Redlands, CA

Escape the Heat and Visit Umbrella Alley in Redlands, California

Heather Monroe

Nestled in a quaint walkway, Inland Empire residents find comfort, whimsy, and food at Orange Street Alley
Orange Street Alley in Historic Redlands, CaliforniaHeather Monroe

At long last, the summer of 2021 nears an end. For residents of the Inland Empire, this means we have a little over one month of sweltering heat and are starting to crave a comfortable outdoor experience. During this time, the heat seems inescapable, and nothing feels cool. However, a spot exists in Redlands, California, that offers an abundance of shade, shopping, food, and Instagram-worthy photo opportunities.

Over the weekend, I decided to enjoy the cultivated coolness of a tiny alleyway. This small alley connects Orange and 5th Street and is unlike any other alleyway in Southern California—it exists beneath a canopy of hundreds of brightly colored umbrellas.

The umbrellas are new, but the alley is not. It separates two blocks of historic Redlands buildings, dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of 1892, these buildings initially housed a grocery, candy store, hardware store, and even a sausage shop. Today, they are home to various eateries and boutiques where you can enjoy an afternoon protected from the weather.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1892, The redline highlights Orange Street AlleyLibrary of Congress

Hannah's Wings
Hannah's WingsHeather Monroe

The umbrellas aren't the only esthetically pleasing aspect of Orange Street Alley. Red bricks pave the walkway, and murals by local artists adorn the exterior walls, including a pair of "Hannah's Wings."

"Hannah's Wings" is a lovely and poignant tribute to Hannah Ahlers, who sadly lost her life at the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. Hannah's family owns Redlands Jewelry and asks that anyone who posts a photo of Hannah's wings online use the hashtag #CheerstoHannah.

CheesewallaHeather Monroe

Of course, during your visit, you'll need to eat. In Orange Street Alley, you'll find a taco restaurant, an oyster bar, and a burger joint. All excellent choices, but my family returns time and again to Cheesewalla.

At Cheesewalla, you can dine al fresco on gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. The menu is small and creative. This small restaurant boasts such culinary comforts as Peanut Butter & Cream Cheese on white, a loaded baked potato with cheddar served on sourdough or the traditional melted cheddar of your youth. You definitely want to treat your inner child, or your actual child, to this delightful dining experience.

I especially appreciate Cheesewalla's Spinach and Artichoke grilled cheese. First, it is full of gooey mozzarella goodness with melted provolone. But they also include a thick layer of spinach artichoke dip and diced onions, all between two perfectly toasted slices of sourdough. I no longer need to embarrass myself by ordering the dip alone and eating it with a spoon, so this works out well.

Best of all, Cheesewalla offers compulsory tomato soup for grilled cheese dipping.

Sure, this might not be the ideal food to eat outdoors in the sultry summer heat. But the shaded coziness and whimsical artwork give you that feeling of autumn all year. Everything is perfect, beautiful, and better things are just around the corner. For these things, we are thankful.
Scenes from Umbrella AlleyHeather Monroe

Know Before You Go

State Street binds Orange Street Alley to the North, Citrus Avenue to the south, and 5th Street to the west.

Parking isn't a problem. You can park at the CVS directly across Orange Street or use the defunct Redlands Mall parking lot.

Orange Alley is open all year and accessible for everyone. There are no stairs to deal with, and the crosswalks have audio and visual signals to let you know when it is safe to cross the busy street.

The alleyway is small, however, and the outdoor seating is sparse. Cheesewalla almost always has a line. I recommend securing a seat as soon as one becomes available before you order.

When you finish exploring the alleyway, walk around the corner to Molino's for a nice cup of coffee. An Almond Joy Latte, hot or cold, comes highly recommended.

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I am a freelance writer, mom, and genealogist from California. I adore rock hounding, and living my best RV life.

Los Angeles, CA

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