17 Best U.S. Cities for Hippies
While some may think all the hippies have burned out or faded away, the truth is they’re still out there, still busily making love, but not war. We here at Estately set out to find communities where they’re heavily concentrated, as well as providing the ideal habitat for the next generation of flower children. To determine this we used a formula based on marijuana availability and legality, the number of stores selling hemp, local counter-culture icons, tie-dye availability, hippie festivals, progressive government, the intensity of Occupy protests, and a Facebook poll. In the end, we determined these places are the 17 Best U.S. Cities for Hippies…
17—Arcata, CA / 16—Bloomington, IN / 15—San Francisco, CA / 14—Manitou Springs, CO / 13—Berea, KY / 12—Oakland, CA / 11—Missoula, MT / 10—Bisbee, AZ / 9—Austin, TX / 8—Berkeley, CA / 7—Ithaca, NY / 6—Burlington, VT / 5—Portland, OR / 4—Boulder, CO / 3—Asheville, NC / 2—Olympia, WA / 1—Eugene, OR
17. ARCATA, CA
The scent of patchouli oil is so strong in Arcata that it can be smelled from space. While this hasn’t been independently confirmed yet, it is a fact that Arcata is the first city in America to elect a majority of its city council members from the Green Party. The city also passed the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Act in 1989 and a host of other restrictions that would make a hippie proud.
No one knows how much of the city’s population is dependent on the large cannabis industry that’s central to northern California’s economy, but let’s just say the locally sourced and smokeable veggie is paying for a lot of organic produce at the local co-ops. The environmentally-conscious town is a hotbed for radical tree huggers and various forest preservation efforts, and it’s a nice halfway point when hitchhiking between Eugene, Oregon, and Berkeley, California.
16. BLOOMINGTON, IN
Just because Indiana is one big, conservative corn maze doesn’t mean there isn’t a place where hippies can let their freak flag fly. Located in the southern part of the state, beautiful Bloomington is a hippie-filled college town where many a drum circle can be had, provided the Occupy Movement isn’t using the park at the time. Original hippies meet up with hippies-in-training from Indiana University at Laughing Planet, where they feast on burritos filled with steamed squash, kale, and seitan. Those calories are easily burned off after a non-competitive game of hacky sack or a few hours of swaying. The welcoming town is even home to the brother of his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s, Thubten Jigme Norbu, who founded the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington.
15. SAN FRANCISCO, CA
The city where most of this hippie stuff started is mostly running on hippie fumes at this point. San Francisco still has progressive politics and activist culture, as well as some bong shops in Haight-Ashbury, but it’s a long way from the Summer of Love. All the same, flashbacks do occur and you’ll see various remnants and attempted revivals of the hippie glory days at the city’s parks, protests, and festivals. And maybe it isn’t that the hippies are gone, it’s just like they’ve… you know… evolved, man. Now they’re like in an alternate state of consciousness where they’re still hippies, but also like financial planners and art dealers and other heavy stuff.
14. MANITOU SPRINGS, CO
For those who like their hippie’s new age, prefer mate to coffee, and want to legally buy weed in a store, Manitou Springs is a place that’s both mellow and trippy. Sometimes called the “hippie Mayberry,” the town at the base of Pike’s Peak is a haven for the artsy, spiritual types. The city was once ruled by Mayor Bud Ford, a down-to-earth hippie who wears tie-dye and looks a lot like Jerry Garcia.
Originally, the town was a scenic health resort with healing mineral springs, but the waters were eventually made undrinkable after sewage polluted them, which is such a hippie thing to do. However, the problem was fixed and now the mineral springs are drinkable and have become a tourist attraction again.
13. BEREA, KY
What do you get when you mix Haight-Ashbury with Little House on the Prairie? The answer is Berea, Kentucky, a town that was counterculture before counterculture was cool. The city is home to Berea College, which was the only integrated and co-ed college in the South for nearly forty years. The politically progressive community is home to organic farmers, hundreds of working artists, and even author and social activist bell hooks. The granola is just a little bit crispier in Berea, and probably homemade.
12. OAKLAND, CA
The hippies may have come of age in San Francisco and Berkeley, but most got priced out and ended up in Oakland (the ones who got rich moved to Marin). While Oakland doesn’t always embody the ethos of peace and love, it does have 30 stores offering hemp products, is keeping the protest going with Occupy Oakland, and it’s home to Oaksterdam University, where students have been studying the craft of growing marijuana since 2007.
