If you are in San Francisco and planning to visit Alcatraz, you have two options.
You can either opt for the day tour or the Alcatraz night tour.
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 place.
In this article, we share everything about Alcatraz night tours.
1. Night tour vs day tour
2. When is night tour available?
3. Alcatraz night tour inclusions
4. Programs offered at night
5. Cellhouse audio tour
6. Alcatraz night tour tickets
7. Alcatraz night ticket prices
8. Alcatraz tickets discount
9. Night tour reviews
10. What to wear?
11. Where to buy night tour tickets?
Alcatraz Night tour vs day tour
It is only natural to want to know the difference between the Alcatraz day tour and the night tour.
One of the major differences is in the cost of the night tour ticket. An adult’s night tour ticket costs USD 7 more than the day tour tickets.
From the experience perspective, the most notable differences between the two are –
1. 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 the Alcatraz Island carrying the night tour ticket holders.
2. The creepiness factor
The creepiness factor of Alcatraz multiplies manifold at night.
The fact that 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 very disturbing and stays with you even after you are back from the tour.
3. Exceptional views
During the summer months, the Alcatraz night tour starts from 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.
Thus, you are on Alcatraz Island during sunset and get see exceptional views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco city during sunset.
When is Alcatraz night tour available?
You can’t plan a trip to Alcatraz at night, every day of the week.
If you are in San Francisco from 12 March to 4 November, you can book night tours only from Thursday to Monday.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are ruled out.
From 5 November to March 11, the tours are available from Tuesday to Saturday. That is, no night tours to Alcatraz are scheduled on Sundays and Mondays.
*These are 2018 dates.
What the Alcatraz night tour includes
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 a lot of stops to explore the history from pre-Civil War, Military cannon, family life on the Island etc.
You will also stop to take in breathtaking views of San Francisco city and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Once you reach the Cellhouse, you start exploring it at your own pace using the 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.
Check out a sample of the Alcatraz Cellhouse audio Tour below –
Once the audio tour is over, you can explore the optional programs and exhibits at the Alcatraz Cell House.
Programs offered during the night tour
The Alcatraz Night Tour is a unique experience which includes special programs, tours, and activities not offered during the day.
While visiting Alcatraz, do check on the ongoing temporary and permanent exhibits.
The evening talks may be on topics such as prison riots, the life of a colorful inmate, escape attempts, sports played at Alcatraz, books written by prisoners, Alcatraz food etc.
Cellhouse audio tour included in the night tour
The Alcatraz Cellhouse audio tour is at the core of your Alcatraz experience.
If carried on at its pace, this is a 45 minutes tour. However, you can decide your own pace.
The Cellhouse audio tour begins with an introduction of 4 former Alcatraz officers and 4 former inmates. The whole tour is narrated by these eight interesting personalities.
In one of the first prison cells, you will be shown a photograph of each man, with a short biography. Having a face to each personality adds that extra zip to the narration.
Between them, these eight characters take you through the history of Alcatraz. You get to hear both sides of life in the Island prison.
This audio tour also covers escape attempts, the Battle of ’46, food riots at the jail, how the prisoners survived solitary confinement etc.
The Cell House audio tour is available in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Alcatraz night tour tickets
Since the night tour of Alcatraz is a limited-edition activity, there is a huge demand and the tickets get sold soon. Sometimes several weeks in advance.
During the winter months of January to March, the demand dips a bit and it is possible to get same day or next day Alcatraz night tour tickets.
However, we suggest you don’t leave anything to chance and book early.
There are three ways to book your Alcatraz night tour ticket –
1. Buy Alcatraz tickets in-person
The Alcatraz Landing ticket office is at Pier 33, The Embarcadero, San Francisco. To purchase Alcatraz tickets in person, you need to visit this office.
2. Book Alcatraz tickets over the phone
You can call Alcatraz Cruises ticketing center at 415-981-7625 and reserve your night tour tickets.
3. Buy online Alcatraz tickets – RECOMMENDED
This is the fastest and easiest way to book your Alcatraz night tour ticket in advance.
