We wanted to explore Alcatraz by night to get a spooky atmosphere as we walked through the corridors. The tour by Alcatraz Cruises is the only official place to do tours as it is a National Park.
The tours need to be purchased well in advance or else you will be out of luck. I got mine a few months ahead of time and they sold out quickly.
Most people know that Alcatraz was once a world-famous federal penitentiary, but the island’s history before and after the penitentiary era is less well-known. This was the site of the first American lighthouse on the West Coast and that the island served as a huge harbour defence fort during the Civil War. After the fort became obsolete, the U.S. Army turned the island into a grim military prison.
The night tour is 2.5 hours and you can see the sun setting as you get to Alcatraz Island.
This tour includes:
- narrated boat tour around the island
- guided tours from the dock to the main prison building
- Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour
- special programs and presentations are offered only at night
We got our tickets at will call and then waited for the boat to pick us up. The ride was beautiful. As we got closer to Alcatraz, the weather got a lot colder and the clouds rolled in. It definitely added to the atmosphere.
As we spun around Alcatraz, it was narrated to give us a glimpse of what went down here.
As we got off the boat, we were split up into groups for guided tours from the dock to the main prison building.
It’s a bit of a steep walk, but they are accommodating to those who need a lift.
Following the closing of the penitentiary, Alcatraz became the site of a American Indian protest movement that would change modern American history. You can see words written around Alcatraz.
We head to the Main Prison to collect our equipment for the self-guided audio tour – “Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour”.
We followed the audio tour to all the different parts of the prison and it’s quite immersive as you feel like you were there.
The atmosphere was a bit eerie as you can see the remnants of the prison.
The tour was fully booked and it was funny to see everyone listening attentively to the audio tour and the whole jail cell is in complete silence.
At the end of the tour, there is a gift shop to purchase any souvenirs.
If you have time, you can attend any of the special programs and presentations. We attended one to hear more about Al Capone.
We didn’t want to waste too much time as it was getting really cold, so we hopped on the next boat ride back.
Overall, the tour was a joy and I learned a lot. If you’re in San Francisco, try to book your tickets in advance and bring a jacket for the night tour of Alcatraz.