A local's tips on the best things to see and do in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood, and locations where the famous 60's rockers lived.
Tie-dye, head shops, psychedelic posters, and the smell of pot and patchouli in the air...
The original hippies are long gone, but the romance of that brief, shining moment in the summer of 1967 lives on in the Haight Ashbury district!
The history of the Haight Ashbury neighborhood (or "the Haight", as the locals call it) starts after the Gold Rush.
The 1800's. This neighborhood was the boonies when San Francisco was young. A wilderness of sand dunes soon turned into a recreation area for the city dwellers after Golden Gate Park was created in 1837.
A cable car line ran out to the edge of the park which made it easy for residents to come out to the "country" for picnics, and an amusement park was built here as well.
By the late 1800's, Victorian houses were being built out here for members of the more affluent middle class. Most of them are still here, having survived the 1906 earthquake; the terrible fire didn't reach this area, so this is one of the best areas of the city to see numerous, splendid examples of Victorian architecture.
The Depression & WWII. The economic woes affected the Haight Ashbury, as it did other areas. In the 1930's, many of the Victorians stood empty up, or were converted into boarding houses to supplement income.
During the World War II housing shortage, the large houses were often chopped up into flats to house the workers moving here.
1950's and 1960's. During these years, the Haight Ashbury was a low-rent neighborhood. Houses tended to be run down, and the Victorians weren't looking all that great.
That was the main reason the Haight became very popular with the beatniks of the 50's and later the hippies of the 60's.
The counterculture reached its peak with the Summer of Love in 1967.
Over 100,000 young people, many under 20 years old, headed for San Francisco that summer, looking for love, drugs and rock and roll.
Their romantic visions of utopia often didn't turn out that way. For any kids, it was a bad trip. Drug dealers took advantage, and many ended up sleeping on the streets because the sheer numbers overwhelmed the ability of the city to supply places to stay.
"The Song" alone inspired many to head for San Francisco.
After that summer, and into the 70's, the Haight became seedy, a hangout for drug addicts and muggers, and San Francisco residents mostly avoided it.
The with property values rising in the 80's, people started buying the Victorians and fixing them up. This trend has continued, and those old buildings have come full circle as desirable residential properties (for those who can afford them).
Now, they're a major attraction, definitely worth seeing. And the neighborhood has become a popular one for its shops and restaurants.
Here's the song that inspired thousands to descend on San Francisco in the summer of 1967.
Scott McKenzie's invitation hit the airwaves in May of 1967, and still captures the feeling of that era better than any other.
Scott McKenzie at the Monterey Pop Festival, June 1967
The best way to experience the Haight Ashbury neighborhood?
Stroll around, check out the funky shops, beautiful Victorians, psychedelic murals, and rock 'n roll houses...and stop for a beer and a burger at Magnolia brewery!
The blocks of Haight Street between Stanyan Street and Divisadero are a fun place to browse.
The expected hippie tie-dye clothes, posters, and knick-knacks are easy to find, and the shop fronts do a pretty good job of recreating the vibe. They're touristy, but still fun to poke around in, and are somewhat authentic.
Amoeba has free concerts pretty often, also. See Amoeba's schedule. 1855 Haight Street.
And Janis Joplin lunch boxes;)
Have a look inside the Piedmont boutique, too. Massive selection of colorful earrings, and other accessories.
Be sure to check out Decades of Fashion, at 1653 Haight. This beautiful vintage clothing shop is almost like a museum.
Smoke shops. Of course it wouldn't be the Haight Ashbury without the head shops (not so daring now that pot is legal here). But flavored e-cigarettes have just been banned in SF.
Need a tattoo? You're in the right place. I decided to have my ears re-pierced after decades of not wearing earrings; what better place than the piercing experts in the Haight? I picked out one from Yelp reviews and was happy with the results (no more teenager-in-the-mall piercings for me!).
Some more shops to check out:
During the late 1960's, San Francisco was home to some of the most famous 60's singers and bands, who created what was called the San Francisco Sound.
The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Steve Miller Band, Country Joe and the Fish, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and more, all lived in the Haight at some point during the heyday of hippiedom.
(Jimmie Hendrix also lived here at some point, possibly at 1524 A on Haight Street. It's called the Jimi Hendrix House, but the location is in dispute.)
The rockers started moving into the Haight Ashbury neighborhood in 1965 & 1966, and most were living here during the Summer of Love in 1967.