11. MISSOULA, MT
Neighboring Bozeman might be jealous, but when it comes to the true bastion of Montana hippiedom, Missoula definitely comes out on top. It’s not just the vast array of sustainable transportation options or progressive non-profits, Missoula’s government has worked to decrease arrests for marijuana possession, and passed resolutions calling for a withdrawal from Iraq (2007) and to amend the U.S. Constitution to declare that “corporations are not human beings” (2011). That’s pretty hippie.
The city hosts Hempfest, as well as other festivals that provide an excuse to imbibe in Missoula’s favorite medicinal plant. Old deadheads got stuck in town years ago after their microbuses broke down climbing the I-90’s steep hills outside of town and they’ve been here ever since. Now they mingle with University of Montana students, especially whenever Yonder Mountain String Band comes to town. While the rest of the state is more conservative, in Missoula there’s no shame in men sporting long hair like Brad Pitt did in A River Runs Through It, and not just because the film is set in Missoula.
10. BISBEE, AZ
Once a productive copper mining town, Bisbee reinvented itself as a hippie-filled art colony after the mine closed. Some residents still live in updated caves in the middle of town, and it’s not unheard of to see naked folks in cowboy hats strolling the main street in the middle of the night. The New York Times called it “a Greenwich Village West,” and there is certainly no shortage of artists, poets, and turquoise shop owners carving out a living along the steep hills of Bisbee, Arizona.
In Bisbee, there’s no shortage of marijuana, which frequently wanders in across the nearby border with Mexico. There are a few pillars of the Bisbee business community who’ve spent some time in Mexican jails for attempting to bring pounds of weed back across the border, including the legendary local brewer Dave Harvan, whose Electric Brewing Company makes a damn good lager.
9. AUSTIN, TX
Austin may be best known for its music and barbecue, but the Capital of Texas is also a sanctuary for the state’s free spirits. The city has more hippie-themed Meetups than any city in the country, as well as Hippie Hollow, a clothing-optional nudist park where hippies can recreate in the buff. The popularity of Hippie Hollow is evidenced by a simple Google image search of “Austin Hippie,” which turns up far too many NSFW photos of these naked folks. Austin is also home to 12 local shops advertising hemp products, the “Hippie Church” at the local Taco Xpress, and thousands of locals ardently working to Keep Austin Weird. Learn more about joining them here.
8. BERKELEY, CA
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Berkeley was one of the premier college towns for student activism and a real force affecting social change in America. However, as the years passed those hippies aged, grew graybeards, and became local business owners and professors. The iconic hippie city still draws young trustafarians, tree-sitters, and assorted eccentrics, many longing for the fiery protests of the past, but the city has turned decidedly mellow. According to The Daily Beast, Berkeley remains one of the Top Pot Smoking Cities in America, but the tie-dyed glory of the past is slowly burning out just like so many Berkeley hippies did before.
7. ITHACA, NY
Ithaca holds the record for the largest human peace sign, an accomplishment that only scratches the surface of this city’s true hippie nature. This central New York town has it’s own currency called Ithaca Hours, which is essentially good for one hour of work and can be traded between local residents. That’s groovy.
In 2000, Ithaca’s residents churned out more votes for Ralph Nader than for George W. Bush, and it would have been even more if Nader had paired up with Dennis Kucinich. The city is home to astronomer Carl Sagan, the influential hippie eatery Moosewood Restaurant, and the Namgyal Monastery—a branch of the personal monastery of the Dalai Lama. In short, it’s hippie heaven where residents are practically required to have a minimum of 10 bumper stickers supporting social and environmental causes.
6. BURLINGTON, VT
The largest city in Vermont has a population of just 42,0000, but an estimated 20,000 of them are alleged to routinely wear Birkenstocks (citation needed). Despite its small size, Burlington is home to some of America’s most iconic hippies, including the jam band Phish and the ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s. So just go ahead and meditate on that amount of hippie royalty…
Burlington’s hippie ethos extends to its elected officials, with a city government stocked with Democrats and members of the Progressive Party. It even liked its democratic socialist mayor so much the locals elected him to the U.S. Senate. Burlington is also home to a year-round farmers market, the liberal University of Vermont, and the Burlington Earth Clock‚ a giant sundial made of slabs of granite that is reputed to help “restore inner peace and inner strength,” just like Ben & Jerry’s.
