San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury: still in bloom with flower power

Flower Power Tour IzuPrevious to my most recent trip to San Francisco, I had rarely spent more than one night there at a time, usually on my way to Napa. That all changed with my recent trip with Trafalgar Tours, which prides itself on really digging in and showing off the local flavor of a place. So our first stop (after lunch at Cha Cha Cha of course) in the Bay Area? The famous Haight Ashbury district, where flower power descended in force during a few special years starting in the late 1960s. Our fearless leader: Izu, of Flower Power Tours. The only “complaint” I’ve read in all of my research about the great Izu is that she talks too much. Well, then, if you are on a schedule, speak up — this woman could talk all day about these streets and their history… That’s how much she loves her job!

Something to think about, huh?

Like I said, Trafalgar Tours prides itself on finding tour directors and local guides who love teaching others about their city/neighborhood/winery/street/whatever that they could talk all day about it. I relate: I’m sure at times people tire of my cheerleading about Las Vegas all the time… But what I loved about Izu is that sometime after kicking up her heels as a commune-living, Jerry Garcia-befriending, music-adoring flower child of the 1960s, she had a successful finance career of some sort. This spunky Haight Ashbury local talks a lot of her closetful of (child-sized!) Armani suits collecting dust. While she doesn’t belabor the point, the message I took home was clear: Go have a career, raise a family, experience whatever you are itching to do — and if you have a passion from your youth that you just can’t shake, you might be able to pick it back up again at a later date. It hit home for me, because as I embrace my current workaholism, I will keep on traveling… Who knows what my future in the world of travel if I keep it up!

So Izu, I thank you…. And without further ado: some Haight Ashbury highlights from the world according to Izu!

Hippies Haight Ashbury

 

If Izu’s tie-dyed leggings and sequined Chucks and ankle bands are any indication, I think she’d feel right at home taking the side door anywhere in this neighborhood!

Flower Power Tours Izu

 

Our first stop: 1525 Waller Street, once home of a commune where Izu herself lived as a kid. The building was a bustling food bank for decades before succumbing to the recession. It does, however, still have a food pantry, which Izu visits to collect bags of groceries for distribution. The mural has several fascinating scenes, and Izu brings every single one to life. My favorite: this bemused little angel.

Haight Ashbury Food Bank

My favorite character on a mural decorating a once-famous commune and food bank that still distributes food.

 

Since Izu was such close friends with the music legends, I had the most fun listening to her stories and encyclopedic knowledge of the big names who passed through Haight Ashbury.ย (And don’t call me naive — she had many first-hand stories that only an inner circle local would know. Besides, what Izu believes, I believe.)

635 Ashbury Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin partied, uh, lived here. If those walls could talk!

 

Izu was friends with Jerry Garcia until he died — in the 60s, he lived here. Across the street? The Hell’s Angels headquarters. That must have been one lively street! To find out how the two groups finally made peace, you’ll have to sign up for the Flower Power Tour yourself.

710 Ashbury Grateful Dead

Attention Deadheads: Jerry Garcia once lived here, right across the street from the Hell’s Angels.

 

Her little canvas tote bag isn’t just for looks: Izu comes with props, often accenting her tales with personal photos.

Flower Power Tours Izu

 

Even the firemen of Haight Ashbury are Deadheads.

Haight Ashbury firetruck Grateful Dead

Only in Haight Ashbury do the firetrucks sport the Grateful Dead logo.

 

If you have time after the tour, wander through the neighborhood’s fun stores. Who knows what you might find!

Haight Ashbury shopping

 

Even the local graffiti doesn’t forget its flower power roots!

Haight Ashbury graffiti

 

I toured San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma as a guest ofย Trafalgar Tours, but all opinions are my own.

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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Comments

  1. The best tours are from locals eh? Someone with roots in the area.

    I have family in San Fran that I need to see again. I only got a 2-cent tour from them since we went to Yosemite the next day.

  2. Gorgeous pics darling!!! I’m so glad that I got to experience Izu with you!

  3. Izu sounds like such a character! Love that last picture.

  4. This is one of the best tours I’ve ever read about. I visited the Haight about five years ago and walked around on my own with a book noting all the famous spots. That was fun, but this tour sounds like the way to do it, experiencing it with someone who was actually there in its hay day. I’m a hippy at heart! I’ve read so much about this era and always fantasize about what it be like to live in the Haight then, so I think on my trip to San Fran next month, I’m going to have to add this to the itinerary!! Thanks for the tip.

  5. Fun! I know a lot of people don’t really like tours, but I’m a big fan. This one sounds like a good one.

  6. I used to be so against tours, but now I love them, especially this kind. And I’ve loved them for more than ten years now — it is the best way to see everything! In a way, it saves time for the meandering because you see all of the tourist spots in a compact way.

  7. Great pictures ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Lovin the legs in the window *laugh* – Really nice collection here Abby, thanks!

  9. For the life of me I can’t recall why we skipped Haight Ashbury on our recent trip to SF, but I do know that I regret it. Oh well, next time I guess.

  10. I’ve been wanting to do this tour! Now I’ve definitely got it on my agenda. Will be so fun to meet Izu & hear her stories. Peace and love for the new year!

  11. I’d love to do this tour. Sounds fun and interesting.

  12. I have got to meet this woman! I couldn’t agree with your sentiment more…. it’s totally possible to have several different lives all in one…. from hippie to investment banker and from magazine editor to vagabond and back again ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Love it! I had never heard about this tour. Bummer because I was staying in the Haight the last time I was in SF. I’m definitely putting this on the list next time I’m in SF!

  14. I wish we had more time to spend there when we were in San Francisco. It’s a little space frozen in time. I could totally see myself hanging out here for a few days just chillin’ in coffee shops.

  15. This makes me want to go back to San Francisco so badly!

  16. I had so much fun! This was really my first time spending quality time there. I loved it.

  17. I didn’t know you went to San Fran recently! Scott and I were planning a trip there over the holidays, but we ended up visiting family instead. This tour looks fun!

  18. I haven’t been to San Francisco yet but this is exactly how I’d want to see it. What a great tour.

  19. Aww! This seems like a super cute tour! Oh to be a fly on the wall during those times…

  20. How awesome! I’d love to take this tour. I went to Haight-Ashbury when I was in 9th grade and totally wanted to live there and be a hippie.

  21. Simply the best ! great pictures

  22. I loved how colorful everything was — from the graffiti, to the stories!

  23. I love tours like this and guides like Izu. Will definitely look her up on my next trip to San Francisco.

  24. Maybe we should take a girls’ trip to Napa and stop on the way?

  25. I just posted about this…I ADORE your post…you’re right about Izu. Whatever she believes, I believe!

  26. Lol she was a riot — I loved being a part of her world!

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