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Alcatraz Behind the Scenes Tour

Is It Worth It?

Updated: August 28, 2023

In addition to answering questions about what to expect on the Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Alcatraz Prison, this post will also cover topics about how to get tickets, prices, locations you can expect to see, and more.

How to Get Alcatraz Behind-the-Scenes Tickets

There are currently 3 different ways to get behind-the-scenes tour tickets to Alcatraz:

Here are the ticket prices you can expect for this tour:

  • Adult (18-61) - $101.30
  • Junior (12-17) - $97.10 (must be supervised by an adult)
  • Senior (62+) - $94.25
  • Children (under 12) -  not applicable. This tour has a minimum age of 12 due to its lengthy duration.
  • Get tickets or learn more.

NOTE: Most combination packages only include the standard Alcatraz tickets, so if you really want to experience this outing, it’s better to purchase either directly from Alcatraz City Cruise or from a third-party vendor.

What to Expect Behind the Scenes at Alcatraz

Ever wondered about the secrets held behind the barred doors of Alcatraz?

This Behind the Scenes tour is your chance to satisfy that curiosity. 

You can explore the veiled corners of this infamous island that have remained hidden from the regular tourist's eye.  

This tour includes all the features of the standard tour, like the scenic ferry ride across San Francisco Bay and the gripping self-guided Alcatraz cell house audio tour, but it adds an extra layer of mystery and excitement.

A row of jail cells in Alcatraz. Image source: Pixabay user Marcello Rabozzi.
A row of jail cells in Alcatraz. Image source: Pixabay user Marcello Rabozzi.

As it is a guided tour, you'll be welcomed by a knowledgeable guide who'll take you and your small group around.

You'll explore the well-trodden path of the standard tour and venture into usually off-limits areas.

You'll walk down corridors untouched by regular tourists, peek into hidden nooks and corners, and learn all about the prison’s extraordinary history.

You can see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance while watching the sunset during an evening visit.

Which off-limits areas are included on the Behind the Scenes Alcatraz Tour?

Visitors can enter exclusive off-limits areas typically off-limits to the general public during this Behind the Scenes Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour.

You will have the chance to tour off-limits areas of the famed Alcatraz Island, including the following:

  • The Prison Hospital
  • The Cellhouse Alcatraz
  • The Underground Tunnels

In addition to visiting these locations, you'll also learn about infamous escape attempts from licensed professionals who know the real history of this prison.

How long does the Alcatraz Behind the Scenes tour last?

Alcatraz offers an extensive experience that lasts about three hours on their behind-the-scenes outing.

During this time, you'll delve into the fascinating history of Alcatraz Island.

You will learn engrossing tales of failed escapes and notable criminals such as the following:

  • Al Capone
  • Robert Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz)
  • George “Machine Gun” Kelly.

You'll also visit places that aren't accessible on regular tours.

What can you bring on the Behind the Scenes tour?

In the Behind the Scenes Alcatraz Day Tour, knowing what you can bring along is important.

Visitors must carry essential items such as a valid ID, comfortable walking shoes, and weather-appropriate clothing.

Additionally, you can bring the following:

  • A small bag or backpack
  • Personal belongings
  • Necessary medications
  • Bottled water and food
  • Mobile Phones

And yes, you can take pictures!

We also recommend bringing sunglasses, sunblock, and other items to protect yourself from the sun, as many areas on Alcatraz Island are outdoors.

Tourists exploring the jail cells in Alcatraz. Image source: Pixabay user LoggaWiggler.
Tourists exploring the jail cells in Alcatraz. Image source: Pixabay user LoggaWiggler.

Is the Behind the Scenes Alcatraz outing a small group tour?

Yes, the Behind the Scenes Alcatraz Prison Tours offer an intimate and immersive experience with small group sizes of just 30 people.

This allows visitors to ask questions and prevents the prison from getting too crowded.

A small group size also ensures visitors can fully engage with their surroundings and have meaningful interactions with the national park rangers leading the tour.

What should I wear on an Alcatraz Behind the Scenes tour?

Dressing appropriately is crucial when preparing for this tour.

You will be walking around different island areas, so it is advised that you wear comfortable clothing and sturdy walking shoes.

