Are you going to San Francisco? Be sure to wear a flower in your hair for the 50th anniversary of the counterculture-movement’s famous “Summer of Love.”
The City by the Bay is decidedly more techie than hippie these days but is nonetheless celebrating the legendary summer of 1967 all year long with museum exhibits, music and film festivals, flower-child-inspired dance parties, and lectures. Hotels are offering discount packages that include “psychedelic cocktails,” “Love Bus” tours, bubble wands, and tie-dyed everything.
The city’s visitors’ bureau calls it an “exhilarating celebration of the most iconic cultural event in San Francisco history.” During the famous summer of 1967, nearly 100,000 young people traveled to the city — especially its counterculture epicenter, Haight-Ashbury — to join the scene of musicians, artists, poets, and radicals who would forever influence popular culture.
The city is pulling out the stops to create retro experiences. Here are a few fun ways to immerse yourself in the peace-and-love scene this summer.
Get on the bus
Take a trip on Antenna Theater’s Magic Bus, a colorfully painted hippie-mobile reminiscent of the Merry Pranksters’ infamous Furthur Bus. It’s outfitted with a full sound system, video projectors, psychedelic light shows, and a trippy “goddess” guide adding commentary to a production that features voices from the ‘60s, including Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Garcia, and Alan Watts. Lowered screens turn the bus into a moving movie theater that shows documentary footage of events such as the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park. The Magic Bus boards at Union Square and visits Chinatown, North Beach, Haight-Ashbury, and the Conservancy of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.
Take a walk to remember with Peter Coyote
He’s a famous actor now, but in the ‘60s Peter Coyote was one of those starry-eyed kids who flooded into San Francisco. Download a narrated audio tour — produced by the San Francisco company Detour, which has created immersive audio walks in 17 cities — and Coyote will walk you through the heart of the Haight, where it all started. Highlights include the site of Jimi Hendrix’s first San Francisco concerts to the parade route where Coyote and his pals declared the scene dead and tried to bury it. Along the way, he’ll tell you about feeding whale meat to hundreds of people in a park, tearing it up with the Hell’s Angels, and sparking radical social changes that became mainstream.
Eat your heart out
The concept of the local food co-op was born in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love. That’s just one of the fun facts imparted by Avital Food Tours, which gives insight into one of the world’s best food scenes through its food-centric walking tours of different San Francisco neighborhoods, highlighted by stories from restaurant owners and chefs. According to the SF Heritage Legacy Project, there are still 50 operating San Francisco restaurants that were cooking up love back in 1967, including Aub Zam Zam in Haight-Ashbury, the Marina’s Balboa Café and the Bus Stop, North Beach’s Fior d’Italia and Original Joe’s, Richmond’s Cliff House and Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, and Top of the Mark and the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar at the top of Nob Hill.
Sleep in an iconic crash pad
In the heart of the city at Union Square, steps from great shopping, dining, art, and the boarding spot for cable cars and the Magic Bus, the historic Westin St. Francis offers two “Summer of Love” packages. For 15 percent off there’s the “Summer of Love Festival” special, and the “Summer of Love at the de Young” package has 10 percent off room rates and comes with two VIP tickets to the de Young Museum — home to the exhibit “Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll,” a collection of iconic rock posters, photos, interactive music, and light shows.