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Bursting onto the radar of San Francisco during the 1960s “Summer of Love,” today Haight-Ashbury is a neighborhood in the city known for its trendy boutiques and upscale shopping. Visitors to the city looking for a retail area with pizazz will not be disappointed with “The Haight.”


Named for its location between Haight and Ashbury Streets between Golden Gate and Buena Vista Parks in the central part of the city, Haight-Ashbury has a long history including being used primarily farms, residences, and a short-lived amusement park known as The Chutes. However, the real appeal of Haight-Ashbury comes from its central role in the hippie culture of the 1960s and the social phenomenon that was 1967’s “Summer of Love.”

The story of Haight-Ashbury’s rise to prominence began when the city proposed building a freeway through the heart of the residential neighborhood in the 1950s. Though the idea was successfully defeated by the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC), the debate over it left the property values of the area desperately low. As a result, many so-called “hippies” began to rent rooms and flats in the large, 19th century wooden homes and began a strong bohemian subculture much like that of New York’s Greenwich Village.

Not long into the next decade, mainstream media, led by Hunter S. Thompson who called the area “Hashbury,” began to learn of the area and its happenings and report on it frequently. This popularity was even further propelled when members of the budding psychedelic rock scene including Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead took residence in the area and then immortalized it in song. This set the tone for the Summer of Love which was marked by the mainstreaming of psychedelic rock and the propulsion of artists like those mentioned above onto the national scene.

As a result, Haight-Ashbury became a mecca of sorts for people all around the country and the world eager to join the hippie subculture. At its height, more than 100,000 people flocked to the small 1/3 square mile area to party and join on the movement. This ushered in a real cultural shift in mainstream America which now had no choice but to accept the hippie sub, or more accurately counterculture.

The pressures on the resources of Haight-Ashbury, however, were too great to bear, thus leading to the “summer” time frame. Plus, many of the new members of the community needed to resume study at college in the fall. Upon the dissolution of the Summer of Love the neighborhood remained a festering blister of drug abuse and homelessness well into the 1970s. Finally, the emergence of the San Francisco comedy scene centered at a club in the neighborhood reestablished the role of Haight-Ashbury on the American cultural map. The careers of such prolific names as Robin Williams, Whoopie Goldberg, and Dana Carvey began here.

Main Attraction

Today, Haight-Ashbury has undergone a series of projects to provide a form of “gentrification” to the area and thus attract tourists and higher real estate values. At the same time, the neighborhood still maintains a great deal of its bohemian characteristics including a close relationship with musicians and artists. Visitors have their choice between modern clothing boutiques, independent booksellers, and record stores with a variety of influences including hippie counterculture, the punk rock scene, and the tech-savvy computer culture brought over from nearby Silicon Valley.

Visitors to the area have their choice of places to visit. Popular options include Amoeba, a local independent record store and The Red Victorian Hotel. Many walking tours of the area are available which will trace the history of Haight-Ashbury from the 19th century to present with a special focus on many of the restored homes and Painted Lady Victorian houses.

Why It’s a Must-See

Lovers of every generation will appreciate the historical role that Haight-Ashbury has played in our collective history and especially in popular culture. Perfect for people with time to meander along its storied streets and window shop in a bevy of unique boutiques, this is a stop on any San Francisco trip that will surely not disappoint.