San Francisco’s flower power days
It’s a bittersweet experience, chasing down hippie history in San Francisco. But at least the geography is simple.
You begin with Haight-Ashbury, the neighborhood just east of Golden Gate Park that was a focal point when rebellious young people starting gathering in the mid-1960s. And you brace yourself for possible disappointment that either A) it’s too gentrified now, or B) it’s not gentrified enough.
Haight Street, You’ll see plenty of lively graffiti, hear a street musician or two, probably get panhandled once or twice, and you’ll come across all sorts of ‘60s reminders. At the intersection with Ashbury (most of the signs have been stolen), you’ll find a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop and a bunch of clothing stores. At 1855 Haight is Amoeba Music, ready to supply your soundtrack. At 1369 Haight, there’s the Bound Together anarchist collective bookstore. At 1400 Haight, there’s Positively Haight Street, a colorful clothing and gift shop. At 1665, there’s the Red Victorian Bed, Breakfast & Art, (415) 864-1978, www.redvic.com, which was a crash pad back in the day. Of 18 rooms, six have private bathrooms. Doubles from $89.
Golden Gate Park is where Haight Street ends and the greenery begins. The narrow greenbelt that juts eight blocks into the neighborhood -- that’s the Panhandle. Hippie Hill (a.k.a. Sharon Meadow) is a longtime gathering spot and drum-circle locus near the Children’s Playground. Also nearby is Buena Vista Park, which has commanding views from its uphill end. And if you want to sleep in the neighborhood amid calm, cleanliness and grown-up comforts, there’s the 36-room Stanyan Park Hotel, 750 Stanyan St., (415) 751-1000, www.stanyanpark.com, which stands across the street from the park. Doubles from $155; suites from $275.
Haight-Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour, (415) 863-1621, www.haightashburytour.com, usually offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, take about 2 1/2 hours and are about 60% hippie history. It’s about 12 blocks of walking, with irrepressible guide Izu Interlandi, who has lived in the neighborhood (and kept her Brooklyn accent) for four decades. Among the stops: the houses on Ashbury Street where the Grateful Dead, Hells Angels, Janis Joplin and Country Joe McDonald once lived (they’re now all pleasantly appointed homes with private owners) and the Psychedelic History Museum, which is really the book-strewn, photo-filled dining room of an extended-stay B&B; called the Herb’n Inn, www.herbninn.com).
The Haight-Ashbury Street Fair, www.haightashburystreetfair.org, which goes back to 1978, features live music, scads of arts, crafts, street food and a website in need of updating. Acoustic music lovers prefer Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, www.strictlybluegrass.com, Oct. 1-3 this year. But the street fair is an undeniable scene. And it’s traditionally held on the second weekend in June, so it won’t conflict with your Miramar Air Show plans.
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