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On the Bus in San Francisco: 7 Haight

It’s time to visit one of San Francisco’s most famous neighborhoods! Hop on the 7 Haight and enjoy the ride.

You can board the bus at Mission and Main, about one block off the Embarcadero. The start of your trip will take you through the Financial District (or FiDi). If you are heading through there on a weekend, it will be rather quiet with little reason to hop off the bus. On a weekday, you will be amid the hustle and bustle of the business folks; if you want to be around the harried denizens of San Francisco, hop off and stroll down Market Street. You’ll be able to catch the bus a little further down.

Grab a coffee at any of the shops (there are a few local places, as well as many Peet’s and Starbucks). Start walking; soon you’ll hit Kearny & Market, where you’ll see the famous Lotta’s Fountain, the meeting place for ’06 quake survivors. You can choose to hop back on the bus there, or continue down Market to the downtown shopping district. Poke around, if you’re hungry, grab something at the fabulous mall food court. Once you’re done, hop back on the 7 and continue your journey.

Before long you’ll be near the Civic Center. Take a break from the bus and check it out. The Asian Art Museum is about a block away, as is the San Francisco Main Library. If you need to do a quick email check, there is free Internet access at the library. Also take a look at City Hall, if you can, go inside and see the rotunda. It is a truly beautiful building.

Back on the 7, ride it down Market until it turns onto Haight. You are now getting close to what we call the “Lower Haight.” Jump off at around Laguna to check out the cute shops and cafes. At Fillmore, you’ll want to stop and have a sausage at Rosamunde, then head into Toronado and down a beer or two (they have over 30 on draft, and more in bottles). After taking a nice beer break, it’s time to get back on the bus!

You’re heading up towards the “Upper Haight,” which is the part of the Haight familiar to most people. This will be the final time you get off the bus. I suggest disembarking at Baker or Lyon and taking a walk (or a nap) at Buena Vista Park. Hike up a bit and check out the view from the top. Head back down and start your walk up Haight. You’ll start seeing all the shops that make the Haight what it is… rock and roll clothing, smoke shops, and, of course, stores dedicated to tie die and the Grateful Dead. If you’re hungry, or thirsty, stop at the newly revamped Magnolia Pub and Brewery. One more block to go, and you’re at Haight-Ashbury.

Haight-Ashbury is the definitive spot of the Haight. You’ll see flocks of tourists taking pictures of the signs. You’ll also be able to grab a cone at the corner Ben & Jerry’s. You may have heard about The Gap on the corner…but alas, that went out of business a few years ago. Now that you’ve seen the “highlight,” it’s time for the good stuff.

There are several fun bars at your disposal in the Haight, hidden amidst the unique shops and tattoo parlors that dot the street. Martin Mack’s and Hobson’s Choice are two of the more popular. If you are hungry for a quick bite, try Askew Grill (I recommend the Grilled Pear Salad). You’ll also soon encounter the Red Vic Movie House, a movie house where you can lounge on couches and hang out with your friends (new or old). There is just one screen, and where you may find a small indy film or a second-run big budget flick. It’s a little bit quirky, and a great slice of San Francisco.

At the next corner you’ll encounter one of my favorite restaurants – Cha Cha Cha. They serve up a variety of Cuban-inspired dishes (and the best plantains, ever), as well as some killer Sangria. Not in the mood for food? Go down half a block to Amoeba, one of the more famous area music stores. The place is huge, and offers new and used selections.

If you’ve got the hankering, there is a McDonald’s at the end of the street, a beacon welcoming you to the gates of Golden Gate Park. This is the start of the Park, but the end of the line for the 7 Haight. When you’re ready, hop back on the bus to head back downtown.

I do have to warn you…there are a lot of street kids in the Haight. They can get mouthy, and tend to lounge around on the sidewalks, blocking your way or asking you for money. It is up to you whether or not you want to give them anything, but know that you are under no obligation to do so.

SF Muni buses are 1.50$/ride, which includes a transfer good for 90 minutes. Make sure to take a transfer; there are big fines involved if you get caught without one.