New Alcatraz outdoor audio tour app helps visitors explore historic island

A visitor takes a photo on Alcatraz Island.

Now you can discover the hidden layers of history on Alcatraz Island anew!

A brand new, outdoor-only audio tour app is now included with the purchase of an Alcatraz tour ticket. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Alcatraz without the crowds. Alcatraz Cruises has limited passenger capacity on ferries to the island to 20% and also enlisted enhanced safety measures on the dock and the boats to help reduce the potential spread of Covid-19. This is truly a special time to have this historic island almost entirely to yourself. Get your Alcatraz tickets here.

Screenshot of the new 'Alcatraz Experience' audio tour.
The Alcatraz Cellhouse and other indoor areas are currently closed, but this new audio tour app helps you explore the island’s history while touring outdoor spaces at your own pace. Escape to Alcatraz now for sweeping views, historic gardens, and to learn about the island’s unique history.

The new 30-minute Alcatraz Experience audio tour, “Alcatraz in Times of Change,” is only available in English. The audio tour is contained in an app for download onto your mobile phone, and is activated once you arrive on the island. This audio tour shares engaging and compelling stories about Alcatraz, as you explore the island, socially-distanced from others. 

It highlights the island’s historic eras, using stories drawn from interviews with those formerly incarcerated, correctional officers and kids who grew up on the island, as well as decades of research into Alcatraz’s lesser-known history. Explore the historic gardens, Eagle Plaza, and Recreation Yard, among other outdoor areas of the island.

Learn how the hidden history of the island reflects on current issues, like the Hopi who were imprisoned here, decades before the Indians of All Tribes occupied the island, 50 years before our current racial justice movement. Such connective threads can be found everywhere on the island. This outdoor audio tour will help you see our iconic landmark in a brand-new light.

Here are some tips for making sure you get the most out of the audio tour.

1. Prepare for your adventure!

Remember to charge your mobile phone before you arrive, and bring headphones for the best experience. The app does not play on speaker phone, to limit sound from the phones of other visitors who are enjoying the audio tour at the same time.

We also recommend downloading the app before you travel to the island, as cell service on the island can be intermittent. The app can be located in the Apple App Store here or Google Play Store here. From the app stores, you can search for “Alcatraz Experience,” or look for the app’s name: “Alcatraz Experience – Audio Tour.” Some content is available at home, but audio tour content is only available to you when you arrive on the island.

2. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

If you didn’t download the app before arriving at the Pier, we are offering free WiFi at Alcatraz Landing (Pier 33) and also at the dock on Alcatraz Island. This means you can download the app without using data on your cell service plan.

WiFi network name: Alcatraz Audio Tours. No password is required.

After you load the app onto your phone, the audio tour will be available to you on the island even if you’re out of cell range. If for any reason you’re unable to download the app, ask for a complimentary audio CD of “Alcatraz in Times of Change” at the app information station at the Alcatraz dock.

If you can’t find your earphones, don’t worry! The app information station also offers complimentary earphones that plug into a standard phone’s earphone jack. For newer phones that do not have an earphone jack, you will need an adapter to plug into your phone’s charging port. Or, you can purchase an earphone splitter for your phone’s jack (so you can share the audio tour with others in your group, all listening from the same phone), in the bookstore on the dock.

3. What can you expect on the island? How long should you plan to be there?

The audio tour will only start working once you arrive on Alcatraz Island. The app audio is comprised of eight chapters. Each chapter is labeled, and you can listen anywhere on the island, at your own pace. To move through the eight chapter stops in the audio tour, press “Next Stop” at the bottom of the app screen when you’re ready to proceed. 

The audio tour is 30 minutes. But we recommend planning around 2-3 hours total, so that you can enjoy the ferry ride and explore all that Alcatraz Island has to offer. It makes for an epic daytrip!  

4. Make sure to get your map—and your map app.

Visitors will receive a complimentary “Discover Alcatraz” map and guide when they arrive on Alcatraz Island. For interactive maps and historic information, visitors can also download the National Park Service Golden Gate app.

5. Once you download the app, is it permanently on your device? 

The outdoor audio tour will be accessible only through the app, and you can delete the app at any time.

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