Visiting Alcatraz & Coit Tower

We recently visited San Francisco and paid to go to prison.

You see Alcatraz was a federal penitentiary in the 1930s and is located 1.25 miles offshore from San Francisco. You have to pay in order to go to the island.  The ticket price includes the ferry transportation service provided by Alcatraz Cruises, the cell house audio tour provided by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act fee.

The cell house audio tour is available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Mandarin. It is also available in Braille in English. If you would like to bypass the audio tour experience, you could speak to a supervisor in the cell house bookstore for a refund.

Alcatraz was designed to serve as America’s first maximum-security penitentiary. From 1934 to 1963, Alcatraz housed some of America’s most notorious offenders, escape artists, gang leaders and general trouble makers.

When the Federal penitentiary operated, 36 prisoners were involved in 14 separate escape attempts. Twenty-three men were caught, six were shot and killed, and two drowned. Five convicts disappeared and were never seen again. What happened to them? You’ll find out in the video.

Now, I do advise you book your tickets about 2 months in advance, as they sell out quick. There are also night tours and behind the scenes tours available.

Being that it was Thanksgiving weekend, all tickets were sold out. Now, when tickets are sold out, Alcatraz will tell you to keep checking online to see if anything comes up. Chances of that happening are slim to none.

If you really want to get into Alcatraz, you’ll have to wake up early, just like I did.

A limited number of tickets (about 100 during the summer & 50 during the winter) are available every morning at the pier; the office starts selling the tickets at 7:30 a.m. I arrived around 5 a.m. and there were about 10 people ahead of me. To my advantage, it was off-season, which means the demand isn’t as high as in the summer.

The ticket agents emphasize that everyone who plans on using the tickets HAVE to be present in line during the entire time. A man in front of me was told to get out of line when the agent noticed his wife and baby were no longer in the line. He tried to explain it was due to the cold, and we all said it was okay, but the agent said it wasn’t her rules and she had to obey them.

During this time, you could also try to inquire tickets for the night tour.

During our visit, we hiked up Coit Tower which offers panoramic views of San Francisco.

Watch our first part of our trip, and find information about the places we visited below:


Address: Pier 33, Alcatraz Landing, San Francisco, California 94111

Hours: Open Daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Parking:  Parking Lots.

Admission: $35 per adult.

Coit Tower

Address: 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94133

Hours: Open Daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CLOSED Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day.

Parking:  FREE, but limited.

Admission:  $8. Discounts for Residents, Seniors, Youth, Child.