San Francisco

11 Questions Tourists Ask Locals In No Particular Order

It's summer, and you may have noticed an enormous influx of tourists around here. Why? Because the Haight is somewhere between the third and fourth most-visited neighborhood in the city. Add to that our gritty reputation, and the fact that it's an intimidating two whole miles from downtown, and folks are going to need some hand-holding. 

This means that if you give off any outward signal that you actually live in the Haight—maybe you're walking your dog, or opening the gate to your building, or working in one of the shops—tourists are going to ask you questions. 

So here, in no particular order, are the questions we have been asked most frequently throughout our summers in this magical hippie throwback dystopia.

1. Where is there a bathroom?

Good question. Where is there a bathroom? Because there really isn't one. Yes, there is a public toilet in the Panhandle at Ashbury, as well as at the library on Page, but there isn't one on the main drag, where all the people are. This makes things hard for merchants and restaurants, as they generally have plumbing that dates somewhere back around the Mesozoic period and can't handle too much action throughout the course of a day. Hence the NO PUBLIC RESTROOM and RESTROOM FOR CUSTOMERS ONLY signs you see on almost every door, especially in summer. 

Hey, Public Realm Plan, are you listening?

Our advice: Yes, McDonald's sounds scary, but it really might be the best option in this case.

2. Is it legal to drink outside here?

As much as it seems like this six-block stretch of Haight Street might be exempted from that law, it isn't. We overheard a sage resident give this advice to a tourist recently: "You can smoke crack on the corner, but don't you dare open that Heineken." 

Our advice: Don't do it. No, not in the parklets, either. The ticket will run you about $150.

3. Can I park here?

We're not sure if this one means we get an exceptional number of bridge-and-tunnel folks visiting, but nobody seems to understand the parking meters in this neighborhood. From parking in handicap spots, to utter, slack-jawed bafflement about loading zones, to different street sweeping schedules for each side of Haight, parking in the hood seems to be a nightmare for people. 

Our advice: Have we convinced you to take Muni here yet? It's a lovely stroll from Cole Valley if you take the N. Get ice cream on the way. 

4. Where can I get ___________________ ?

We know someone who was taking their dog for its morning walk when an SUV pulled up alongside. The driver opened the window, leaned out and yelled "Hey! Where can I get some brunch around here?" And good morning to you, too, sir!

The most common ones are: "some decent coffee," "some lunch," and, somewhat confusingly, "a drink."

Our advice: Stand on a corner. Any corner. Close your eyes and have someone spin you around a few times. When you open your eyes, walk in the direction you're pointed and go to the first bar (or cafe) you see. You pretty much can't lose. If it's coffee thou seekest, get thee to Flywheel, as we learned last weekend. 

5. Where's the Grateful Dead house?

No, it isn't on Haight Street. Yes, it's uphill.

6. Is The Bridge close to here?

This is the hardest question to answer. Are you walking? Do you come from a flat place? Because then, accounting for vertical miles, no, The Bridge is not close. Are you driving? Then yes. 

Our advice: Rent a bike, head through the park, stop for a hot dog to refuel, lock up the bikes at Ocean Beach, stroll up the hill and around the corner towards Sutro Bath, and behold, The Bridge. Cycle back up Cabrillo, or take a bus, but be prepared for the whole errand to take the better part of an afternoon. 

7. But what is there to, like, do here?

Translation: If only we were among friends ... or sane persons!

Isn't the whole point of seeing a new place to walk around, take it in, eat, drink, and shop? What do you do in North Beach? Do that, only here. 

Our advice: Grab a Pellegrino (but don't drink it too fast—see question 1) and a fresh peach from Haight Street Market, settle in the parklet there, or in front of Magnolia, and watch, listen, and absorb. You'll learn more about the Haight in an hour than you would by buying keychains from every head shop on the street. Take a drink (of Pellegrino—see question 2) every time you hear a Dad explaining the summer of love to two be-ear-budded teenagers rolling their eyes.

8. Isn't there, like, a park here?

What'll you have? Hill overlooking the street? Quaint tree-lined stretch between two busy thoroughfares? The Big One? Pick your poison.

That said, most folks are looking for Golden Gate Park, to which you can usually direct them with a grunt and a gesture. They'll find it. Or maybe they won't. They did just have to ask directions to a park that takes up 1,017 acres of the city. Shouldn't this be in a guidebook somewhere?

Our advice: see question 6.

9. How do I get back to my hotel?

This is a perfect example of how every living person in the Haight is a walking, talking, involuntary information booth. 

Our advice: Wait until the shops start closing, then follow the nearest person wearing a backpack.

10. What time does everything open??

We understand you're on Boston time, but if you're here before noon, there's not a whole lot of action. Pretty much everyone is sleeping off their hangovers. Yes, everything will open, eventually, when the owners feel like it. 

Our advice: Sleep in.

11. (drumroll, please) Where can I get pot around here?

Yes. The answer is yes. 

Our advice: Make eye contact with any likely looking person on the street (NOT AN ENDORSEMENT). And don't get caught

Tell us the craziest thing a tourist has ever asked you in the comments. 

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