We decided to fly to San Francisco at the last minute for our family’s Spring Break vacation (booked flights and hotel on Sunday for a Tuesday departure). When I checked online for Alcatraz tickets, there were no evening options available (which was my preference). This is the 5 hour after dark tour that is longer and more strenuous. Given that it rained the entire day we went, in the end we were glad we did not book that one — although it does sound very cool (if the forecast is good). Other tips:
- You can carry a backpack with your own bottled water but the pack has to be a normal size one, not a huge backpacking one.
- The tour includes an audio device with prisoner and guard voices talking about their experiences and the history of the site. This is the main part of the visit. If you prefer, you can take your own ear buds as they will fit into the audio device.
- When you arrive, be sure to position yourself to the right of the ranger introduction so that you can head up the hill immediately in front of everyone else and won’t have to wait in line as long for the audio devices. The audio devices are given out in the main prison at the very top of the island. It is a zigzagging route and is a little strenuous if you walk quickly like we did.They do have a tram but it is for people that need extra assistance not the average tourist. When you are given your audio device, they will ask what language you want it in — there were multiple options.
- The best views / pictures are at the top of the ferry boat as you approach the island. It can be cool, so dress appropriately. If you sit up there, unfortunately you are also the last to get off. The lower floor has the cafe with tables and chairs.
- Be sure to bring an umbrella and/or rain coat depending on the forecast as you are outdoors as you walk up to the prison and when you wait for the next ferry to take you back (these run every half hour).
- If you’re not going to do the evening tour, consider doing the first tour. Besides being cheaper, you’re the first tour to get to the island so it is less crowded. I got some really cool pictures of empty hallways and areas. This didn’t last long though as the audio tour criss crosses parts of the prison so it gets pretty crowded in some of the bottleneck areas.
- On the way back down the hill, stop in and see the cannons. It is pretty cool how they swiveled back and forth and went forward and backwards. Right after that is another building you can go into. It talks about the Indian occupation (be sure to read the proclamation).
Really enjoyed the ferry ride and tour — well worth it!
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