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Alcatraz at Night: The Alcatraz Night Tour Review

Alcatraz at night was seriously one of the best tours I’ve ever been on, hands down. I’ve found myself in San Francisco a few times, but I never made it to Alcatraz. For some reason, I wrote it off as “too touristy” for me. This turned out to be a totally wrong assumption.

And then we planned a totally last minute trip to the West Coast and upon doing a small amount of research, I learned that Alcatraz offers tours at NIGHT.

As a self-proclaimed ghost story and paranormal nerd, the idea of touring Alcatraz, this abandoned prison on an island, alone, at night was just too exciting to pass up. In an odd way, I even found myself more excited about this upcoming tour to Alcatraz than actually going to watch the Northern Lights last January. Giddy excited.

It was rainy that day which added to the grim mood of the tour as our boat toured around the island and docked. I looked up and had a flashback to the movie Shutter Island. The sky was grey with rain and my eyes fixated upon the words written in graffiti, Indians Welcome, on the facade of the water tower. 

Alcatraz at Night the Ultimate Guide
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I felt a chill as I gazed upon this abandoned prison that has both stopped time on the inside for many souls, yet also remains a bulwark against modernity and progress on the outside.

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The fascinating part about Alcatraz is its taunting nature. It’s not isolated in some remote part of the world like Siberia with no other life. Prisoners here were forced to confront on a daily basis, the fact that life as they knew it outside of prison would never be the same.

Stories are told about prisoners who could so easily hear the celebration and chatter of New Year’s Eve celebrations happening a mere mile away.

Alcatraz at night
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A small window from inside the prison, taunts the viewer with life that’s so close yet so far away.

You can’t miss the remains of the 19 month political occupation by the Native Americans in 1969, an etched history onto the prison.

Ironically when we docked the island, I expected it to feel desolate of life, but it felt oddly tropical with the seagulls and colorful flowers draped in mist.

Our boarding group was rather large so we worried about having any privacy on the tour. When we docked, everyone walked at their own pace up to the prison. We were marched through the prisoner’s original check-in where we were given headphones with plenty of self-guided tour information, instead of jumper suits and prisoner numbers.

Alcatraz at Night
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Checking in at the same place the prisoners did

The crowd dispersed and for the remainder of the next two hours, we explored the prison, and in many parts, alone. No, it wasn’t too good to be true; we got to explore Alcatraz Prison, at night and completely independent. It was awesome.

Another perk of taking an Alcatraz tour at night is that a couple of different time slots exist at night. We went on the earlier tour, but you can technically stay several more hours if you wish, so long as you don’t miss the last ferry home.

One last but super AWESOME perk of taking the night tour is that you get to explore the hospital wing which apparently isn’t open during the day. After spending over an hour exploring the prison, walking upstairs to the hospital, everything changed and felt colder and much creepier.

I wasn’t really spooked out exploring the prison and even stepping into the solitary confinement cells. But this was like a real life horror house filled with hospital gurneys, chipping wall paint, and a eerie coldness. I stood alone in this dark room trying to shoot some pictures, but I’ve watched way too many paranormal TV shows because all I could think about was some presence standing behind me, watching me. I felt a simultaneous rush of excitement and fear.

My husband wouldn’t walk into this room. He didn’t walk into any room alone, and he didn’t step foot in any of the solitary confinement cells. I did though. I live for this kind of stuff, hehe.

Alcatraz Hospital
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Something out of a horror movie like Saw. Beware though, jumping on this gurney will land you 2 years in prison.

I recommend planning enough time at the end of your tour to check out the hospital floor before it closes. There were times when I was roaming around rooms in the hospital, at night, in the dark, all alone. Not going to lie, I wish I brought my EMF detector.

Alcatraz at night
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You’ve seen prison hospitals in horror movies, but this is what an abandoned prison hospital actually looks like! Wow.
Alcatraz at night
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Hanging out in one of the solitary confinement cells. This was kinda creepy.
Alcatraz at Night
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Creepiest picture of me ever in the prison hospital. It was very dark, my pupils are completely dilated so it looks like I’m possessed by an evil spirit. The shadows cast on my face are brilliant.

