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Tips for Visiting Alcatraz

By Viator, September 2014

5 1486 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 1514 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 Tour plus Muir Woods, Giant Redwoods and Sausalito Day Trip

4.5 star rating: Recommended 781 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

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

4.5 star rating: Recommended 323 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

Jail and Sail: Half-Day Tour of San Francisco Bay

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 202 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: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $88.00

Walking Tour of Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach with Cable Car Ride and optional Alcatraz Ticket

4 star rating: Recommended 14 Reviews

Take this guided walking tour and see the best that San Francisco has to offer! Visit the famous Fisherman’s Wharf, take in fantastic views of the Golden Gate ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: Varies

From USD $49.99

San Francisco Combo: Alcatraz and GPS-Guided GoCar Tour

4.5 star rating: Recommended 27 Reviews

Whiz through San Francisco at your own pace aboard a GPS-guided GoCar and then explore Alcatraz, all in one day. See top San Francisco attractions such as ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: Flexible

From USD $83.28

San Francisco Seaplane Flight and Alcatraz Tour

See the highlights of San Francisco on this exciting tour that combines a 6-passenger seaplane flight with a ticket to Alcatraz. Start or end your adventure ...  Read more

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: Varies; flight is 30 min

From USD $209.00

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