Remember the happiest, most blissed-out weekend of your life? How about the concert that changed everything, or the epic party you've been trying to recreate ever since? For hippies, Woodstock was all of those things -- the greatest field festival in the history of the world, the hippie party to end all hippie parties.
Since that weekend in August 1969, hippies in every state, in every season, roll out festivals, concerts, and gatherings that keep mashing up peace, love, and rock ‘n’ roll. From nearly naked hippies parading through Key West to a county fair in Oregon, we found the 14 best hippie festivals in America. (Not here? Burning Man. We're keeping hippies distinct from burners, who have their own party circuit.) For pure flower power and that spirit of ’69, we have here your biggest and finest hippie throwdowns.
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Dover, Delaware (June) The Woodlands at the Dover International Speedway isn’t really the most hippie town in Delaware. It’s more of a pop-up hippie town, where every summer 90,000 people descend on Dover for all manner of chill fun. Attractions include a silent disco at the Thicket, where ravers must have headphones on to hear the DJ. It also has its own temporary Dogfish Head tasting room, endless fields of camping, and the Nook, a grove of hammock-lined trees for when attendees just need to chill out even more.
Arrington, Virginia (August) This festival on the Oak Ridge Farm has grown since its 2013 inception to become one of the biggest jam band festivals in the world. It’s a camping-only affair where big acts play multiple sets, often in highly unusual collaborations. String Cheese Incident doing a tribute set to Kool and the Gang? Sure. Steve Winwood sitting in with Widespread Panic? Why not. Lockn’ is worth the trip for the bizarre-yet-perfect artist mashups alone; just be ready for some of said sets to go on a lot longer than you’d anticipated.
San Francisco, California (May) The Bay Area, it’s got some hippies. And even though this annual 12K run from the Embarcadero to the Great Highway now has a corporate title sponsor (we see you, Alaska Airlines) hippies still come out in droves for this traditional showcase of San Francisco weird. The race dates back to 1912, but since about the 1960s it has become known for its outlandish costumes, or some folks running in no clothes at all. Runners range from executives to college kids to expectant mothers, but for a moving display of NorCal hippie culture -- and sheer entertainment -- nothing beats the Bay to Breakers.
Remus, Michigan (September) The biggest jam band festival in Michigan started as a fundraiser for the Mt. Pleasant Food Co-op in 1974. And, really, what’s more hippie than a music festival started by a food co-op? The gathering on a farm in the smack-middle of the state has grown into the cornerstone annual event for the Wheatland Music Organization, a nonprofit dedicated to furthering music and dance education. And while the crowd certainly isn’t wanting for hippies, it’s one of the more presentable bluegrass/jam-band festivals for people who might not be fully invested in the scene -- kids included.
Key West, Florida (Week of Halloween) Florida’s biggest hippie party doesn’t revolve around music or art or nature or any of the other things hippies love. Fantasy Fest is all about getting weird, because, well, these are Florida hippies. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes roam the streets for the week preceding Halloween wearing any damn thing: fetish attire, Nixon masks, a scant layer of body paint, or just a pair of sandals. The week culminates with the Saturday night parade down Duval Street, where beads and body parts fly around with complete, uninhibited hippie abandon.
Seattle, Washington (Memorial Day Weekend) As you idle on I-5 among tech bros in BMWs, you might think Seattle has lost its once-hippie soul. And then Memorial Day rolls around, and you remember that it’s still the Pacific Northwest. For 45 years, Seattle Center has hosted craft makers, artists, jam bands, musicians, and free spirits at a family-friendly event with plenty of live music and hands-on crafting to entertain the young ones as they form memories of the first time they smell marijuana. Each year it draws huge crowds of hippies and the hippie-adjacent, a tradition that carries a torch for old traditions in a changing Seattle.
Davis, California (May) Let’s just get the possibly pink elephant out of the room here: Hippies sometimes take substances that may or may not make you think Papa Smurf is trying to give you a TSA pat-down. And if you’re into that, we don’t judge. But if you’re not and still appreciate a good hippie party, the Whole Earth festival is the place for you. Because the 48-year-old festival is on the campus of UC Davis, drugs and alcohol are banned, which allows attendees to focus on environmentalism and sustainability and fully sober Hula-Hooping. The festival revolves around Earth Day, and since it’s on a college campus there’s no shortage of young people showcasing artistic and musical talent with a common theme of loving the planet. And it’s a great place to introduce your kids to a safe dose of counterculture.