Considering the unpredictable weather in the San Francisco Bay Area, wearing layers and bringing a light jacket or sweater is wise.

That said, if it's the middle of the summer, you might be fine in a T-shirt and shorts!

Are there any physical requirements for the Behind the Scenes Alcatraz Tour?

This tour involves walking on uneven terrain and climbing stairs, so visitors should be prepared for moderate physical activity.

Having a reasonable level of mobility and fitness is recommended to enjoy the tour entirely.

If you have any specific concerns, checking with the tour operator or Alcatraz Cruises before booking is best.

What languages are available for the Cellhouse audio tour at Alcatraz?

The Cellhouse self-guided audio tour is available in the following languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, Russian, Korean, Mandarin, and ASL.

It is also available in audio description form for guests with vision impairments.

As a reminder, you can enjoy this tour with a standard daytime Alcatraz ticket as well!

What is the Schedule for Alcatraz Behind the Scenes Tours?

Typically, the tours are offered on select days and times throughout the year, including weekends and holidays.

No matter when you plan to visit, it's advisable to book your tickets in advance to secure your desired date and time.

Last-minute tickets may be available on occasion, but it's always best to plan ahead to ensure availability.

Alcatraz City Cruises offers this tour just once per day during the following schedule.

  • Summer Hours (April - September): Tuesday - Saturday at 4:20 pm
  • Winter Hours (October - March): Tuesday - Saturday at 2:15 pm

What’s the Difference | Alcatraz Behind the Scenes Tour?

Beyond what is provided by regular tours, this service offers a comprehensive experience.

It stands out for the following reasons.

Access to off-limits areas

Unlike the standard tours, the Behind the Scenes Tour allows visitors access to restricted areas of Alcatraz Island that are typically off-limits to the general public.

Explore some fascinating locations when you get the chance.

Intimate group size and personalized interaction

On this guided tour, you'll be part of a small group, ensuring a more intimate and immersive experience.

With fewer people, you'll have ample opportunity to engage with your knowledgeable park ranger guide and ask questions.

Extended duration to fully explore the island

The Behind the Scenes Tour lasts approximately 3 hours, giving you more time to fully immerse yourself in Alcatraz's captivating world.

In addition to the exclusive areas, you'll also visit the iconic warden’s house, Water Tower, Officer’s Club, and other locations where you will gain insights into the daily lives of prisoners and the stringent security measures in place.

With this service, you'll gain a more in-depth understanding of Alcatraz's rich past, from its role as a military prison in the old fort to its transformation into one of the world's most infamous federal penitentiaries.

Is the Behind-the-Scenes Tour Worth it?

This is a difficult question to answer, as it's really dependent upon your own tastes and interests.

If you're interested in visiting Alcatraz, but you aren't as interested in doing a deep dive into the historical aspects of the site or hearing tales of former inmates, this outing might be a bit more of an experience than you care to have at the landmark location.

However, if you've always had an interest in true crime stories and the history of prisons in the United States, this service will probably be right up your alley.

Not only will you have more time to explore the island, but you'll also get to see areas normally off-limits to other visitors.

The price of this tour is more than double the cost of the standard Alcatraz tickets, so cost is another factor you might want to consider.

Alcatraz prison cells. Image source: Pixabay user Simon.
Alcatraz prison cells. Image source: Pixabay user Simon.

If you don't feel like paying over $100 for the special behind-the-scenes access, the regular daytime admission still includes a self-guided tour and access to most of the important areas on the island.

Another thing to consider is that the Alcatraz Night Tour is also a popular option, as it includes some of the spookier tales from the history of this prison.

If you're more interested in the supernatural, that might be a more interesting outing to enjoy.

The small-group guided tour included with their behind-the-scenes access is a really nice benefit that you can't experience any other way.

The standard ticket only includes a self-guided tour, so this service is actually quite valuable if you'd rather hear about the history of this island from licensed professionals.

Best of all, you can always ask your guide questions if you are curious about anything along the way!

Ultimately, if you're looking for a fully guided tour with access to off-limit areas, this is the only way to do it, and that makes the behind-the-scenes tour worth it for history buffs.

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo,, and more.
Updated: August 28th, 2023
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