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Ferry to Alcatraz picture in San Francisco
Geoff Livingston / Getty Images

Key Info

Price & Hours

  • $37.25 (day tour)-$44.25 (night tour); need to book extremely in advance
  • Thurs-Mon 8:45 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
    Tues-Weds 8:45 a.m.-6:15 p.m.

Details

  • Sightseeing, Tours Type
  • 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend

Local Experts Scorecard
Based on 8 interviews

  • Must-see
  • Recommended
  • If You Have Time

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

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 $37.25 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 $44.25, include onboard narration and a guided site tour. Tours depart starting at 8:45 a.m. and return throughout the day until 6:40 p.m. 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.

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Hotels Nearby

  • Thing to Do
  • Hotel
Hotel Zephyr

Hotel Zephyr ...

  • 1.4 Miles Away
  • 3.5-star Hotel Class
Argonaut Hotel

Argonaut Hotel ...

  • 1.3 Miles Away
  • 4.5-star Hotel Class
Wharf Inn

Wharf Inn ...

  • 1.4 Miles Away
  • 2.0-star Hotel Class
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#1 Golden Gate Bridge The Golden Gate Bridge's vaulting, orange arches amidst the rocky seascape of the San Francisco Bay have made it one of the West Coast's most enduring symbols and ... Read more » John Lund/Tom Penpark / Getty Images

#2 Ferry Building Marketplace Attention all foodies: this delectable attraction needs to be at the top of your San Francisco to-do list. The Ferry Building Marketplace is a public food market that features a ... Read more » rramirez125 / Getty Images

#3 Golden Gate Park If California had a Central Park equivalent, Golden Gate Park would undoubtedly be it. Though Golden Gate Park sees a small fraction of the visitor's it's New York ... Read more » Dean Krafft / Flickr

#4 The Exploratorium This museum, or as it refers to itself, "a learning laboratory," features 600 hands-on exhibits that cover a plethora of subject matter, such as engineering, psychology, geography and biology. The ... Read more » Chris Chabot / Flickr

#5 Cable Cars Chances are you've seen a television show, movie, postcard or some type of San Francisco memorabilia emblazoned with the city's iconic cable car or trolley. So of course ... Read more » Wonwoo Lee / Getty Images

#6 Mission District The Mission District has attracted San Francisco's young bohemian crowd in the past decade, but it's still retained its authentic, local Mexican ambiance. This is the place that ... Read more » Courtesy San Francisco Travel Assocation

#7 Muir Woods National Monument What better exemplifies California's dramatic landscape than sky-high redwood trees? That's what you'll find at Muir Woods, the beautiful and expansive national monument just 16 miles north ... Read more » narawon / Getty Images

#8 Alcatraz 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 ... Read more » Geoff Livingston / Getty Images

#9 Fisherman's Wharf Fisherman's Wharf is so tourist-laden that some travelers might prefer the quieter, more authentic attractions nearby (like the Castro or Golden Gate Park). But if you're looking to ... Read more » Mike Roqué / Flickr

#10 Chinatown While New York City's Chinatown tends to take center stage in the USA, San Francisco's Chinatown is just as much of a star. San Francisco's Chinatown hosts ... Read more » Thomas Hawk / Flickr

#11 AT&T Park The San Francisco Giants have been calling this stadium home since 2000, playing host to multiple World Series games. AT&T Park is regarded as one of the most scenic baseball ... Read more » Anna Fox / Flickr

#12 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 ... Read more » Anne Petersen / Flickr

#13 The Castro If you want to explore San Francisco's rich gay and lesbian culture, the Castro neighborhood is its beating heart. Not only is the Castro the center of the city ... Read more » Marco Simoni / Getty Images

#14 Twin Peaks If you want the best views of San Francisco, take a hike to Twin Peaks. These famous grassy pounds rise 922 feet from the ground, making them the second highest ... Read more » Daniel Hoherd / Flickr

#15 Baker Beach While San Francisco isn't known for being a beach town, the city's Baker Beach is often considered one of the best in California. Located in the northwestern area ... Read more » Naotake Murayama / Flickr

#16 Union Square Situated a couple blocks north of Market Street and southwest of the city's Financial District, Union Square sits at the heart of downtown San Francisco's hustle and bustle ... Read more » Christopher Chan / Getty Images

# Children's Creativity Museum Read more » M Mortati / Flickr

# Craft Beer Tours If you're a foodie exploring San Francisco, you should consider adding a craft brewery tour to your itinerary. That's because San Francisco is considered one of the craft ... Read more » Maksymowicz / Getty Images

