San Francisco city and county may be home to tech giants such as Twitter and Pinterest, but it’s far better known as the cultural and hippy center of the San Francisco Bay area. Dominated by the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is well-connected by air, land and sea, and people jet in from all over on flights to San Francisco to soak up some of the its cultural vibe and famous hippie vibe.
In terms of attracting the crowds, the bridge sure has a fight on its hands. Magnificent as it is, there will always be those who are more seeking the ambience of the hippie culture of the 60s rather than architectural feats. And the place that is drawing in all the visitors is the Haight-Ashbury, the epicenter of the phenomenal hippie revolution of 1967 that transformed San Francisco into a melting pot of music, recreational drugs, and creative freedom.
Sparked by the Beat Generation of writers, who boldly documented their thoughts on non-conformist lifestyles, the ‘Summer of Love’ phenomenon, which hung on to Timothy Leary’s famous phrase “turn on, tune in, drop out,” attracted droves of youths towards San Francisco on some sort of spiritual pilgrimage. Disillusioned by the post World War II society, they wanted to experiment with this new lifestyle of gender equality, communal life, minimalistic possessions, and free love. They idolized famous rock stars, such as Jimi Hendrix, who exemplified hippy lifestyle through their music. They gyrated carefree and in gay abandon to bands such as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and The Byrds, who epitomized the hippy culture. The movement concluded in an exceptional mock funeral, entitled “The Death of the Hippy Culture,” signifying an end to the movement.
Years later, the “Summer of Love” experience lives on, although Haight-Ashbury has becoming something of a watered-down version of the hippie town of the ‘60s. However, it still carries the psychedelic flavor and ambience of the 60s. The mansions that once housed students, artists, beatniks, musicians and bohemians are expensive residences today. Historical houses, such as that of Charles Manson who was known for organizing brutal murders during the hippy era, have been repainted and made more appealing to visitors. The house where the popular rock band The Grateful Dead lived is one of the most photographed.
The shops and stores that provided services for the hippie culture of back then are gone, but memorabilia are up for sale in a few such as Dreams of Kathmandu and The Love of Ganesha. With plenty of eateries, sidewalk cafes and restaurants serving a host of cuisines to meet the different tastes of the free thinkers and the tourists alike, a day spent at Haight-Ashbury could wear you out if you decide to visit them all, and of course you may come back a little heavier. However, a bustling nightlife of live music by local and international artists and DJs offers the perfect way to unwind and relax, and either add to it or burn it off as you feel.
For a retrograde experience of the hippie vibe of the 60s, a trip to San Francisco would make a memorable vacation. Even the most forward thinkers enjoy a touch of nostalgia from time to time, and there’s nothing like being able to say you’ve been there… nothing at all.