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Tips for Visiting Alcatraz

By Viator, November 2014

5 2432 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 1893 Reviews

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: 8 hours

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

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

4.5 star rating: Recommended 639 Reviews

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: 6 hours 30 minutes

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

4.5 star rating: Recommended 362 Reviews

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: 2 days

From USD $100.99

Jail and Sail: Alcatraz Tour and Sunset Bay Cruise

4.5 star rating: Recommended 326 Reviews

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: 6 hours

From USD $96.00
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San Francisco Combo: Alcatraz and GPS-Guided GoCar Tour

4.5 star rating: Recommended 58 Reviews

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: Flexible

From USD $88.79

San Francisco Combo: Alcatraz and City Segway Tour

4.5 star rating: Recommended 70 Reviews

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

From USD $91.00

Alcatraz and Hills of San Francisco Segway Tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 36 Reviews

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

From USD $150.00

Alcatraz at Night and San Francisco City Tour

Location: San Francisco, California
Duration: Varies

From USD $121.00

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