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The 12 Best Hippie Cities For Stressed-Out Progressives In 2016

There’s a perception that cities are blue bastions even in red states, and it’s very true. But some urban havens are true blue hippie cities, where their progressive values, laid back living, and liberal laws make them top travel destinations for the besieged, fun-loving, and refuge-seeking liberal.

Hippie cities are special retreats: Here are the top 12 travel destinations.

Those wanting a different kind of experience don’t have to visit a “psychic for free” website to figure out how to do it. A helpful list of hippie cities was assembled by travel.alot.com. Meditation, yoga, environmental awareness, marijuana, a bicycle culture — Reverb Press has delved into what makes 12 of these places special retreats and top travel destinations where stressed-out progressives can recover. Here they are, in reverse order:

12. Madison, Wisconsin. The physical setting of Madison is spectacular, located on an isthmus between two lakes — Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. The city has worked hard to preserve its natural beauty, successfully limiting high-rise buildings to maintain its skyline. It has been called the greenest city in America, with more parks per 10,000 residents than any other in the country. It’s also a bicycling heaven, with an extensive network of bicycle paths and a bike share program. Plus, it has the most rock concerts per capita of any place but Austin, Texas. Throw the city’s progressive politics in the mix with its outdoor lifestyle, and what’s not to like?

11. Missoula, Montana. Missoula is a quintessential Western destination — a small city of 66,000 nestled amongst converging mountain ranges and three rivers. That the outdoor opportunities are many goes without saying, but the town offers a surprising array of other attractions. Maybe it’s because Missoula is a college town, but microbreweries proliferate — such as Big Sky Brewing Co. — and are gaining a national reputation. There is an active crusade to attract big-name performers. The city scored a visit from Paul McCartney as one of his recent world tour destinations.

When Missoula was named one of the top places to live in 2015, Mayor John Engen captured something of the nature of the place by saying: “One of the jokes about Missoula is that citizenship requires you to own a Subaru Outback and at least one Labrador retriever.”

Missoula’s rugged, rural charm is part of what makes it a top travel destination for hippies at heart: “One of the jokes about Missoula is that citizenship requires you to own a Subaru Outback and at least one Labrador retriever.”

10. Athens, Ohio. Progressives in Ohio definitely could use a respite from the antics of their state GOP and Governor John Kasich, who thinks that God, prayer, and the religious right will make him President of the United States.  Athens is another college town that offers blessed distractions from the brutal reality of the campaign season, especially with its growing arts community and cultural festivals. But even better is the fact that Athens is well-known for its ghosts, possibly being the most haunted place in Ohio. One source lists 15 haunted buildings on the Ohio University campus alone. One of them is the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house, whose members invited otherworldly mischief when they stole a gravestone from a nearby — and notoriously haunted — cemetery. Weird poltergeist activities plagued the house until the stone was returned.

9. Portland, Maine. This largest Maine city and long-time top travel destination for bohos has been called the “San Francisco of the East” with its easy combination of laid-back friendliness and Old World charm. It features lots of public access to the ocean, a working waterfront whose docks are laden with lobster traps, an openness that welcomes refugees and same-sex couples, tolerates public nudity, and contains both award-winning restaurants and polite panhandlers. Portland marches to its own drummer but encourages residents and visitors to listen to their own special beat.

Olympia is the definition of hippie cities … And Marijuana is legal there!

8. Olympia, Washington. Olympia may be the state capital, but it’s all about what’s local. Believe it or not, there’s only one Starbucks in town, but plenty of vegans, locally grown produce and dairy products. Also, it’s just an hour’s drive from the spectacular Mt. Rainer. There’s plenty of flack coming from visitors who don’t like that it’s a huge hippie haven. However, those who just want to chill out and enjoy some of the local bud, (marijuana is legal in Washington), might adopt a different perspective.

7. Ashland, Oregon. Ashland is relatively small — about 20,000 people — but mighty in reputation. It is perhaps best known for its annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which has been running since 1935 and now stretches from February through November. But it’s also known — fondly, one hopes — as the “People’s Republic of Ashland” for its progressive politics. The nickname reflects the fact that the surrounding area of southern Oregon is more than a little bit conservative. But Ashland voted for Abraham Lincoln and later for women’s suffrage, as well as environmental regulations — all opposed by its neighbors. Still, Shakespeare brings everyone together in a spirit of camaraderie (plus, the marijuana is legal in Oregon, too).