Tidewater, Oregon (August) If you want a taste of the hardcore hippie vibe, peer into the far-out world of Transformational Music. Its iconic festival happens in the forest near the Oregon coast, where attendance is capped at 2,500 and there’s only one stage. Performers here might not be names you’ve heard (Random Rab and Sunmonx, anyone?) but the lineup takes you through music from all over the world, in styles that reflect the evolution of the art. It’s also the only major music festival that rents reusable bamboo plates and utensils to reduce waste. Performers commonly venture into the middle of the crowd to maximize the communal energy.
Manchester, Tennessee (June) “Bonnaroo?” you scoff. “Sure if you want to include the ‘Fisher Price My First Hippie Music Festival.’” But any place where you show up bright and clean on Thursday and find yourself using brown, recycled mushroom fountain water to shower by Sunday is about as dirty-hippie as it gets. America’s most mainstream hippie party draws the biggest names of any (Elton John FTW!) but still manages to keep out the LA twerp factor that other festivals that rhyme with “Yo, fella!” might bring. Even amid a young crowd this farm in the hills of central Tennessee is ripe with ‘70s-era hippies who might be a little grayer, but can still party with the yungins.
East Bethel, Minnesota (August) After briefly relocating to Colorado in 2017, this jam-band fest is back where it belongs -- in the Upper Midwest, where The Big Wu’s debut album Tracking Buffalo Through the Bathtub was recorded over 20 years ago. Though it might not have the huge names or epic crowds of other hippie parties, you’re in for an intense couple of days of jam-band madness. It might overwhelm a festival first-timer, but if you’re into hours-long sets amid a steady pungent cloud, this is the best family reunion on earth.
Veneta, Oregon (July) If you want a sense of the flavor of the Oregon Country Fair, you need look no further than the names of some attending food vendors: Edible Improv, The Hundredth Munchy, Stir Fry, and The Hemp House Grille. This three-day summertime festival, combining artisan crafts, magic, and folk music, is smoking hot, and it’s not just because of the itinerary. Held in the woods of Veneta, Oregon, you can expect an abundance of face jewelry, witch-made elixirs, and Bollywood dance moves (!?). In 2018, around 45,000 visitors showed up, and the best part is the borderline-free love price: A three-day pass will only set you back $70. -- Jack Rushall
Austin, Texas (April) No, it doesn’t coincide with any actual date for the birthday of the famously depressed donkey in Winnie the Pooh. This party started in 1963, when a group of English students from UT threw a spring picnic with a maypole, a donkey draped in flowers, and, of course, honey. It’s grown in popularity -- especially among Austin’s hippie community -- and is now a daylong celebration in Pease District Park. Drum circles and musical performances break out of nowhere, and daytime costume contests yield to nighttime lack-of-costumes (nudity, in other words). The vendors here are all not-for-profit, and the crowd is happy to stuff itself with food and beer in the name of charity. For anyone new to Austin, it’s perhaps the best way to learn the eccentric culture of the city in a single day.
Live Oak, Florida (October) The String Cheese Incident’s annual Florida vacation comes around Halloween at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Smack in the Alabama-esque part of the state, it draws hippies from all over the Southeast for three days of jam-and-funk performances. The crowd leans towards college-aged, so there’s a healthy dose of rock and EDM in the mix (Odesza and The Revivalists are on the bill this year). The camping-only festival includes a temporary art installation with a regular display of lit-up alien statues along with trippy modern exhibits. Add that to a tradition of outlandish costumes and you’ve got as strange a weekend as you can have in the Florida panhandle without going full-on Deliverance.
Chillicothe, Illinois (May) Assuming you’ve not yet made plans for Memorial Day Weekend 2019, allow us to hereby make them for you. Join 20,000 gleeful “Scampers” at Three Sisters Park for sets that’ll include three days each of Umphrey’s McGee and beloved American jam band Moe (or moe. if you’re one of the cool kids).The rest of the lineup can fade from the jam bands into trance and EDM and back again. In between the music sets, which roll ’til 4am, you can fully lean into the hippie vibes with yoga, finger painting, hula hooping, and screen printing workshops, plus “Earth-based” workshops for gardening. Like any festival worth its ticket price, Summer Camp is super conscientious about sustainability; perhaps you’d like to earn exclusive festival perks by getting in on this eco-friendly treasure hunt. See you there.
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Matt Meltzer is a contributing writer to Thrillist who will never forget awkwardly asking his mom “what’s that smell?” at NW Folklife 1993. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.