California Living ® host Aprilanne Hurley invites you to plan your own Alcatraz escape and take a step back in time to learn what California life was like on Alcatraz Island with the following California Living ® “Insider’s Guide to Alcatraz Tours.”
An important thing to keep in mind when looking to visit Alcatraz is, all access to Alcatraz Island is through a private ferry company under contract with the National Park Service, Alcatraz Cruises, LLC” located at Piers 31-33. This means you are not allowed to arrive by private boat or charter, however you can take an Alcatraz “circling tour” which usually offers a fun narrative of the island’s history and great photo ops of Alcatraz from San Francisco Bay.
The second most important thing about visiting to Alcatraz is that you will want to “plan ahead” – as in way, way ahead. Tickets sell out weeks in advance, so forget about counting on “getting lucky” and look into securing your tickets as soon as you have dates in mind by visiting Alcatraz Cruises, LLC.
Alcatraz tours options to choose from:
The 2.5-hour “Early Bird” – Runs daily. This is a great way to go if you want to avoid the crowds that come later in the day, and gives you a jump-start on your island discoveries. “Early Bird” Tours are the 1st trip of the day leaving Pier 33 at 8:45 a.m. “Early Bird” Tours are the same price as “Day Tour” and includes all of the features bulleted below:
- 2.5-hour “Day Tour” Runs daily with frequent departures throughout the day from 8:45 a.m. – 3:50 p.m. and includes:
- Orientation video by Discovery Channel
- 45 minute audio presentation (Self-Guided Tour), “Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cell House Tour,” featuring actual correctional officers and prisoners who lived on Alcatraz.
- Inside look at Alcatraz Islands historic gardens and wildlife
The Alcatraz Night Tour is just a bit more in price, and includes a narrated boat tour around the island prior to docking at the island. The Alcatraz Night Tour also includes guided tours from the dock to the main prison building where visitors are then presented with the “Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cell House Tour”.
There are also special programs and/or presentations only offered at night, which visitors can select one or two to attend while they’re “doing time” on Alcatraz that evening. Naturally, taking in the evening sunset and sky sights as well as the views of San Francisco are, well…priceless.
Things to keep in mind when visiting Alcatraz Island:
No matter which Alcatraz tour you choose, remember to dress in layers since the weather can change from mild to downright chilly out on the bay at any time day or night.
Family ticket packages (2 Adults + 2 Children) are available only by phone, and are for all of the tour options except the Night Tour and Alcatraz/Angel Island combo tour. Alcatraz Island management offers Accessibility assistance for anyone with a health condition or physical disability that limits mobility.
For the “Day Tour” you can pick any regularly scheduled departure and return time that works for your schedule. “Early Bird” only applies to the 8:45 a.m. departure, and you can return on any scheduled return ferry that works for you. There are no food vendors on Alcatraz Island and no eating, drinking (other than bottled water) or smoking outside of the island dock. Food, snacks and beverages including beer and wine are available for purchase on the ferry.
The “Night Tour” runs Thursday through Monday and offers 2 departure times and 2 return times for your convenience. Click here for a side-by-side comparison of all the Alcatraz Tours to choose from.
Alcatraz is open year-round, with holiday closures on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Alcatraz is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and System, and may have certain locations closed off to the public due to the nesting of many seabirds that call the island home, which you can learn more about here.