The Grateful Dead lived in the house at 710 Ashbury Street, and the Hell's Angels' headquarters was right across the street, at 719 Ashbury.
Janis Joplin lived at several locations; two of them were 635 Ashbury and 122 Lyon Streets (the Lyon Street address was on her driver's license).
The Jefferson Airplane bought the house at 2400 Fulton Street in 1968 (for $70,000) after they had financial success from their Surrealistic Pillow album, with hits like White Rabbit and Don't You Want Somebody to Love.
They painted the outside black and, not surprisingly, it was known as a party house.
The mansion at 737 Buena Vista West housed a recording studio in the 60's where Jerry Garcia, Mother Earth, and the Steve Miller Band did recordings.
It is also famous for being the residence of Jack London; he wrote White Fang there in 1906. And actor Danny Glover lived there at one point.
Charles Manson lived at 636 Cole Street from April through November of 1967 and recruited some of his followers from among the disaffected flower children drawn to the Haight Ashbury during the Summer of Love.
Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Squeaky Fromme (who later attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford) all lived there with Manson in 1967. Manson's girlfriend, Mary Brunner, worked as a stripper at a nightclub in North Beach.
Patty Hearst was held prisoner at another house in the Haight, at 1235 Masonic Avenue, while she was being held for ransom by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1978.
The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and the Jefferson Airplane used to give free concerts in Golden Gate Park, near the Haight Ashbury neighborhood.
The slight rise called Hippie Hill is still a gathering for stoners on weekends, and a large group gathers to celebrate marijuana on April 20 each year.
For photos and more info on this area and location of the tree where Janis Joplin used to sit and play her guitar, see Hippie Hill.
To download a pdf of the map, click on Haight houses map.
Stand at the epicenter of hippiedom, the corner of Haight and Ashbury, where it's always 4:20 pm.
For years, the street signs kept disappearing as souvenirs.
Check out the clock on the corner, reminding folks of the annual, cannabis-smoking event on April 20 (now legal).
The Haight Ashbury has one of the best collections of Victorian houses in the city, and they're in a fairly compact area.
During the 60's many of them had gotten quite run down, but now they fetch a premium price and their current owners have been fixing them up.
The paint jobs on many are exquisite and are worth a close look.
Not THE Painted Ladies of postcard fame, but quite similar, and I think, even prettier.
You'll see them all through this neighborhood, but a stroll down Waller Street (parallel to Haight, and one block up) will reward you with a fine assortment of colorful houses.
Quickie course on the Victorian styles. These houses were built in San Francisco during the late 1800's and into the early 1900's.
The earliest style was the simple, flat-front Victorian, followed by the more ornate, stick style (called that because of the stick-like decorations attached to the front).
The last style was the Queen Anne, often with rounded towers and slanted roofs.
There's a handy trio along the Panhandle that shows all three styles in a row: in order, stick style, Queen Anne and flat front.
The Haight Ashbury has murals galore, mainly of the colorful 60's variety. You'll see them as you stroll up and down Haight Street.
If you need a break from the pot and tie-dye, head to the top of the local park, which is quite an impressive hill. The city view from the top is worth it. About a 30-minute climb.
Main entrance is on Haight Street at Central Ave.
As you can guess, the annual street festival on Haight Street is one of the most colorful. Lots of crafts on display, and fun stalls to browse.
The Haight Street Festival is held in June each year. See Haight Ashbury festival for schedule.
The hippies liked to head over to nearby Golden Gate Park and hang out there (and still do). The park begins where Haight Street runs into Stanyan Street.
In addition to the impromptu concerts of the 60's and the Human Be-In held in January of 1967 in the polo field nearby, there's a tree in the park near Hippie Hill where Janis Joplin would sit and play her guitar.
It's a quick detour from the neighborhood; you're likely to run into some actual hippies there, where the clouds of aromatic smoke drift over the heads of the drummers, especially on sunny weekend days. See Hippie Hill for photos and info, and the map above.
The Haight Ashbury neighborhood sits on the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park. The park is vast, and there's lots to do there. See Golden Gate Park for a complete guide and maps.
The famous postcard view of the row of the Victorian houses, with the downtown skyline behind, is just a few blocks from the Haight. Head for the block of Fulton Street between Scott and Steiner.
