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There's hippie history in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO -- Dig out those old bell bottoms, grab that tie-dyed shirt from the costume bin, put some flowers in your hair and revisit the neighborhood that once was home to the largest hippie movement in the nation. San Francisco's Haight District, as it is commonly referred to now, once was the area where young people came for free love among the eight blocks dotted with Edwardian and Victorian homes.

Today, the intersection of Haight and Ashbury boasts a Ben & Jerry's, where ice cream is the treat. But during the 1960s the major attractions were sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

Walking the streets of the Haight today, visitors can still find remnants of the bohemian vibe in a few of the smoke shops, such as Pipe Dreams or the Golden Triangle, and can even pick up a throwback souvenir such as a peace necklace or tie-dyed Grateful Dead shirt at Land of the Sun or Haight-Ashbury T-Shirts. But a large part the Haight now shares its hippie culture with a whole new hip scene.

There are many modern boutiques offering high-end and vintage clothing, coffee and Internet cafes with more java than anyone person can handle, and some comfy and often crowded bookstores.

One of the greatest draws to the neighborhood is the culinary fare. Restaurants for fine or casual dining offering everything from Thai food to crepes. One recommended stop is The Pork Store Cafe, where wall photos tell the story of the history of this Haight Street oldie, which opened in 1916, and where breakfast is the main attraction.

Visitors can walk by the Grateful Dead house on Ashbury and stroll past the former residence of legendary rock diva Janis Joplin on Lyon. After seeing row upon row of Victorian houses, visitors can make their way east on Haight to the corner of Buena Vista Avenue and enjoy the thick forested nature of Buena Vista Park. Here, a scenic view of the surrounding neighborhood and the city itself can bring a serene and peaceful feeling to an area that once thrived on flower power.

WHERE: Haight and Ashbury streets, San Francisco

WHEN: Daily, although weekends can get quite crowded and the night life can be hopping in the Haight, so the evenings tend to bring more people.

GETTING THERE: From Modesto, take Interstate 580 (over the Altamont Pass) to Oakland and cross the Bay Bridge into San Francisco on Interstate 80. I-80 becomes Highway 101 in midtown. Take the Central Freeway/U.S. 101 north toward Mission. Turn left at Market and then right at 17th Street. Make another right onto Clayton Street and follow to Haight Street. There is metered parking on Haight and nearby street parking. (Clayton is one block west of Ashbury.)

DRIVE TIME: 1 hour, 40 minutes (MapQuest)

Bee assistant librarian Karen Aiello can be reached at kaiello@modbee.com or 578-2392.

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