San Francisco was a magnet for the counter culture in the 1960s and hippies flocked to the city. Here are 16 ways to relive the beat.
1. Follow in their footsteps
- The Flower Power Walking Tour covers 12 blocks of sites that Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia and friends made famous during the Summer of Love.
- The Free Love Tour goes through Haight-Ashbury accompanied by music from the Summer of Love by artists including Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and more.
- Peter Coyote, an activist during the Summer of Love in 1967, narrates a Detour tour through the Haight neighbourhood, starting at the Panhandle then on down Haight, Ashbury, Page, Cole and other nearby streets that represent the hippie trail of the Summer of Love.
2. Sounds like the Summer of Love
The Monterey International Pop Festival is held in June each year, just as it was in the Summer of Love in 1967 – and on the same stage – the John Phillips Memorial Main Stage at the Monterey County Fair Grounds.
3. A night at the theatre
San Francisco is home to more than 300 resident theatre companies but the Tony Award-winning American Conservatory Theatre, founded in 1965, is the largest and opened with a commitment to nurture the next generation of theatre artists.
4. Fun of the fair
The Haight-Ashbury Street Fair, held on the second Sunday in June each year, is a mix of music, art and crafts, food booths and more. The fair celebrates the neighbourhood’s diversity and its cultural, political and social contributions to the American landscape during the 1960s.
5. Remembering Jerry
Every year The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia is honoured with his own day in early August at McLaren Park – at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheatre, of course – when live bands pay tribute to Jerry's talent with their own covers of his songs.
6. Live at The Fillmore
The Fillmore represented the pinnacle of creative music making in the late 1960s. The Fillmore is a ballroom with a long history of helping to launch the musical careers of major acts like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and more, which is probably why Hunter S. Thompson even mentioned it as an example of the 1960s counterculture in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It continues to play host to musicians across generations today from Willie Nelson to Laura Marling.
7. Bar stop
Once referred to as the ‘Holy Shrine of the Dry Martini’ Persian cocktail bar Aub Zam Zam represents a special piece of city history. Once known for everything from the best place in San Francisco to score a reefer to where Janis Joplin, The Doors and the members of Jefferson Airplane hung out, the owner back in the day (and since passed away), Bruno Mooshei, was so ornery that it became a game among patrons to see who could stay in the bar the longest. Bruno would throw someone out for something as trivial as putting the wrong song on the jukebox or not ordering a drink he liked. Today, it’s certainly friendlier.
8. Buy tie-dye
Jammin on Haight evokes the essence of the Summer of Love, tie-dye t-shirts, vibrant bell bottoms and all. It might be only a few years old but this store is impossible to miss with its bright, psychedelic vibe. It also showcases artwork by Jerry Garcia as well as a great selection of bright tapestries.
9. Eat Chinese
Sam Wo’s is the oldest Chinese restaurant in San Francisco and from the 1950s was a popular hangout for members of the Beat Generation who frequented the restaurant to order from its ‘secret menu’. Not even its notorious server, Edsel Ford Fung who earned the title ‘world's rudest waiter’ from a local newspaper columnist, could keep them away.
10. Board the love bus
Hop on a hippie bus for a San Francisco Love Tour and explore local landmarks such as Haight-Ashbury, the Castro, Mission Dolores, Golden Gate Park and Chinatown. You can also arrange a private tour or a night tour to see the city lights.
11. Picnic in the Panhandle
The Panhandle, a park at the northern end of Haight-Ashbury on Oak Street, became the site of a peaceful protest against the banning of LSD on 6 October 1966 when thousands gathered for the ‘Love Pageant Rally’. Today its walking and cycling paths are a popular connection to San Francisco Botanical Garden and Golden Gate Park.
Or just lay in the grass with your headphones on and a playlist tuned to the ’60s at the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park. On 14 January 1967 more than 20,000 people showed up at the ‘Human Be-In’ here to listen to music and speakers urging them to question authority. It was the prelude to the Summer of Love and is said to be the inspiration for the musical Hair.
12. Flower power
San Francisco is the home of flower power and you can see why at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park where more than 2000 flowers are on show.
13. Hippie Hill
Drum circles are a common sight on the infamous hill at the eastern end of Golden Gate Park that got its name from being a popular gathering spot the 1960s. Pack a picnic and prepare to people-watch while listening to impromptu performances.
14. Discover the Beat Museum
The museum showcases memorabilia focusing on Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and other authors from the Beat Generation who influenced the attitude of the Summer of Love in 1967. Find it in North Beach, just steps from City Lights Bookstore which is an historic landmark closely associated with the Beat Generation.
15. Beatnik bar
A regular hangout of beatniks Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg, Vesuvio was the seat of the hippie revolution. As the neighbourhood has evolved, the bar has become a tribute to jazz, art and poetry.
16. Inside the Wild Side
The Wild Side West Bar opened in San Francisco in 1964 named after the Barbara Stanwyck film Walk on the Wild Side. It became a haven for artists and musicians: Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan frequented the bar for its pool tables and the owner opened the doors to numerous struggling artists. While the establishment is considered one of the few lesbian bars remaining in San Francisco, today the current owners consider it to be a “community bar with a lot of lesbians”.