Hayes Valley Comes of Age
Everyone loves Hayes Valley. It’s a wonderful example of a walkable neighborhood where beer gardens adorned with umbrellas are tucked behind cafés and handmade ice cream cones compete with pastel-colored macarons to tempt passersby. To know Hayes Valley is to know that 25 years ago this neighborhood was a gritty one, trapped in the shadows and constant noise of a double-decker freeway overpass. The fact that pedestrians have reclaimed and revitalized the streets is mainly attributed to two things: the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the indefatigable efforts of a local group led by a resident, Patricia Walkup.
Some are surprised to find such an intimate and cozy neighborhood is just a few minutes’ walk from San Francisco City Hall, Symphony Hall, SF Jazz Center, Asian Art Museum, Main Library and a collection of municipal buildings. Alongside City Hall, the tree-lined United Nations Plaza is frequently used as an open air site for a large farmers markets, street food trucks and outdoor festivals. Patricia’s Green A vest pocket park sits in the middle of Hayes Valley where once a highway stood. It’s small and much-loved with changing public art installations. Folks who know how play chess at the tables, kids play on the climbing frames, dogs get some run around time and benches are handy for sipping a latté. The park is named for the community activist who worked tirelessly to see that the earthquake-damaged freeway was ripped down. She won, and the area blossomed.
Culture, Cuisine and Cocktails
With neighbors such as SFJazz Center, Davies Symphony Hall and San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center for ballet and opera, Hayes Valley is a good place to head for before and after performances at these Civic Center auditoriums. French, Italian, Japanese, Thai, German, Brazilian and California restaurants have all earned spots on the city’s best list, not to mention a superior burger with beer in a place or two.
Ever since Gold Rush days, when San Francisco claims to have invented the Martini, it’s been a cocktail-centric town. Find some of the city’s top mixologists serving imaginative and classic drinks from behind the bars of Hayes Valley hangouts.
Hayes Valley has plenty of spirit. There’s the independent spirit personified by Patricia Walkup who sparked the revitalization, the spirits being shaken and stirred into handcrafted drink recipes and the spirited small restaurateurs and retailers with curated collections in local fashion boutiques.
Devoid of chain stores, the trapezoid-shaped eight or nine blocks that comprise Hayes Valley are unique in that way.
Don’t look any further for a tropical-themed cocktail lounge, or America’s first saké bar or a restaurant that serves fried alligator. Hayes Valley has come of age, and the neighborhood’s personality is quite non-conformist...all in a good way.
Did You Know?
- Shops made out of recycled shipping containers, cut in half and dropped into place by a rig, are a Hayes Valley feature.
- Smitten Ice Cream opened their first shop here, where a patente liquid nitrogen machine creates individually made scoops before your eyes.
- Hayes Valley isn’t a valley; there aren’t any hills around it and streets are nice and flat.
- One of the world’s most comprehensive collections is The Asian Art Museum, a few blocks’ walk from Hayes Valley at 200 Larkin Street.
- Getting to Hayes Valley: Visitors who disembark the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus at Alamo Square for the Painted Ladies, can walk to Hayes Valley in just a few minutes.