of-action-eco-fest/

Surfing/Beachcombing:

  • Pacifica is home to some of Northern California’ best surfing beaches, including Linda Mar State Beach, Rockaway Beach and Sharp Park Beach.
  • Additionally, there are many local outfits that offer lessons and rentals, including NorCal Surf Shop in Pedro Point. For more information, visit http://norcalsurfshop.com

Wild Flowers:

  • The hills of Pacifica are alive and due to the unique weather conditions this year, hikers and wild flower enthusiasts can enjoy early growth of many botanicals, including Footsteps-of-Spring, Baby Blue Eyes, Mission Bells and Milkmaids. The colors are vivid and a walk on the park’s trails during peak wildflower season, from late February through June, is the time to appreciate the profusion of wildflowers.
  • For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/goga/learn/nature/wildflowers.htm

PACIFICA LODGING

Pacifica offers six lodging options in the budget to moderate price range and all are within walking distance to Pacifica’s beaches. Four are located at Rockaway Beach. The largest with 97 guest rooms is the Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel, a full-service hotel situated on Rockaway Beach with spacious accommodations, beautiful ocean views, a swimming pool and the upscale Moonraker restaurant. The Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Pacifica provides very comfortable accommodations with ocean views and a complimentary hot Express Start Breakfast Bar, which has an outdoor deck overlooking beautiful Rockaway Beach Cove. Offering a dash of Victorian charm is the pet-friendly Pacifica Motor Inn and adjacent to Nick’s Restaurant is the Sea Breeze Motel, which is very convenient for those looking to dance the night away at Nick’s.  Situated across from Linda Mar Beach is another full service hotel called the Pacifica Beach Hotel. Under new ownership, the hotel now includes several remodeled rooms, offering spectacular ocean view rooms, Jacuzzi tubs, indoor swimming pool and the new Peruvian Restaurant, Puerto 27. Further north near Sharp Park is Americas Best Value Inn, which is a short walk from the Pacifica Pier and the Sharp Park golf course.

Accommodations:

America’s Best Value Inn Pacifica: (877) 784-6835/www.pacifica-bestvalueinn.com

Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel: (650) 355-6300/ www.bestwesternlighthouse.com

Holiday Inn Express & Suites: (650) 355-5000/www.hiexpresspacifica.com

Pacifica Beach Hotel: (650) 355-9999/www.pacificabeachhotel.com

Pacifica Motor Inn: (800) 522-3772/www.pacificamotorinn.com

Sea Breeze Motel at Rockaway Beach: (650) 359-3903

Travel Tip:  For more information about Pacifica, log onto VisitPacifica.com.

 

Background: Pacifica. California

The natural beauty and unparalleled serenity of Pacifica, California has attracted travelers to this coastal gem for more than 100 years. Located just 15 minutes south of San Francisco, Pacifica feels worlds away but is convenient to some of the most vibrant, international communities on the West Coast.  Easily accessible from Highway 1, Pacifica’s rich cultural heritage and bohemian personality make it a unique destination worth discovering.

Pacifica’s ethereal beauty is enhanced by its Mediterranean style weather. Refreshing temperatures range from 15-20 degrees cooler than the central coast, drawing visitors to Pacifica’s shoreline to ‘cool’ off during the hot summer months with its natural air-conditioning and attractive oceanfront accommodations.  Likewise, Pacifica’s equally-appealing winter travel season provides a dramatic setting for those interested in off-season values and romantic departures.

Of the many diversions, Pacifica boasts some of the most breathtaking panoramic vistas atop a wide range of hiking trails and walking adventures along the expansive beaches dotting the destination’s shoreline.  Additionally, the destination features a range of recreational options, including surfing, boating, scuba, fishing and paragliding, birding, cycling, golf, tennis, archery and horseback riding.

According to the National Marine Sanctuaries of the West Coast, Pacifica is known to be the fourth richest area in the world for marine mammal life.

For more information about the destination of Pacifica, California, please visit http://visitpacifica.com.

Fantasy Football Draft Parties Vegas Style

imgres

The newest trend in Las Vegas tourism: fantasy football draft parties. This includes the rising culture of fantasy football drafts parties, how the legalization of real-money fantasy football leagues has influenced the culture of fantasy football draft parties, and how a Las Vegas fantasy football draft party differs from an ordinary draft party.  To see the spirit of a Vegas draft party, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7jbtg_6F24.

Become part of Sin City VIP this next year for football season where you can win lots of money by just knowing a little bit about football.

Alcatraz Cruises Celebrates Earth Day by the Bay

To celebrate Earth Day, Respect Our Planet and Alcatraz Cruises (the National Park Service concessioner of ferry service to Alcatraz Island) will present a full day of free, family-friendly activities on Saturday, April 25, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Hawkwatching

Partnering with local environmental companies, Alcatraz Cruises’ Earth Day festivities are free and open to the public and will take place at Pier 33/Alcatraz Landing in San Francisco. Activities and featured interactive stations will include:

  • Discover the Bay — We take water samples from the bay and watch the microorganisms on a large-display microscope — learn what role living things play in our local marine environment.
  • Arts & Crafts — educational and creative green art station for children to express their views of the Earth.
  • Gifts and Giveaways — enter to win drawings for children who fill out a passport of vendor visits; prizes for all children who fill out passport; spinning wheel for chances to win additional prizes.
  • Other Activities — Music, face painters and other entertainment.

