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San Francisco, California, United States

A Trip through the 1960s in Haight-Ashbury

The historical, groovy and fun neighborhood near Golden Gate Park

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.0 miles / 1.6 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
 
Overview: As the Mamas & the Papas suggested in their hit 1967 song, "if you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair." Good advice, especially if your visit includes a stop in the Haight. The song was written to promote the Monterrey Pop Festival in June 1967, an event that attracted some of rock's biggest names (Janice Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and The Who) and that is widely regarded as the catalyst for the Summer of Love and two years later--Woodstock, the New York rock festival that helped define a generation.

The Summer of Love in 1967 was arguably the Haight's heyday, when 100,000 high school and college-aged kids descended on the area to listen to and play music, experiment with drugs, explore new ideas about authority, sex, race and just be. Haight housing was cheap and plentiful for penniless hippies as a result of a proposed plan to run a stretch of freeway through the Panhandle in 1959. The freeway plan was ultimately foiled by a group of activist local citizens, but when the long-haired, acid-dropping kids moved in, housing prices did not rebound and there went the neighborhood anyway.

This tour is a relaxed way to spend an afternoon and early evening while also turning the clock back to the Haight's glory days in the late 1960s. After a morning spent exploring Golden Gate Park, head just south of the Panhandle, the grassy strip that runs east of Golden Gate Park, to this historic neighborhood, where free love, funk and counter-culture are alive and well.

Many sites are listed for you, feel free to let your mood (mood ring?) guide you as to where to pop in and where to walk on by. Lots of stores, restaurants, bars and cafes are listed for their historical relevance, local popularity and tourist attractiveness.

This tour identifies several optional sights, in case you are interested in where some rock legends once lived. Homes of Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills and Nash) are all listed at the end. The Grateful Dead house, however, is a must-see and is conveniently located--where else--but a block off the intersection of Haight and Ashbury.


Tips: If you are driving, try to find street parking on Stanyan or near Kezar Stadium at the east end of Golden Gate Park. Since the facility is used for so many events (from sports to farmers' markets), there is a lot of parking and usually turn over of much-coveted spots. Alternatively, you can try to find parking on any side street off of Haight. The streets parallel (north, Page, and south, Waller) are quiet and residential, where you may have some parking luck.

Points of Interest

Landmark
map

Kezar Stadium

Opened in 1925, Kezar Stadium is the original home of the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders football teams. Today it's used for all kinds of sporting competitions, concerts and public events.

Pop in for a quick look around. It anchors Golden Gate Park on the southeast end and is quite a nice stadium, where you will probably find all kinds of organized or individual track and field practices going on. Go ahead, take a lap!

If you are driving, park on the stadium's east side, along Stanyan Street. Another option is the parking lot near the Stanyan Street entrance, which is open daily and charges an hourly fee.
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55 Stanyan St.
Viewpoint
map

Stanyan and Haight streets

From Kezar, walk a block north on Stanyan to the top of Haight Street. With the beautiful Golden Gate Park behind you, you are looking east down the famous stretch of blocks. Unceremoniously and perhaps disappointingly framed by McDonald's to the right and Whole Foods to the left, the first stretch of your trip back in time may require some imagination, so make haste crossing the street and passing loiterers and then relax and let the neighborhood suck you in.
Shopping
map

Giant Robot

It's a magazine. It's an art gallery. It's a shop. Or at least it used to be. Giant Robot was one of those things that made the Haight--and San Francisco--quirky and unique. It was a mash-up of Asian and Asian-American pop culture, toys, technology and history. Sadly, this location is closed now. All that's left is the Giant Robot awning.

If you want to get a taste of the Giant Robot experience, you'll need to head San Francisco's Mission neighborhood, where there is a small Giant Robot located within Lost Weekend Video (1034 Valencia St., near 21st, 415-643-3373). For the real, full-blown Giant Robot experience, you need to go to Los Angeles, where there's still a full store.
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618 Shrader St.
Other Resources
Giant Robot
Food/Dining
map

Kan Zaman

Pass the hookah and the hummus! Kan Zaman serves up Middle Eastern food and drinks with Palestinian/Lebanese roots. They also have belly dancers on hand some evenings.

For the uninitiated, a hookah is something you smoke, but it's nothing like a cigarette or a cigar. It's a tall, ornate vessel and the smoke is filtered with water. Kan Zaman also offers various flavors, including apple, pomegranate, melon and vanilla. An after-meal activity aimed to relax diners, people often enjoy Arabic tea with their hookahs.
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1793 Haight St
415-751-9656
Other Resources
Kan Zaman
Shopping
map

Cold Steel America

Hands-down the best storefront on the street, Cold Steel is where you go to get ink done. After passing through the eye-popping, bejeweled flames on the front facade, you are met with a clean, well-lit and spacious tattoo and piercing shop. The bartender at the Alembic (next stop on the tour) showed us a few tattoos that had been procured at Cold Steel. Further, he reported, the artists there are friendly--no attitude when piercing your flesh with a needle and permanent ink. What a relief!
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1783 Haight St.
415-933-7233
Hours: Daily 12pm - 8pm
Other Resources
Cold Steel America
Food/Dining
map

The Alembic

This bar and restaurant has close ties with Magnolia Brewpub (farther down Haight and mentioned in this tour) as well as a relaxed but elegantly retro feel to it. Exposed light bulbs, high ceilings, giant chalkboard menus and tattooed bartenders may not be unique in San Francisco, but the bar's enormous selection of cottage or boutique spirits from all over the world (especially Europe) certainly are.

