Saturday, September 27, 2008

San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury District

Ask any “60’s Child” what comes to mind when you mention San Francisco and they are certain to say “Haight-Ashbury District”. Should any area of this old city evoke various images of the 60’s this area has to be the one to do it. Here the beginning of the Hippy culture was growing by leaps and bounds as the flower children were selling their wares on the busy street, one could smell of incense burning on every corner and the wild tie dyed clothing that was so popular at the time.

A brisk walk around the block would reveal smoke shops and many Eastern influenced outlets which bore names such as “Dreams of Kathmandu”, “The Love of Ganesha” and “Pipe Dreams”. Unfortunately, these relics of the 60’s are all but forgotten and have left the scene forever. The Haight district of today presents a completely new image compared to what it was 50 years ago. The area now boasts of exclusive boutiques, several high priced clothing shops, many second hand stores, and cafes with modern internet connections as well as an abundance of restaurants featuring great tasting foods from all reaches of the continent. The Haight district of yester-years has now become highly commercial.

A walk along Haight avenue reveals the changes that have been made to date and the new clientele that populates the avenue. These new customers range from Neo-punks out for fun, the club kids looking for things to do, various fashionites with time on their hands, tourists who hope to catch a glimpse of the long gone 60’s and the normal neighborhood folks all feel comfortable here. They may be here to obtaining a new body piercing, perhaps to grab a Mexican burrito, maybe they are looking for a new music CD or just out for a cup of espresso at the corner café.

Keep in mind that there are two different areas of Haight. You have Upper Haight that stretches from Masonic to Stanyan. This is the commercial shopping zone while Lower Haight is a more diverse type of neighborhood. While it displays an alternative nightlife lifestyle with bars having names like Noc Noc or Mad Dog as well as the more popular clubs such as The Top or Nickies. It is now a magnet for DJ’s and attracts those who are seeking dance music - record shops or clubs such as The Top.

During the day the attitude around the Haight is basically laid back and it appears that many people are merely hanging around the cafes or bookstores. The area has its share of panhandlers and tourists. The weekends in the area can get very crowded with the shoppers out in full force during the day and the bar goers roaming around at night. You can notice a lot of the homeless people camping near the entrance to the Golden Gate Park where they hang out around Upper Haight area however should you walk by them they merely request some change or provide you with a friendly smile.

If you are a fan of the 60’s you just may be a bit disappointed in your visit here however if you search you are sure to find many interesting things to do and places to visit while in the Haight-Ashbury district. It is worth the trip.

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