Have you ever thought of spending a day in Prison?
Alcatraz, a small island in the San Francisco Bay was a Federal prison from 1934 until 1963. Today, guests can take the Alcatraz Island Ferry to the island and tour what was once considered an inescapable fortress. In April 2018 we had the opportunity to take the Alcatraz tour and it was a unique experience not to be missed.
Cruises depart daily from Pier 33 at Alcatraz Landing. Tickets can and should be purchased online as far in advance as possible. Tours regularly sell out weeks in advance. Four (4) different tours are available, an early bird tour at 8:45am, day tours from 9:00am to 3:50pm, night tours at 5:55pm and 6:30pm, behind the scenes tour at 4:20pm and 4:50pm and an Alcatraz and Angel Island tour at 9:30am and 9:40am. Prices vary based on the tour.
We took the regular day tour for $38USD per person (adult). We went in the off season and even with numerous tours offered all day we were very glad we purchased online in advance. Our date had sold out days before we arrived.
Make sure to bring a printed copy of your ticket. The hosts will need to scan the ticket as you board the ferry. It is suggested to arrive 30 minutes before your departure time.
Next, you will board the ferry and while on your journey to the island, the crew will show a short video on the history of Alcatraz. This video has closed captioning.
Once you debark upon arrival you will be greeted by a host from the National Parks Services. They will give you a short introduction to Alcatraz and map of the island for you. From here you will take the rampway up to the cell house. For those with mobility issues there is a tram service. The tram pick up and drop off is located next to the ferry and outside the cell house. This tram is wheelchair accessible via a lift for those in need of this service. The tram works on a first come first serve basis.
When you get to the cell house you will receive an audio recorder and headset. This will serve as your guide throughout your self-guided tour of Alcatraz. This tour will take you through the cell house, the cafeteria, the library, the courtyard and into the officer areas of the island. The self-guided tour is told by prisoners and historians. The tour will guide you through what life was like on the inside as well as escape attempts by prisoners.
Some areas of the island are not accessible for wheelchairs due to the time period in which the prison was built. Most of the area is accessible and tour areas are all on the main floor. Staff will do their best to assist those in need in any way they can. There are no wheelchairs or scooters available on the island nor at Pier 33 so if you require this assistance please bring your own or a rented chair with you.
The cell house tour is available in American Sign Language. Staff will need to be notified of this request at least 5 days in advance so they can schedule the staff appropriately. The audio tour is also available in a print format, both large-print and braille.
Service animals as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act are permitted in Alcatraz and throughout the tour provided some basic rules are followed such as the animal must be harnessed. All the requirements for an accompanying service animal can be found here:
Make sure to add Alcatraz to your list the next time you’re in San Francisco.