San Francisco has many faces and each neighborhood seems to reveal a different personality; today we will venture into Haight Ashbury, one of the most interesting districts both from a historical, cultural and architectural point of view. The Haight (as its inhabitants call it) is the neighborhood that gave birth to hippy culture; it is in fact in these streets that in the second half of the 60s the phenomenon of Summer of Love, attracting crowds of young people in an attempt to create a new utopian society, characterized by the ideals of peace, love and freedom.
What is left of Haight Ashbury's past today? How to organize an itinerary to discover a neighborhood so rich in places of interest? Let's find out together!
- A brief history of Haight Ashbury
- How to get to Haight Ashbury
- Walk along Haight Street
- Between colorful houses and houses of famous artists
- Buena Vista Park
- Tours organized in the area
- Where to sleep in the area
A brief history of Haight Ashbury
The artistic vocation of the district began before the birth of the hippy movement, when in the early 60s many members of the Beat movement moved from the North Beach neighborhood to Haight Ashbury due to rising rental prices. Over time, a counterculture movement (the Hippies) was formed which made the district the epicenter of a new way of conceiving community life, characterized by ideals of peace and love, by the massive use of drugs (in particular LSD) and by a new psychedelic musical style.
Plenty of musicians took up homes in the neighborhood, including Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane, while the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 it was one of the great advertising posters of the movement, with performances by, among others, Jimi Hendrix, The Who and The Mamas & the Papas. Scott McKenzie's song San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair), fully summarized the atmosphere that reigned in the area in those years.
The enormous media exposure given to the hippy movement attracted thousands of young people to the neighborhood (75000 people during the summer of 1967 alone, known as Summer of Love), but soon the ideal impetus of the beginning faded and the Haight Ashbury neighborhood it became the scene of episodes of violence and degradation. In the fall, a few months after the excitement of the summer of love, many members of the hippy movement had fled the neighborhood and some of those who remained ended the adventure with a symbolic event, the hippy's funeral.
How to get to Haight Ashbury
Although the epicenter of the neighborhood is the intersection of Haight Street and Ashbury Street, the easiest way to reach the area is to arrive by public transportation (lines 6, 7, 37 and 43) at the intersection of Haight Street and Masonic Avenue (one block east). From here you can start exploring the main artery of the neighborhood (Haight Street in fact).
Walk along Haight Street
Once you get to theintersection of Haight and Masonic the first thing to do is a nice walk along Haight Street towards the West: you will find many shops, boutiques and cafes and everyone will try to restore the lost era of the Summer of Love to its splendor with brightly colored signs and furnishings, colorful clothes and vintage displayed in the window, eye-catching murals, smoke shops, mystical shops with a Tibetan flavor and tattoo shops.
The walk can be a good opportunity not only to go shopping in San Francisco (with many decidedly unique shops, with products hard to find elsewhere), but also simply to breathe the atmosphere of a neighborhood that is unique in the world, which in some ways seems to live again of the nostalgia for an ideal project that was soon shattered.
Along this pleasant walk on Haight Street here are some places of interest that I recommend you pay attention to (the places are listed in order from East to West, from Masonic Avenue to Stanyan Street):
- Magnolia Pub & Brewery: a great choice for a snack, great craft beer and their specialty: the pulled pork sandwich!
- Love on Haight: it is impossible not to notice this clothing store, with garments in bright colors in full Summer of Love style
- Piedmont Boutique (1452 Haight St): 2 female legs emerge from the first floor window, just above the sign, inviting you to enter a shop of synthetic furs, disco dresses, feathered dresses, masks, wigs and bracelets
- Clock: Right at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury you will find a clock that always shows the same time: 16:20, a slang expression used by locals to refer to marijuana
- Reminiscences of Jimi Hendrix (1524A Haight Street): continuing you will find on your right the Jimi Hendrix Redhouse, a smoke shop which, together with the mural on the west wall, recalls the house where the great guitarist lived
- Haight Street Market: in the adjacent building you will find Haight Street Market, where you can stock up on local organic products as well as prepared dishes (ideal for a quick snack)
- Burger Urge: much more interesting place for its Summer of Love style aesthetic aspect than for its burgers… at least one photo deserves it!
- Booksmith: independent library active since the 70s, it is very active in organizing events and it is not uncommon to meet some famous authors who sign their works for the public
- Rasputin Music: hippy-style store selling records, CDs, DVDs and T-shirts, part of an independent chain (Rasputin Records) that has been operating in the Bay Area since the 70s
- The Red Victorian: historic B&B witness to a bit of all the historical phases crossed by the neighborhood, impossible not to notice it along the road
- Decades of Fashion: it is the realm of vintage, where you can find clothing suitable for all eras of the past. If you want to feel like a flower girl, a nineteenth-century lady or a suffragette of the 20s, in this shop you can take a leap in time ...
