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Neighborhood Guide: Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco

By: Susan Finch
September 14, 2020

Haight-Ashbury represents a piece of San Francisco's most colorful history. Multiple eras and a revolutionary spirit collide in this quirky community.

Although the neighborhood is synonymous with the 1960s, it’s modern charm makes it one of the best neighborhoods to live in San Francisco. But is living in this vibrant neighborhood for you?

Read on to learn more about Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, and why locals love calling this neighborhood home.

Haight-Ashbury's History

The neighborhood was named for its intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets. Today, it’s also known as "Upper Haight" or just “The Haight.”

An earthquake in 1906 destroyed much of San Francisco. However, it left Haight Ashbury and its original homes relatively intact.

Colorful, gorgeous Victorian and Edwardian houses line the streets. The area was also home to The Chutes, an amusement park with a water ride that sailed customers down into a manmade lake.

Summer of Love

Haight-Ashbury earned its modern-day reputation as a free love neighborhood when it rose to prominence in the 1960s. The area quickly became known as the bastion of the hippie movement and revolutionary spirit.

Celebrities and notorious cult leaders made themselves fixtures in the colorful neighborhood, most notably Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane. In its heyday, creative spirits flocked to see what Haight Ashbury was all about, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

With its free love and counterculture roots, Haight-Ashbury was known as a haven of hippie culture. The neighborhood's reputation caught on, and by 1967, tens of thousands of "flower children" arrived in Haight-Ashbury.

This iconic period became known as the Summer of Love, where youths and young adults came to expand their minds, mostly through music.

After the Haight-Ashbury district crumbled, it underwent a resurgence before undergoing gentrification in the 1980s. Today, the neighborhood is among San Francisco's most affluent with restored Victorian homes, boutiques, trendy restaurants, and new apartment buildings.

Haight-Ashbury Today

Haight-Ashbury looks very different today than it did during its summer of love in the 60s. Take a walk around and you'll discover one of the most affluent and desirable neighborhoods in San Francisco with an expensive price tag to match.

Despite its modern-day influence, Haight-Ashbury still masterfully blends past and present cultures, history, and its hippie roots. The neighborhood's free-wheeling spirit is still evident in vintage shops and quirky boutiques boasting its hippie sensibilities. While it's been modernized, Haight-Ashbury tries to stay true to its roots.

Who Lives in Haight-Ashbury?

Like its 1960s heyday, Haight-Ashbury continues attracting creative-minded, young adults and professionals looking for a creative spirit and unique vibe. Students also call Haight-Ashbury home, along with retirees looking to enjoy the best of what San Francisco has to offer. This LGBTQ+ friendly neighborhood offers something for everyone, from nature to nightlife lovers.

Location

Haight-Ashbury is conveniently located in the center of San Francisco. Residents are close to Golden Gate Park, Buena Vista Park, and the Panhandle area.

The neighborhood is highly walkable. That makes it a popular option for urban lovers and tourists alike. Residents who need a break from walking also enjoy biking or have access to ride-shares to access the rest of the city.

Public Transportation

Haight Ashbury residents enjoy a walk score of 87, a transit score of 80, and a bike score of 82. That makes it an ideal place to get around with ease.

Taking a walk or bike ride is perfect for staying local. For connecting to the rest of the city, hop on public transportation.

Public buses and BART, the elevated rail and subway system, are accessible to Haight-Ashbury with stops at nearby Golden Gate Park.

BART fares depend on your original destination and how far you go. Short rides usually start at $1.95. They go on up to $15 or more for the longest rides, including rides to airports.

Is Haight-Ashbury Safe?

Haight-Ashbury enjoys a relatively safe reputation where locals and tourists walk around throughout the day and into the evening hours. The "Upper Haight" is the safest area of the neighborhood. That’s also where tourists flock to soak up the vibe and hippie roots. You’ll almost always see someone posing for a selfie on the corner of Haight St. and Ashbury.

The Upper Haight stretches towards Golden Gate Park. This area of the neighborhood features iconic vintage shops and restaurants with a laid-back vibe.

It’s also the area of the long-standing Stanyan Park Hotel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

However, Lower Haight is considered somewhat less safe at night due to its higher concentration of bars and nightlife. There’s plenty to do in this stretch, just keep your guard up and avoid walking alone at night.

The lower Lower Haight straddles the area between Mint Hill and Upper Haight. It slopes down from Oak Street toward Duboce.

