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The Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood

Elegant Victorian Mansions, Vintage Shopping, Great Cafes and Lots of Greenery

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The Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood
San Francisco Travel Association Photo
The "Summer of Love" got its start right here in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, when disenchanted college kids from across the nation converged in the 1960's to drop out of mainstream American culture and immerse themselves in music, new age philosophies and drugs. The colorful neighborhood still lives to some degree in its psychedelically influenced past and head-shops, vinyl record stores and bohemian clothing stores attract crowds of people every day of the year.

Haight-Ashbury has much more than just counter-culture to offer visitors however, as it is also home to some of the most stand-out examples of San Francisco's famous Victorian architecture and is the gateway to several of the city's most scenic green spaces, including Golden Gate Park.

Visiting the Haight-Ashbury

The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood is located near the center of San Francisco along Haight Street, just before it ends at Golden Gate Park. It is relatively easy to visit from downtown or the Union Square area by taking either the 7 or the 71 Muni bus from any point on Market Street. Parking in the area is metered but always tight.

Shopping in the Haight-Ashbury

The Haight-Ashbury is one of San Francisco's busiest daytime commercial streets and is home to many independent businesses, who often specialize in some sort of "alternative" product:
  • Vintage Shops: For the best in shabby chic check out the massive Wasteland and for bargains and true thrift shopping Aaardvark's Odd Ark is a longstanding Haight Street institution. For leather clothing and boots as well as punk gear, check out Daljeets, another Haight Street fashion legend.

  • Music Stores: The massive Amoeba Records is housed in a former bowling alley near where Haight meets Golden Gate Park, but several other smaller music stores will delight music buffs as well. Recycled Records, which specialized in collectors and hard to find vinyls as well as vintage rock posters, and the Groove Merchant, where DJs search racks of old funk, latin and soul tracks for beats to steal, are both a lot of fun.

  • Head Shops and Paraphenalia: Haight Street is the place to go for the city's, if not the country's, best selection of glass pipes, psychedelic artwork and posters and other "trippy" things for adults to play with. Since the passage of California's Medical Marijuana initiative, many of these shops now double as legal marijuana dispensaries for those that carry a valid medical marijuana card.
A wide variety of other gift stores, tattoo parlors and independent label clothing stores also thrive on Haight Street, but many come and go quickly, give yourself plenty of time for window shopping.

Haight Ashbury Victorians

Perhaps the most famous Victorian in the area is the Red Vic, which is a Bed and Breakfast, a Peace Museum and a busy street-side cafe all in one. Photo walking tours of the Haight Ashbury are lead from the Red Vic several times a week.

A row of brightly-hued "Painted Ladies" lies on Waller Street, which is parrell to Haight and one block south, near the intersection of Masonic.

Wander up Ashbury Street for about a block and a half to see the Grateful Dead House (710 Ashbury St.), an 1890 Cranston-Keenan building where the band lived communally with a bunch of other characters. Continue walking up the hill to discover Victorian mansions in the Ashbury Heights neighborhood, an upscale area that was spared from the 1906 fire.

The famous Postcard Row actually is located across from Alamo Square park in the Lower Haight neighborhood, a good 10 or 15 minute walk east from the Haight-Ashbury area.

The Haight-Ashbury Street Fair

Every year on the second Sunday of June, six blocks of Haight Street is closed to vehicular traffic and vendors, large outdoor music stages and crowds of people reclaim the streets. The Haight-Ashbury Street Fair features live music all day long, tons of innovative arts and crafts, eclectic food stalls and a special area for families with small children.

Parks in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood

  • Buena Vista Park: Located on the east side of the Haight-Ashbury area, locals say this park is the geographic center of the city. Either relax on the sunny lawn or climb up through the live oak forest to the summit where, true to the park's name, sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands and the Pacific Ocean are to be had.

  • Golden Gate Park: After crossing Stanyon Street and entering Golden Gate Park from the west side, and end, of Haight Street, Golden Gate Park opens before the visitor and stretches out for miles to to Ocean Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Before you get there though you will soon pass by "Hippie Hill", easily recognizable by the drum circle, lounging crowd and faint cloud of aromatic smoke that permanently hovers overhead.

  • The Panhandle: The Panhandle is a block wide swath of green space that continues out from Golden Gate Park and heads into the heart of the city for a bit. It is popular with joggers and dog-walkers and provides those that are walking between neighborhoods in San Francisco a verdant and traffic-free path through the concrete jungle.

Nightlife in the Haight-Ashbury

Despite the fact that Haight Street is packed with locals and visitors almost everyday of the year, it cools down considerably at night. There are still plenty of places to party however, and most of them have a very local vibe and scene, despite the heavy tourism that the area receives during the day.

Hobson's Choice specializes in rum and rum-based cocktails, and is absolutely packed on weekend nights. Just up the street, Club Deluxe predates the hippies with its neato neon art deco decor and features live swing and jazz music as well as Frank Sinatra Sundays.

Down on Lower Haight, which is slower during the day, nighttime is the right time to be around. Many options exist including the infamous Mad Dog in the Fog, a British pub with serious local flavor and Noc Noc, an edgy but artsy bar that is great for checking out the neighborhood's eclectic denizens.

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