Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love throughout the Bay AreaIngrained in Bay Area iconography to the point of cliche, the San Francisco hippie is no caricature. The vanguard figure emerged from a counterculture movement that bound artists, musicians, free thinkers and radicals into a community that ignited nationwide social change. The movement’s seminal season spanned 100 days in 1967— dubbed the Summer of Love—during which nearly 100,000 young dreamers and activists descended upon the city. Beyond peace, drugs and free love, the counterculture represented a segment of society determined to build a better world through the power of hope and togetherness, yet deeply concerned about pervasive matters such as war, politics, race and women’s issues. Musicians including Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix played an essential role in spreading the message, as well. Fifty years later, groups traveling to the Bay Area can explore museum exhibits, schedule specialty tours and visit hallowed sites that evoke the provocative, volatile and powerful history of the 1960s. Counterculturalists might chafe at being cast in the lead role of so conventional a celebration as a golden anniversary. But to heed such objections would be to forfeit an opportunity to recognize the wide-ranging role the period played in shaping the Bay Area, from Silicon Valley’s cradle of innovation to the East Bay’s early activists to the North Bay’s musical pedigree.
San FranciscoIn San Francisco, the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets served as the crossroads of the counterculture movement. Major musicians and nonconformist neighbors lived side by side. “You were making a statement just by where you lived,” says Adam Hirschfelder, director of strategic initiatives at California Historical Society. “The Haight- Ashbury will always stand as a place for people willing to challenge conventional thinking.”
Magic BusA uniquely San Franciscan destination for groups, The Haight is full of brightly colored Victorian homes, vintage clothing boutiques, bookshops, record stores and a lingering countercultural presence. Magic Bus 50th Anniversary Summer of Love tours cover The Haight, Chinatown, North Beach and Golden Gate Park. San Francisco’s 1,000-acre urban backyard also figured prominently in the counterculture movement. Frequently cited as the catalyst of the Summer of Love, the Human Be-In on January 14, 1967, drew tens of thousands to Golden Gate Park’s Polo Fields for a day of music, fellowship and drug experimentation. Live music and massing crowds became park fixtures. One sloping meadow earned the nickname Hippie Hill.
Electric Tour CompanyToday, the park is home to California Academy of Sciences, de Young Museum, Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden and more. Electric Tour Company Segway tours allow groups to cover maximum acreage. Groups can soak in the local atmosphere from the water with Hornblower Cruises & Events, which offers locally focused, customizable luxury boat tours departing from San Francisco, as well as Berkeley. Many bars, nightclubs, dance halls and theaters where influential musicians of the ’60s performed no longer exist. The Fillmore is one of the few historic performance venues that survive. Colorful concert posters paper the walls in nostalgia, making the Fillmore a captivating choice for a group outing or private event.
Samsung Hall at Asian Art Museum of San FranciscoMuseums citywide are examining the countercultural phenomenon from a variety of angles. Many also double as event spaces, complete with creative design and built-in entertainment. From April 8 to Aug. 20, de Young Museum presents The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion and Rock & Roll, featuring iconic rock posters, interactive music and light shows, photographs and ephemera. On May 12, Summer of Love: A Photographic Journey lands at California Historical Society. Through Sept. 8, visitors can experience the Summer of Love through pictures from the season that set off a cultural revolution. “The Summer of Love didn’t come out of nowhere,” Hirschfelder says. “The pieces were in place in the Bay Area. San Francisco attracted many Beat Era poets and writers, bohemians and offbeat, creative types. That artistic ferment fueled a lot of the early energy around the Summer of Love.” North Beach served as the local headquarters of the Beat Generation, a social and literary movement born in the ’50s. Groups can peruse memorabilia at Beat Museum, then head to nearby literary landmark City Lights Bookstore. With Flower Power, running June 24 through Oct. 1, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco offers a crosscultural examination of the symbolism and inspiration blooming forth from botanical imagery. There’s more going on in San Francisco than reminiscing. Moscone Center will add 157,340 sq. ft. of event space, including rooftop terraces, a third level of meeting rooms and a new 50,000-squarefoot ballroom. The project will wrap in 2018; in the meantime, the center remains open for business. “We will go dark in Moscone North and South in April through October this year. Moscone West will stay open that entire time,” says John Reyes, executive vice president and chief sales officer of San Francisco Travel. Additional developments include Transbay Transit Center, a state-of-the-art “Grand Central of the West” expected to serve up to 45 million passengers annually. The complex, opening in fall 2017, will also feature a 5.4-acre park, retail and dining options, and lifestyle activities for convention attendees to enjoy. In January, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors broke ground on Chase Center, a new 18,064-seat arena that will bring a fresh venue option to the market in 2019. San Francisco will welcome four new hotels in 2017. The Mid-Market area will gain technology-focused Yotel San Francisco and San Francisco Proper Hotel, topped by a rooftop restaurant and bar. Hotel Via San Francisco, a 159-room luxury boutique hotel, is set to debut in South Beach. Virgin Hotels San Francisco will add 169 rooms to South of Market. “These hotels take the hotel stay to the next level with cutting-edge design and technology,” Reyes says.