5. PORTLAND, OR
You’d think with all the rain in Portland that the granola would have turned soggy years ago, but the dreams of the 1960s are still alive in Portland. While the city’s gaining a reputation as a hipster town, Portland’s spiritual core still belongs to the hippies (and lumberjacks). Citizens gather in the thousands for nude bike rides, they plaster their bumpers with hippie slogans, and everyone works to out-green each other. The hippie movement was never a passing fad in Portland, it’s just something the city has refined and reinvented. Portland is what you get when flower children grow up to be flower adults.
4. BOULDER, CO
A popular hippie town back in the 1960s, Boulder re-invented itself as an affluent outdoorsy town, but it’s still very rooted in its hippie traditions. Residents enjoy their progressive politics, organic produce, public nudity, and WOW do they love them some marijuana. It’s kind of surprising that the first city in Colorado to ban smoking in bars, was probably the one that worked the hardest to legalize marijuana statewide. This devotion to weed is celebrated almost every year on April 20th around 4:20 pm, when between 8,000 and 15,000 residents gather on the CU Boulder campus to smoke a whole bunch of pot.
Known to some as “The People’s Republic of Boulder,” the city was the setting for the sitcom Mork & Mindy, which is home to Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and people there seriously smoke an unbelievable amount of pot. Is that clear? Lots of pot. It’s the Capital of Weed Smokin. The local bread may be gluten-free, but practically the whole damn town is baked.
3. ASHEVILLE, NC
It takes some guts to grow out your dreadlocks and wear a sarong in the land of Dixie, except if you’re in Asheville, North Carolina because that’s pretty typical there. This hippy haven is a southern Shangri-La for lefties, crispers, and those longing for a little more peace and love. While the city has pulled funding for the annual street festival Bele Chere, the town is loaded with farmer’s markets, live music, and numerous disc golf courses. For those who are southern-fried, the great city of Asheville is truly the Hippie Capital of the South, as evidenced during the weekly drum circle.
2. OLYMPIA, WA
Whether you’re an aging hippie, a hungry freegan, or a barefoot street musician who only knows one Bob Dylan song, Olympia is your safe harbor from stormy seas. The buds are kind, the vegetarian options are abundant, and there are frequent protests dedicated to just about every cause under the sun. Olympia is home to The Evergreen State College, which offers a class called “Looking at Animals,” and has the geoduck (giant clam) as its mascot. It’s a most welcoming place for those who run counter to culture and avoid soap and deodorant like the plague. Good school, though.
1) EUGENE, OR
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the hippiest of them all? It’s Eugene, Oregon. Hands down. No contest. Eugene wins this thing by a mile.
When the hippies turned on, tuned in, and dropped out, they seemingly dropped right into Eugene, Oregon. Whether they were card-carrying Merry Pranksters or simply counter-culture types escaping conformity, large numbers of them flocked to Eugene and the surrounding countryside. Some started communes, others became organic farmers, and some formed an arts and crafts movement that continues to this day. Eugene’s traffic slows behind aging VW Microbuses, the smell of marijuana is never far (especially at Univ. of Oregon), and tie-dye has never gone out of style. From the city government to the Chamber of Commerce, hippies have infiltrated every aspect of the city, and they’ve definitely earned Eugene the title of #1 U.S. city for Hippies.
- Ken Kesey, Merry Prankster and author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was a local boy.
- You can buy tie-dyed underwear from numerous sources.
- The city elects a a SLUG Queen each year.
- Eugene hosts the annual Oregon Country Fair, a hippie spectacle that has to be seen to be believed.
- There are multiple Birkenstock retailers in town.
- Plenty of radical environmentalists, anarchists, and other political raconteurs.
- The weekly Saturday Market features organic produce and handmade creations by local residents and served as an inspiration for many other similar markets.
- Home to Toby’s, makers of fine tofu and and more.
- A local bicycle shop gives away free tofu when the local Les Schwab Tire Centers give away free beef to customers.
- Numerous vegetarian restaurants like Laughing Planet, Cornbread Café and Café Yumm.
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Did we forget any other great hippie towns? Let us know in the comments.
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