# Local Tastes of the City Tours Read more » Rebeca Anchondo / Flickr

# Ocean Beach Read more » canbalci / Getty Images

# The Presidio Trails If you want to experience the Bay Area's pristine natural spaces but may not have enough time to explore neighboring Marin County, the Presidio is the perfect alternative. This ... Read more » EddieHernandezPhotography / Getty Images

# Walt Disney Family Museum Read more » Anna Fox / Flickr

Golden Gate Bridge picture in San Francisco
Ferry Building Marketplace picture in San Francisco
Japanese Tea Garden picture in San Francisco
The Tactile Dome at the Exploratorium picture in San Francisco
Go for a Ride picture in San Francisco
The Mission District picture in San Francisco
Muir Woods National Monument picture in San Francisco
Ferry to Alcatraz picture in San Francisco
Fisherman's Wharf picture in San Francisco
Chinatown picture in San Francisco
AT&T Park picture in San Francisco
California Academy of Sciences picture in San Francisco
The Castro picture in San Francisco
View from atop Twin Peaks picture in San Francisco
Baker Beach picture in San Francisco
Union Square picture in San Francisco
Creativity Museum picture in San Francisco
Beer tour picture in San Francisco
Food tour picture in San Francisco
Ocean Beach picture in San Francisco
Presidio Trails picture in San Francisco
Walt Disney Family Museum picture in San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge picture in San Francisco
Ferry Building Marketplace picture in San Francisco
Japanese Tea Garden picture in San Francisco
The Tactile Dome at the Exploratorium picture in San Francisco
Go for a Ride picture in San Francisco
The Mission District picture in San Francisco
Muir Woods National Monument picture in San Francisco
Ferry to Alcatraz picture in San Francisco
Fisherman's Wharf picture in San Francisco
Chinatown picture in San Francisco
AT&T Park picture in San Francisco
California Academy of Sciences picture in San Francisco
The Castro picture in San Francisco
View from atop Twin Peaks picture in San Francisco
Baker Beach picture in San Francisco
Union Square picture in San Francisco
Creativity Museum picture in San Francisco
Beer tour picture in San Francisco
Food tour picture in San Francisco
Ocean Beach picture in San Francisco
Presidio Trails picture in San Francisco
Walt Disney Family Museum picture in San Francisco

Until 1964, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Now, it's the second-longest suspension bridge in the United States and the 11th-longest suspension bridge in the world. John Lund/Tom Penpark / Getty Images

San Francisco's Ferry Building Marketplace should be at the top of every foodie's travel itinerary. It features plenty of stalls for ready-made meals, snacks and grocery items. rramirez125 / Getty Images

The serene Japanese Tea Garden is one of the top attractions within the sprawling Golden Gate Park. Dean Krafft / Flickr

The Exploratorium is a "learning laboratory" that features more than 600 hands-on exhibits enjoyed by both kids and adults.  Chris Chabot / Flickr

San Francisco's famous cable cars are best experienced hanging out the side as you go down one of the city's steep hills. Wonwoo Lee / Getty Images

The Mission District is known primarily for its Hispanic roots, easygoing atmosphere and colorful murals. Courtesy San Francisco Travel Assocation

Muir Woods is renowned for its collection of towering Redwoods. narawon / Getty Images

Ferries to America's most notorious ex-penitentiary, Alcatraz, depart from Fisherman's Wharf. Geoff Livingston / Getty Images

The touristy Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood is packed with seafood restaurants and souvenir shops.  Mike Roqué / Flickr

San Francisco's Chinatown is touted as being the oldest in North America as well as one of the largest outside of Asia. Thomas Hawk / Flickr

AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants, is situated on the shores of the San Francisco Bay. On top of great views of the bay, baseball fans enjoy the delectable fare found here. Anna Fox / Flickr

The California Academy of Sciences houses an aquarium, a natural history museum, a planetarium and an indoor rainforest dome all in one complex. Anne Petersen / Flickr

The Castro is the center of the LGBTQ community in San Francisco. It's also historic for serving as a hub for the gay rights movement in the 1970s. Marco Simoni / Getty Images

A visitor favorite, Twin Peaks offers stunning views of the City by the Bay. Daniel Hoherd / Flickr

Baker Beach's incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge makes it one of California's best beaches. Naotake Murayama / Flickr

Union Square is considered San Francisco's city center. The area is filled to the brim with shopping, restaurants and entertainment options.  Christopher Chan / Getty Images

M Mortati / Flickr

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Rebeca Anchondo / Flickr

canbalci / Getty Images

EddieHernandezPhotography / Getty Images

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