Alcatraz island is located in the San Francisco Bay and is one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions. Also know as “The Rock,” Alcatraz was developed into a federal penitentiary and once housed America’s most dangerous criminals.
If you are planning a trip to the Bay Area, I highly encourage you to visit Alcatraz island and tour the penitentiary. It’s best to purchase your tickets ahead of time because tickets sell out quickly. You can get your tickets at the official ticket site alcatrazcurises.com. We tried to book through them, but they were sold out! So we got our tickets through Blazing Saddles. We purchased the Bike and Rock tour because we were planning to ride bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge anyway. Both the Alcatraz tour and the bike ride were unforgettable experiences. If you want to read more about the other things we did in San Francisco, see this post.
Alcatraz Island Day Tour
One of the first things you see when you get off the ferry is the watchtower.
The old prison sign with red graffiti painted over it.
We decided to take the self-paced audio tour. It was fantastic-very informative and interesting with a variety of narration and sound clips. My kids (ages 14, 17, and 20) loved it as well.
Inside the Penitentiary
This table lined with uniforms is the first glimpse of prison life.
These are typical cells. They measure 5 feet by 9 feet and contain a sink, toilet and a cot.
This is the central corridor of cells known as Broadway. The area at the end of the corridor and below the clock is known as Times Square.
Inside a cell in D-Block, the solitary confinement area of the prison.
Here’s a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge through a small window right outside D-Block.
The mess hall is quite large with lots of barred windows. The kitchen is off to the right, but is closed to tours during the day.
The Golden Gate Bridge from a mess hall window.
Once we wrapped up the audio tour, we went outside to look around the grounds.
Touring the Grounds
The prison yard.
This is what remains of the warden’s house. You can see the lighthouse in the background.
The warden’s house is thought to be haunted. I guess we’ll go back for a night tour and find out!
Did you know Alcatraz is know for it’s landscape and grounds? Before Alcatraz became a federal penitentiary, it was a military citadel and prison. During the 1920’s the military prisoners planted many trees and shrubs that were maintained during the penitentiary era.
Several prisoners were allowed the privilege to work on the gardens. Learn more about the Alcatraz gardens here.
The Alcatraz tour exceeding our expectations and is something I’d do again. So are you ready to book a trip to San Francisco? I can’t wait to go back. But my next trip is going to be all about the food!
Main take-a-ways from Alcatraz:
- Plan ahead! Tickets sell out. Use the official website to plan your tour: alcatrazcruises.com
- Plan to spend at least 2.5 hours on the island. Dress comfortably and wear comfortable shoes.
- Ferries back to San Francisco leave every 30-45 minutes. You can spend as much or as little time there as you want.
- The audio tour is worth it.
- A night tour is available.
Don’t forget to check out my other post on San Francisco!