Alcatraz Island guide

Visiting Alcatraz: 7 Things You Need To Know

Visiting San Francisco? The Island of Alcatraz should definitely be on your list of places to visit. With a rich history dating back to the 1850s, serving as a maximum-security facility from 1934. You’ll surely learn a few things during your visit!

Nicknamed “The Rock”, you cannot miss it as you look out at San Francisco Bay.

Visiting Alcatraz: Things You Need To Know

Photo Cred: pauloalonso5

1. What’s so special about Alcatraz?

A prison located on an island, whats not special about that? Alcatraz is a truly unique experience, learn about the history of some of the world’s most notorious gangsters, from Al Capone, George “Machine-Gun” Kelly to Roy Gardner (coined King of the Escape Artists).

It was used as a military prison during the Civil War and closed its doors in 1963. The prison itself has a very eery atmosphere and you’ll learn about some of the weird rules they had in place, such as the silence rule, during the early years of the prison inmates were only allowed to talk during meals and recreation periods. This rule was later outlawed.

Photo Cred: leigh_symonds

2. How do I get there?

By ferry: it’s the only way to get there unless you want to swim! The ferry is operated by Alcatraz Cruises, LLC. They are located on the Embarcadero near the intersection of Bay Street – just a stroll from Fisherman’s Wharf.

3. How much will it cost?

  • Adult: $39.90
  • Junior:  $39.90
  • Child:   $24.40
  • Senior: $37.65

4. How long will it take?

The boat trip to Alcatraz Island takes 12-15 minutes, dependent on the current. People on average spend 2-3 hours roaming around the prison. You can opt for a headset tour (included in the ticket price), stop and start the tape whenever you choose so you can go at your own pace.

5. When is the best time to go?

To avoid big crowds, visit during the first two weeks of November, the first two weeks of December, and anytime during the winter months of January through March. But if you want to experience nice weather, visit during April-May.

6. Where will I get the best photos?

  1. From Fishermans’ wharf, you can get the perfect shot of the island
  2. Inside the prisons cells
  3. Solitary confinement cells
  4. The visitation area of the prison
  5. The prisoners outside grounds

Alcatraz Island

Photo Cred: alcatrazhistory

7. Any insider tips?

  1. Be sure to take advantage of the free activities on the island
  2. Free guided tours (with volunteers of the National Park Service)
  3. Watch the videos on the history of Alcatraz in the theatre
  4. Check out each of the cell blocks and the recreation area
  5. Do the night tour if you want a truly unique and spooky experience

Alcatraz Island

Siobhan McKenny