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Alcatraz night tour – tickets, prices, ferry timings, what to expect


The Alcatraz night tour is a unique activity limited to just a few hundred tourists per evening and includes special activities and presentations not offered during the day.

Alcatraz Island night tour is one of the fascinating things to do in San Francisco.

This article covers everything you must know before booking tickets to the Alcatraz Night Tour.

Alcatraz night tour tickets

Since the night tour of Alcatraz is a limited-edition activity, there is enormous demand, and the tickets sell out soon.

During the peak summer months of April to September, night tours get booked several weeks (if not months) in advance.

As a result, only combo tours such as this are available. For instance, this ticket includes nightly access to Alcatraz and a Bay Cruise any day later.

This night tour to the prison off the city of San Francisco starts at three times – 5.55 pm, 6.30 pm, and 7.05 pm.

Once on the island, expert historians host nightly talks covering various topics.

This night tour includes a special “around the island” route, an experience not offered during daytime tours of Alcatraz.

Alcatraz night tour ticket price

Adult ticket (12+ years): US$159
Youth ticket (5 to 11 years): US$149
Child ticket (up to 4 years): Free entry

If you are trying for an Alcatraz night tour ticket at the last minute, rest assured it will be difficult. Check out how to buy Alcatraz Island tickets at the last minute.

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What to expect on a night tour

The night tour starts with a scenic ferry ride against the glittering San Francisco skyline.

Wander through the penitentiary walls under the haunting glow of lamplight, where former inmates’ tales take on an eerie layer of intrigue.

The award-winning audio tour, narrated by those who lived it, echoes through the dimly lit cells, sharing secrets of escape attempts and the penitentiary’s storied past.

What the night tours include

Your Alcatraz night tour includes the round-trip ferry ride to and from the Island.

Before you land on the island, you enjoy a guided tour around Alcatraz Island.

The onboard narration points out the hidden spots used for attempted prison escapes and prison structures unreachable by foot.

Once the ferry docks, a Ranger will lead you up a steep 400 meters (1312 feet) uphill walk.

The walk up to the Cellhouse includes many stops to explore the history from pre-Civil War, Military cannon, family life on the Island, etc.

You will also stop for breathtaking views of San Francisco city and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Once you reach the Cellhouse, you explore it at your own pace using the Alcatraz audio tour.

The Award-winning audio presentation ‘Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour’ helps you learn about the Cell House, the inmates, the living conditions, the escape attempts, and the riots.

Once the audio tour is over, you can explore the optional programs and exhibits at the Alcatraz Cell House.

Inside the cellhouse on Alcatraz island
Inside Alcatraz’s cellhouse. Image: Cityexperiences.com

As a bonus, you see the Bay Area all lit up in its glory during your return.

Some visitors who have been to Alcatraz Island during the day and at night found the night tour a bit spooky.

The nocturnal guided tour of Alcatraz is open to a limited set of tourists every day.

You must hurry if you want to book your seat on the nighttime ferry.

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Where do night tours start from

Both day and night tours to Alcatraz Island start from Pier 33, also known as Alcatraz Landing. Get Directions

It is just 400 meters (a quarter of a mile) from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Alcatraz Landing has a ticket booth, waiting area, and finally, the boarding area from where you get on the cruise boats.

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Alcatraz night tour timings

During the peak months of March to October, Alcatraz Island night tours sail out at 5.55 pm, 6.30 pm, and 7.05 pm, and from November to March, the ferry departs at 3.50 pm and 4.45 pm. 

Visitors can book night tours from Thursday to Monday during the summer months and during the winter months from Tuesday to Saturday.

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How long does the Alcatraz night tour take

Most visitors spend three hours on the Alcatraz night tour.

Since only two ferries leave the island after the night tours are over, you can’t cut short the time.

Most of the days, the first ferry that leaves Alcatraz island after dark reaches capacity.

Tour duration in summer

During the summer months, the Alcatraz cruises designated for the night tour depart Pier 33 at 5.55 pm and 6.30 pm.

The return trips start from Alcatraz island at 8.40 pm and 9.25 pm.

If you start from the earliest cruise departing at 5.55 pm and return by the last cruise departing the island at 9.25 pm, your Alcatraz tour will be over in three and a half hours.

And if you depart at 6.30 pm by the second available cruise, the maximum duration of your Alcatraz night tour will be three hours.

Tour duration in winter

During winter, only one cruise makes the trip to Alcatraz island, taking tourists on their night tour.

It departs at 3.50 pm from Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing and reaches the island at 4.05 pm. The same cruise then returns to the mainland at 6.40 pm.

In short, a night tour of Alcatraz in winter also lasts three hours.

Occasionally, there may be a second cruise, depending on demand.

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Night tour vs day tour

There are four significant differences between the Alcatraz day tours and after-dark tours – the night tour is costlier, exclusive, scarier, and offers better views on the horizon.

Cost of the tour

One of the significant differences is in the cost of the night tour ticket. An adult’s night tour ticket costs $7 more than the day tour tickets.

The higher price tag is because of the limited availability and access to special programs.

Exclusivity of the tour

The night tour is more exclusive than the day tour because of the lesser number of tickets.

For instance, during the summer months, 14-15 ferries start from Alcatraz Landing to take the tourists on day tours.

In sharp contrast, only two ferries depart for Alcatraz Island carrying the night tour ticket holders.

The creepiness factor

The creepiness factor of Alcatraz multiplies manifold at night.

The fact that there is a lesser number of people touring with you makes it scarier.

The human guides who take you through the Alcatraz night tour capitalize on the ‘darkness’ factor.

They give special presentations, such as making all the steel doors close together as they would when Alcatraz was a real prison.

The loud sound of these doors closing is disturbing and stays with you even after returning from the tour.

Exceptional views

During the summer months, the Alcatraz night tour starts at Alcatraz Landing Pier 33 at 5:55 pm or 6:30 pm.

In the winter months, there is only one ferry at 3.50 pm.

Since you are on Alcatraz Island during sunset, you see exceptional views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco city when the sun goes down.

During the return ferry, visitors get to see the glittering San Francisco skyline.

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What to wear for night tour

Since you will be walking on all kinds of roads – gravel, mud, paved – and climbing stairways, it is better to wear comfortable and covered walking shoes during your night visit to Alcatraz.

Sandals, high heels, open-toe shoes, etc., are a strict no-no.

The weather on Alcatraz is unpredictable and subject to change at short notice, so it is better to dress up in layers and bring along a light jacket or sweater.

If you are visiting during winter and early spring, be prepared for rain.

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Alcatraz night tour reviews

Jail at Alcatraz Island Prison
Image: Monica Volpin

According to TripAdvisor, Alcatraz Island is the number one landmark in San Francisco.

It is rated 4.5, with some very positive reviews.

The Alcatraz Night tour has also got some great reviews. Here are two such reviews –

Night tour – a little chilly but lots of fun

We did the night tour during the summer and it was amazing. We sailed into the fog and arrived on the island, and after about an hour or so, the fog had dissipated, leaving some amazing views of the city. – Maxsimmo

Night tour was stunning!

Simply amazing! The audio tour was awesome, esp. listening to former wardens and prisoners caught my heart. Recommend the night tour so u can watch the sunset. The best viewpoint is from the entrance to the courtyard. It is completely worth the money and is highly recommended. DominikaSVK

# Alcatrazislandtickets.com
# Cityexperiences.com
# Inside-guide-to-san-francisco-tourism.com
# Parksconservancy.org

The travel specialists at TheBetterVacation.com use only high-quality sources while researching & writing their articles. We make every attempt to keep our content current, reliable and trustworthy.

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This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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