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How Much Does It Cost To Visit Alcatraz Prison?

Alcatraz Island, located in San Francisco Bay, is home to the historic former federal penitentiary simply known as “The Rock.” During its years of operation from 1934 to 1963, Alcatraz housed some of America’s most notorious criminals.

Today, Alcatraz stands as an icon of American justice and draws over 1.5 million visitors annually. This comprehensive guide provides everything you need to know to visit the historic prison, from ticket prices and ferry information to the prison’s most infamous inmates and daily life behind bars.

When to Visit Alcatraz

Alcatraz can be visited year-round, but the weather in San Francisco Bay varies greatly depending on the season.

Summer

Summer (June through August) offers the warmest weather, making it the peak visiting season. However, large crowds and limited ferry tickets can be drawbacks.

Spring & Fall

Spring (March through May) and fall (September through November) see cooler temperatures and fewer visitors, making for a more comfortable trip. Layered clothing is recommended.

Winter

Winter brings cold temperatures, rain, and sometimes high winds. Visitor numbers are lowest, but ferry service can be limited during storms. Off-season visits can be rewarding for those prepared for inclement weather.

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Alcatraz Ferry Information

The only way to access Alcatraz is via ferry. Advance reservations are strongly recommended due to limited daily tickets.

Departure Points

The official Alcatraz ferry departs from Pier 33 on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. Hornblower Cruises operates the Alcatraz ferry service under a National Park Service contract.

Ferry Times & Ticketing

Ferries depart roughly every 30 minutes from Pier 33 between 9am and 3:55pm. The 15-minute ferry ride provides great views of the island and bay. Reservations can be made online, by phone, or in person. Tickets range from $44-$79 for adults and $27-$79 for children based on tour options. Due to high demand, book tickets 1-2 months in advance.

What’s Included

Ferry transportation and an audio tour of the cell house are included with basic admission tickets. Additional options like day and night tours are available for an added cost.

Key Features of The Alcatraz Tour

Alcatraz tours cover the island’s historic prison structures and offer insight into daily life for inmates and guards. Key sites not to miss include:

The Cellhouse

The main prison building includes the cell blocks, dining hall, library, and offices. An audio tour guides visitors through the cell house while describing major events like the 1946 and 1962 escape attempts.

Recreation Yard

Inmates got fresh air and exercise in the yard adjacent to the cell house. It was also the site of a 1946 escape attempt that turned into a riot.

Isolation Cells

Also called “the hole,” these cramped, pitch-black cells were used to punish difficult inmates. Spending days inside took a major psychological toll.

Al Capone’s Cell

One of Alcatraz’s most famous prisoners, mob boss Al Capone, spent his final years detained in cell 181. It’s a highlight of the audio tour.

Wardens’ Houses

Homes on the island used by various wardens and guards provide a glimpse of day-to-day life for staff and their families.

Notable Inmates of Alcatraz

During nearly 30 years of operation, Alcatraz housed over 1,500 of America’s most ruthless criminals. Some of the most notorious inmates included:

Al Capone

Already infamous for his bootlegging operations and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre when transferred to Alcatraz in 1934, Chicago mob boss Al Capone steadily declined due to his isolation from Chicago and developed dementia from syphilis during his 4.5-year stay.

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George “Machine Gun” Kelly

Kelly earned his infamous nickname for his favorite weapon during a string of bank robberies. At Alcatraz, he served 17 years before being transferred to Leavenworth Prison in 1951.

Robert Franklin Stroud, “The Birdman of Alcatraz”

Stroud murdered a guard at Leavenworth and developed an interest in ornithology while in solitary confinement, later publishing studies on avian diseases. He spent 17 years at Alcatraz and famously kept canaries in his cell.

Alvin “Creepy” Karpis

A Depression-era kidnapper and robber, Karpis led the notorious Barker gang and spent over 25 years in prison, including nearly 10 at Alcatraz, longer than any other inmate. He was released in 1969.

