By Jim Ferri
There aren’t many times you get a second chance.
Fortunately, this year is different in San Francisco.
2017 marks the 50th anniversary of San Francisco’s 1967 “Summer of Love.” That was the year nearly 100,000 young people descended on the City on the Bay and changed our culture forever.
It was a transformative time when a counterculture movement made San Francisco the anti-establishment hippie center of the world. This movement was also the genesis of the Civil Rights movement, women’s and gay rights movements, anti-war movements and more.
Of course, it also changed music, giving us such legends as Garcia, Joplin, Hendrix, and hundreds more.
Now it’s being celebrated throughout the city in festivals, exhibits, music and dance performances, etc.. This is a good time to savor the place that had such an impact on our history and culture.
It should be an enjoyable experience for those who weren’t there in 1967. On the other hand, it should also be one for those who just don’t remember it because they were.
Ground Zero in San Francisco
Of course, when visiting San Francisco you have to visit Haight-Ashbury, ground zero for flower children in 1967.
It’s all mostly tourists now, although a few twenty-somethings continue to emulate the hippie life of the ‘60s. Now and then you’ll see a few, sitting with their dogs on corners. The tourists walk around them and it’s all innocent enough, though.
Local merchants emulate it, as well, painting some of the buildings in psychedelic colors. On Haight Street, a few blocks from Ashbury, “Summer of Love” is painted on one storefront, “Peace” on another. Go to Ben & Jerry’s, and you’ll get “Peace, Love and Ice Cream” in one scoop.
Today Haight is lined with shops selling Tibetan gifts, vintage clothing, records, and everything else with a ‘60s aura. There aren’t a lot of restaurants and cafes around Haight and Ashbury. But they do pepper surrounding neighborhoods such as Cole Valley, just a bit to the south.
As you might expect, you can also get your “Summer of Love” experience on many tours that visit Haight-Ashbury. You’ll find two of them to be right in tune with the ‘60s. San Francisco Love Tours (two hours / $48) drives people around in a hippie-style VW van. Magic Bus Tours are more multi-sensory. They show movie footage from the ‘60s, along with a light show and music, as they whisk you about the city.
During this “Summer of Love” also visit North Beach, north of Chinatown. It’s the original “Little Italy” of San Francisco. Although not a hippie haven in the ‘60s, the “beatnik” culture here greatly influenced that the hippie counterculture.
North Beach remains thoroughly Italian and reminiscent of the old country. It’s overflowing with restaurants, sidewalk cafés, coffee houses and eclectic bookshops, many along Columbus Avenue. City Lights Booksellers on Columbus is famous as a meeting place for the beatniks.
Visit the Beat Museum, which celebrates writer and poets including Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Jack Kerouac. Caffe Trieste, a favorite haunt of many writers of the beat generation, including Watts, Brautigan, Kerouac and Ginsberg, is nearby. The Trieste also has non-beat roots; Francis Ford Coppola purportedly wrote much of “The Godfather” there, as well.
Another claim to fame is the lively and irreverent musical revue Beach Blanket Babylon, produced here since 1974. Popular with both San Franciscans and tourists, you’ll find it at the local theater-nightclub Club Fugazi.
And, of course, plan to have lunch or dinner in one of the fabulous Italian restaurants scattered throughout the neighborhood.
According to San Francisco Travel, the city’s tourism arm, 60+ themed festivals, performances, exhibitions, and activities are scheduled this year.
Major exhibitions of art, photography, posters, fashion and rare archives are taking place at some of the city’s top museums. The famous de Young Museum, for example, is hosting the exhibition “Summer of Love: Art, Fashion and Rock & Roll.” The exhibition closes August 20, 2017.
San Francisco Travel has launched a unique website, www.summeroflove2017.com, that has a guide to events. It also provides itinerary ideas for tours of musical icons of the time.
The California Historical Society provides detailed historical and cultural context for this seminal summer through its new website, www.summerof.love.
So grab your tie-dyes and tickets and head for San Francisco. The summer there promises to be really groovy.
Photo credit of San Francisco Hippie: <a href=”http://fc02.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2011/037/3/6/san_francisco_hippie_by_crystal_nine-d38ydsk.jpg”>Deviantart.net</a>