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Magic Bus Tour. This is a unique tour with a 60's hippie theme (lots of great music) that goes through Chinatown and North Beach, as well as a "trip" down Haight Street, and on to Golden Gate Park.
Video projections of SF 60's scenes and the music immerse you in the Summer of Love. I went on this one awhile back and it was a kick. See Magic Bus Tour for info and booking.
The Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. The Hop On Hop Off bus takes you all over the city while the tour guide fills you in on some of the history. The bus also stops in the Haight Ashbury, and goes down part of Haight Street.
Get a glimpse of the neighborhood from the bus, or get off and explore it on your own. See Hop On Hop Off bus for info and booking.
You can get to the Haight Ashbury on a Go Car tour, as well. The GPS-guided tour map includes an optional loop into the Haight.
With the Go Car, you hear about the neighborhood and important sights, plus you can park it and explore the neighborhood before continuing on your tour, all at your own pace.
Haight Ashbury free walking tour. SF City Guides does a free walking tour of the Haight. This is a non-profit organization and the tour guides are volunteers. They have tours for a lot of San Francisco attractions and they're very knowledgeable and professional. You don't have to make a reservation; just show up at the appointed time. I went on this tour and it was excellent. Takes about 2.5 hours. See SF City Guides for tour information.
Haight Breweries Tour. Learn about the Summer of Love and sample beers at three local breweries in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. 3.5 hours, $89. See Haight Ashbury brewery tour for info and booking.
Two of my favorite places:
Ploy II Thai restaurant. Ploy II has been there a long time and I've been going there quite a while; the food is great and the family that runs it are very friendly.
It's upstairs, in a Victorian overlooking Haight Street, in a charming and funky living room setting, complete with fireplace. 1770 Haight Street.
Magnolia Brewery. They make their own beer on site, but they also have yummy comfort food like burgers and fries to go with their brews. Cosy, friendly atmosphere. You can taste a few of the beers for free upon request from the nice guys at the bar.
The brewery itself is in the basement and all but one of the beers served are made there. Happy hour is Mon-Fri, 4-6 pm. I really liked their spicy Mr. McGregor IPA (made with carrots, parsnips, turmeric and ginger).
Fun fact: one of their brews is now the "official" beer for the Golden State Warriors, and is available at the new Chase Stadium: DUBS Golden Ale.
They're located at 1398 Haight Street, at the corner of Masonic.
Ben & Jerry's ice cream is at the famous intersection of Haight & Ashbury Streets.
Cole Cafe. There's a nice little cafe just off Haight Street at Cole, with some outdoor seating.
Something cool: the walls inside are hung with paintings illustrating scenes from The Wind and the Willows.
If you're looking for homemade wheatgrass drinks, you're in the right place!
The Haight Ashbury neighborhood is just to the east of Golden Gate Park.
It's borders aren't distinct, but it generally is bordered by Stanyan Street along the park, the Panhandle on the north, Divisidero Street on the east, and the hills rising up towards 17th Street in the south.
From Downtown: the 7-Haight/Noriega bus runs from multiple stops along Market Street downtown to a series of stops down the length of Haight Street. Get off at Masonic, Clayton, Cole or Stanyan Streets. See 7-Haight/Noriega bus for route and schedule.
The 6-Haight/Parnassus also runs along Market Street and has stops at Haight & Masonic and Frederick & Ashbury in the Haight neighborhood. See 6-Haight/Parnassus bus route.
From Union Square, walk down to Market Street to catch either the 6 or 7 Haight bus described above.
From Fisherman's Wharf, take the F-Line streetcar or the 30-Stockton bus to Market Street and pick up either the 6 or 7 Haight bus there. See list of buses for routes.
The Hop On Hop Off buses also go to the Haight Ashbury. See HOHO buses for info and booking.
This neighborhood is pretty congested in terms of parking, but with a little circling, you can usually find street parking.
Haight Street itself has parking meters but it's tough to get one of them. I usually start looking a couple of blocks above Haight Street on Frederick and nearby streets.
Pay close attention to the street cleaning days and times; big ticket. Plus some streets have two hour limits unless you're a resident of the neighborhood; there will be a sign saying so.
Pay lots and garages. Slim pickings for these in this area. There is a lot at Kezar Stadium at 502 Frederick Street near Stanyan that's $3 per hour; they don't appear to take reservations.
The Haight Ashbury neighborhood has two quaint hotels right on Haight Street: