Haight Ashbury is a thriving San Francisco neighborhood where cultures and eras meld together. Made famous by the hippie movement in the 1960’s, Haight Ashbury was once the home to revolutionaries, famous singers (including the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin) and cult leaders. Today, this San Francisco neighborhood pays homage to that history with thrift stores and vintage shopping that recollect those good old days. However, Haight Ashbury is also a thriving modern center where chain stores, restaurants and a variety of different types of bars all draw people in for activity. Haight Ashbury is a tourist attraction, a modern shopping area and a residential neighborhood. Located near the eastern entrance to Golden Gate Park, Haight Ashbury is a place where both locals and travelers can come together to enjoy a great day in San Francisco.
The best way to explore the iconic Haight Ashbury neighborhood that has kept a lot of its vibe from the 60’s is to take our San Francisco Insider’s comprehensive sightseeing tour. You will immerse yourself in the living urban culture and hear tons of fun stories about the Haight Ashbury, Mission and Castro districts. Our expedition leaders will put you in the front row to enjoy world-famous landmarks that you have seen million times on postcards and in travel videos, such as Pier 39, Fisherman’s Warf, Ferry Building, Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Park, and so much more. To complete this amazing experience, you will get a chance to snap a selfie with the Golden Gate Bridge on the background!
Although Haight Ashbury San Francisco has been a neighborhood for a while, it became well known during the 1960’s when it was home to the hippie movement. At the time, it was where the hippies would go to score their drugs so it had something of a bad reputation. However The Haight was also the home to revolutionary movements, spiritual groups and famous musicians, making it a hotbed of creativity. Artists (such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono) flocked from all over the world to the Haight Ashbury District to experience the life that was being lived there. They helped push the boundaries of the hippie movement that came out of and made history there.
Some of the Haight Ashbury history can still be seen today in the free spirit of the area. There is a volunteer-run co-op movie theater (The Red Vic) that showcases the work of independent and local filmmakers. There are a number of coffee shops which are designed to give locals a place to hang out, conversing with each other over politics and literature. There are bookstores, thrift stores and other places where people can go to pick up relics of the Haight history in the form of clothing, souvenirs and memorabilia. The street performers that can sometimes be seen in the district bring the history of the area’s performance art to the sidewalks. The year 2007 was a particularly interesting year for Haight Ashbury since it marks the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love which was celebrated in the area. The annual Haight Ashbury Street Fair was particularly crowded for that reason.
Although the Haight Ashbury district is known for its history, the main reason that people go there today is to do some shopping. Amoeba Records down at the far west end of the Haight Ashbury district marks the beginning of that shopping for most people. Continuing west from there, tourists and locals can mingle in the many shoe stores, vintage clothing stores, bookstores and odds-and-ends shops that have cropped up in the area. They can pick up a Haight Ashbury T shirt, listen to some Haight Ashbury music and explore to find which Haight Ashbury store is their favorite. There is some controversy about the shopping in the area because the Haight and Ashbury street corner itself is now populated by several commercial chain stores. People with the hippie spirit are unhappy about the commercial business that has moved in, although it is undeniable that the commerce allows the area there to thrive.
When people shop, people get hungry. Haight Ashbury fills this need with a number of different restaurants. Every other storefront is some sort of dining area. There are multiple pizza parlors, Thai and Chinese cuisine, Mexican food and many other small restaurants. For the most part, the dining in the Haight is relatively inexpensive and the restaurants have only small seating areas. This encourages visitors not to linger, to get back out onto the sidewalks to do some more shopping and picture-snapping in the historic area.
At night, however, lingering is common because of the number of bars that are available in the Haight Ashbury area. There are breweries, beer bars, gay/lesbian bars, lounges, and even a dance club or two. Locals and visitors who are looking to drink on a budget will find that there are numerous happy hour specials all throughout the district. And with such plentiful options to choose from, there is a little bit of something for everyone in the Haight.