With an almost endless amount of events, experiences and attractions, The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most popular places to visit in the United States. Visitors can enjoy winery tours in Napa Valley, Silicon Valley tours, Muir Woods tours, sightseeing tours and, of course, a visit to Alcatraz Island. With well over 1 million visitors each year, the famous federal penitentiary is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. Originally home to a military prison up until 1934, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary (also known as “The Rock”) housed some of the country’s most notorious criminals since it’s isolated island location, surrounded by the rough waters of the San Francisco Bay made it almost impossible to escape from. In fact, the official word from all the years of operation no prisoners successfully escaped. Some tried to escape and were caught, some tried to escape and were shot or drowned in the Bay, however there were 5 prisoners officially listed as “missing and presumed drowned” so their bodies were never actually found.
The prison gained much notoriety due to the notorious criminals that were house there, including Al Capone, The “Birdman” of Alcatraz, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and more. Purchasing some Alcatraz Tickets or getting passes to one of the many Alcatraz Tours will give you amazing behind-the-scenes access to the prison, including the cell block, recreation yard, dining hall, Officer’s Club and more. Even better, your alcatraz tickets include a wonderful ferry ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Island as well as a free self-guided audio tour to take you through all of the coolest parts of the prison.
If you are visiting San Francisco or are a local looking to try something new, the 22 Acre island located in the San Francisco Bay is accessible by the Alcatraz Cruises Boats, departing daily from Pier 33. Grab some Alcatraz Tour Tickets or, even better, join one of the Alcatraz tour packages, which will allow you to explore some other great attractions like Muir Woods and Sausalito on bikes, buses or even helicopters!
There are many types of Alcatraz Tour Tickets available, so make sure to plan ahead and choose the tour that works for you.
Standard Tours: The basic Alcatraz Tour Ticket will include a round-trip ferry ride from Pier 33, a self-guided audio tour and free time to explore the island.
Specialty Tours: There are 3 types of Special tours, the Night Tour, Garden Tour and Behind the Scenes Tour. Each of these tours includes a round-trip ferry ride as well a special guided tour to see some specific parts of the island.
Combo Bus Tours: If you want to try out Wine Tasting in Napa, Muir Woods, Sausalito or San Francisco Sightseeing in addition to Alcatraz, choose one of the Combo Bus tours.
Walking Tours: Enjoy a guided walking tour through San Francisco Neighborhoods or along the coast before boarding the ferry for your Alcatraz Tour.
Food Tours: Check out the San Francisco Food Scene on a Guided Food tour after your Tour of Alcatraz.
The legendary Federal Penitentiary is one of the top tourist attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area along with Muir Woods, The Golden Gate Bridge, Silicon Valley, Pier 39 and more. Depending on the time of year that you visit, the attraction can be very busy and with only a limited number of tickets available per day, you may need to plan ahead to make sure you don’t miss out. Tickets, which include admission, a round-trip ferry ride and the cellhouse audio tour, can be purchased online at the Alcatraz Cruises website. You can also get tickets to Alcatraz by buying one of the many San Francisco tours packages, which offer other amenities like transportation as well as visits to other attractions in the Bay Area.
When you get to the Island you will exit the ferry at the Alcatraz Dock. This is the only place where you can eat and drink, so if you are hungry, make sure to grab something before you begin your tour. There is a limited menu of snacks at the dock, but you can also feel free to pack something for the ferry ride or buy something on the boat. Once you enter the prison, the only food/drink item you will be able to bring with you is bottled water.
Once you are on the dock, you will be greeted by someone from the Park Service staff who will give you a short introduction and let you know the basic rules for your visit. After that, you are pretty much on your own to explore the attraction and your first task will be walking up a fairly steep hill for about 1/4 of a mile. Since you will be doing a lot of walking during your visit, it is important to wear comfortable shoes. Also, keep in mind that the weather in San Francisco can be cold and windy, so make sure to bring a jacket. If you are injured or elderly, there are trams that will take you up the large hill.
Touring the prison is made easier with the audio tour that is included in the ticket price. The tour will take you to the main attractions like Al Capone’s Cell, The Warden’s House and the Recreation Yard, but you are welcome to explore on you own as well. You will want to take some timeto see the beautiful views of San Francisco, The Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito and more.
You can take as much time as you would like to explore, but make sure you check when the last ferry is leaving. You can expect to spend about 3-4 hours on average for the whole experience.