Living in Haight-Ashbury

Most people rent their apartment in Haight-Ashbury. Locals are known to stick around for the long haul. You'll find units nestled in old Victorian homes and converted lofts, mid-rise apartment complexes, and modern condos for rent.

As with all of San Francisco, Haight-Ashbury will have expensive rents. However, it’s possible to live in the neighborhood in an older complex that could save a bit on rent. You'll also find plenty of people split their apartments with multiple roommates.

Like most cities, apartments in Haight-Ashbury that are farther away from the action and subway come at a lower price point.

Things To Do in Haight-Ashbury

Haight-Ashbury is more than just a great place to live. It's also a popular tourist destination with plenty of places to explore.

Spend your weekends taking a walk through the park, hitting the bars, or catching up on some shopping. After you move in, here are some of the best ways to explore your new neighborhood.

1. Hit the Museum

Get to know the neighborhood’s creative spirit at the Haight Street Art Center. It’s an organization that promotes the advancement in poster art production and its cultural impact and history.

Past and current exhibits include Pearl Jam: Live in two Dimensions, Print Studio Archives, Ralph Steadman: A Retrospective, and Artifacts: The Rock Art of Emek — A Career Retrospective.

The M. H. de Young Memorial Museum boasts a fine arts museum nestled inside Golden Gate Park. Established in 1895, the museum has served residents for over 100 years.

Collections include American, African, Oceanic, Textile, art, and various other collections and exhibits. The museum also focuses on conservation efforts to preserve paper, textiles, and other mediums.

2. Take a Walk

Haight-Ashbury is a paradise for people-watchers, nature lovers, and architecture aficionados. There’s always something interesting to see on any day of the week.

Stroll the neighborhood on your own or join the Haight-Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour. If you're short on funds, there's also a free public library walking tour.

Whatever group or self-directed tour you take, make sure to see the row of stunning Victorian and Edwardian houses called The Painted Ladies. You’re also not far from the legendary Grateful Dead House that housed the band in the mid-1960s.

3. Enjoy the Parks

The iconic Golden Gate Park is one of San Francisco's most popular attractions. Situated alongside Haight-Ashbury, the 1,017-acre park features the Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco Botanical Garden, and Japanese Tea Garden.

The park features many of its own attractions. That makes it easy to spend the entire day exploring.

The charming and tranquil Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the country. The gardens were initially created as a Japanese Village for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition. It eventually became a beacon for garden lovers looking to explore its pagodas, stone lanterns, and seasonal cherry blossom trees.

4. Go Shopping

Shopping is a staple in Haight-Ashbury where locals from nearby neighborhoods, tourists, and locals gather. Just walk along Haight Street to discover costume shops, vintage clothing stores, and quirky boutiques.

The neighborhood staple, Piedmont Boutique, sells faux fur, disco outfits, wigs, jewelry, and a sea of vintage finds. It's also the home of the famous "Haight Ashbury Legs" dangling out of a second-story window.

Haight-Ashbury shopping also offers unique options for culture lovers. The reigning Amoeba Music draws indie music lovers looking for rare finds and the occasional live music performance.

The shop sells used CDs, records, and DVDs. It’s currently the world's largest independently-owned record store.

Brush up on your reading at the independent bookshop, Booksmith, to browse an extensive collection of new and vintage books and author readings. The shop is also popular with kids looking for a whimsical collection of books, puzzles, and games.

5. Soak up the Dining & Nightlife

There's no shortage of places to eat and spend the evening in Haight-Ashbury. Start with drinks at Kezar Pub or dine on organic bar food at Magnolia Pub and Brewery. This microbrewery is famous for its in-house brewing and tasty food.

For a comfortable dining experience, the Blue Front Deli & Cafe features deli sandwiches and Mediterranean dishes. The cozy Cha Cha Cha restaurant features fan favorites like pan-fried Shishito peppers and Paella Mixta.

To keep the fun going late into the night, head over to Club Deluxe. There, locals gather for cocktails, jazz, and live music.

Coffee To the People offers an afternoon retreat to sip fair trade coffee on comfortable couches. Books and board games are also available to unwind with friends.

Moving to Haight-Ashbury

The colorful, eclectic neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury invites the creative-minded and spirited to make themselves right at home. Ready to embrace your carefree roots and move to Haight-Ashbury? Just get started with our quiz to find your dream San Francisco home.

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