You immediately feel at ease in this bar, where the staff is friendly, the setting comfortable and the surroundings fun to look at. The Alembic pours a generous and strong old fashioned, and its menu is unexpected. We had something akin to fish and chips on a sandwich with a garlic spread. The people sitting next to us had short ribs that they said were good. The menu is not long, but the Alembic seems to take its food as seriously as it does its drinks.
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725 Haight St.
415-666-0822
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Hours
Monday-Thursday 5pm-1am
Friday-Sunday Noon-1am
Other Resources
The Alembic
Hotel
map

Red Victorian

A bed & breakfast, a cafe and a "peaceful world center," the Red Victorian packs a lot into its charming red, Victorian space. Not to be confused with the Red Vic independent movie house just a block west, the Red Victorian is more about art and peace building, meditation and self-awareness--all the things you may have expected in the epicenter of free hippie love.

The B&B is run by Sami Sunchild and features 18 themed rooms, including one called "Flower Child" and another called "The Summer of Love."

The cafe features organic, vegetarian and vegan options. There is also a gift shop, frequent events and historic tours.
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Hours: Daily 9am - 9pm
Other Resources
Red Victorian
Shopping
map

Wasteland Vintage Clothes

Nothing takes you back in time like bell bottoms and psychedelic patterns. Wasteland's flagship store is here, based in an old theater but hard to miss. Have some old clothes you'd like to unload? Wasteland buyers are on hand seven days a week to evaluate your threads.
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1660 Haight St. (between Belvedere and Cole)
415-863-3150
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Hours
Monday-Saturday 11am-8pm
Sunday Noon-7pm
Other Resources
Wasteland Clothing
Shopping
map

Booksmith

Founded by Gary Frank in 1976, Booksmith is one of those rare breeds--an independent bookstore. The shop also features regular readings and events.

In 2007, Frank sold the store to Praveen Madan and Christin Evans, who wrote about their reasons for leaving their corporate jobs to jump into the independent book business for the Huffington Post.
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1644 Haight St.
415-863-8688
800-493-7323
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Hours
Monday-Saturday 10am-10pm
Sunday 10am-8pm
Shopping
map

Genesis Imports

For 15 years, Genesis Imports has brought "spiritually oriented" crafts from all over the world to Haight street shoppers. The stores sells hand-carved and painted masks from Bali, Africa and Nepal, meditation tools and hand-made jewelry from Southeast Asia and South America.
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1573 Haight St.
415-703-0775
Other Resources
Genesis Imports
Shopping
map

Buffalo Exchange

This is a no-nonsense, leave me alone, I'm on a mission to thrift-shop destination. If you have ever had 20 minutes to pull together a costume for a theme party, Halloween or other such occasion, you understand what kind of focus is required to get the job done and get out the door. Buffalo is your place, and it has three locations in the Bay Area to help you in a pinch.

Buffalo is far from a pretty place--but it is spacious and they make it lots of fun to browse without pestering you. With '60s tunes like "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by the Supremes or "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival playing overhead, you'll find yourself grooving right along while sizing up the racks of Hawaiian shirts and vintage army jackets.
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1555 Haight St.
415-431-7733
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Hours
Monday-Sunday 11am-8pm
Junction
map

Haight-Ashbury

You have arrived: The famous intersection itself.

Don't feel awkward, stop and take a look around and try to picture the crowds, the hair, the clothes, the flowers and the sounds that were here in the summer of 1967, the Summer of Love, when 100,000 people reportedly flooded this neighborhood to experiment with communal living, new kinds of spirituality, music, drugs and free love.

Next plan to head south on Ashbury to a quiet block that was once home to the band most identified with the neighborhood and the time warp that surrounds it: the Grateful Dead.
Landmark
map

Grateful Dead House

A quick detour right onto Ashbury Street takes you one block off Haight to the Grateful Dead House, where the band synonymous with psychedelic, experimental drugs and its famous teddy bear lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia, took up residence in late September 1966.

When the Dead lived here, locals say it was notorious for loud parties and debauchery. According to the man painting the front steps (purple) when we visited, the band was not popular with the neighbors.

A few months after the Grateful Dead band members moved in, they recorded their first album (January 1967). That same month thousands of hippies converged a few blocks away in Golden Gate Park for a "Be-in" celebration of life. Rock bands, Beat poets and flower children spent the afternoon just being--a simple act that helped to kick off the Summer of Love later that same year.
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710 Ashbury St.
Food/Dining
map

The Pork Store Cafe

Opened originally in 1916, this little unassuming cafe is beloved many locals and tourists. It serves breakfast and lunch, and has a second location in San Francisco's Mission District, which also serves dinner Thursday-Saturday.

