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Alcatraz Island and Prison

Alcatraz Island and Prison

In addition to housing the famous prison, Alcatraz features some of the most spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge

Alcatraz Island, often referred to as “The Rock,” has captivated the imagination of visitors and historians alike with its rich history, notorious inmates, and legendary escape attempts. Today, it stands not only as a reminder of its tumultuous past but also as a beacon of natural beauty and historical preservation. Explore the multifaceted story of Alcatraz, from its origins to its current status as a must-visit destination.


Alcatraz History

Alcatraz Island’s story is as rocky and formidable as its landscape. Initially developed with a lighthouse, military fortification, and military prison in the 19th century, it transformed into one of the most infamous federal penitentiaries in the United States from 1934 to 1963. Housing some of the country’s most dangerous criminals, including Al Capone and Robert “The Birdman” Stroud, Alcatraz became synonymous with inescapability. Despite numerous daring escape attempts, no prisoner is officially recorded to have successfully escaped The Rock, with most attempts ending in capture or death.

Did you know? Although no escape attempt from Alcatraz has been officially deemed successful, the mysterious disappearance of inmates Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers in 1962 remains unresolved, fueling speculation and legend.


Welcome to prison - Alcatraz Island and Infamous prison tour
Welcome to prison – Alcatraz Island and Infamous prison tour

Alcatraz Today

The closure of Alcatraz as a prison in 1963 marked the beginning of its new chapter as a site of historical and cultural significance. Now managed by the National Park Service, it offers visitors a rich tapestry of experiences, from exploring the remnants of the prison to enjoying unparalleled views of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. The island’s complex history and scenic beauty draw over a million visitors each year, making it one of San Francisco’s premier tourist attractions.

Alcatraz Prision in the middle of San Francisco Bay
Alcatraz Prision in the middle of San Francisco Bay

Not to be Missed

  • Infamous Prison Tour: Engage with the island’s past through the award-winning audio tour that features interviews with former guards and inmates, providing a vivid picture of life inside the prison walls.
  • Historical Exhibits: Delve into the rich history of Alcatraz, including its military past, the notorious inmates, and the famous escape attempts.
  • Natural Beauty: Experience the stunning views of San Francisco and the surrounding areas, including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.


Interior walkway know as Broadway of main cell block on Alcatraz Island
Interior walkway know as Broadway of main cell block on Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Prominent Landmarks

  • The Cellhouse: Explore the main cell block of Alcatraz, including the cells of famous inmates and the central hub known as “Broadway.”
  • The Lighthouse: The oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast, offering sweeping views and a piece of maritime history.

Fun Fact: Alcatraz is home to the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast, guiding ships since the 1850s.

Nature and Recreation

Beyond its historical and cultural significance, Alcatraz Island is also a place of surprising natural beauty. Visitors can explore the gardens, bird colonies, and tide pools that have flourished in the absence of its prison population, offering a unique blend of history and nature.

In Popular Culture

Alcatraz has long been a subject of fascination in popular culture, inspiring countless movies, books, and television shows. Its mystique and history continue to capture the imagination of audiences worldwide, making it a symbol of intrigue and endurance.

Why You Should Visit Alcatraz 

Alcatraz Island offers an unparalleled opportunity to step back in time and explore one of America’s most storied and scenic locations. Whether you’re drawn to the tales of infamous inmates, the thrill of escape stories, or simply the breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz delivers a truly unforgettable experience. It’s a place where history comes to life, surrounded by the beauty of nature and the bustling cityscape of San Francisco.

Visiting Alcatraz is more than just a trip to a former prison; it’s an exploration of human resilience, architectural prowess, and the transformative power of nature. The island stands as a testament to the complex history of the United States, offering lessons of perseverance, justice, and redemption. As you walk the grounds, peer into the cells, or gaze out at the sweeping vistas, you’re not just seeing a place frozen in time; you’re connecting with stories that resonate through the ages. So, embark on this journey to The Rock, and discover the layers of history, mystery, and beauty that make Alcatraz Island a landmark unlike any other.

Details on Visting Alcatraz 

Begin your trip to Alcatraz at Pier 33, where you will board the ferry at the Alcatraz Landing Pier for a ten-minute cruise across the San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz Island.

