San Francisco’s enigmatic charm lies in its neighbourhoods that have been at the forefront of social change — in particular, Haight-Ashbury. It was the birthplace of hippie counter-culture and the backdrop to 1967’s unforgettable ‘Summer of Love’ and it still retains its eccentric charm to this day.
The area exemplifies the era that made it famous in its dive bars, interesting eateries, record stores, and thrift shops. There is so much to explore in this intriguing district of one of the world’s most loved cities. A time capsule to the flower child era, visiting there will take you back to the generation that screamed peace, love, and freedom with messages that are still eerily relevant in today’s society.
Explore Haight Street
Strolling along the main drag of Haight Street, you feel there’s something special in the air and it’s not just patchouli. There are murals spreading messages of peace, caricatures of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin alongside boutiques that décor fills the area with psychedelic colours. Hell, even the Ben & Jerry’s has a ‘hippie’ theme. While it would be foolish to not acknowledge that it’s touristy, standing on the corner of Haight Street and Ashbury Street I could have sworn I’d entered a time machine.
Visit a piece of music history
The ‘Grateful Dead’ house is the residence where Jerry Garcia and his fellow bandmates became part of a cultural revolution, made generation-defining music and undoubtedly hosted some outrageous parties. It’s just a house these days but still worth a look for fans of the band. There’s also Jimi Hendrix’s Red House which is hard to miss as it lies on Haight Street itself.
Soak up some solitude
The oldest official park in San Francisco, Buena Vista Park is a slice of solitude in amongst the city it calls home. A bartender opening up shop told us it captured the spirit of the area and boasted one of the best views of San Francisco. An easy but steep 30-minute hike to the top, walking through the park you feel as you could be a world away from the city. When you reach the top, there is a number of vantage spots to sit and soak up those views. You are even treated to a peek at the Golden Gate Bridge. As we sat up there, two musicians joined us – they sang and played soft guitar melodies as the golden sun bathed our beautiful surroundings. Oh, California.
Dress the part
If one thing is certain, the area hasn’t lost its fashion sense. Lucky for us, Haight Street boasts some of the best vintage shops the world over. Time to get kitted out. Think floor-length coats, flares, corduroy and all things psychedelic. Stores such as Relic Vintage, Buffalo Exchange, Held Over and Wasteland will captivate shoppers for hours with their amazing mix of clothes from past generations. Take a gander into Love On Haight where you’re guaranteed to hear the songs of former resident The Grateful Dead on the stereo.
If looking like Janis Joplin circa 1967 isn’t your thing, you can explore the many record stores that the area is home too. There’s Rasputin Music, Rooky Ricardo’s Records or Amoeba Music — that also hosts regular live shows. Whether you’re a fan of John Lennon or John Legend, you are guaranteed to find a hidden gem along Haight Street.
Party like it’s 1967
Once an area that was home to Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead – it should come as no surprise that the bars here play some amazing music. This generation knew how to enjoy themselves and what better way to honour them than heading out for a drink or two? Hobson’s Choice is a rum bar set in an old Victorian house. It’s casual and friendly, drawing a good local crowd. We recommend the punch. Club Deluxe is home to some impressive live music, jazz, and cocktails. Milk Bar offers all types of entertainment ranging from local bands to comedy nights. The past lives on through Murio’s Trophy Room which is old-school in the best kind of way. There is a pool table and a jukebox. Time to put on some Hendrix and enjoy a pint.
Try the food
As there is in most of San Francisco, Haight-Ashbury has some seriously good food. There’s a wide variety of delicious dosh from across the globe – everyone is welcome here. Mexican favourite ‘Street Taco’ is inexpensive and tasty. It serves Mexican street food and draught beer. What more do you need?
Parada 22 is a great spot for Puerto Rican food and some sangria. Hippie Thai Street Food with its campervan logo plays on the theme of this district. 1428 HAIGHT Patio Cafe & Crepery serves up American brunch food with something for everyone, including wine and beer on the menu. It has an open, inviting feel that is hard to go past. For lunch, we had white wine, with breakfast food – eggs florentine with rosemary garlic potatoes. For those new age hippies and vegans out there, VeganBurg San Francisco is 100% plant-based and we can guarantee it will be one of the most delicious things you ever eat.
Words by Lucy Quaggin