Summer of Love revisited

It’s 50 years since peace, love and psychedelia burst out from the San Francisco underground into the mainstream, heralding 1967’s Summer of Love.

So pop The Grateful Dead on your headphones, stick on your finest floral shirt and make for these must-see sights in the one-time heartland of the hippies.

 

Beat Museum

To understand how the hippies took over San Francisco, you need to go back to the 1950s and explore that other Californian cultural phenomenon, the Beats. The Beat Museum in North Beach is home to hundreds of original artefacts, including notebooks and photos from Jack Kerouac’s pioneering journeys across America that led to his seminal On The Road, a huge influence on the teenagers who would pioneer the hippie movement and be at the forefront of the Summer of Love.

It also looks at the influence of poet Allen Ginsberg, who linked the Beats and the hippies through his work and activism. The museum retains a chilled vibe very much in keeping with 1967, with old hippies selling tickets and sharing tales of the good old days.

 

City Lights

City Lights was and is a totem of San Francisco’s countercultural movement. Founded by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, its leftfield selections and readings by local authors made it the intellectual heart of the Summer of Love. Its street corner location on Columbus Avenue, a stone’s throw from the Beat Museum, is impossible to miss.

Pop in and you’ll find shelves stacked with everything from surrealist treatises to green politics, a true reflection of the academic side of the hippie dream. And if all that seems a bit too heavy, you can always browse the fiction section and pick up a branded tote bag instead.

 

Haight and Ashbury

The intersection at Haight and Ashbury was the epicentre of the hippie movement that began in San Francisco in 1964 and reached its peak in 1967. Known simply as The Haight, the area was home to some of scene’s biggest names, from Jefferson Airplane to Janis Joplin, as well as the first ‘head’ shop, helping the booming numbers of visiting teenagers to ‘turn on, tune in and drop out’.

 

Golden Gate Park

San Francisco’s vast Golden Gate Park was the go-to spot for the hordes piling into the city as 1967 got underway. The park’s Polo Fields were the site of The Human Be-In in January 1967, with as many as 30,000 young people gathering to see hippie pioneer Timothy Leary urge them to ‘drop out’, and Big Brother and the Holding Company play their brand of bluesy psychedelic rock. Today it’s seen as a defining counterculture event, which kicked off the Summer of Love.

Things are a touch more sedate now, with runners, walkers and cyclists outnumbering hippies. Take a stroll here on a sunny day with some vintage psych on your iPod, though, and you can still feel the vibes.