Best Alcatraz Day Trip 2024 1
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Best Alcatraz Day Trip 2024

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Greetings, Internet Stranger! I’m Stella Jane, author of the travel guide Get Lost. So you want to know how to have a perfect Alcatraz day trip? First off, you probably want to know where our Alcatraz day trip is starting from. Well, I started this Alcatraz day trip from foggy San Francisco.

Ordinarily, I prefer to spend my traveling days exploring one neighborhood at a time so that I really come to know a city. This way you can always reserve some time on your vacation for exploring various nooks and crannies of each wonderful place you visit.

However, sometimes it is preferable to spend the perfect Alcatraz day trip exploring one or two major attractions like Alcatraz and Angel Island. We won’t necessarily get off the beaten track, but we will have some amazing and fascinating experiences. And when it comes to the Bay Area’s most famous prison, even one day might not be enough time to fully unlock its secrets…

PS. At the moment, it seems like they aren’t offering tickets for Alcatraz and Angel Island in the same trip, so you might have to book them separately. Hazards of the changing world after the pandemic!

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Alcatraz Day Trip

#1 TOP PICK

Best Alcatraz Day Trip 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
ALCATRAZ TOUR
✔️ Bucket list experience
✔️ Expert local guide

#2 PICK

Best Alcatraz Day Trip 2024 3

VW VAN TOUR
✔️ See the whole city
✔️ Expert local guide

#3 PICK

Best Alcatraz Day Trip 2024 4

ALL OTHER SAN FRANCISCO TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

bay area day trip

Alcatraz Day Trip

Morning: Alcatraz

Alcatraz is one of the most popular tourist attractions for a Alcatraz day trip, which is pretty funny when you consider that men used to risk their lives trying to get away from there.

Alcatraz or The Rock, as Michael Bay calls it, used to be a military prison before it became a notorious maximum security facility and home to one Alphonse Capone, among many other vicious criminals. Today it’s an extremely popular place to visit, and if you’ve always wanted to learn all about the Birdman of Alcatraz and how he got that name, this is the destination for you.

bay area day trip
24 Hour Tip

If you want to visit Alcatraz, the only way to get there is to buy a ticket in advance. Please buy your tickets as soon in advance as possible because they do sell out several weeks in advance.

Check rates and availability right here!

The website recommends that you buy tickets 90 whole days in advance, like Alcatraz is some restaurant that got featured on Chef’s Table. Also you will need a photo ID to pick up your ticket at Pier 33. I guess they’re afraid some criminals might try to bust INTO Alcatraz.

Eat a hearty breakfast and take a snack with you because there is no food on Alcatraz. You won’t be able to get something to eat until after the tour

Be sure to get to Pier 33 early so that you can pick up your tickets and get on line for the ferry to Alcatraz with time to spare. That way you can fit in…

Approximately top 5: alcatraz

bay area day trip
1) Take the audio tour

Absolutely the best thing to do on Alcatraz is taking the exciting and detailed audio tour of the prison, complete with credible voice acting of readings from the diaries of Alcatraz inmates. I don’t want to visit a prison just to gawk at the prisoners, even if the prisoners are no longer there. It’s more interesting to hear what Alcatraz was like in the words of the actual inmates.

This tour is included with your ticket, so all you have to do is accept it politely when you arrive. Is that so hard to do, Internet Stranger? Didn’t your mother teach you manners?

bay area day trip
2) Check out the prisoner cells

You actually get to peek inside the cells in which so many famous inmates from Whitey Bulger to Mickey Cohen to Andy Dufresne resided.

(OK, Andy Dufresne is not a real person. He was the character Tim Robbins played in The Shawshank Redemption, and he was actually fictionally held in an imaginary prison in Maine. But him aside, basically any prisoner who was any prisoner was kept here.)

