Alcatraz#5 in Best Things To Do in San Francisco
While riding a cable car and getting a snap of the Golden Gate is a must when visiting San Francisco, both visitors and travel experts tend to argue the same for Alcatraz. This is because Alcatraz is rich with history. Sitting on a small, rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz is most known as being a former federal prison that housed some of society's biggest offenders, the most famous of which was Prohibition-era mob boss Al Capone. Before that, it was a military prison that housed prisoners from the Spanish-American War and Civil War, as well as the site of the West Coast's first operating lighthouse. The prison closed down both times due to high operating costs and was handed over to the National Park Service in 1972 after the island experienced a short occupation from Native American activists. Today, the attraction sees about one million visitors per year.
Recent visitors said Alcatraz is truly a can't-miss attraction. Travelers enjoyed being able to get up close to cells and said the audio tour (complimentary with ferry tickets) voiced by inmates and prison guards made the visit that much more fun and informative. What's more, travelers say the view of the bay from The Rock (the nickname given to Alcatraz) is breathtaking.
Entrance to Alcatraz is free; however, you will need to purchase a ferry ticket to get to the island. Tickets are not cheap (starting at $39.90 for adults), but most travelers say the price offers great value. Tickets include a scenic boat trip to the island and the audio guide. Night tours, which cost $47.30, include onboard narration and a guided site tour. Tours depart starting at 8:45 a.m. and return throughout the day until 6:30 p.m. (or until 9:25 p.m. for the Night Tour). Due to the popularity of the attraction, the park service strongly suggests booking tickets in advance to avoid waiting in long lines. You can book up to 90 days in advance for your trip via Alcatraz Cruises. Several of the city's top guided tours also include stops at Alcatraz. And though some of San Francisco's best boat tours don't actually stop on the island, many sail around it, offering a unique perspective and insight.
More Best Things To Do in San Francisco
#1 California Academy of Sciences
Attention all traveling families: recent visitors said this is the perfect place to bring kids in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences brims with plenty of things to see, including an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and even a rainforest.
The Steinhart Aquarium is home to about 40,000 animals representing more than 900 different species, including a penguin colony from Africa, a swamp with an albino alligator, a shark lagoon and a separate 100,000-gallon tank that mirrors the ecosystem of the California coast. Meanwhile, the Osher Rainforest houses 1,600 animals, including 250 free-flying birds and about 100 reptiles and amphibians in its four-story complex. The Morrison Planetarium is known for its 75-foot-diameter screen, which screens "Tour of the Universe" shows daily. And the Kimball Natural History Museum boasts dinosaur fossils, an interactive science exhibit and a unique earthquake simulator.
Explore More of San Francisco
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.
Gwen PratesiDecember 9, 2019
Lyn MettlerNovember 25, 2019
Kyle McCarthyNovember 21, 2019
Holly JohnsonNovember 14, 2019
Gwen PratesiNovember 12, 2019
Christine SmithNovember 12, 2019
Nicola WoodNovember 12, 2019
Lyn MettlerOctober 28, 2019
Gwen PratesiOctober 15, 2019