6. Marfa, Texas.  Unbelievably, Marfa is in west Texas — about as far from free-spirited Austin as it could get. But it’s an oasis where artists and cattle ranchers converge. Of course, it’s almost microscopic, having a population under 2,000, but many of those hundreds come from cities all over the world, like Paris and New York. Celebrities who haven’t moved there are nevertheless drawn to the place like a magnet, including visits from the likes of Beyonce and Jake Gyllenhaal. Apparently, for the fine dining and art. But visitors should be aware — stores are open when their owners feel like being open, which mostly doesn’t happen on Mondays and Tuesdays. Talk about an absence of stress!

5. Yellow Springs, Ohio. Yellow Springs was a hippie town — or village — since before there were hippies. That’s largely due to the presence of the revolutionary Antioch College, sitting smack in the middle of conservative farm country. The college was founded in 1853 on the site of a former utopian enclave. Its admission policies were both color and gender blind from the beginning, enrolling two African American girls in the mid-1850’s. In 1965, the Rev. Martin Luther King gave the commencement address at the tiny college.

As for Yellow Springs itself, the buildings are painted a vibrant spectrum of colors, chain businesses are prohibited, arts, festivals, and street performers abound. Best of the Road recently wrote about the aura of acceptance that pervades the village: “Yellow Springs is a place to be who you are. Their focus is on the arts, but what they’re really about is the art of living.”

Yellow Springs, Ohio’s artiness and mindful living make it one of the great hippie cities and top travel destination for progressives: “Yellow Springs is a place to be who you are. Their focus is on the arts, but what they’re really about is the art of living.”

4.  Madrid, New Mexico. Madrid is a town reborn. Originally a coal-mining town, it disappeared along with the popularity of coal, becoming a ghost town of abandoned buildings. Those buildings have been restored and, as in Yellow Springs, painted in a colorful array of hues. As with others of these destinations, they’ve become home to an artists’ colony, but in a deserty, mountainous environment. Madrid is not totally unique in the area, since it’s close to Santa Fe, but it is more removed from the madding crowd.

3.  Lawrence, Kansas. Yes, even Kansas has its hippie haven! It is, of course, a college town. It’s also home to an outrageously long list of music concerts, as well as music festivals and record labels. The town has given birth to many a musician and a variety of bands. The New York Times once said: “Lawrence is now perhaps the most vital music scene between Chicago and Denver.”

The funky vibe, burgeoning music scene, and sinfully delicious cream cheese donuts make Lawrence, Kansas one of our favorite hippie cities and a great travel destination for progressives in the heartland.

Plus, you can buy cream cheese donuts 24/7 at Munchers Donuts (corrected from ‘sour cream’ thanks to all the Lawrence-ites who objected to the error). It’s not just hippies and rockers — aging or otherwise — who can appreciate that.

2. Northampton, Massachusetts. Hemp stores, Moroccan coffee, long gray hair, a rainbow crosswalk, and a preponderance of Priuses might be the best summary of Northampton, but the place is certainly more than that. To give you an idea of its rich, colorful history, an utopian community of abolitionists that included Sojourner Truth was once located there. Smith College — from which Sylvia Plath, Gloria Steinem, and Julia Child graduated — also makes its home there. But the streets are full of counterculture artists, street musicians, political activists, and music venues, as well. Not surprisingly, Northampton has an intellectual bent — a place for progressives to either stretch their minds or relax into its welcoming environment.

mount shasta provides the peak experience of all the hippie cities.

1. Mount Shasta, California. The town of Mount Shasta is at the base of the volcano, Mount Shasta. The mountain is a sacred place to Natives and New Agers alike. Its position is at the first chakra, the root chakra, of the world — a place where heaven and earth conjoin. The spot is an energy vortex that renews and transforms its visitors. The town is a center for spiritual teachers, meditation, alternative medicine, yoga, and a prime place to find healing crystals — as well as occasional space travelers and Lemurians. It doesn’t get much more hippie-ish, or more restful, than this best of hippie cities. Although only medicinal marijuana is legal in the state of California, you wouldn’t know that from the freewheeling culture.

Feature photo by Mark Spearman on Flickr.


 

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Deborah Montesano is a writer and political activist, who has just been freed from decades of wandering in the Arizona desert. She is now stunned to find herself actually living in progressive heaven — Portland, Oregon. READ MORE BY DEBORAH.