People love the eggs Benedict, chicken-fried steak and hash browns. Pancakes, turkey with gravy and mashed potatoes get high marks too.
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1451 Haight St.
415-864-6981
Hours
Monday-Friday 7am-3:30pm
Saturday-Sunday 8am-
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Mission location
3122 16th St.
415-626-5523
Other Resources
The Pork Store Cafe
Food/Dining
map

Magnolia Pub & Brewery

A popular local watering hole featuring draught beer and cask ales with great names like Kalifornia Kolsch and Billy Sunday Bitter, Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery makes its brew on-site and is open seven days a week. It serves brunch, lunch and dinner.
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1398 Haight St.
415-864-7468
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Hours
Monday-Thursday 11am-midnight
Friday 11am-1am
Saturda 10-1am
Sunday 10am-midnight
Other Resources
Magnolia Pub
Food/Dining
map

Coffee to the People

As you might expect, Coffee to the People is an independent coffee house. The cafe offers fair-trade coffee, light fare, free Wi-Fi and is well liked for its cozy, relaxed ambiance.
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1206 Masonic
415-626-2435
Shopping
map

Pipe Dreams

A trip to the Haight would not be complete without a look at where pot smoking paraphernalia is sold. Pipe Dreams touts itself as the oldest smoke shop in San Francisco and sells all kinds of smokeware, beyond the marijuana variety. Please note: No one younger than 18 is allowed inside the store.
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1376 Haight St.
415-431-3553
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Hours
Monday-Saturday 10am-7:50pm
Sunday 11am-6:50pm
Shopping
map

Bound Together Book Collective

An anarchist collective, volunteer-run book store--say that three times fast. Bound Together has had a presence in the Haight for 35 years.
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1369 Haight St.
415 431-8355
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Hours*
Daily 11:30am-7:30pm
*BUT in true anarchist fashion, the store notes that it is "closed on occasional days/call ahead to check hours."
Other Resources
Bound Together Books
Viewpoint
map

Buena Vista Park

At the east end of the Haight is Buena Vista Park, a hilly, 37-acre respite that affords spectacular views and ascends south toward Buena Vista Heights, a windy residential neighborhood. Buena Vista Park was first established as Hill Park in 1867, making it the oldest official park in San Francisco. It was later renamed Buena Vista in 1894.
map

Graham Nash's house (Crosby, Stills and Nash)

This beautiful Victorian, built in 1897, has been the home of more than one famous owner. Long before Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills and Nash) moved in in the 1970s, Jack London lived here, where he reportedly wrote "White Fang."

David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash formed their folksy rock 'n' roll band in 1969, and added Neil Young in 1970. Known for songs like "Teach Your Children," "Our House" and "Southern Cross," the band weathered many internal and external struggles, including members' solo careers, over 40+ years of collaboration.
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737 Buena Vista
map

Janis Joplin's house

Perhaps best known for her raspy, soulful and powerful songs "Piece of My Heart" and "Me and Bobby McGee," Janice Joplin (1943-1970) was a singer and songwriter who was seemingly born to experience and contribute to the full measure of what the late 1960s had to offer--for better and for worse. She lived here in 1967 and 1968.

In June 1966, a San Francisco promoter recruited Joplin to move to the city by the bay (from Texas) and join the band Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band enjoyed mainstream success through 1968. Joplin then left the band to form her own, called the Kozmic Blues Band, which existed for only a year. The following year (1970), Joplin founded another band, Full Tilt Boogie Band, which toured alongside the Grateful Dead among others across North America.

Big Brother and the Grateful Dead actually lived together briefly in the late summer of 1966 (not in San Francisco), an arrangement that reportedly influenced Joplin to fall into hard core drug use. Throughout her brief career, Joplin fell in and out of drug and alcohol addiction, a vice that ultimately claimed her life. In October 1970, Joplin overdosed on heroin in a Los Angeles hotel. She was 27.
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122 Lyon St.
Building
map

Jefferson Airplane house

The three-story Colonial Revival mansion at 2400 Fulton St. was home to Jefferson Airplane starting in mid-1968. Soon after, the address become a hub for musicians, fans, drug dealers and anyone wanting to party hard. Later the address would be the name of the band's greatest hits album.

Jefferson Airplane made its debut at a San Francisco nightclub in August 1965. Grace Slick joined the band in 1966, and in the following short years the group rocketed to success with hits like "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love," appearing on the cover of Life magazine in 1968. According to the band's website, the following legendary bands *opened* for the Airplane over the years: "Grateful Dead, Santana, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Janis Joplin, Steve Miller..."
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2400 Fulton St.
Pictures in this guide taken by: amandawu, krbose, marxus

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About the Author

krbose
krbose
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We like to travel and get outside. With two young children, it's always an adventure! Our oldest loves...

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