Lonely Planet Writer

San Francisco to throw free Summer of Love concert to mark 50 year anniversary

It’s been 50 years since flower-bedecked young people from all over the U.S. and Canada converged on San Francisco for what became known as the Summer of Love. Now, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and the Conservatory of Flowers want to celebrate the start of summer and the anniversary of that legendary time.

The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll, an art exhibit, is seen at the deYoung museum in San Francisco.
The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll, an art exhibit, is seen at the deYoung museum in San Francisco. Image by JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

“If you can find a way to get to San Francisco this summer, do it,” said Ben Davis, Founder of Illumniate the nonprofit which partnered with Obscura Digital to bathe the all-white 1878 Victorian greenhouse that is the Conservatory of Flowers in a series of light scenes inspired by the psychedelic aesthetic made popular during the Summer of Love.
The light art installation debuts on the summer solstice, 21 June 2017 in Golden Gate Park, part of the free event dubbed, Surrealistic Summer Solstice. In addition to the light show, over forty musicians will perform an iconic set list from the late 1960s over the course of the evening. “I think this is an amazing way to kick off summer here in San Francisco,” Davis said. “Marching along the sacred grounds of 50 years ago, it’s a place that calls the restless spirit in all of us and this will be a really special year.”

What was the Summer of Love?

Hippie Family at Summer Solstice Love-In, Golden Gate Park, 1967.
Hippie Family at Summer Solstice Love-In, Golden Gate Park, 1967. Image by © Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Heeding the call of the likes of Jerry Garcia, Ken Kesey and Janis Joplin, some 75,000 young people descended on San Francisco in the summer of 1967. Fueled by a desire to find freedom and transcendence aided with a heavy dose of LSD, the flower children relished in the psychedelic colors, free-flowing fashions and acid rock. An event called, the Human Be-In held in Golden Gate Park in January of 1967 prompted authorities to attempt to crack-down on the influx of hippies. In retaliation, leaders of the movement invited America’s youth to Haight-Ashbury and they answered.

Wear some flowers in your hair

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As soon as school got out and some even before these hippies tumbled from vans and busses and hitched rides to the Haight to celebrate love in all its forms with music, poetry, tie-die and drugs. A free clinic was established for medical treatment and a free store gave away basic necessities. At the end of the summer many went back to their parents and college campuses and those remaining declared the scene dead. While that way of life on that scale may only have been sustainable for a summer, the summer of ‘67 changed the definition of freedom in America forever.

By Sarah Stocking