The National Park presents a captioned orientation video with historical footage, self-guided walks, exhibits and Ranger-interpretive talks on topics such as “Famous Escapes.” Also featured is the Award-winning audio tour in the prison Cell House featuring actual interviews of former guards and inmates. The audio tour is available in six languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.
After the cellhouse tour, there is time to visit the Alcatraz Museum, the bookshop and explore the island.
Alcatraz Ferries depart every half hour back to San Francisco. No reservation is needed for the return ferry
Alcatraz Tour Length: Average time spent on Alcatraz is 1.5 to 3 hours for most guests.

Combination Lucky Tuk Tuk and Alcatraz Ticket Package: 

How to Pick Up Your Alcatraz Ticket Your Alcatraz boarding tickets will be held at pre-paid will call at the Alcatraz Cruises dock at PIER 33. You will need a picture ID. Be sure to show up 30 to 45 minutes before your Alcatraz cruise! Tickets may not be picked up before the tour date.
Alcatraz Combo Cancellation Policy: Important: All Alcatraz Combo Sales Are Final. Alcatraz combo package tickets must be booked 96 hours before departure. National Park Pass does not apply to Alcatraz Tickets. All orders are limited to 8 tickets. Alcatraz is a National Park. Exchanges, refunds, discounts or cancellations are not offered.

Alcatraz Cruises is a concessionaire of the National Park Service and provides the Alcatraz ferry and Cellhouse audio tour portion of these combo tickets. Alcatraz rates are subject to change without notice.

Accessibility: Upon landing on Alcatraz Island, you must walk up a steep hill on uneven pavement. SEAT (Sustainable Easy Access Transport) is available for wheelchair users and visitors unable to walk to a quarter mile, 12% upgrade. No animals (except certified service animals) are allowed on Alcatraz Island.


Nearby Points of Interest

Cable Cars: open to the public since 1873, this fascinating mode of transportation conveys visitors from Market Street to Beach Street, where Fisherman’s Wharf is less than a ten-minute walk away. Be sure to watch operators move the cable car on a turntable to point it in the right direction for the return trip to Market Street!
Fort Mason: Once a United States Army post, this 1,200 acre is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Center. The remaining historic buildings are still in use with the military and also rented for civilian uses such as art galleries, dining, music instruction and the Fort Mason Arts and Culture Center. 
Off The Grid at Fort Mason: Largest gathering of food trucks in the city. Every Friday night from March through October. Enjoy live music while trying a variety of ethnic cookery.
You’ve seen it in movies, television, books, and postcards – now go ahead and take a walk on it! And don’t forget your camera.
Union Street and Cow Hollow: Amidst chic shops and restaurants, enjoy the brightly painted Victorians and secret courtyards. As much fun at night as it is in the daytime.
 Shops, shops, and a plethora of great seafood restaurants line the Wharf, where you still see vestiges of the old fishing crafts used by the Italian immigrants who brought the Wharf to life after the Gold Rush.
 Once a U.S. Army post, today the Presidio is a national park unlike any you have experienced before. Home to museums, restaurants, recreational destinations, art installations, trails, and the best views of the Golden Gate

Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco Bay are seen from these tours :

City Tour
Lucky Tuk Tuk Sightseeing Tours at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Lucky Tuk Tuk City Tour

Explore beautiful San Francisco in your own private, electric Tuk Tuk! Perfect for families and groups. A personal guide for your party commandeers this modern-day rickshaw at a pace that’s right for you!
Evening Tour
Night View of Bay Bridge and Coit Tower from San Francisco

Night Private Charter San Francisco Lights Tour

Explore San Francisco at night in a cozy, electric Tuk Tuk! Get up close to the glittering lights and go where buses don’t dare in this modern-day rickshaw. Live commentary included!

Jump Aboard these Other Fun Tours and Rentals to Explore San Francisco

Buckle in and explore the city with an entertaining driving tour of or a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge to walk among the .
San Francisco Jeep Tours will drive you and up to 6 guests in a convertible Jeep. You’ll see all the iconic sites and attractions on exclusive routes with a fun and experienced tour guide.

Book a San Francisco Tour


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