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Haight-Ashbury, named for the major intersection in this neighborhood, was our destination for our last morning in San Francisco, we walked the length of Haight Street checking out all the funky shops with their colorful imaginative exteriors and then since it wasn't quite lunchtime yet, we grabbed a slice of pizza at Escape from New York pizzeria and then had a walk down some of the side streets to check out some of the painted ladies, those would be houses, not streetwalkers! Our final stop was at Cha Cha Cha for a Caribbean lunch and then back on the bus that brought us there.
In the 1960s this area was the center of the hippie movement and "the summer of love" in 1967. Back on my 2nd trip in the late 1980s I thought the area was a little more seedy and edgy than I did on this visit, I suspect that my reaction is due partially to not being a naive wide eyed college kid anymore but also a bit of gentrification in the area. While there are plenty of street people that you will find yourself stepping over or around as you walk Haight Street, I didn't find this neighborhood at all dangerous to walk around, certainly not in the daytime anyway.
Where the hippie era all started
The Haight-Ashbury is where the famous hippie era all started, and is still a very tolerant, open, liberal, and funky neighborhood today. Here, you will find stores selling everything from hemp to tattoos to piercings to psychodelic shirts. While I have seen other VTers say it is a not-so-safe neighborhood, I don't find that to be the case at all. I have been there during both daytime and nighttime, and all one must do is exercise street smarts and caution. The most I have ever been bothered was by panhandlers, but I just respond with "sorry" and walk off confidently. The Haight-ashbury does have its share of teenagers who just hang out on street corners, but it is easy to avoid them. Visiting this neighborhood is a must to see the hippie era's roots!
- Historical Travel
Drop by the Haight District
Haight Street is a stretch of vintage shops and bars where the vibe underscores the city's counterculture.
From their website:
"Haight Street has been through good economic times and bad, but now appears to have settled into a steady state of thriving commerce mixed with the bizarre. The Upper Haight is where Graham Nash, the Grateful Dead and many other popular rock bands once made their homes. It was also the primary site for the Summer of Love (1967) when George Harrison walked down it with a guitar in his hands followed by a cadre of Flower Children. Today it is frequented by locals, enjoys a brisk tourist trade and a considerable degree of Yuppification.
- Arts and Culture
Still Groovy after all these years...The Haight
OK, there are many different neighborhoods and vibes going on in San Francisco. The reason why I'm compelled to single this particular one out is because I'm a raging DeadHead....a nostalgic Grateful Dead fan (and borderline obsessive Jerry Garcia aficionado, R.I.P.)
Anyways - most Americans are probably familiar with this place but for those who are not, it is basically the area in San Francisco where the hippies lived and loved; where the peaceful counter-culture of America's 60's dwelled and dropped acid; where incense pervaded the streets and free-wheeling musicians played impromptu performances; where flower-power and tie-dye ruled and if you couldn't make it to Kathmandu, then this was the next best thing.
Today, many locals like to "hate 'The Haight'", but I still love this place (again, probably because of the whole Grateful Dead connection). What is annoying about it now - and I'll concede this much - is that it is making money off its memories and somehow this seems sacrilegious, given its provocative and iconic history.
The Haight-Ashbury area is divided into two basic areas - the Upper Haight and the Lower Haight. The Lower Haight is the funkier, grittier of the two.
I personally think you should not visit San Francisco without including a quick stop by The Haight, to pay your respects to the living symbol of an era that was arguably more pure and idealistic - if not a bit laid back, a bit stoned....but surely an all around groovy refuge for a kinder, gentler America.
Shopping and Imagining
There are so many cool stores around here. I found it was best to start with Amoeba Records and work your way towards Ashbury. And I always enjoy imagining what it was like back in the day without all the commercialism that's built up.
This wasn't my favorite part of the city but there is so much history here.
I brought my mother and stepfather. My stepfather lived in the area during the 60's and he wanted to see what it was like now. He thought it was very much the same, except for the Gap. My mother and I thought it was kind of seedy. There are some head shops, a lot of tie dye and homeless. The homeless crowd tends to be younger age group than the rest of the city.
There are some nice places to eat. We stopped for lunch at a small vegetarian restaurant (I wish I could remember the name) and our food was amazing.
The scene seems to be geared toward a younger, hippy crowd and older people wanting to visit because of the history..
We checked out the Grateful Dead house but didn't have time to see where Janis Joplin lived.
Love the Haight (How lame is that?)
The hippie days live in the Haight. This isn't a 60's theme park either, but a famous, working SF neighborhood, home of the "peace and love" generation.
It's got restaurants (including organic food), bars, second hand record stores (I can spend hours in these places, and spend lots of money too) and, yes, headshops. Check out Ben & Jerrys, at the corner of Haight and Ashbury. And this is weird for SF, but I didn't see any Starbucks (unless I missed it, of course)
There's also access to Golden Gate Park at the end of Haight Street. Beware of the pot dealers that congregate near the entrance though.
- Budget Travel
This was a cutural mecca in the '60s. Traces of those days remain today. I suggest just walking down the street and checking out the shops. If you'd like to keep walking west down the street, it goes to Golden Gate Park, a nice place for a picnic. My only caution is that there will probably be pan-handlers or people selling drugs. If you ignore them, say no thanks, and keep walking, you'll be just fine.
- Budget Travel
- Arts and Culture
We forgot the flower
We really did it.
We went to Ashbury-Heights, and, despite all the musical warnings that we listened to in Portugal, we forgot to wear a flower in our heads. Sorry! And we did feel bad, because, the feeling is still there (not the flowers!).