You can walk from the regular cells to the more punitive solitary confinement cells. It’s hard to believe that any civilized country could actually keep human beings in a place like this.

bay area day trip

Solitary confinement doesn’t seem that bad when the door is open, but imagine being shut in this cement box by yourself for several days. It would be enough to make a man want to dig his way out slowly using only a Rita Hayworth poster for protection.

bay area day trip
3) Learn about Alcatraz’s most famous inmates

Capone and Robert Stroud (aka the Birdman of Alcatraz) aren’t the only famous prisoners to do time on the Rock. Another celebrity gangster was Elwood “Bumpy” Johnson, one of the most notorious gangsters in Harlem.

I don’t really understand why they needed to bring him all the way out to the Bay Area when he was a criminal in New York City. Maybe this is just my East Coast bias, but I like to think everything we have is better than California, including our prisons.

Anyhoodle, back to Mr. Bumpy. He was so famous that Clarence Williams III of The Mod Squad played him in the movie American Gangster. I mean, you know that you have really made it when someone from The Mod Squad plays you opposite Denzel Washington. The informative signs scattered all around Alcatraz will help you learn all about these fascinating evildoers.

I always feel a little guilty spending so much time learning about murderers and miscreants. Sometimes I wish there were exciting tourist attractions dedicated to Very, Very Nice People. Like, we should have a museum dedicated to Ms. Viola Munson, who was always kind to her neighbors, including babies and cats. Get on that, Internet!

bay area day trip
4) Visit the library

Apparently the inmates were really into reading works of systematic philosophy in the prison library. I guess you have a lot of time to contemplate man and meaninglessness when you are doing ten to twenty. This may be one of my favorite signs I have ever seen. Who knew that bootleggers were into Schopenhauer?

bay area day trip
5) Take a ranger tour

Because Alcatraz is run by the National Park Service, free ranger tours are available daily. The ranger tours are fascinating but keep an eye on the time if you are going to Angel Island in the afternoon.

If the tour goes too long, you won’t have enough time to do a ranger tour and the Alcatraz prison audio tour before your ferry to Angel Island will leave from Alcatraz around noon. And you don’t want to miss the ferry because then they will keep you trapped on Alcatraz forever. You’ll be stuck in solitary confinement with no one but the skeletons of the Birdman’s birds to keep you company.

I can see you looking skeptical, but I don’t make the rules. Blame the parks department if you think this punishment for missing the ferry is unjust.

PS. I feel like calling Alcatraz a “National Park” really stretches the definition of park. But maybe that is why they’ve never put me in charge of the national parks department.

24 Hour Tip

Those are all the Alcatraz secrets that I can share for now. You’ll have to buy your ticket in advance if you want to experience it for yourself.

Check rates and availability right here!

bay area day trip

24 Hours: Alcatraz and Angel Island

Afternoon: Angel Island

We’ll obviously continue our Alcatraz day trip by going to Angel Island. After a harrowing morning spent listening to tales of prison breaks and solitary confinement, you will be happy to know that Angel Island is…even more depressing than Alcatraz!

But fortunately Angel Island is much prettier than Al Capone’s former summer (and winter) home, which makes sense given that it was never a maximum security prison. Some of the views of the Bay Area from here will absolutely take your breath away.

Approximately top 5: angel island ferry

bay area day trip
1) Take the tram tour

A tram tour is included with your ferry ticket, so you will be able to see all the most important spots on the island without having to do any walking at all. I know how lazy you can be, Internet Stranger! And I sympathize!

bay area day trip
2) visit fort mcdowell

Just as Alcatraz served as a military prison, Angel Island used to be home to Fort McDowell during the end of the 19th century. Before this Alcatraz day trip, I never knew that the army was allowed in San Francisco! I thought if the military tried to show up in SF, the locals would just sing songs about flowers at them until the GIs ran away screaming.

You can still see the buildings left over from the island’s military days. I think they’re awfully cute for army barracks! And just look at those pretty purple flowers. This was my favorite spot on the island.

bay area day trip
3) learn the history of Asian immigration in the us

But Angel Island is not primarily famous for being a military fort; it is most known for being an immigration processing center for Asian immigrants. It is basically California’s answer to Ellis Island, only no one has set any Godfather movies here.

Sadly because of the racist Chinese Exclusion Act passed by the US government in 1882, many Asian immigrants were trapped on the island for years waiting for permission to enter the United States.

