Your Destination Guide to San Francisco

Destination Guide San Francisco - Your Destination Guide to San Francisco, CA

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© Sebastian Bergmann

Nothing says "San Francisco Bay" like a trip to Alcatraz prison. Starting at Pier 33 — a short walk from San Francisco's iconic Pier 39 — you can follow in the footsteps (or rather, wake) of Juan Manuel de Ayala, the first to land on the island of Alcatraces. Nicknamed "The Rock," it is home to the infamous Alcatraz prison that at one time hosted America's Most Wanted criminal Al Capone.

The island has an impressive resumé, having acted as a lighthouse base, military prison, and military fortification. The island is best known as the location of Alcatraz Island Penitentiary, which served as a federal prison from 1934 until 1963.

In 1973, Alcatraz opened its grounds to the public as a museum. The island now attracts over a million visitors per year, making it one of the National Park Service's most popular sites. Make your visit an educational one with the Alcatraz prison audio and guided tours, see its tenants' cells, and familiarize yourself with the stories of its 36 aspiring escape artists.

No legendary building is without a ghost story, and visitors have reported sounds of men screaming and doors clanging. Reassuringly, however, the island reported a population of zero on the 2000 census.

If you are feeling adventurous, night tours are also available. Watch the sun set behind the Golden Gate Bridge when the lights of the city come to life from the solitary island, and catch the final ferry back to dry land.

The island is open year-round, and tickets can be purchased up to 90 days in advance. For best weather, Alcatraz Cruises recommends visits in April, May, September, and October.

Attraction Information

  • Hours:
  • The hours of operation vary with the season - departures are available about every half hour throughout the day beginning at 9am. Evening tours and combined Angel Island - Alcatraz Island tours are also available seasonally. Alcatraz is open every day except Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's day. Alcatraz frequently sells out in advance, as much as a week or more in summer and near holidays.
  • Admission:
  • For schedules, prices, and to purchase tickets in advance please visit:
  • Directions:
  • The only way to get to Alcatraz is by a ferry operated by Alcatraz Cruises, LLC. They are located on The Embarcadero near the intersection of Bay Street - just a bit south east of Fisherman's Wharf. There is no parking at Pier 33.
  • Contact:
  • Phone: 415-561-4900
  • Website:
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