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Tips for Visiting Alcatraz

By Viator, November 2014

5 1770 Reviews | Add your review

So you're in San Francisco and you're looking to visit what the locals call “The Rock”. Anything you need to know? In short, yes. Aside from its extensive history as a military barracks, prison, and Native American political settlement, tours and ferry rides to Alcatraz routinely sell out early, so if you’re thinking of booking your tickets, the old adage, “the early bird gets the worm” applies here.

Originally acquired for the US by John C Fremont in 1846 for the whopping grand total of $5,000, The Rock was eyed by the Army Corps of Engineers to become a fortified military outpost, later known as Fortress Alcatraz. Civil War broke out and due to its isolation, Alcatraz was considered a prime location for internment purposes. Alcatraz held Civil War prisoners and Southern sympathizers as early as 1861. In 1933, Alcatraz became a federal prison and during its 29 years in operation, notable criminals such as Al Capone and Mickey Cohen were held here. It was also here at The Rock, that some of the most infamous escape attempts were made, though official record declares that not one of those attempts was successful.

The ferry to Alcatraz Island is located down on Fisherman's Wharf and for those unfamiliar with the San Francisco weather - it can be quite moody. Fog and sunshine, hot and cold, you never really know, so it’s best to dress in layers. Once you get to Alcatraz Island, your tour will begin. Purchasing an audio guide is highly recommended, even for those historians who usually eschew such extras. The day-to-day operational noises of a huge prison are brought to life, like the sound of cells crashing closed and inmates clattering in the dining hall.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself! Alcatraz is a widely popular destination and there’s a reason: people simply love it. From hearing about daring escape attempts to the chilling energy inside the cells, to the stunning views from the ferry ride over, you’re sure to come away with some fabulous memories.

Tours & Tickets

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Alcatraz and San Francisco City Tour

4.5 star rating: Recommended 1530 Reviews

Combine a San Francisco City Tour and guided visit to Alcatraz for the ultimate introduction to San Francisco! You'll enjoy the beauty and attractions of ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $79.00

Alcatraz at Night and San Francisco City Tour

3 star rating: Worth doing 2 Reviews

Experience some of San Francisco’s main attractions all in one day on this combination tour of city sights and Alcatraz at night. See the Golden Gate Bridge, ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: Varies

From USD $120.00

Alcatraz Tour plus Muir Woods, Giant Redwoods and Sausalito Day Trip

4.5 star rating: Recommended 773 Reviews

Contrast the brutal austerity of Alcatraz with the sheer beauty of Muir Woods and Sausalito on this enthralling day trip from San Francisco. It's a whole day ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $79.00

Viator VIP: Early Access to Alcatraz and Exclusive Cable Car Sightseeing Tour

4.5 star rating: Recommended 265 Reviews

Beat the crowds to Alcatraz and experience San Francisco aboard an authentic cable car with a modern twist. This exclusive tour puts you on the first ferry to ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: 6 hours (approx.)

From USD $149.00

San Francisco Hop-on Hop-off Ticket and Alcatraz Tour

4.5 star rating: Recommended 322 Reviews

Everything you'll need to see in San Francisco and at your own pace! From Alcatraz to modern San Francisco architecture, this tour covers the beauty and ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: 2 days (approx.)

From USD $99.99

San Francisco in One Day: Alcatraz, City Tour, Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Cruise

4 star rating: Recommended 53 Reviews

This is the perfect tour for those who want to experience the best of San Francisco Bay. Snap photos of Chinatown, Coit Tower, Haight-Ashbury and Twin Peaks ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: Varies

From USD $113.99

Jail and Sail: Alcatraz Tour and Sunset Bay Cruise

4.5 star rating: Recommended 204 Reviews

Explore the best of San Francisco Bay on this great-value Alcatraz and sunset cruise combo! Start the afternoon with a trip to the notorious Island prison of ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: 6 hours (approx.)

From USD $88.00

San Francisco Combo: Alcatraz and City Segway Tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 33 Reviews

Explore Alcatraz and take a city Segway tour to see top San Francisco attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf and the ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: Alcatraz: varies
Day Segway tour: 3 hours
Sunset Segway tour: 2 hours

From USD $90.00

Alcatraz and Hills of San Francisco Segway Tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 24 Reviews

See the best of San Francisco all in one exciting day with this Segway tour coupled with admission to Alcatraz. Get personalized guidance from your instructor ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: Segway tour: 3 hours; Alcatraz: varies

From USD $150.00

San Francisco Combo: Alcatraz and GPS-Guided GoCar Tour

4.5 star rating: Recommended 29 Reviews

Explore Alcatraz and then whiz through San Francisco at your own pace aboard a GPS-guided GoCar on this combo tour. Hop on the ferry and take a fascinating ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: Flexible

From USD $83.28

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