Tips for Visiting Alcatraz
I recently had dinner with a group of San Francisco business folks and picked up this tidbit: If you want to visit Alcatraz Island between March and October, you better make your reservations in advance, as spelled out here: “The National Park Service has implemented a reservation system, which is much different from the ways past generations accessed the Alcatraz Island.” Alcatraz Cruises sells the tickets, which include ferry transportation and the cellhouse audio tour. For additional information on schedules and prices and to purchase tickets in advance (tickets are made available about 90 days in advance), visit this page on the Alcatraz Cruises website.
I’ve been to Alcatraz twice (fortunately never as a prisoner): once with my parents when I was a kid, and then again in 2007 with my brother and Natalie. My notes from my second visit are below (and pics are embedded):
From our private tour of Alcatraz:
In 2007, Natalie and I completed our first round-the-world trip and we ended it in style, at one of our favorite hotels: Cavallo Point. The highlight sidetrip was a private area tour from friend Nicki Phelps, who’s in charge of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. She took Natalie, my brother and me to Alcatraz Island. As I’m sure you know, Alcatraz was an island prison. But did you know it started out as the site of the west coast’s first lighthouse? Then it became a military fort (1850-1933), and then it became a federal prison (1934-1963) that once held the likes of gangsters Al Capone and the Bird Man. When that was abandoned, Native Americans occupied it (1969-1971) and it was the birthplace of the Red Power movement. In 1972, it became a national recreation area and now, it’s a National Park.
Getting to Alcatraz:
To get there, we departed from Pier 33 with Alcatraz Cruises, which operates every 30 minutes or so. The boat holds up to 350 passengers and the ride takes 25 minutes. There are gardens, tidepools, nesting birds, and incredible views. Alcatraz is the city’s most popular attraction and each year, more than 1.4 million people tour the old fort. There’s nothing like getting an insider’s tour but the cellhouse audio tour (which is included in the price of admission and is available in multiple languages), is the second best thing.
Tickets and scheduling:
For tickets and tour schedule information, visit AlcatrazCruises.com or call (415) 981-7625. The day tour operates year-round. Tickets in advance are $30 for adults and juniors (ages 12-17), $24.50 for ages 62+, $18.25 for children ages 5-11, and $90.25 for a family (two adults and two children, ages 5-11). Children under age five are free. They also offer a night tour.
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