On Earth Day and every day, Alcatraz Cruises actively promotes sustainability efforts in San Francisco and throughout the maritime industry. Alcatraz Cruises was the first to run hybrid ferry service in the country, the company is considered “zero waste,” consistently recycling 90 percent of its waste and it is certified by several national agencies because the company has always and continues to perform at the highest levels for quality, environment, health and safety.

For more information, visit www.alcatrazcruises.com, call (415) 438-8320 or email ac-marketing@alcatrazcruises.com.

Alcatraz Cruises is the National Park Service concessioner of ferry service to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz Cruises hosts nearly 1.5 million visitors annually. Alcatraz Cruises designed, built and operates the first hybrid ferry in the United States. The Hornblower Hybrid’s revolutionary design has reduced fuel consumption by 75% and has already begun to be implemented in other parts of the country. For more information visit: http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/pressroom.

A Photographer’s Dream: 13-Day India Tour With Pushkar Camel Fair for Only $1,899

A trip to India is a mind-blowing experience any time, but one that includes the Pushkar Camel Fair is even more exciting.  World Spree’s 13-day India tour covers the highlights of northern India—Delhi, Agra and Jaipur—plus a safari in search of the royal Bengal tiger, but one departure in November also includes the unbelievably photogenic Pushkar Camel Fair, all for only $1,899.

US-Index

The tour includes round-trip flights from New York, Houston, Los Angeles or San Francisco to Delhi, accommodations in 5-star hotels and deluxe tents in Pushkar, 10 international buffet breakfasts, nine other delicious meals, all transportation in India, comprehensive sightseeing with entrance fees, two game drives in Ranthambore National Park, professional English-speaking tour manager/guides and baggage handling.

Photographers and everyday travelers will marvel at the sights of the Golden Triangle: the monuments and markets of Old and New Delhi, Agra’s breath-taking Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur with its palaces and bazaars, and the elusive royal Bengal tiger ( which may or may not appear), but the tour’s most memorable feature is the Pushkar Camel Fair.  This spectacular tribal gathering cum religious festival brings thousands of camels, horses, herders and traders streaming out of the desert to set up camp near the town of Pushkar.  A colorful fair with camel races, livestock exhibitions, tented bazaars and street vendors springs up around it and, since the temple-rich Pushkar is a Hindu holy town, you will also see pilgrims bathing in the town’s sacred lake.

Travelers who wish to see even more of northern India should know about the 19-day Epic Journey to India and Nepal ($3,299), which includes the Golden Triangle and tiger reserve, plus the erotic temples of Khajuraho, the fascinating and photogenic scenes along the Ganges ghats in Varanasi and the fabled Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, as well as the Pushkar Camel Fair.

And for even more sensory overload, there’s the Incredible India tour next February ($1,999) that includes the unforgettable Holi Festival of Colors, an ancient Hindu festival that includes a free-for-all carnival of colors where everyone dances in the streets of Jaipur and sprays everyone else with colored powder and/or water.

For more information on all of these tours, log onto www.worldspree.com, click “Tour Packages” and then “India.”  Please note that all prices quoted are cash-only, are per person double occupancy,  and are subject to availability.

The Alcatraz Cruises Website Offers Guaranteed Lowest Price for Alcatraz Tickets

For those that want to visit San Francisco’s notorious Alcatraz Island, planning ahead is a must. As the official website for Alcatraz Tours, www.AlcatrazCruises.com provides the guaranteed lowest price for Alcatraz tickets, which are only $30 per (adult) person. Tickets are now available for purchase up to 90 days in advance. (Note: While other entities do indeed sell tickets for Alcatraz Tours, there are many unauthorized resellers that offer tickets at inflated prices and Alcatraz Cruises cannot be responsible for tickets bought from other sources)

In addition to the opportunity to book tickets up to 90 days in advance of the desired tour date, visitors to Alcatraz will enjoy the added benefit of complimentary access to the iconic exhibit @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz with the purchase of a regularly priced ticket through the exhibits’ duration of April 26, 2015.

Ai Weiwei Exhibit

@Large: Ai Weiwei

The @Large: Ai Weiwei exhibit responds to the island of Alcatraz and its layered history as a place of detainment and protest. The exhibition features new sculpture, sound and multimedia works exploring pressing themes that have characterized Ai Weiwei’s art and activism—the right to free expression, the irrepressible nature of creativity, and the role of art, artists and individuals worldwide in shaping social change. The installations address these concepts in ways that are both personal to the artist’s experiences and life in China and resonant with individuals and communities internationally. Responding to the potent history of Alcatraz Island, the exhibition examines incarceration as a tool of repressive governments, and creative expression as an act of defiance and individual freedom. Artworks are installed in four sites throughout Alcatraz Island.

