This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Alcatraz Escape from the namesake island (also known as “The Rock”) located in San Francisco.
As one of, if not the most infamous prison breaks in U.S. history, there’s no escaping the significance of the occasion. Not only is this landmark one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, but it’s also on many travelers’ bucket lists when they head to the Bay Area. Intrigue and interest drive visitors to the structure to discover what life was like there. Alcatraz Island is a place that’s synonymous with the city’s trademark skyline. The closure of Alcatraz as a penitentiary (shortly after the Escape) later opened a whole new world to our society, and a visit to this destination is an experience few will ever forget. Today it’s a place where people learn about prison reform and social justice, in addition to the birds and flowers that reside onsite and are tended to by the Parks Conservancy and its team of volunteers. But first, you’ll need to find the best way to get there, and—no surprise! —we have several suggestions for you.
“Escape from Alcatraz.” “The Rock.” “Murder in the First.” These are just a handful of movies made about Alcatraz and it’s easy to see why. The subject is so captivating and the stories about this landmark are something Hollywood heavyweights would love to get their hands on—and not just to showcase their dramatic chops. It’s easy to imbue action and tension to the tales told here, and a visit to the island offers that and so much more. Formerly a Civil War fort, Alcatraz was also a military prison in addition to being one of America’s most notorious Federal penitentiaries in the country’s history. To see the location firsthand is a sight to behold, and fortunately, City Experiences offers a range of cruises to get you there—day and night. Whether you opt for a sun-filled or sundown visit or a behind-the-scenes tour, there’s so much to explore. All three of these excursions last a few hours and include round-trip ferry service to the island, plus entry to the award-winning Cellhouse audio tour.
The Day Tour features onboard narration during your ferry ride, optional programs and exhibits, and docent-guided tours and talks. It includes the bonus of admission to a new permanent exhibit, “The Big Lockup: Mass Incarceration in the United States”; access to historic outdoor spaces like Eagle Plaza and the Recreation Yard; entry into the New Industries Building; plus scenic and close-up views of the exteriors of Building 64, the Cellhouse, and the Warden’s House, among other iconic areas.
The Night Tour takes watching the sunset to another level. Not only is the city’s silhouette picture-perfect from your perch on the boat, but you’ll also get a clear vantage point of the Golden Gate Bridge via a special route the cruise takes around the island (complete with a guided narration). Once your feet are on the ground, a representative will lead a guided tour from the dock to the cell house. You’ll learn all of the ins and outs of the island, the people who lived there, and what it everything signifies today. There will be opportunities to explore and learn more about Alcatraz with optional activities including cell door demonstrations, short talks, and special exhibits. The tour, which limits visitor numbers, includes features not available during the day.
The one-and-a-half- to two-hour Behind the Scenes Tour enables visitors to head to areas previously off-limits to the general public. With a group limited to just 30 people or less, this guided adventure explores clues to the Island’s fascinating past, which ranges from secret tunnels and hidden doorways to artifacts and an underground jail. Stories abound as the secrets of Alcatraz are revealed, and after the guided tour, visitors can discover more about the island through additional optional programs and exhibits while taking in the breathtaking views of iconic city landmarks. Guests on this tour can also opt to extend their stay by joining the Night Tour, or they can simply return to the city.
Alcatraz with a Side of Culture
For those who want to visit Alcatraz, but would also like to experience other iconic landmarks and attractions in San Francisco on the same day, City Experiences has you covered with a host of packages to choose from. For foodies, your dreams of gourmet goodness can be met with the Alcatraz & Ultimate Food Tour, the Night on Alcatraz with Fisherman’s Wharf & Sourdough Bread Tour, or San Francisco: Alcatraz Island Ticket with Guided Chinatown Tour & Fortune Cookie Factory, while the wine lovers get their glasses filled with the Alcatraz & Redwoods with Wine Country Tour. Nature lovers can commune with the great outdoors via the Alcatraz & Muir Woods Redwood Forest Tour, Alcatraz & Yosemite with Grand Sequoia Tour, or by hitting the high seas with the Bay Discovery Cruise. Art enthusiasts find inspiration with the Alcatraz & SF MoMA tour, and anyone angling for general fun in the sun can opt for the Alcatraz & Big Bus excursion or the Alcatraz & Madam Tussauds tour.
Free Yourself from a Boring Dinner Date
Once you’ve experienced Alcatraz, you’re bound to appreciate the sweet taste of freedom now more than ever, so why get locked into a boring dinner date on land when you can indulge in culinary delights on the water? End the day on a Premier Dinner Cruise, accompanied by a great plated gourmet meal, exceptional city skyline views, and DJ entertainment. The three-hour yacht cruise is the ideal chance to take in several iconic San Francisco attractions in comfort while being surrounded by family and friends—and we can’t think of a better way to feel fully liberated while you travel.