Once you have booked your tickets online, they get emailed to you.
On the day of your trip, visit the Alcatraz ticket window at Pier 33 to collect your paper tickets.
You must show the email you have received and a government-issued photo ID to collect your tickets.
We recommend you arrive 45 minutes before departure to collect your tickets in time.
Alcatraz night tour tickets price
A full adult (age 18 to 61) Alcatraz night tour ticket costs USD 45.
The night tour ticket for adults aged 62 and above is USD 41.75.
Kids four years and below walk into the Cell House for free. If your child is aged between 5 and 11 years, their tickets will cost you USD 26.75.
If your child is a teenager, their night tour ticket price will be USD 44.
Alcatraz night tour tickets discount
Even though Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing and all Alcatraz Cruises boats are fully accessible, there is no disability discount for Alcatraz tours.
As you are already aware, the full price of an adult Alcatraz ticket is USD 45.
And kids aged 5 to 11 years get a whopping 40% discount on the full priced adult ticket. They pay only 26.75 per head.
The next biggest discount on Alcatraz tickets is reserved for senior citizens. Their Alcatraz night tour tickets are discounted by around 7% and cost only USD 41.75.
Alcatraz night tour reviews
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 –
I highly recommend the night tour and recommend it to anyone visiting the city, or even a resident of the city that has never been. It’s worth it just for the gorgeous views of San Francisco.
The narration of the self-guided tour is interesting — they even have former Alcatraz inmates discussing their time at ‘The Rock’. Read More
It is by far the best tour of Alcatraz I’ve been on and my teens loved it! The Night Tours open parts of the prison that are normally off limits and offer evening programs. We could see the prison hospital that was creepy. The programs were excellent. Read More
Some of the key aspects which stood out in most Alcatraz night tour reviews were –
1. Visitors loved the fact that the night tour opened areas of the Cell House which weren’t available during the day tour. For example, the Hospital area which is open only to the visitors on night tours
2. Tourists opting for night tour also loved the exclusivity.
With fewer people on the Night tour, the guided group sizes are smaller, the boat rides are comfortable and the time spent exploring the Cell House is more private (yes, sometimes you can get the whole cell to yourself!)
3. Most reviews also suggest that the evening visitors to Alcatraz found the views breathtaking.
Starting from the sunset, seen while going towards the CellHouse to the well-lit San Francisco city‘s skyline while coming back – there were plenty of photo opportunities.
What to wear for Alcatraz night tour
Alcatraz weather is unpredictable. We recommend you come dressed in layers, so it is easy to adjust according to the weather.
However warm you feel when you leave your hotel room, do bring a light jacket or a sweater for your Alcatraz night tour.
Wear comfortable shoes, because there will be a lot of walking.
If you are touring Alcatraz during winter and early spring, be aware that it rains frequently during these months.
Since a major part of your Alcatraz tour is outdoors (not protected by rain) you must dress up for possible wet weather.
Where to buy Alcatraz night tour tickets
The best place to buy Alcatraz Night tour tickets is the Alcatraz Cruises website. They are the official suppliers of all Alcatraz tickets.
However, since these Alcatraz night tour tickets are limited they get over well in advance. Sometimes as early as 80-90 days.
Worry not, for there is a workaround.
Alcatraz Cruises offers local San Francisco tour operators a limited set of Alcatraz tickets under one condition – that they are sold as a combo tour ticket.
So if all Alcatraz Night tour tickets are sold out, choose any one of the below given Alcatraz combo tickets and be on your way.
After visiting Google and Apple offices, you also get to check in at Facebook’s office. It costs USD 209, including transport.
This tour of Alcatraz and award-winning wineries costs USD 242. The price includes transport both ways.
This is one of the popular tours in San Francisco and costs USD 159. Price includes transport both ways.
This tour costs USD 269, which includes transport. Besides Alcatraz, you get to witness Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Falls and hike in Yosemite Valley for 4 hours.