The Anglin Brothers

John and Clarence Anglin remain one of Alcatraz’s greatest mysteries. In 1962, they escaped along with fellow inmate Frank Morris. Though authorities presume they drowned, their bodies were never found, leaving open the possibility they survived the escape.

Table of Major Crimes Committed by Alcatraz Inmates

InmateCrime(s)Year ArrestedQuote on Conviction
Al CaponeTax evasion, prohibition violations1931“The only thing I’ve done wrong in this particular case is to live.”
George KellyBank robbery, kidnapping1933“I have no qualms about going to prison, but I’ll never plead guilty to anything.”
Robert StroudMurder of a prison guard1916“I’m entitled to having my life and finishing it in as honorable a way as possible, and prison hasn’t given me that.”
Alvin KarpisKidnapping, robbery1936“It’s just time to pay the penalty.”
John & Clarence AnglinBank robbery1956None available

Daily Life for Alcatraz Inmates

Daily routine was strictly regimented for Alcatraz inmates. The rules and isolation wore heavily on prisoners accustomed to freedom and underworld power.

Typical Daily Schedule

  • 5:30 AM – Wake up
  • 6:00 AM – Breakfast in mess hall
  • 7:00 AM – Clean cell block
  • Various work duties like laundry and maintenance
  • 11:30 AM – Lunch
  • 1:00 PM – Locked in cell
  • 5:30 PM – Dinner
  • 9:30 PM – Lights out
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Time in Cell

Inmates spent nearly 23 hours a day inside their small cells, only leaving for work duties and brief yard time. The isolation and boredom was maddening to many.

Privileges & Punishments

Good behavior was rewarded with privileges like roof access and painting. Bad deeds resulted in the isolation cells, restricted diets, and loss of privileges.

Prohibited Items

Contraband like weapons and tools were strictly banned at Alcatraz. Possession resulted in the “strip cell” – a barren concrete room without light or furniture.

Escape Attempts

Inmates plotted many escape attempts, though most failed. The most famous was the still-unsolved 1962 escape by Morris, Anglin, and Anglin using handmade dummy heads and raincoats as decoys.

Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Alcatraz

How much does it cost to visit Alcatraz?

  • Day tour ticket prices range from $44-$79 for adults and $27-$79 for children based on tour options and inclusions. Add-ons like audio guides are more. Night tours range from $47-$85. Reservations are strongly recommended.

How long is the ferry ride to Alcatraz?

  • The ferry from Pier 33 takes around 15 minutes to reach Alcatraz Island. Excellent views make it part of the experience.

What can you see on an Alcatraz tour?

  • Tours cover the former prison sites like the cell house, library, recreation yard, and warden’s house. An audio guide provides history and stories about the prison’s most famous inmates and events.

Do you have to book Alcatraz tickets far in advance?

  • Yes, book at least 1-2 months ahead for peak times. Limited daily tickets sell out weeks in advance in summer. Book early for the best availability.

What should you bring for an Alcatraz tour?

  • Bring layers of clothing for changing bay weather. Food, drinks, and souvenirs are available before boarding the ferry or on the island. Photos are allowed, but leave larger bags and equipment behind.

Conclusion

A trip to Alcatraz provides a one-of-a-kind look into an iconic part of American history. Walking in the footsteps of legendary inmates like Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly through the halls of the notorious prison is an unforgettable experience.

With its fascinating history, wealth of historic sites, and location in beautiful San Francisco Bay, it’s easy to see why Alcatraz remains a must-see attraction drawing over a million visitors every year. This comprehensive guide covers everything from ferry tickets to daily life in one of America’s most famous prisons, providing valuable insight for an incredible visit. Definitely reserve your Alcatraz tour well in advance to see this historic penitentiary for yourself.

Prison Inside Team

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We are dedicated to exploring the intricacies of prison life and justice reform through firsthand experiences and expert insights.

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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