Too much youth, lots of irreverence, and a different town in town. Maybe it is not your world, as it is not mine; but you should go there to see the contrasts that enrich San Francisco.
- Arts and Culture
There's not much I can write here that hasn't been written. This area became famous in the sixties for the hippe movement. It really is a cool area with funky shops and great people watching. I saw a man in a cape and knee pads barreling down the street like he was on a mission.
Back to the seventies
Think weed, think hippy, think alternative. You have Haight and Ashbury. Situated on San Francisco’s east side this district is a haven for all things different. Check out local spots for happy hour and cheap eats, then wander along upper height, ducking into its many bars.
Make friends with the locals, hit up the juke boxes, and knock back the cheap drinks (the cheapest we found in SF). The next day head to Golden Gate park to complete your hippy dippy experience, sit on the smokers hill as you get into the park and watch the world go by.
No Hate in the Haight
This is the ultra liberal grungy artistic area that represents anti-everything culture. Some argue hippiedom was created here, and here it stays. This is a photo of the car art parade. One of the many interesting things that happens here on a daily basis.
The intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets in central San Francisco was once a derilect zone, filled with old, crumbling Victorians housing the city's lower class. In the 1950s, students from then-nearby San Francisco State College took over the neighborhood because of low rents. The Beatniks followed from their old haunts in North Beach, claiming that area was becoming far too expensive. In the late 1960s, when the Vietnam War waged on the other side of the world and anti-establishment opinions were gaining popularity with San Francisco's youth, this neighborhood absolutely exploded with Flower Power.
The neighborhood became the virtual headquarters to iconic bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. People dropped by on visits (some of them permanently) for free drugs, free love, the Be-In and the 1967 Summer of Love. But by the early 1970s, Flower Power had become rotten. Once celebrated, drugs became a scurge. The artists left. Charles Manson gave the neighborhood a bad rap. Plus the sour economic 70s didn't help either. The 1970s left Haight-Ashbury much like it was in the '40s and early '50s--a ghetto.
But revival began in the late '70s and continues to this day. Today, "the Haight" as most Californians know it, is one of the most fashionable areas of San Francisco. Rents are shockinly high (no respectable hippie could hardly afford it today). Shops as diverse (and corporate) as the Gap and Ben & Jerry's are here too, plus Amoeba Records, one of America's largest independent record stores. Plus you won't find many hippies here either; instead, you'll find more punks, goths, cell-phoned yuppies and tourists here than hippies. The '60s are gone forever, and so are many of this area's previous inhabitants.
Although you won't find the '60s alive and well here, you will find various historical spots that contributed to counterculture movement. Also, the shops here are also very interesting to go through.
The Haight overall is a cool place to check out and hang out for a few hours
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Visit Haight/ Ashbury
My husband being a rock and roller in his youth ( and still today in many ways) this was a must go to place. This was corner of the city was well known all over the world as THE Hippie center .The Hippie era is a little before our time , just a little . If not i'm sure we would have landed here before now. Its a pretty colorful street today with lots of memorabelia.
There are T shirts from many different band concerts and posters etc.
Its a different spot today , although I did see a couple of "hangers on to the past"~~~There are some interesting shops , bookstores and coffee shops in this area , frequented by the many College kids and tourists alike.
This district is named after the intersection of these two streets, but most of the commercial activity of interest to tourists is along Haight Street. Good hikers can walk from the Market Street/Civic Center area up through the Lower Haight Street district to Buena Vista Park, which is the eastern boundary of the Upper Haight, or Haight Ashbury District, as tourists know it. Haight Street terminates into Golden Gate Park. The Upper Haight and Golden Gate Park were both developed in part by contractors, Haight and Ashbury, during the late 1800s, and at one time this neighborhood was a very fashionable part of town in which to live.
While the Upper-Lower Haight district distinction refers to more to altitude than social status, homes in the Lower Haight were the less ornate homes of Japanese and African-American immigrants who settled closer to the bay fill businesses of Market and Mission Streets, as well as the shipyards and factories of China Basin. In contrast, the mansions near Golden Gate Park were more often the property of Anglo immigrants. However, the fame of this district for a counter-culture of hippies, which began around the 1967 Summer of Love, was partly because of rising rent prices in the North Beach neighborhoods, where the 1950's era Beat Generation was created, and still remains today. So, although the Haight remained owned principally by white Anglo families, a half century later, these families were now landlords for the influx of mostly white flower power youth who found it convenient to live near Golden Gate Park.
Thus, there is a generational distinction between the Beatniks, of North Beach, and the Hippies, of Haight-Ashbury. While both drug experimenting hedonist-existentialist youth movements, Beatniks held to nihilist European sensibilities of the espresso sipping post WWII era, while Hippy culture was a straight forward escapist, anti-scientific, Hindu influenced, retro-culture focused on anti-Imperialism and return to home grown organic foods. At the time, many hippies were college students who had dropped out to avoid the Vietnam War draft, escaping into nameless communal living of the larger homes in the Haight. The neighborhood continued to decline, architecturally speaking, until the 1980's when just over the hill, the Castro gay-lesbian culture emerged, ultimately bringing in a new generation of workers willing to sink business and professional dollars into restoring the old Victorian homes.
Today, gone are Hippies who have not been successful selling used vinyl records, water pipes, or herbal remedies. The street has faced unfortunate corporate restaurant incursion of the grey sort found in any urban center, but there do remain many small counter-culture restaurants and businesses tourists would want to visit.
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