Alcatraz Night Tour Review
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How To Make a Reservation for Alcatraz Cruise at Night

Tickets to Alcatraz can be purchased here from Alcatraz Cruises, and I fortunately snagged a couple of spots since we went on a week day. Alcatraz Cruises is the official ticket holder for the U.S. Park service which oversees the island.

IMPORTANT TIP:  The Alcatraz Night Tour is hugely popular and often books up far in advance. If you want to tour Alcatraz at night, it’s best that you make an advanced reservation as soon as you can.

BEWARE: There are OTHER tour agencies that sell tickets, BUT they buy them from Alcatraz Cruises and then resell them back at higher prices. So make sure to purchase your ticket from this designated vender.

There are other Alcatraz tours for sale. Another option if this booked up or if you simply want to explore Alcatraz independently without crowds is through Viator, who also offers a Viator VIP: Early Access to Alcatraz Tour. This tour is also unique in that you can beat the crowds and explore independently. 

What made the night tour extraordinary was the freedom you had to explore, so going in the morning and having the ability to explore independently is a good alternative to the Alcatraz at night tour. One of these is probably the best Alcatraz tour you can find.

Alcatraz Cruise Boarding

Your tour also comes with an Alcatraz Cruise. We sailed around the island which gives you a nice panoramic view of the island. You board on Pier 33 at the Embarcadero. I was soooo impressed with this tour. The operators were funny and super nice. The tour itself was incredibly organized.

You can pick up your tickets at will call or print them out, but be sure to bring a photo ID to confirm your identity.

Alcatraz Night Tour Review
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Alcatraz Cruise Ticket Prices

Check the official website for current prices but they run approximately $40 per adult. What do you do if Alcatraz Tickets are sold out? Click Here to figure out how to see the island other ways.

More Alcatraz Information & Tips

  • There are some sparse restrooms on the island.
  • There’s a gift shop too
  • Be sure to bring a jacket, it can get cold.
  • We waited in line early for about 30 minutes. The line gets really long! So if you want a seat on the ferry, it’s best to get in line first. But if you don’t care about getting a seat, then don’t fret about being the first in line.
  • They serve modest food and beverages on the ferry ride there and alcoholic beverages are only sold on the returning trip.
  • There’s not really food on the island, so make sure to bring your own if you get hungry or need it.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Bring extra batteries for your camera if you believe in ghosts.
  • I saw people with tripods although I didn’t bring mine. I would next time though.

Alcatraz at night is seriously one of the coolest tours I’ve been on. It blew me away and I had so much fun. I totally recommend it.


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  1. July 6, 2016 at 1:58 pm — Reply

    Love this! Our son lives in San Francisco and we go up there to visit as time allows. This would be perfect. We almost went on a daytime tour a few months ago but you gave me a better idea.

    • July 6, 2016 at 2:50 pm — Reply

      Glad you found it helpful!

  2. May 8, 2016 at 11:21 pm — Reply

    No sh*t! You really looked like the real deal there with that hospital picture. Now I’m scared of you!

    • May 9, 2016 at 1:27 pm — Reply

      Ha yea it kinda freaked me out too when I first saw it

  3. May 2, 2016 at 4:54 pm — Reply

    Great post! Really interesting and inspiring!

    Ever since I first read about Alcatraz I’ve wanted to visit, I never knew they did night tours. This is now on my travel bucket list, and I can’t wait to take my own pictures of the prison!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • May 3, 2016 at 1:42 pm — Reply

      Thanks Rob! I hope you can make it, it truly was one of my favorite tours!

  4. April 28, 2016 at 6:08 pm — Reply

    So amazing! I’ve been to SF a couple times but haven’t yet been able to schedule in a tour of Alcatraz. The night tour sounds like something I’d really enjoy, as I absolutely love horror/abandoned places and all of that good stuff. Great photos 🙂

    • April 28, 2016 at 8:27 pm — Reply

      Thank you! I LOVED it, I hope you can go next time! 🙂

  5. April 27, 2016 at 11:42 pm — Reply

    So awesome! We did the day tour and loved it but the night tour sounds right up my alley with ghost and haunting things 🙂

    • April 28, 2016 at 9:14 am — Reply

      You have to try the night tour, it was so fun!

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