Escape the Rock: Touring Alcatraz

Friday, 7 June 2019
One does not simply go to San Francisco and not visit Alcatraz. I mean when someone even mentions the word San Francisco chances are the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz are going to be the first couple of things that pop into your head. Alcatraz is an excellent piece of history and touring the island allows you a small snippet into this infamous prison. 

When to Book
Tickets to Alcatraz can book out weeks in advance. If you think you're going to rock up the day of and find tickets, it's highly unlikely. Online, you can book your tickets up to 90 days in advance. Last time I visited San Francisco, I had been watching the website and noticed tickets were booked out 6 weeks in advance. So the second you know your travel dates, book your dang tickets. 

How to Get There
Obviously, with Alcatraz being an island, there is a ferry that takes you from the mainland to the prison. The boat departs from Pier 33; however, there is no parking here. Don't even mess with parking in Fisherman's Wharf unless you're there at the butt crack of dawn. There are a few car parks close to the Pier, but they're going to cost a fair bit of money. 

It is highly recommended you take public transport to Pier 33. Some buses and trolleys will get you there. Make sure you check the PT timetable so that you don't miss your departure time! 

The Tour
There is a Cellhouse Audio tour that will guide you throughout Alcatraz detailing the history of the island and some of the more famous prisoners. Most people know Alcatraz as a Federal prison, but very few know that prior to being a Federal prison Alcatraz was used as a US base which housed Native American inmates. There is a dark history associated with the island and getting an inside look is quite enlightening. 

Plan to spend about 4-5 hours on the island. The audio tour takes roughly an hour, but you want to make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to explore. You are also able to book a 2 hour guided off-path tour that allows you to see even more of the grounds. This behind the scenes tour gives you a more intimate look at the history of Alcatraz, enabling you to see areas of the grounds that are off-limits to the general self-guided audio tour. 

Ghost Tours
You can't be home to some of the most notorious criminals and not have a few ghosts lingering around the prison. The night tours off special programs, tours, and activities that aren't available during the day. That stop to the isolation cells will be even more chilling than if you were to shut yourself in there during the day. As very few people are allowed on the island for the night tours, it is crucial you book well in advance. 

I know it's super cheesy but I'm a massive sucker for souvenirs from historical places. There is just so much history engrained in the walls of Alcatraz that if one simply did the tours, you'd miss out on so much. If you're fascinated with history and true crime like me, you'll want to gain as much information as possible. There are also plenty of other cool gifts that will help make your time at Alcatraz more memorable. 

And until next time...
Stay curious!