San Francisco is a city of iconic bucket list-worthy things to see and do, from biking across the marvel that is the Golden Gate Bridge, to cruising the hilly streets in one of our city's famed cable cars. But there's somewhere that's a definite must-visit for the hostel traveller and wandering soul: the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Why? Because if ever there was a group of people that embraced the idea of community and the beauty in shared experiences, the flower children of the '60s who inhabited the neighborhood would be it. A visit here is a visit to the home and the birthplace of the Summer of Love, when flower power was at its peak and peace and harmony were the order of the day.
Today, a visit to Haight Street gives you freedom to imagine. Just think: you and your hostel mates could easily have been among the hippies who came to this very same place decades ago looking for the same feeling: connectedness. With that in mind, here are three excellent reasons why every hosteller should try to spend some time in this little haven of love and understanding.
Haight-Ashbury is the birthplace of peace and love
You could call this corner of San Francisco the mecca for hippie souls – believers of the same peace and love ideals that caused all kinds of people from all over America to travel here in the '60s. College students, disillusioned workers, runaways and artists of every persuasion came together in a shared belief for equality for all races and sexes and in anti-war and anti-materialism sentiments. The neighborhood has changed, but a few mementos of the Summer of Love remain and it’s totally worth taking a walking tour or exploring the sites with your band of hostel hippies and fellow adventurers. Head to Buena Vista Park with a picnic or some snacks and view the kaleidoscopic streets from the top of one the shady hills while sharing stories and creating new ones. When you do go, just remember to heed the old song and be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
It’s an audiophile’s dream
A hip Elizabethan playwright once wrote, "If music be the food of love, play on." Here, music was the fuel for the counterculture of the '60s since it is, after all, a language that we all have in common. Pop-culture enthusiasts and music lovers will be in their own kind of heaven in the Haight, which is full of cool history and even cooler new landmarks. You can see the houses where the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin lived and created their timeless classics, and wander around awestruck at the fact that your feet are pounding the same pavement that Jimi Hendrix strutted on (probably in a pair of far-out platform shoes). Modern music is made and played in bars and clubs if you're looking to have a jam with locals and international partiers. Best of all though, there is Amoeba Records, which houses an extraordinarily large collection of CDs and vinyls and a staff that's so nice you might think you’re hanging out at the home of a friend who just happens to own a crazy amount of music.
It’s so Instagrammable
Perhaps the hippies chose to settle in this neck of the woods because of the whimsically elegant Victorian houses that line the hills or the proximity of the Monterey trees in Buena Vista Park. The best place to start if you're into documenting via Instagram is with a snap of one of the best-known cross street signs and then work your way through the oh-so-colorful streets. There are murals and sculptures and fascinating storefronts, so this is where you'll probably want to get some memorable, album-cover-cool group shots with your fellow travellers and newfound friends. Oh, and flashing a peace sign is pretty much mandatory.
Stay at the HI SF City Center Hostel, just a hop, skip and bus ride away from the iconic neighborhood.