The Official Tour of Alcatraz Island and Prison

Step back in time and experience the legendary island that has been a Civil War fort, a military prison and one of the most notorious federal penitentiaries in US history. This memorable tour includes: 45 minute audio presentation "Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour," featuring actual correctional officers and prisoners who lived and worked on the Island; orientation video by Discovery Channel; ranger and docent tours; historic gardens and abundant wildlife.

cellhouse audio tour

No one can tell the Alcatraz tale like the men who actually lived it. The captivating Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour brings history alive through the actual voices of the correctional officers and inmates who lived on the island during the infamous Federal Penitentiary era.

Hear both sides of life in the island prison including such famous events as escape attempts, "The Battle of '46", food riots, and surviving solitary confinement.

The Cellhouse Audio Tour is available in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

gardens of alcatraz

From the military to the penitentiary era, plants softened the Rock for those who called Alcatraz home. Through gardening, island residents created beauty in a place focused on defense, punishment, and confinement. The families of the guards enjoyed tea parties in the gardens, and gardening became a welcome pastime. For trusted inmates, the gardens were an escape from daily prison life. Even today, the thriving gardens are a stark contrast to the somber prison.

After closure of the prison in 1963, many plants survived decades without care. These survivors are excellent choices for gardeners in the Bay Area or other Mediterranean climates. Since 2003, The Garden Conservancy has been working in partnership with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service to restore these wonderful gardens and to share the stories with visitors.

Join a garden docent for an up-close look at the restored historic gardens of Alcatraz. Learn about the softer side of the Rock and how gardens made life tolerable for residents of the barren island. Tours leave the Alcatraz dock at 9:30 am every Friday and Sunday.

Guided tours

Join the island staff for a guided walking tour of Alcatraz Island. Programs are offered throughout the day and generally start either at the dock or lighthouse. Topics may include Famous Inmates, Escapes, Hollywood’s Rock, 200 Years of Alcatraz History, and Fortress Alcatraz. Some programs even take visitors into restricted areas of the island.

Guided tours generally last 45 minutes to an hour, and may involve walking moderate distances.

Tours and times vary daily, so check the Program Board when you arrive on the island dock. No reservations are required, and all programs are free.

Exhibits

Alcatraz: Stories From the Rock

Alcatraz: Stories From the Rock takes viewers on a journey through the Island’s many chapters: its early role as a military fortress, the famous federal penitentiary years, the Indian occupation that altered the course of history, and finally the popular National Park and wildlife refuge it is today.

Alcatraz stands as a powerful symbol of protection and change. The film explores Alcatraz as it began, as it evolved, and as it stands today and allows viewers to discover the many layers that make it an incredible time capsule of history and human drama.

Video: We Hold the Rock

The occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 by “Indians of All Tribes” changed the course of U.S. and American Indian history, and brought world-wide attention to the plight of American Indians. The award winning video/exhibit, “WE HOLD THE ROCK,” produced by the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, is shown continually in the China Alley exhibit behind the main theater area near the dock.

Alcatraz and the American Prison Experience

"Alcatraz and the American Prison Experience," a major interpretive exhibit, explains the place of Alcatraz in the evolution of prisons in America from Colonial days to the present. Produced in partnership with the federal Bureau of Prisons, the exhibit also looks at family life on Alcatraz and trends in American penology. The exhibit is housed in two historic fortress storerooms in the China Alley display area near the dock.