Alcatraz Night Tours and Tickets
This post focuses on the night tours of Alcatraz Prison. There are two types of tour tickets that permit you to be on Alcatraz Island after the sun sets, which are the Night Tour and the Behind the Scenes Tour. These tickets are only offered to a few hundred people per night, which makes it one of the most limited excursions in San Francisco. According to many visitors, this experience is entirely different after dark. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to obtain tickets for this activity and it isn’t recommended for all visitors. With that in mind, we’ve created a helpful guide to explain everything you need to know about these Alcatraz night tours. Read our full Alcatraz Tours post for information on all available tickets and tours.
Only one tour company is allowed to transport guests to Alcatraz Island. With limited space on every boat ride, demand for this tour is often very high. Every day, thousands of visitors use this service to see the prison for themselves. In addition to their daily tours, Alcatraz Cruises also provides a night tour with special programs and activities. This outing is only available during certain days of the week, and ticket prices are subject to change at any time.
If tickets for the night tour are sold out for the day that you wish, you can also obtain standby or last minute tickets.
- Ticket Prices: $44.25 for Adults | $43.25 for Teens | $41.25 for Seniors | $26.50 for Children
- Availability: Thursday – Monday @ 5:55 PM & 6:30 PM
- Duration: 2-3 hours on average
- Trip requires a lot of uphill walking
- Prepare for cold weather
- Click here for purchase tickets.
Considering that some visitors have to book the daily tour months in advance, anyone interested in the night tour will want to sign up well ahead of time. Although you don’t have to stay all night, the last boat back to Fisherman’s Wharf leaves at 9:30 pm. If you intend to stay for long, we don’t recommend bringing children, particularly small children, for the trip. For more information about this tour company, check out our post on Alcatraz tours.
So what’s the difference between a tour of Alcatraz during the day and a trip to the island at night? Well, according to several TripAdvisor reviews, there are some notable variations. Quite a few guests have indicated that visiting the prison after dark is pretty creepy and eerie. There was at least one notable escape attempt during the night, so it’s definitely interesting to see what those prisoners might have experienced after the sun went down.
Other visitors noted that views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco were phenomenal during the sunset, going so far as to say that the scenery was at least as enjoyable as the trip to Alcatraz. During the Alcatraz night tour, live guides provide a special presentation which focuses on the loud steel doors of the prison as they all close at the same time. The sound of these doors is apparently very disturbing, adding to the already spooky atmosphere of this prison after dark.
Certain services (such as the audio tour and cruise around the island) are offered during every Alcatraz tour. That being said, several people indicated that the atmosphere of this historic prison changes after dark, making even the regular activities a little spookier. Whether you want to enjoy excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge or you’d like to experience a slightly darker side of this island’s past, the Alcatraz night tour is an interesting alternative to their daytime outings. If you’re interested, we recommend booking several weeks in advance to avoid sold out tickets.
There is also a Behind the Scenes tour which lasts longer and includes every service offered during the night tour. This trip features special programs that you won’t experience on other Alcatraz tours. During these activities, a park ranger will introduce you to hidden tunnels, underground jails, and secret gardens. If you can’t get tickets for the night tour, this is an excellent option. It’s important to keep in mind that this tour is not available for children.
Both the behind the scenes and night tours are more expensive than daily excursions. The higher price tag is likely the result of limited availability and access to special programs.
In addition to their day and night tours, Alcatraz Cruises also provides a Behind-the-Scenes outing. This guided tour includes a visit to several areas that are otherwise off limits. During these programs, a park ranger will reveal locations such as an underground jail and a special garden. The activities tied to this tour are limited to groups of 30 or less, so you’ll definitely want to take advantage of them.
As if that weren’t interesting enough, this excursion also extends into the evening hours and includes access to all of the same attractions offered during the night tour. Clocking in at 5 hours in length, it will be important to prepare for a lot of walking around the island.
- Ticket Prices: $89.25 for Adults | $85.25 for Teens | $83.25 for Seniors
- Availability: Thursday – Monday @ 4:20 & 4:50 PM
- Duration: 5 hours
- Trip requires a lot of uphill walking
- Prepare for cold weather
- Click here for more information
The Behind-the-Scenes tour is much longer and consists of several different activities that aren’t available during the night tour. Due to the length of this trip, children are not accommodated. Even so, this could be an excellent alternative for adults who want to visit the island at night. If you want to see and learn more about the island in addition to experiencing Alcatraz after dark, this may be your best bet. Tickets might be more expensive, but quite a few customers have left positive reviews indicating that this tour is worth the price of admission.
Tickets for Alcatraz Cruises often sell out weeks in advance. As a result, it can be difficult to obtain same-day tickets for these tours. Thankfully, even if you haven’t booked in advance, there are still a few options to consider.
Although these tours often sell out well in advance, there are times when pre-booked tickets are canceled at the last minute. Alcatraz Cruises usually does a good job of putting these tickets back on the market before it’s too late, but you can always call and check to see if any seats have recently become available. Keep an eye on their website for canceled tickets and feel free to contact them just to make sure.
Alcatraz Cruises actually sets aside a certain number of tickets every day. If you want to take advantage of this option, you’ll have to visit their box office at Pier 33 when they open up at 7:30 AM. The earlier you arrive, the more likely it is that you’ll receive same-day tickets. Unfortunately, they only sell one same-day ticket per person, so families and couples will have to line up together.
Learn about the full range of options when you find tickets sold-out.
Alcatraz Cruises currently enjoys a 4 ½ out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor. Customers who took the Alcatraz Night Tour typically left very positive reviews. Out of everything that visitors enjoyed about this experience, the following opportunities were particularly popular.
Reviewers appreciated the fact that this night tour includes access to locations which are typically off limits during the day. According to some visitors, this tour company only provides entry to the hospital area during evening hours. Seeing the hospital at night is apparently very creepy, contributing to the overall eerie atmosphere of Alcatraz after dark.
Smaller Group Sizes
Thanks to the limited availability of this tour, group sizes for the excursion are usually much smaller than you’ll find during the day. This makes the boat ride to and from the island a lot more comfortable, and it allows visitors to experience the prison without being crowded. Some guests report that if you stay late enough, you might even get to experience entire cell blocks by yourself!
City Lights at Night
In addition to wonderful views of the Golden Gate Bridge during sunset, guests also note that this tour provides an excellent look at the San Francisco skyline after dark. The last boat from the island leaves at 9:30 PM, giving visitors the opportunity to see the city as it lights up after dark. From this point of view, you can capture several wonderful pictures of San Francisco on your trip back to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Self-Guided Audio Tour
In addition to the special programs, there is also a self-guided audio tour of Alcatraz. This audio tour features the voices of former guards and prisoners, making it easier to put yourself into the shoes of people who worked and lived on the island several years ago. Guests report that you can experience this at your leisure, walking away to partake in other activities whenever you wish. Keep in mind that this audio tour is available on all Alcatraz tours.
Cruise Around the Island
Before docking, your cruise will make a trip around the entirety of Alcatraz Island, giving you an excellent look from every possible perspective. Some visitors really appreciated this boat ride, noting that a park ranger takes this opportunity to explain the history of the prison. Reviewers indicate that this serves as an excellent introduction to the tour, providing cursory information before you dig a little deeper after docking on the island.