Being a Tourist in Your Own City

When I consider moving to a new place, I research all the cool things to do around town that aren’t options wherever I live.

I find the perfect house, my boxes arrive, and I busy myself unpacking. I yelp, I foodspot, and I make miles and miles of lists. I push myself to quickly fall in love with my city, swooning at all the new possibilities available to me and working to find my people.

Then, if I’m fortunate enough to have quickly found a job in my new home, I have to quickly assimilate into the new work culture. In those early days at a new job, I often find myself working longer hours, trying to absorb everything quickly in an attempt to decrease ramp-up time. It makes for a very long, exhausting day, and weekends where I flop in bed and just luxuriate in the nothingness.

And in a blink of an eye, I find that I’ve lived in a place six months, and I still haven’t seen some of the sights that initially made me so excited to move to there!

So it was with Alcatraz. Everyone who I’d spoken to about moving to San Francisco said I had to go visit Alcatraz. I sort of laughed it off. Yeah yeah, it’s such a touristy thing to do. I’ll do it later when I have to take someone else to show the sights. But why save fun things to do for guests only?

I got my tickets and boarded a very chilly boat to Alcatraz last Saturday night.  Though I did not buy the tourisy picture of ourselves that was taken before we boarded in front of a drop cloth with the island in the background, can I just say: wow, I wasn’t disappointed at all.  If you ever find yourself in San Francisco, Check out the night tour of Alcatraz. It’s eerie.

After the main tour through the prison, the docents decided to open up the hospital. Few people had noticed, and as a result, we were first up the stairs into what I can only imagine was more a place of torment than healing. I’m not usually one for belief in the paranormal (the odd cult vampire book excluded), but I will say that there was a very uneasy feeling up there that lasted until we left.

Despite being thoroughly  creeped out by the time we landed back on Pier 33, I am so glad we actually got off our butts and did the tourist thing, at which we’d normally look down our noses. Okay so maybe the locals don’t do this sort of thing often, but it made for a great date night.

Are there any places you’ve been putting off visiting in your own city? Or any places that are off the beaten tourist track in your city that you love to visit?




  1. Melissa says:

    Ah! There are so many touristy things in DC i have guilt about not seeing yet… For example: the reading room in the Library of Congress. The top of the Washington Monument (currently closed, but still). The Ford Theater. Those double decker bus tour-things. I just tell myself I’ll get to them eventually :)

    I have been to Alcatraz with my family when I was young, but never at night– Sounds fun! Thanks for sharing, Kate!

    • Kate says:

      I think you should get a pass for the Washington Monument! There are so many different amazing things to explore in DC. I hope you get a chance to play tourist there soon!

    • Kate says:

      You’ll love it, but remember to dress warmly! I wore 2 pairs of pants, wool socks meant for skiing two shirts, a sweater, a wool coat, a scarf, a hat, and elbow length leather gloves and was still chilly at points. Looked like the Michelin Man, but hey, do what you gotta do!

      Are there any other places in SF that you recommend going?

  2. Natasia says:

    This is great! Even though I grew up in the Bay Area, I’ve never been to Alcatraz! Can you believe it? I have some friends who are local Beijingers, born and raised, but have never been to Tiananmen. One girl finally went this year with her mom and was surprised the Forbidden City and Tiananmen were adjacent!

    • Kate says:

      It’s always so hard to imagine locals not having been to these iconic places, but in your friends’ defense, traffic around Tiananmen is horrific! Unless they’re subway-takers. Then, no excuse!

      Any recommendations for other must-sees in SF?

  3. Jeno says:

    I played tourist in SF last summer but the Alcatraz tour was booked for weeks! I’m still really sad I couldn’t go. The pictures are great!

  4. Justine says:

    Actually being a tourist was what I did when I came back here. It was really fun to look at the country from a “tourist perspective.” And Alcatraz looks like a great place to visit next time I’m in SF!

  5. Gemma says:

    Ahhhh these photos are making me salivate for those rustic places that show the patina of time, with eerie stories seeping from the derelict walls – thanks for the reminder – they always have such a pure architectural expression of function that I find comfort in.

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