Good for: Everyone
Price: $12-17 for ferry which includes park admission, $50 for tram tour
Features: Scenic views, local history
For a different kind of day trip, you might want to hop on the ferry from Oakland/Alameda, Tiburon, or San Francisco to Angel Island. This state park sits in the middle of the San Francisco Bay and is rich with history from many different time periods.
The open tram ride, though a bit expensive, is very informative and gives you a good overview of the whole island. This is a great way to give substance to the history accounts you may have only read about. The driver is also your docent so feel free to ask questions. If you have middle to high school-aged children, this is a great subject for their next history report. There are plenty of stops but younger ones may need extra attention to keep them busy. Be sure to bring a camera along as there are some amazing views as you climb up the island.
What this area is most known for is the part it played with the immigration of many Asian foreigners, mostly Chinese. It is called the “Ellis Island of the West”. A specific tour is available to see the areas where the immigrants were detained and the the conditions in which they were forced to live. I couldn’t stomach going on that tour, especially when I think that my relatives of years ago may have suffered there, but others in our party did. They generously allowed me to share the below pictures with you.
On a lighter note, the grassy area near the visitor center is a great picnic spot. Feel free to grab a bench and have a bite to eat as you enjoy the views of the bay. The kids will enjoy playing around here, chasing the birds, or running away from the gentle waves at the shore. Bike rentals and segway tours are also available for those wanting to explore the island a bit more (check the Angel Island site for availability). The gift shop is kind of dinky but at least it’s something to keep you busy as you await the ferry back.
Angel Island is not the type of place I’d like to visit for a recurring family day. Still, it’s definitely worth a trip and understanding the events that took place here can be both powerful and sobering.