Alcatraz Island, located off the coast of San Francisco, California, is the home of the first lighthouse, the first United States fort in the Pacific Ocean, and above all home to the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Alcatraz prison housed some of the most dangerous criminals in American history. Such inmates include Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Robert Stroud. Since its closure in 1963, Alcatraz has attracted much attention as people wondered about the mysteries that lie on the island. Today, the public can take an interactive tour and get a hands-on experience of what life was like on “the rock.”
Planning your visit to Alcatraz
Since opening in 1972 as a national landmark and recreation area, locals and tourists alike have swarmed to catch a glimpse inside the penitentiary. For this reason, Alcatraz tours tend to sell out extremely quickly and often 2 to 3 months in advance. The federal penitentiary is located on Alcatraz Island, which is only accessible by ferry through the Alcatraz Cruise company.
The ferry ride lasts 10 to 15 minutes and has a ferry leaving the island every 30 minutes allowing tourists to tour the island and leave at their own leisure. Since it is directly on the water, the weather at Alcatraz can be very unpredictable resulting in cold temperatures and rough winds, particularly in the winter months. Be prepared for the unexpected by bringing a jacket and wearing closed-toe shoes. Accessing the prison requires walking about a quarter of a mile up a mild hill so it is advisable to wear comfortable clothing and bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated.
Experience an incredible cellhouse audio tour
The best and most authentic way to experience Alcatraz is through a Cellhouse Audio Tour. This incredibly realistic audio tour features stories from the actual men who served on the island as well as the correctional officers who oversaw the entire operation. Stories of cellhouse fights, prisoners favorite hobbies and even stories of escape attempts give you an even deeper understanding of what life was like in the prison. The tour guides you through the prison, giving the listener specific instructions on where to go and where to look during different aspects of the tour.
Aside from its stunning sound effects and voice over, the tour gives extremely detailed accounts from different areas of the prison such as the different cell halls, the kitchen, the warden’s office and more. Be sure to spend extra time in the kitchen and dining halls and experience what it would have been like to eat a meal on the rock. The Cellhouse Audio Tour is available in English, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Not just for history buffs
Whether you are the well-read history buff or just a curious tourist, anyone can benefit from a visit to Alcatraz Island. Aside from the federal penitentiary, the island itself features tons of beautiful foliage and wildlife, and a unique climate different from that of mainland San Francisco.
You might be interested in these Airbnbs!
Enjoy your time spend on “the rock”
Tickets to Alcatraz are all inclusive and include the ferry transportation and Cellhouse Audio Tour. Tickets cost 31 USD for a day tour and 38 USD for night tours with discounts available for children, seniors and large groups. Evening tours are unique in that the evening ferry circles the island several times while providing information about the island’s history and allowing riders to see the island from all sides. The average tour time lasts about 2 to 3 hours, but give yourself plenty of free time to check out their cool and quirky gift shop at the end of the tour!
Get Trip101 in your inbox