The 7 Most Famous Hippy Areas In San Francisco

Born in California, the Summer of Love movement aimed at nothing less than transforming American society. And for a window of time, San Francisco was the centre of that hedonistic universe.

Ali Jenning
Ali Jenning

Ali Jennings is a freelance writer, house sitter, and teacher currently residing in the UK.

The 7 Most Famous Hippy Areas In San Francisco
Photo:Luciano Mortula/Shutterstock

So much of what we know and love about San Francisco is a result of the hippie scene from the 1960s. Today, the Golden Gate City boast many hippy hot spots for visitors to explore. No other place or period has had such an impact on American culture.

It could even be said that the ripples of the counterculture were felt all over the world. The open-mindedness of the people from the era is what made today’s digital age possible. It took quite a bit of freedom of thought and expression to believe in the power of creating something that could revolutionize humanity as we know it.

That’s precisely what’s going on in today’s San Francisco. The groundwork was laid by some very over-the-top and influential hippies back in the day, and the areas of the city that they resided in have, not surprisingly been made famous as a result.

These are places that you can go and pay a visit to now. It may not be possible to hop in a VW bus and go back in time; but you’ll swear you are in a different era when visiting these past hippy areas in San Francisco

1. Hippie Hill

Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park with thick fog in the background and a group of people picnicking in the grass on a summer day

Photo: StephanieFarrell/Shutterstock

Are you longing to be in a drum circle? Maybe what you want more than anything is to play in an impromptu jam session. If none of that appeals to you, then you can still enjoy all the sights and sounds Hippie Hill has to offer. It’s a place where people hang out and enjoy themselves, be a part of the scene or appreciate what’s laid out in front of them. It’s not uncommon to fall in love with Hippie Hill and you’ll likely end up with a few new friends if you go there on several occasions.

2. Visit the world’s largest independent record store

Amoeba Music store is an iconic store near Hollywood in Los Angeles, California - Hippy Areas In San Francisco

Photo: James Kirkikis/Shutterstock

Amoeba Music is the one place in San Francisco that every music lover needs to visit at least once. They have a vast selection of cassette tapes, CDs, and even vintage vinyl records. If you can’t find it at Amoeba Music, then you likely won’t find it anywhere else.

It won’t take you long to figure out why people from all over the world visit this record store. The fact that stores such as Amoeba Music are a dying breed could have something to do with it. The internet hasn’t made buying music obsolete, and no one proves this better than they do.

3. Vesuvio Café

Vesuvio Cafe on San Francisco’s Columbus Street - san francisco hippy area

Photo: Vesuvio Cafe/Facebook

The beatniks were the people who made the hippies possible. No, we’re not talking about Dobie Gillis. We’re talking about people like Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. Are we saying that Bob Dylan was a beatnik and not a hippie? Well, let’s not go down that path. Let’s just say that he was one of the many who bridged the gap between beatniks and hippies.

They all went to the Vesuvio Cafe to have a few drinks and enjoy poetry. You too can go there and have yourself a good time. Why not have a drink and think about what the world would’ve been like if Dylan hadn’t sat there and listened to the spoken word of poetry? It’s not far-fetched to believe that his music would’ve been much different. The world of literature and music owe a severe debt to this place that allowed the free flow of thoughts and booze.

4. Spend a night in a museum 

The Red Victorian hotel in San Francisco - Hippy Areas In San Francisco

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There aren’t many places where you can spend a night at a museum. You can do just that when visiting Red Victorian. It’s a blast from the past with its 1960’s era museum. It’s not possible to get a feel for the history of San Francisco by just walking around the place, you need someone to help guide you through the more fascinating parts.

It might be a good idea to spend a night or two here before visiting the other places. The museum will touch on all of the essential things of the hippie era, and you’ll have a more firm understanding of all that went down. A museum is the only place where history is both preserved and retold in a way that makes it understandable to those who weren’t there.

5. Golden Gate Park

The Golden Gate Bridge in the distance late-afternoon

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Didn’t we already mention Golden Gate Park? Well, yes and no. Yes, Hippie Hill is technically in the Golden Gate Park. No, that’s not all there is to see. Did you know that Golden Gate Park is larger than Central Park? It is, and there’s so much more to see than just a park. There are two museums that you’ve got to see.

There’s the De Young Museum of fine art and the California Academy of Sciences. If you’ve got kids, then you want to check out the science museum. There are gardens and even windmills that you can check out. With over 1,000 acres of land, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied here. It’s also the home of many events, and there are even free concerts there sometimes.

6. Haight-Ashbury

The Haight Ashbury buildings - hippy hot spots in San Francisco

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Haight-Ashbury is ground zero for anything and everything hippie-related. Everyone who became anyone seemed to have its roots planted here. Today, it’s a little tamer than it once was. You’re not going to find any gurus walking around searching for people to follow them. Though, some things are probably best left-back where they belong. The music of the era all sprang up here.

The shops and businesses of the time catered to a young crowd who was bent on discovering something new. For many young people during this time something new was vital and crucial to who they wanted to be. They lived in a world where war seemed constant and the ideals of the 1950s of their parent’s glory days had faded. They were left with an uncertain world and a future that seemed to be chosen by others and not themselves.

Many of the people in San Francisco that shaped the world as we knew it didn’t come from there. No, they were born elsewhere. During the 1960’s San Francisco was the place for youngsters to go if they wanted to start anew. This meant many eager young people came with the hope of having their impact on the world.

It also meant that some people were only coming for the scene and that’s it. If there could be any one reason for the decline in Haight-Ashbury, it was those who came merely for everything the scene had to offer. They were takers who took and rarely gave back to a community who were more than eager to share what they had.

7. The Grateful Dead House

Street Scene from Haight Ashbury - hippy hot spots in San Francisco

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Technically the Grateful Dead House is a part of Haight-Ashbury. But, it’s a legendary place that needs a section all for itself. The world as we know it would not be what it is if it weren’t for the house the Grateful Dead rented. It wasn’t just their music that changed the world, though they did rock on for over 30 years.

Their music would carry with it what San Francisco encapsulated and seemingly left behind. That music also included free shows in San Francisco and even Haight-Ashbury. No other band is more associated with San Francisco or the hippie heyday than the Grateful Dead.

You may be surprised to learn that Janis Joplin was a well-known visitor to one of the Grateful Dead members at the house. She and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan were said to have had an ongoing relationship throughout the years. Janis and Pigpen would hang out at the house and do whatever hippies did behind closed doors. Which probably means they ate plenty of granola while talking about organic farming.

Needless to say, you’ve got to check out this house if you want to know what it really felt to be there back in the day. The things that happened in that house changed the world and continue to do so to this very day. There aren’t many buildings on the face of the earth with a reputation such as that one.

The past meets the future

Dancing flower power girl - hippy hot spots in San Francisco

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Don’t be surprised if you see some people who look like they’re in a time warp. That’s a common sight when you’re in San Francisco. No amount of goodwill or desire can bring back the golden era of the hippies. If the truth were to be told, we’re still living in these wonderful times.

Today is simply an extension of the world the hippies envisioned. They went on to form companies like Apple and change everything as we know it. Many of the vibrant people from that period are gone, but their impact on humanity is just as strong today as it was then. It could be said that as time goes on, their influence becomes even more significant.

It can be easy to get caught up in all that’s colorful and unusual about San Francisco. No place on earth seems like a living breathing circus-like the city by the bay. Somehow, it not only survives but thrives. Every generation born there is unique and all their own. That in itself may be the most significant trait of San Francisco. Since day one the city has created a breed all of its own, and this holds true even until today.

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