San Francisco Neighborhood Guide: Haight Ashbury
Flower children flocked to the neighborhood surrounding Haight Street during the Summer of Love in 1967, bringing peace and love to The Haight. This unique, colorful community became known as the birthplace of the hippie counterculture movement, attracting revolutionaries, cult leaders, and psychedelic rockers. Former denizens include members of Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, as well as Janis Joplin.
Today, the free-spirited bohemian enclave is a tie-dyed tourist attraction and residential neighborhood. Vintage clothing boutiques dotted along Upper Haight Street, Buena Vista Park’s beautiful vistas, kaleidoscopic murals, and several beautiful, bright, and well-preserved Victorian homes draw a lively, diverse crowd to the historically hippie district.
The Haight’s western border butts up against Golden Gate Park’s eastern entrance, while the park’s Panhandle is to the north. Divisidero Street and a large hill bisect Haight-Ashbury, aka “Upper Haight,” from “Lower Haight,” aka Haight-Fillmore. The scenic Buena Vista Park sits to the south, as well as the Cole Valley and Ashbury Heights.
The best way to get from the Haight to other parts of the city is by bus. Many Muni routes serve Haight-Ashbury. MUNI’s 7-Haight/Noriega and 6-Haight/Parnassus run the length of Haight Street, connecting the area to Downtown. Parallel to Haight Street, the 5-Fulton and 21-Hayes, and N Judah Muni Metro line also serve the area. North-South lines include 22-Fillmore, 24-Divisadero, 33-Ashbury/18th, and 43-Masonic. There aren’t any BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) stations in the neighborhood.
The city is only seven miles across, so you’re not far from SF’s downtown Financial District, or FiDi, but driving anywhere is a pain because parking is scarce. You’re better off ordering an Uber or taking the bus, which will get you there in about 30 minutes.
Where locals eat brunch on Sundays
Sparrow Bar and Kitchen
1640 Haight St.
Even though Sparrow Bar and Kitchen is quite spacious, it’s still a good idea to make reservations for brunch. The bi-level Haight Street eatery serves American favorites with modern twists, made with organic and locally sourced produce. Sip a Pom Pom spritzer (champagne, peach juice, and blood orange shrub) on the patio while you enjoy some eggs benedict or one of their tasty salads. At the time of this writing, Sparrow is currently closed for remodeling with plans to reopen soon.
The best coffee shop to work remotely
Coffee to The People
1206 Masonic Ave.
Decked out in political paraphernalia, Coffee To the People offers a quiet space to work with plenty of seating. The charming cafe serves up free wifi alongside pastries, soups, sandwiches, and organic and fair trade coffee and tea. The family-owned coffeehouse also serves as a fun gathering spot, complete with couches, a library of books to thumb through, and board games.
The best take-out spot for when you don’t feel like cooking
306 Broderick St.
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen and let Nopalito do the cooking. Located on Broderick between Oak and Fell, this popular Mexican joint serves up an elevated take on traditional Mexican food. The Tinga de Pollo, a Chipotle-braised chicken stew made with tomatoes, onions, and garlic, is comfort food served with heirloom beans and housemade tortillas. Whatever you do, get the totopos con chile to start; you won’t be disappointed.
Late-night eats for when you’ve had one too many
Cha Cha Cha
1801 Haight St.
There are a bunch of places in The Haight to grab a late-night bite. Order a slice at Bizza, sample a few dishes at Hippie Thai Street Food, or get a pitcher of sangria and some Caribbean small plates at our favorite, Cha Cha Cha.
The dive bar where everyone knows your name
Gold Cane Cocktail Lounge
1569 Haight St.
There are also a plethora of dive bars in The Haight, like Gold Cane Cocktail Lounge, which has been around for almost a century. Perhaps that’s because it has everything you could want in a divey drinking establishment: a pool table, TVs, a lounge, a jukebox, plenty of seating, and a small patio out back.
Where to drink outside
1398 Haight St.
Score one of the sidewalk tables outside of Magnolia Brewing to sample the popular microbrewery’s specialty beers. Their long list of homebrews includes several draughts, like their Kalifornia Kölsch as well as some cask-conditioned brews. The Haight Street locale provides prime people watching, while the solid menu of organic American classics like burgers and BBQ works well for lunch or dinner. If you need a change of scenery, head to their newly-renovated Dogpatch location.
Where to get cocktails on a first date
1725 Haight St.
Cozy up over a rye whiskey Manhattan in one of The Alembic’s dimly lit booths. The Haight Street institution also has outstanding food, so you can easily extend drinks into dinner if the date is going well.
Things to do in Haight-Ashbury
The parade of storefronts begins on the far west end of the Haight Ashbury district with Amoeba Records. Shop vinyl, CDs, movies, and more at “largest independent music store in the World”. Buy head-to-toe tie-dye at Love on Haight and score some silly socks at Sockshop Haight Street. Dress up in kawaii, punk, goth, streetwear, or festival fashion at Dolls Kill brick and mortar store. Look for the fishnet-clad legs in red pumps dangling out of a window and you’ve found the Piedmont Boutique, where you can browse brightly colored wigs, faux fur, and sequined studded *lewks*. Pop some tags at Wasteland, a trendy thrift shop that features a variety of vintage, designer, and new clothing and accessories. Haight Street’s independent bookstore, The Booksmith, hosts author readings and book exchange events. Get henna’d at Life San Francisco, a fragrant gift shop that sells cards, candles, and jewelry in addition to exotic perfumes and aromatherapy oils. Find cute souvenirs and gifts at San Francisco Mercantile on Haight Street.
Haight-Ashbury doesn’t have its own farmer’s market, but it does have a Whole Foods as well as Gus’s Community Market. Located right on Haight Street, the grocery store sells local and organic produce plus wine, cheese, and grab-and-go food from the deli counter.
Nestled on the eastern side of the shopping and commercial district, the aptly named Buena Vista Park offers amazing views of San Francisco and the Bay. This verdant 36-acre park is the oldest official park in the city, featuring live oak groves, a playground, and an off-leash park space for Fido to run free. Head up the stairs at the corner of Haight Street and Buena Vista Avenue to take the trail to the top of the steep hill. Your 30-minute trek will be rewarded with scenic views of the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Bridge, St. Ignatius Church, the Marin headlands, and Golden Gate Park.
Haight-Ashbury is adjacent to the sprawling Golden Gate Park, which houses the de Young Museum, Conservatory of Flowers, California Academy of Sciences, AIDS Memorial Grove, Hippie Hill, the Japanese Tea House and Garden, and more.
Top-Rated Places in Haight-Ashbury
Many multicolored murals line the streets of The Haight. Located at the intersection of Cole and Haight Street, one of the more famous murals has the mugs of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jerry Garcia, all of whom lived near the intersection for which the ‘hood is named.
Haight-Ashbury was one of the few neighborhoods spared from the flames that devoured most of the city sparked by the devastating earthquake of 1906. Therefore, the area is blessed with the largest concentration of Victorian homes in the city. These ornately detailed multi-story wooden houses date back to the 19th century. For an architectural tour, go to the intersection of Haight Street and Central Avenue, venturing north and south on Central. See some more highlights a block over on Masonic Street. One of the most popular Victorians is the Grateful Dead House, where the founding members dwelled back in the 60s. Located at 710 Ashbury Street, the house serves as a tribute to the Dead as well as a reminder of the area’s storied past.
Ready to call this historic neighborhood home? Check out thousands of Haight-Ashbury apartments for rent on Zumper and find your very own Victorian home.