I still like the Haight & Cole Valley.
I love the Victorian houses, and the area holds lots of great memories circa '66 / '67.
But Haight St. is imho sometimes a semi-pathetic & commercial shell
of its old pre '67 self, and left me kind of sad this last trip.
I think the pic says it all.
"Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost!! "
Unique Suggestions: Walk around and soak in the commercial opportunism.
Marvel at the power pop culture & media possess (if we let it) to screw anything up.
Fun Alternatives: Buy a slice of pizza or a Ben & Jerry's and get a block or two (e.g. Page and Cole) off Haight to enjoy the beautiful Victorian style houses.
Get an online Haight history map and hunt up some of the old ghosts from 40 years ago.
I came to this place thinking about the 1960's hippie congregations and so on and what I found was more neo-punk meets gothic than anything else.
To start with I took the bus at Civic Centre to come here and while I was aboard I had to deal with a guy who was absolutely persuaded that the Judgement Day was tomorrow, another one who sold chocolate bars to help I don't know what weird cause and a lady that insisted to fall asleep on my shoulder.
I jumped outside the bus at Haight Ashbury to escape from them and eventually make some shopping and it was even worse.
Shops were crowed with crap. Sorry, plain crap to the point that you have to be a very good shopper to find any relic from the hippy times or a bargain here. And I am a pretty experienced shopper, ask my husband!!
A total nightmare. I jumped in the next bus to go to Golden Gate Park without even knowing very well what it was, just with the intention to scape from this place.
Unique Suggestions: Be careful. I reckon there are some shoplifters here and some people do not look totally legit.
Fun Alternatives: No alternative I suppose...
Unless you are a marihuana smoking late hippy or a punk, gothic or weirdo, I would recommend to steer away from this place altogether.
Maybe it was only me who had a bad experience here and it is not that bad in the end !!
I will never know, because even if I come back to SF I will not come back here!
Y'know... I really was resistant to saying this, but, upon further reflection, I have to agree with the other folks on this page that Haight Street is now a bona fide tourist trap.
Ten years ago this wasn't the case... the Haight (or, more specifically, the Haight/Ashbury or Upper Haight) was a vibrant, cohesive neighborhood. The folks who worked in the shops all lived there, played in bands there, went out to the great nightclubs and bars there, and were part of a real, working neighborhood.
The "dot-com boom" changed all that. Seemingly overnight rents got so high and places so scarce that most artist types had to leave. The people who could afford to live here demanded that the neighborhood quiet down to suit their relaxed tastes, and one by one the nightclubs and bars started closing down. Today all that's left are the shops, the yuppies, and the bums.
While you will see lots of Bohemian types in the shops, they, for the most part, do not live here. If you want to go to where the actual Haight neighborhood is, you'll have to go about a half mile to the east down the hill to the area of Haight Street between Divisadero and Fillmore. This is the Lower Haight. It's where I live and indeed is home to lots of us who fled the Upper Haight when the music died (this last round of it anyway..)
Unique Suggestions: The Upper Haight is still worth a visit - if only for nostalgia's sake. If you want to get a litle flavor of Haight Street, a few morsels still exist.
The Red Vic - a great place to catch a flick (see my tip)
ChaChaCha - one of the best restaurants in SF
The DeLuxe - really one of only 3 cool bars in the Upper Haight
Persian Aub Zam Zam - the other cool bar
Murio's Trophy Room - the other other cool bar
Vintage clothing stores - some are better than others - see my travelogue for some ideas
Bound Together - Anarchist book store
Fun Alternatives: A great alternative is the Lower Haight. While it may not have as many boutiques (and absolutely NO tie-dye), the Lower Haight is a genuine neighborhood with lots of hopping nightlife. The locals are the usual tattooed/pierced/black-clad types you'll find in most "Bohemian" neighborhods, but many of these folks actually have families! Most are in their late 20's and 30's (and beyond).
The real spirit of the Haight - and I'm NOT talking about the tie-dye flower power stuff that died over 30 years ago - is here. If I had to choose between the Haights - I'd say skip the phony charachiture of Bohemian SF and see the real thing.
Come here if you want to experience the trippy sensation of shopping for Greatful Dead and Doors T-Shirts. If you're one of those that remembers (?) Haight-Ashbury back in its Age of Aquarius days, I suppose it might be worth a return. But I doubt you'll find anything that reminds you of those good old days. Except for the groups of 16 year old runaways who aggressively ask you for change.
The Haight Ashbury area is a tourist trap in that there is not much to see. This area was known for drug use 30 years ago. The band Grateful Dead used to use at 710 Ashbury Street. Many tourists take a picture of the street sign at the corner of Haight Street and Ashbury Street and then leave.
Upper Haight - Haight + Ashbury. Nice too see it once and then you stay away. Except for the Amoeba and a few stores scattered along it, just stay away from the nostalgic 60s tourist trap. Lower Haight is where the locals tend to hang out.
Haight Street - No actually you have to go there it is really good and not a tourist trap at all - alot of fun infact!!