Perched on a rocky island in the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz once housed such legendary criminals as Al Capone. Today, the former prison is an extremely popular National Historic Landmark. Here are the top things to know when planning your visit.
Book your ticket in advance to secure your spot.
On the island you'll find National Park Service exhibits and ranger-guided tours.
Tickets to Alcatraz sell out days and even weeks in advance, especially during the summer season. As the island is only accessible via the Alcatraz ferry service, it’s essential that you purchase a tour in advance (tickets are rarely ever available for same-day purchase).
Explore at your own pace with a self-guided audio tour.
Your ticket for the ferry ride to the island will have a specific departure time. Make sure you’re at Pier 33, aka Alcatraz Landing, in time to catch your assigned ferry. Once you’re on the island, you can stay as long as you wish, returning to the city on any departing ferry. Allow at least 2.5 hours for both ferry rides and your time exploring the island.
Select a combo tour for an enhanced sightseeing experience.
Lock in tickets with a city tour that includes Alcatraz admission.
One of the best ways to make sure you don’t miss a trip to Alcatraz is to book a tour that includes admission to the island plus another Bay Area experience, such as a city tour, a Segway tour, a twilight bay cruise, an independent GoCar tour, or a trip to see the redwood trees of Muir Woods.
More often than not, it's chilly out on the water in San Francisco.
The ferry ride provides fabulous views of the San Francisco city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz Island, but the trip often comes with wind and fog. To enjoy the scenery and stand on deck at the same time, you’ll want to bring a jacket, even in the summer.
Leah Still Joll is a freelance writer based in San Francisco with a specialty in travel writing. Her favorite destinations include Maui, Sayulita, the Northern California coast, Paris, Morocco, Indonesia, and Western Australia.