After a year with minimal travel, my East Bay family has become pretty regular tourists in San Francisco. Nestled in a narrow alleyway, Umbrella Alley is a charming, touristy spot for family and kid-friendly photos with five completed murals and a few more in the works. Nearby, Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf is brimming with newly reopened sidewalk restaurants, outdoor cafes, and shops. The whole area is worthy of a visit when you want to add some city flair to a regular weekend.
What to expect at San Francisco’s Umbrella Alley
Colorful, Creative murals with an Austin Powers vibe
The whole space is a silver lining of the pandemic closures and has resulted in a fresh, happy, playful, and colorful vibe. You just can’t help but smile, I mean for photos, but also it just feels positive here. The increased foot traffic to this small alley near Fisherman’s Wharf employs local artists and helps revitalize the local businesses after substantial losses from pandemic closures resulting in a win-win for everyone.
When we visited, we had the opportunity to chat with Brian, the creator of Umbrella Alley and owner of Electric Tour Company. His story inspired me. As the tourism businesses started to shut down due to COVID last year, he got creative. He started painting the ground of his space at the Electric Tour Company some funky patterns in retro colors in an Austin Powers-vibe. As he finished one project, he decided to keep beautifying and found local muralists to blanket the entire alleyway and interior of his garage.
Being Tourists in the City
We left East Bay around 9 am and it only took us 20 minutes from Oakland to reach Umbrella Alley. I got lucky and found street parking very close. Bonus: free street parking on Sundays! Since we arrived on the early side, it wasn’t quite open yet, so we watched the swimmers from afar at Aquatic Park and strolled around Ghirardelli Square. We did a lot of walking, so were prepared with backpacks filled with food, water, and layers for the inevitable marine layer chill.
Around 11 am, we meandered back to Umbrella Alley. It is slightly tucked away, but trust your GPS and you’ll find it! It is almost completely outdoors and is a great place to give your kids a camera and let them get creative. Each mural installation has a stand to perfectly position your camera, for the best photo opp.
I also gave my five-year-old a camera. I was surprised and delighted at her perspective when we scrolled through her pictures.
My two-year-old spent most of her time sitting in one of the quintessential SF electric tour cars under a canopy of color. Brian, the owner, mentioned he saw a lot of families taking holiday photos in the space, so it probably gets busy on weekends and holidays. It really is a perfect backdrop for Instagram memories of San Francisco. He also gave my kids some pretty cute stickers.
Though everyone is welcome at Umbrella Alley, it didn’t feel overly packed or crowded during our visit. It’s a small space but people wore masks and were respectfully taking turns at each mural. We didn’t see any, but furry friends are also welcome.
Plan your visit to Umbrella Alley in SF
Hours: As of this posting, open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 am – sunset. Open hours are always going to be a bit fluid, so it’s good to check Instagram for any announcements or updates, as they intend to be open daily in the summer of 2021.
Website: Website >
Location: 757 Beach St San Francisco CA, near Ghirardelli Square and the Western end of Fisherman’s Wharf.
Restrooms: Find clean ones close by at Ghirardelli Square.
Fees: Free! But donations are greatly appreciated for artists and businesses, and of course supporting the local nearby businesses, including Electric Tour Company which keeps the Alley open, beautiful, and staffed with volunteers.
Where to eat: Everywhere! There are so many restaurants and cafes nearby. We ate outdoors at San Francisco classic, Boudin at the Wharf. It’s easy, fast, and has a kid-pleasing menu. I let my girls splurge on chocolate croissants and muffins for an early brunch-ish snack/lunch. They were fascinated with baskets on a pulley carrying loaves of bread throughout the historic restaurant.