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film ArchiveKnown as a community of activists, radicals and free thinkers, Berkeley provided early fuel for the cultural revolution. It’s also the site of University of California, Berkeley, which offers event spaces including 63,000-seat Memorial Stadium and 11,877-seat Walter A. Haas Jr. Pavilion. “Berkeley is where it all starts in 1964 with the Free Speech Movement,” Hirschfelder says. A dispute over a ban against political activities on campus ignited the movement. Groups have until May 21 to catch Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, which traces the evolution of the hippie counterculture by exploring the movement’s art, design and architecture. Claremont Club & Spa, a Fairmont Hotel offers an ideal base for meetings. With renovations to its 276 guest rooms and public spaces complete, the property recently announced plans to refresh its more than 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space by the end of 2017. “Attendees rave about the view,” says Kristina Matarrese, who has booked meetings at Claremont as commission support manager for WASC Senior College and University Commission. “We’re in meetings for two and a half days, but the view of San Francisco and the bridges gives them the feeling of being outside.” Berkeley itself is also part of the allure. “We love that we can hold our higher education conferences in Berkeley, which has a world-renowned reputation as an academic center,” Matarrese says. The ’60s and ’70s proved significant for Oakland, too. “As the birthplace of the Black Panther Party, Oakland has a very progressive attitude, and we’re passionate about our history,” says Frances Wong, senior public relations manager at Visit Oakland. Modern-day Oakland features a booming culinary scene, vibrant nightlife and authentic experiences that immerse visitors in urban life. New and renovated venues await groups meeting in Oakland: Brand-new Radisson Hotel Oakland Airport, less than 2 miles from Oakland International Airport (OAK), contains 7,400 sq. ft. of event space, plus 266 guest rooms. Remodeled, rebranded Z Hotel Jack London Square, with 1,376 sq. ft. of event space, reflects a modern aesthetic. The new Overlook Lounge offers more than 12,000 sq. ft. of event space in a contemporary rooftop environment, with views of Lake Merritt and downtown. Concord Pavilion, an outdoor music venue seating 12,500, welcomes headliners spanning eras and genres to Concord, 20 miles northeast of Oakland. Affordability, two BART stations and 75,000 sq. ft. of combined meeting space make Concord an attractive Bay Area destination. The Veranda, a new dining, retail and entertainment center, will only increase Concord’s appeal when it debuts in the fall. Nearby Walnut Creek boasts its own thriving downtown, vibrant restaurant scene, BART access and hotel inventory. “Walnut Creek is in the middle of a renaissance, with new shopping, dining and housing development throughout the city,” says Scott Slocum, regional director of sales and marketing at Walnut Creek Convention & Visitors Bureau.
South Bay“The Summer of Love period had a large impact in helping to shape what is known of today as Silicon Valley,” says Kyle Schatzel, communications manager at Team San Jose. “It can be argued that the ideologies of the Beat Generation had a large influence on Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who changed the paradigm for the way innovators in Silicon Valley operate.” Team San Jose created a psychedelic scavenger hunt of local landmarks linked to the period’s musical identity. For example, City Hall Rotunda—containing 9,427 sq. ft. of event space—currently occupies the site of author Ken Kesey’s San Jose Acid Test party, where the Grateful Dead first performed under their now-famous name. Sprawling Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, which hosted Northern California Folk Rock Festival in 1967 and 1968, can accommodate more than 30,000 daily visitors at its 150,000-square-foot complex. Legendary musicians such as The Rolling Stones have played the landmark 2,850- seat City National Civic venue. San Jose offers groups a signature Silicon Valley campus-like feel and amenities befitting California’s third-largest city, including cultural attractions and major meeting sites such as San Jose McEnery Convention Center and SAP Center. Levi’s Stadium, another capacious event venue, sits nearby in Santa Clara. The European-inspired AC Hotel San Jose Downtown, which opened in January—San Jose’s first new downtown hotel in more than a decade—adds 210 stylish guest rooms and 6,470 sq. ft. of meeting space. Scientists from academically renowned Stanford University in Palo Alto were among those who conducted LSD experiments in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Groups can visit the university’s Cantor Arts Center and Rodin Sculpture Garden and use 7,050 sq. feet of meeting space at Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley in East Palo Alto.
Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill ValleySome musicians and hippies escaped crowding in The Haight by relocating to North Bay communes such as Morningstar Ranch in rural Sonoma County and Rancho Olompali in Novato. The Grateful Dead briefly resided at the latter, now a state historic park. Clearly, the North Bay boasts decades of appeal as a group destination. Scenic Tiburon, in Marin County, provides a standout base for North Bay meetings. Notable meeting venues include The Lodge at Tiburon and China Cabin, a historic ship’s ballroom. The natural splendor begs to be explored, and miles of hiking and biking paths pave the way.
Four Seasons Hotel Silicon ValleySan Rafael served as The Grateful Dead’s home base for 25 years. The city retains ties to the legendary group today. Terrapin Crossroads, a restaurant, taproom and lounge owned by founding member Phil Lesh, accommodates up to 450 attendees for private events. Bandmate Bob Weir is an investor in Sweetwater Music Hall, a performance venue and cafe in nearby Mill Valley capable of hosting groups of up to 300. Wine country exerts a magnetic pull over epicureans. Wow your group with a cooking demonstration or an interactive wine tasting at CIA at Copia in Napa, the latest offering from Culinary Institute of America. Music-minded groups can take in a show at Blue Note Napa jazz club on the first floor of the Napa Valley Opera House. Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Napa Valley opened in February with 68 luxury guest rooms and suites, a restaurant by chef Chris Cosentino, a 3,500-square-foot spa and 2,200 sq. ft. of event space. Archer Hotel Napa is set to debut midyear, complete with a rooftop pool and spa, Charlie Palmer Steak restaurant and 17,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.