- The Cole Street Murals: Take a small detour by turning left onto Cole Street to admire 2 interesting artistic graffiti: the first depicts Jerry Garcia, historical guitarist of the Grateful Dead, the other, Evolutionary Rainbow, is a historic mural from 1967 next to Café Cole; it was made by Joanna (Yana) Zegri in the middle of Summer of Love
- Amoeba Music: this independent record shop is a real institution in Haight Ashbury; here you can not only find authentic rarities but also attend many live performances (here you can find the calendar of events)
- Golden Gate Park: Continuing the walk on Haight Street you will find yourself at the entrance to one of the largest parks in San Francisco. Here at the time of the Summer of Love it was not at all uncommon to see artists like Janis Joplin performing for free. The park is so extensive that it touches the Ocean Beach overlooking the ocean, so it's not really a hit and run visit, however it may be a good idea to walk along it for a while, at least to the pretty Japanese Tea Garden (about twenty minutes from the intersection of Stanyan Street and Haight Street).
Between colorful houses and houses of famous artists
Once you've explored Haight Street, Haight Ashbury's attractions don't end there! The neighborhood is one of the privileged areas to admire the Painted Ladies, colorful Victorian houses over time you have become true icons of San Francisco. The most interesting are not far from the Haight Street area, to "find" them take a look at our itinerary on the Painted Ladies of Haight Ashbury.
In the neighborhood there are also a number of historically and culturally interesting houses, private homes of musicians, poets, writers and illustrators who have contributed to creating the myth of the flower children. Here is a list with related addresses:
- 710 Ashbury St: casa dei Grateful Dead;
- 635 Ashbury St: casa di Janis Joplin;
- 122 Lyon St: another house of Janis Joplin
- 612 Ashbury St: casa di Country Joe McDonald;
- 1018 Page St: casa di Big Brother and the Holding Company;
- 1550 Page St: “Hippie Temptation”, a house that became particularly famous after being filmed in a CBS documentary;
- 1828 Page St: Ron Donovan house (poster illustrator for psychedelic rock concerts);
- 1452 Haight St: casa di Jimi Hendrix
- 879 Haight St: home of the punk band Flipper;
- 636 Cole St: home of Charles Manson;
- 731 Buena Vista West: home of Graham Nash and Bobby McFerrin;
- 264 Downey St: home of poet and playwright Michael McClure;
- 32 Delmar St: casa di Sid Vicious.
Buena Vista Park
The Haight Ashbury neighborhood is “nestled” between 3 beautiful public parks: Golden Gate Park, The Panhandle (the less interesting one) and Buena Vista Park, which surrounds the district on the opposite side of the Golden Gate park. Buena Vista Park is not only a pleasant refreshment point but also an excellent opportunity to take a regenerating walk to the top of the hill, which offers beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the san francisco skyline.
There are various paths, all covered by a dense vegetation of trees, sometimes obstructing the view a bit, but they also represent one of the main features of this park, a sort of small hilly forest. To get to Buena Vista Park you will have to take Haight Street in the opposite direction to the one we have traveled so far (towards the East), you will find the park on the right.
Tours organized in the area
There are some organized tours available for visit Haight Ashbury: if you want to immerse yourself in a hippy experience, I recommend the The Summer of Love Magic Bus Experience, a themed bus ride will take you to the most culturally interesting areas of San Francisco (not only Haight Ashbury but also the places of Kerouac and Chinatown). There are also other "love tour” (always on Summer of Love-style minibuses) but they are not thematic tours, but sightseeing tours along the main areas of the city. They are one in the day version, the other at night and you can find them at the 2 links below:
- San Francisco Love Tour
- San Francisco Love Night Tour
Where to sleep in the area
There are not many accommodations available in the area, however it may be a good idea to sleep in the district, not only for its many points of interest, but also to experience staying overnight in a residential neighborhood of San Francisco, and live for a few days like a local. It can be a little more inconvenient than some central areas (e.g. Union Square accommodation), however, by bus or bicycle you can easily solve the problem of getting around (take a look at our article on how to get around San Francisco for more details).
The accommodations in this area are usually far from the idea of a standard hotel, rather they are intimate, welcoming B & Bs with a family atmosphere. If you want to sleep in this area it will be better to move in advance, given the reduced presence of structures. Here are 3 links where to look for accommodation in this neighborhood:
- Haight Ashbury facilities on Booking
- Haight-Ashbury Structures on Vrbo
- Haight Ashbury's properties on HotelsCombined
If you prefer to stay in a more central area, I suggest you take a look at our guide on main neighborhoods where to sleep in San Francisco.