Alcatraz has been on my To-See list ever since we moved here. I’ve always heard that the Night Tour is the best experience, but every time I tried to buy tickets they were sold out weeks in advance. We wanted to go around Halloween for the spook factor, but even in September the earliest available was for this past weekend. So my advice: Buy in advance! But also, even though we enjoyed the Night Tour, I think the cheaper day tours would be just as good.
We had a busy Sunday (Errand to run! And we’ve started going to a church! And joined a small group!) so we were too rushed to walk down to Fisherman’s Wharf. We got a cab but failed to notice that the Alcatraz tour leaves from a separate dock at Pier 33, which is about a ten-minute walk from the pier that most other tour boats use. So we spent a few harried minutes speed walking to the correct pier, but we still made it just in time. All in a day’s work for my laid-back hubby, but I HATE being late so I was a little frazzled. Running late is still one of my least favorite things, but I’m working on it, people!
Anchors away across the bay, with gorgeous sunset views of the city and the Golden Gate bridge in the distance. And the island, of course. I’m no photographer, but the “golden hour” really was spectacular.
The tour was well organized, and although there were a lot of people on board, I never felt herded or too cramped. Once we were on the island a tour guide led us up the path to the prison, with some entertaining history along the way.
Once you’ve entered the prison, an audio tour has you looping in and out of the different cells, inside and outside. The narrators are former inmates and prison guards, combined with the signs and pictures posted throughout the prison.
Lots of interesting stories, and even an art exhibit at the end of it all. The audio tour lasts about 90 minutes, and afterwards there are a few rooms in the hospital ward to explore on your own. These are definitely more “spooky” at night, with low lighting and the aging walls creating quite the haunting atmosphere.
There are additional presentations after the audio tour. We listened to one presentation about famous escape attempts (conveniently located in the gift shop) and another about a specific inmate’s history that led us down from the prison to the docking area. All in all, very entertaining and well worth the money!
More city sights coming soon as we continue to explore San Francisco!