There are a few key differences between the Alcatraz Night Tour and the Alcatraz Day Tour, read more below to find out which one is more your style!
In 1962, three men left behind dummy heads in their bunks and used makeshift rafts made from old raincoats to make their escape into the icy San Francisco Bay.
Less than a year later, due to deteriorating buildings and high costs of maintaining a maximum security prison on an island, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary closed its final cell door.
Alcatraz Island didn’t open up to the public until almost 10 years later in 1972.
We wouldn’t even be able to visit this former Civil War Era fortress turned federal prison if it hadn’t been for a bold 19 month occupation of the island by Indian American students at San Francisco State University (Go, Gators!), led by activist and student Richard Oakes.
If you look closely, you’ll find historic graffiti that has been preserved from the Indian Occupation of Alcatraz.
Our personal favorite piece of graffiti is at the entrance to Administration Building (the Alcatraz audio tour takes you through this entry). Look for the eagle above the door, it’s perched on a shield with the American flag and looked between the stripes where you will find the word “FREE”.
You can explore all of this history on both the San Francisco Alcatraz night tour and Alcatraz day tour.
But what’s the main difference between the Alcatraz night tour vs day tour? Let’s break it down.
ALCATRAZ DAY TOUR
WHEN DOES THE ALCATRAZ DAY TOUR RUN?
The Alcatraz day tour runs everyday, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Departure times vary depending on season, but always begin around 9am.
HOW MUCH DOES THE ALCATRAZ DAY TOUR COST?
Alcatraz Day Tour Tickets: Adult (18-61): $37.25, Junior (12-17): $37.25, Senior (62+): $35.25, Child (5-11): $23.00, Children 4 and under: Free
HOW LONG IS THE ALCATRAZ TOUR?
There’s no official Alcatraz tour length – you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. Or at least until the last ferry leaves!
Most folks explore for about two hours before heading onto a ferry back to the city. You can leave on any ferry back to San Francisco, only the ferry to ride to Alcatraz is scheduled.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE ALCATRAZ DAY TOUR?
Tickets to Alcatraz during the day include a ferry ride to Alcatraz and one back to San Francisco, as well as an audio tour of the cell house.
This audio tour is unlike any others because it was the first.
The Alcatraz audio tour was produced by a local interactive non-profit theatre company after interviewing former inmates, guards who watched over the infamous Birdman of Alcatraz and children who grew up on the island — in the shadow of the San Francisco prison.
Many of the voices you’ll hear have since passed away. Some of the voices you might recognize in the gift shop. Guest authors can often be found signing books and answering questions in the gift shop.
There are various ranger led tours throughout the day — but the schedules aren’t posted until the day of on the island. So, be sure to check for extra tours led by rangers and historic interpreters as soon as you’re on the dock of Alcatraz!
WHERE CAN YOU BUY DAY TOUR TICKETS FOR ALCATRAZ?
You can only buy Alcatraz tickets through Alcatraz Cruises, a good place to find Alcatraz tour times and the only official ferry operator to Alcatraz, or from official third parties — like us here at Dylan’s Tours!
We explore San Francisco, Muir Woods and Alcatraz on our Day in the Bay Tour — perfect for those with only one day to see everything in the city.
If you’re wondering how to get to Alcatraz, these are your main options.
Tickets to Alcatraz day tours can be difficult to get a hold of, so if they’re sold out you can check out our list for What to do if Alcatraz Tickets Are Sold Out.
Or you can check out our Day in the Bay Tour if you want get a good overview of San Francisco and Alcatraz in two days (and don’t want to worry about getting your own Alcatraz day tickets).
AlCATRAZ NIGHT TOUR
WHEN DOES THE NIGHT TOUR RUN?
The Alcatraz night tour times only run twice Thursday – Sunday evening during Spring, Summer and Fall. The night tour of Alcatraz is unavailable during winter.
HOW MUCH DOES THE ALCATRAZ NIGHT TOUR COST?
Alcatraz Night Tickets: Adult (18-61): $44.25, Junior (12-17): $43.25, Senior (62+): $41.25, Child (5-11): $26.50, Children 4 and under: Free
HOW LONG IS THE AlCATRAZ NIGHT TOUR?
It’s about two and a half hours.
You don’t have an option of leaving early because there are only two ferries that leave the island on the night tour.
And the first one heading back to San Francisco usually reaches capacity — so get to the dock early if you want to catch the first Alcatraz night tour ferry back to San Francisco.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE ALCATRAZ NIGHT TOUR?
Your night tour of Alcatraz begins with a guided tour around Alcatraz Island — while the day tour just gets a ride straight to the island!
There will also be a guided walking tour to the cell house before taking the Alcatraz audio tour.
From there, on the night tours of Alcatraz, parts of the prison that are normally closed off become open to the public — like the hospital! There will also be behind-the-scenes tours, cell door demos and other bonus walking tours.
This makes the night tour more of an ‘Alcatraz Behind the Scenes tour’ than the day tour option.
WHERE CAN YOU BUY AlCATRAZ NIGHT TOUR TICKETS?
No third party operators can sell Alcatraz tickets for the night tour.
You can only purchase them directly through Alcatraz Cruises. So, if you’re looking for Alcatraz night tour tickets last minute, that’s your best bet.
It’s automatically the best Alcatraz night tour, because it’s the only option available!
Tickets to Alcatraz are notorious for selling out quick — and the Alcatraz night tours are no exception, so book early if you have your heart set on seeing Alcatraz at night!
*Note: Because Alcatraz Island is part of the Golden Gate National Recreational, there isn’t an official Alcatraz ghost tour or Alcatraz haunted tour, but we’re still hoping one of these years they’ll make it happen for a themed Alcatraz Halloween Tour. We’ll let you know if that ever happens!
We’re sure that whether you choose the Alcatraz day or night tour, you’re going to have a great time on this historical island – just make sure to book your Alcatraz tours today or ASAP to make sure you get to see the island during your time in San Francisco .