There’s a museum now where the Immigration Center used to be, but it’s not possible to visit it on the Tram Tour. If you want to fully explore Angel Island, you’ll have to come back on another day.

4) Eat lunch at the Angel Island Cafe on the island

I had the chili and it was just fine. But you might not be able to eat lunch until after the Tram Tour is complete, so again, make sure to bring a snack!

bay area day trip

24 Hours: Alcatraz and Angel Island

Dinner: The Cafe at Chez Panisse

Since we are spending this Alcatraz day trip exploring the environs of San Francisco rather than SF proper, I think it only appropriate to dine in the adjacent city of Berkeley, California.

It is very easy to get to Berkeley from San Francisco just by taking the BART train from Embarcadero Station. Part of the reason anyone would want to go on a Bay Area was so that I could eat at the legendary restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

An Amusing Anecdote From My Childhood

Any food historian knows that Alice Waters basically invented California cuisine in these hallowed halls on Shattuck Avenue in the 1970s, and she is still going strong today. I have wanted to come to this restaurant ever since I read her cookbook for children, Fanny at Chez Panisse, at the age of nine. As I’ve said before, I was a weird kid.

bay area day trip
24 Hour Tip

It is very hard to get reservations at Chez Panisse, so be vigilant if you really want to dine here. They start taking reservations exactly one month in advance. Sadly, I was not able to book a table in the restaurant, but I had no trouble getting a table for the cafe upstairs.

The big difference between the restaurant and the cafe is that at the cafe you can order a la carte, but the restaurant only has one set menu offered every evening.

The food at Chez Panisse exactly lived up to my childhood expectations, and next time I have an Alcatraz day trip, I will do everything in my power to get a reservation at the restaurant. Until then, I leave you with my thoughts on the food because I was too scared of Alice Waters to take photos.

24 Hour Treat

I feasted on salad greens fresh from the garden, ravioli with peas, mint, and pecorino, and tangerine sorbet with rose gelee. The salad greens indeed tasted like they’d just been plucked from Mr. McGregor’s garden, and the ravioli with peas bathed me in the warm glow of a perfect spring day. Perhaps May 2nd.

But the highlight was the tangerine sorbet which tasted like the most gorgeous tangerine ever. Like maybe this tangerine is Gisele Bundchen’s sister. Really, at Chez Panisse, anything could be possible.

Alcatraz day trip

Alcatraz Day Trip

Where to Stay?

Location is so important in San Francisco. That’s why I recommend spending your night of your Alcatraz day trip at the Cartwright Hotel. It’s located right by Union Square so it’s in a convenient location where it’s easy to take the bus or an Uber to the start of this Alcatraz day trip, it has free wifi, coffee makers, and an airport shuttle, and it might be haunted! What more could you want?

If you’d like to join me at the Cartwright, just click here.

If you want to find deals on hundreds of hotel rooms in San Francisco, just click here. This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay as the base for your Alcatraz day trip. With hundreds of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.

bay area day trip

That’s a Perfect Alcatraz Day Trip!

What would you do on a perfect Alcatraz Day Trip? Is it weird that a prison is a major tourist attraction? And what’s the sexiest citrus you’ve ever eaten? Please email me at stellajane@aroundtheworldin24hours.com and let me know!

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Alcatraz Day Trip

#1 TOP PICK

Best Alcatraz Day Trip 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
ALCATRAZ TOUR
✔️ Bucket list experience
✔️ Expert local guide

#2 PICK

Best Alcatraz Day Trip 2024 3

VW VAN TOUR
✔️ See the whole city
✔️ Expert local guide

#3 PICK

Best Alcatraz Day Trip 2024 4

ALL OTHER SAN FRANCISCO TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in the Bay Area.

Why not add 24 hours in San Francisco? You might want to experience a Castro in San Francisco tour. Enjoy the best Chinatown in San Francisco food tour. Go for a Mission District in San Francisco food tour. Get going on a North Beach in San Francisco tour. Don’t miss the best Tripadvisor things to do in San Francisco. Try out the best tour spots in San Francisco.

Best Alcatraz Day Trip 2024 8

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