Visit to San Francisco and Alcatraz Prison

Visit to San Francisco and Alcatraz Prison

August 2022

Last week the Griffin family visited San Francisco.   It is one of my favorite cities in the world.  The city is beautiful as ever. There are the following family members that went on the San Francisco trip:

Jada – 10 years old (great-grand-daughter) (Northern CA)

Jossie – 18 years old (great-grand-daughter) (Northern CA)

Josh – 35 old (grandson) (Northern CA)

Jordan – 25 years old (son) (Los Angeles)

Sheila – 59 (my sister, Josh’s mother) (Utah)

Kim – (my wife, younger than me but I am sworn to secrecy (Los Angeles)     

Darrell (me, age 70) (Los Angeles)

We rented an ABnB for 4 days in San Francisco.  The ABnB host was incredible, and we had 5 bedrooms that were configured perfectly for our family group of seven. We spent the first day visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, shopping, eating. The next day was Alcatraz.

This is one of the Alcatraz prison tours that you get special treatment on the guided tour of your visit. While some visitors to San Francisco might consider an Alcatraz prison tour to be a cheesy tourist attraction, it is truly worth the effort. One of the most popular tourist attractions to do in San Francisco is to take the Ferry ride and take the Alcatraz prison tour. You can easily take the tour, spend an hour exploring the island, then head back to San Francisco to have dinner.

The short, but picturesque ferry trip up to Alcatraz prison is a great way to take in views of the Bay and San Francisco’s skyline. Take a ferry ride out to San Francisco Bayas Alcatraz Island and explore the abandoned prison at day or at night. Once at Alcatraz, you can stay for as long as you want, just watch for the ferry schedule posted at the pier, and be sure you don’t miss the last boat back to Pier 33. Budget at least 30 minutes more after arriving at Pier 33 for getting tickets, using the restroom, and viewing a 3-D replica of Alcatraz Island.

 There are often additional tours and talks going on Alcatraz Island, so as soon as you arrive, check if there are any specials for the day. Alcatraz Cruises offers tours at a variety of different times during the day, but if you are looking for a more unique experience, I would recommend a night tour that gives you a chance to see the island during dusk. Another reason why I like the night tours more is because Alcatraz prison will often have extra areas open to the public that are not available during the day.

 Being on Alcatraz at night has the added bonus of seeing the sun setting over the Golden Gate Bridge, and having a clear view of the city skyline after sunset. If you are lucky, you may even find yourself on Alcatraz as the sun sets, and there is an awesome viewing platform, as part of the prison tour, that you can watch it. In addition to the notorious prison audio tour, there are also exhibits both permanent and temporary, tours led by rangers, hikes and talks, a path to walk, gardens to look at, and lots of interpretive signs all over Alcatraz.

The tour includes an Alcatraz Ferry ride around the island, an infamous prison audio tour, and much more. There are three types of tickets for Alcatraz, all including a ferry ride to/from Alcatraz, and the self-guided audio tour of the cell house. There are several different tour options including the day trip, night trip, combo ticket for both Alcatraz and Angel Island, etc. There are also a variety of other options, including (spooky) night tours, the behind-the-scenes option that includes admission to areas of Alcatraz that are normally off-limits, and the combo ticket which also includes travel to neighboring Angel island.

 The former option is well-suited to people who are planning on doing little else in San Francisco and its environs other than visiting Alcatraz, but for most, if you are looking to experience San Franciscos major attractions besides visiting the jail, you will want to look at the affordable combines a tourist tour and a visitor pass, we would suggest checking out the combo option (a combined tourist and visitor pass). In addition to the first approach described, there are other options to visiting Alcatraz which are usually more affordable for the majority of visitors, who, besides visiting the famous island, wish to see other attractions, engage in other paid activities, and take advantage of public transport (or even biking) to travel through San Francisco. A combination tour offers tickets to the island, plus a ticket to another activity in San Francisco, including a city tour, hop-on-hop-off bus, or visiting Muir Woods. The Alcatraz day tour provides an intimate view of life on Alcatraz Island during the two options for an Alcatraz tour, guided in part by a Welcome Talk on arrival and through an audio tour of the Cell Block.

 The Cell Block tour is honestly one of the best audio tours that I have done, because it provides a nearly immersion-like experience of what life was like for Alcatraz Island prisoners. It is a self-guided tour that is available in many languages (Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish) that takes you through various areas on Alcatraz. Once in the main prison building, you are left to walk yourself around the prison using an audio guide. You will find lots and lots of books on Alcatraz’s history and the prisoners at the bookstore near the end of the audio tour that are self-guided, and they are perfect for additional reading.

 The audio tour is full of first-hand accounts by the guards, who give some really fascinating insights into the lives of prisoners at Alcatraz, as well as into their own. The audio guide gives you an overview of the different escape attempts, including a famously successful one which saw three prisoners escape. If you are able to experience one, it is another wonderful perk to an Alcatraz Prison tour, and an excellent way to get to know a little bit about Alcatraz prisons history. The National Park Service manages all activities and tours on the island, and you are free to take part in any tours or just wander at your own pace.

 A National Park Ranger meets every arriving ferry to greet visitors to Alcatraz and to give a short orientation and overview of the days schedule of activities. The 20-minute boat trip is rewarding enough for its uplifting salty spray and wide views across San Francisco Bay, but your ferry ticket also covers entry to San Francisco Bayas Alcatraz Island, an optional Ranger-led tour, and 40-minute, audio-guided cell house self-guided tour. Alcatraz is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Bay Area.


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