One of the most prominent artists of the 21st century, Ai Weiwei is an architect, sculptor, photographer, filmmaker, curator, writer and activist whose work often responds to conditions in China, including the government’s repression of free speech and expression.

How to Get to Alcatraz/Summer Season Schedule

Passengers may purchase and print tickets online at http://www.alcatrazcruises.com. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 415-981-ROCK (7625) or from the ticket booth at Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.

Spring & Summer 2015 Tour Schedule

Departure Times

Early Bird

8:45 AM

Day Tours

9:10 AM

9:30 AM

10:00 AM

10:30 AM

11:00 AM

11:30 AM

Noon

12:30 PM

1:00 PM

1:30 PM

2:10 PM

2:40 PM

3:20 PM

3:50 PM**

Night Tours

5:25 PM*

5:55 PM

6:30 PM

*through April 26, 2015 only

http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/website/price-schedule-chart.aspx

Ticket Prices

                                    Adult              Junior                        Child               Senior            Family**

                                    18+                  12-17               5-11                 62+                  2A & 2C

Day Tour                   $30.00           30.00              18.25              28.25              $90.25

Night Tour                 $37.00           36.00              21.75              34.25              N/A

** Family Pack consists of 2 Adults and 2 Children. Please call 415 981-ROCK (7625) to book the Family Pack as it is not available for purchase on-line. Prices and schedules subject to change without notice.

History of Alcatraz

“Despite what they tell you, I think they feel a little nostalgic. I think they’re going to miss this place.” – Alcatraz Warden Fred T. Williamson when the last inmates were shipped out in 1963

Few islands in the world can boast such a glorious natural setting – and grim human past – as Alcatraz. Visited by Native Americans as early as 10,000 years ago, the barren island remained uninhabited until Europeans arrived. Spanish and Mexican settlers in the early 1800’s called the guano covered island “Isla de los Alcatraces” – Island of Pelicans.

Not long after the island was acquired from Mexico in 1848, the U.S. Army built what would become the largest defense fort west of the Mississippi River during the Civil War (1861-1865). Alcatraz also became a beacon for ships entering the treacherous waters of the Golden Gate after its lighthouse, the first on the West Coast, went into service in 1854,

Alcatraz began its long era as a dreaded place of confinement when soldier-convicts were first imprisoned at the fort in 1860. Over the next decades, the island became less of a defense fort and more of a military prison, with Army convicts building most of the structures still standing on Alcatraz today.

Alcatraz was reborn as a civilian Federal Penitentiary in 1934, becoming known in the press as “The Rock” and “America’s Devil’s Island.” Wardens at Atlanta, Leavenworth and other federal prisons selected their most unruly convicts to transfer there, among them Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelley. No less tough and carefully selected were the guards, one for every three prisoners, who were trained to use their wits as well as their muscle when trouble broke out.

Alcatraz was the most escape-proof prison in the nation. Even if a convict could get past the remote-control locks, control tower and barbed wire, he had struggle against swirling tides and icy waters to reach shore. Yet, escape was uppermost on the minds of many inmates. “Alcatraz is becoming a prison of madmen and men half mad,” Al “The Bug” Loomis, a bank robber once incarcerated there, wrote in 1938. “The sustaining hope is escape.”

Over the years, escapees fashioned crude water wings and wooden flippers and attempted the swim, but either drowned or were caught while swimming. In 1962, convict John Paul Scott became the first and only penitentiary escapee to reach the San Francisco shore. He was discovered unconscious on the rocks of Fort Point, purple and shivering with just his socks on. Too weak to continue, he ended up back where he started.

In that same year, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy announced the phase-out of the prison. Alcatraz was turned over to the General Services administration as surplus property and most of the inmates were transferred to a new facility in Marion, Ill. Over the next few years, hundreds of proposals were submitted for new uses for the island, including a West Coast version of the Statue of Liberty, a casino resort and space museum.

In 1969, a group of 300 Native Americans began a 19-month occupation of Alcatraz, claiming rights to the island under an old Sioux Treaty that gives Native Americans the right to unused federal lands. While the occupation put a media spotlight on Native American issues, the numbers of activists gradually dwindled and Federal marshals removed the last few from the island in June 1971. Each November Native Americans of many tribes return to Alcatraz to hold a sunrise ceremony commemorating the Occupation.

In 1972, Alcatraz became part of the newly designated Golden Gate Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service. Tours of Alcatraz began the next year, now drawing some 1.5 million visitors a year to a place so many men had once dreamed of never seeing again.

# # #

Alcatraz Cruises is the National Park Service concessioner of ferry service to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz Cruises hosts nearly 1.5 million visitors annually. Alcatraz Cruises designed, built and operates the first hybrid ferry in the United States. The Hornblower Hybrid’s revolutionary design has reduced fuel consumption by 75% and has already begun to be implemented in other parts of the country. For more information visit: http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/pressroom.