A vintage photo captures the iconic Golden Gate Bridge as seen from the Presidio in San Francisco, California.
5 Groovy Sites From San Francisco's Summer of Love
Revisit one of the hippest chapters in California history.
In 1967, nearly a hundred thousand people gathered in the City by the Bay for an epic celebration of peace, love, and understanding in a collective push against convention. Here are five things to see and do this summer in San Francisco to make sure you’re feeling groovy.
This is where it all started. Fewer than 200 acres in total, Haight-Ashbury found itself at the center of history by happenstance. Unable to find housing in the beatnik-favored North Beach neighborhood, many counter-culturalists headed here and found a warm welcome. The area soon become synonymous with the free-loving, tie-dyed, drug-friendly hippie lifestyle.
Music was a big part of the scene, and the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane called Haight-Ashbury home. Today, the Haight is home to families, young professionals, and other “squares,” but the neighborhood’s tie-dye soul is evident in shops like the Booksmith, cafes like Coffee to the People, and landmarks like the Red Victorian, an eclectic, collective hotel that lived through the Summer of Love (and then some).
Golden Gate Park
This massive urban green space, which covers more than a thousand acres, was the scene of a key pre-Summer of Love event: the Human Be-In. Organized by artist Michael Bowen, the event drew up to 30,000 people, including Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary, who coined “turn on, tune in, drop out” on the park’s Polo Field.
Today the park is a don’t-miss for visitors—larger than Central Park, it includes numerous gardens, two world-class museums (the California Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum of fine art), windmills, and much more. The De Young is hosting a Summer of Love retrospective through August 20, and nightly Summer of Love light shows will set the Conservatory of Flowers aglow through October.
Though this lovely spot is in Golden Gate Park, Hippie Hill deserves its own mention on a Summer of Love roundup. A favorite gathering place for hippies in the 1960s, the grassy meadow and sloping hill are still popular today—for free spirits and people-watchers alike. There’s likely to be a few guitars, perhaps a drum circle, a tambourine or two, and definitely a not-too-faint odor of marijuana—so keep the kids at home and get your hippie on.
Feel the Music
The Summer of Love had a psychedelic soundtrack: the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Animals, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and many, many more. “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” was a hit for Scott McKenzie and became an anthem for flower children everywhere.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Don’t leave the city without visiting some musical landmarks: the Fillmore, which packed in crowds during the Summer of Love (and today); the Avalon at 1268 Sutter, where a little-known Janis Joplin performed with Big Brother and the Holding Company; and the Grateful Dead House at 710 Ashbury Street, a pilgrimage spot for Deadheads and a center of action in 1967. Though it’s a newer addition to the Haight, Amoeba Music, deserves a stop for its epic vinyl collection.
Take a Tour
San Francisco’s tour operators have stepped up to the plate with a score of guided Summer of Love tours. The standout is the trippy Magic Bus Experience, a two-hour “transcendental transportation back to the 1960s” on a psychedelic bus. There are professional actors onboard, plus news footage playing on video screens and the songs of the summer of 1967—near total immersion. Book early to guarantee a spot.
Other tours include the Flower Power Walking Tour of Haight-Ashbury, Wild SF tours of different themes and areas, and a Haight-Ashbury guided walking tour—via the Detour app—by actor Peter Coyote.