S o 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.
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./p>
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.
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’.
Today, having emerged from years as a seedy district, The Haight trades on its hippie past with vintage clothes stores, bars and brunch spots. Music fans should head to 710 Ashbury to see where The Grateful Dead lived at the height of their fame before strolling down Haight towards Golden Gate Park to pick up classic records from the period at the cavernous Ameoba Music (amoeba.com/our-stores).
The tripped-out tracks of 1967 define the Summer of Love to this day. And no venue was as important to this burgeoning scene as the Fillmore Auditorium. The focal point of the San Francisco music boom, the world’s hottest bands helped turn the Fillmore into the coolest auditorium in the world. You hadn’t made it until you took to the stage there. Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, The Doors and Pink Floyd all rocked out during that heady summer.
After falling into disrepair in the 1980s, the Fillmore, found in the district of the same name, is once again one of the city’s best places to see live music. Check out their official website to see what bands are playing and lose yourself in the tunes.