6 Groovy Grateful Dead Landmarks in the Bay AreaPhotos: Richard E. Aaron & Kirk West//Getty Travel Lists Grateful Dead
Didn’t make it to Chicago for the last-ever performances of the Grateful Dead this summer? Don’t fret: There are still plenty of ways to get your twirl on and your tie-dyed fix, especially in the Bay Area, where the legendary counterculture band hailed from. And it’s an ideal time to check them out, as the 20th anniversary of front man Jerry Garcia’s death is this Sunday, August 9 (Garcia’s birthday was August 1). Here, six groovy spots worthy of a visit on your next visit to the Bay Area; string them together for a long, strange trip.
The Grateful Dead House
No Dead pilgrimage to the Bay Area would be complete without a stop at 710 Ashbury Street, the very spot where Jerry Garcia and his bandmates kicked off a cultural revolution during the Summer of Love. But beyond the small stencil image of Garcia on the sidewalk and the skull-and-rose emblem on the curb, there are few outward hints of the revelry that ensued past the façade of this well-kept, purple-gray Victorian. The band lived there from around 1965 to 1968, developing their signature sound and hosting epic parties. Now a private residence, the house is one of the highlights on the popular Haight Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour.
Photo: Pete Forsyth, CC-BY
The Dead still merrily live on at this Marin waterfront restaurant and music venue owned by founding bass guitarist Phil Lesh. His rock/jazz band, Lesh and Friends, as well as his musician son, Grahame, are on the regular rotation in the venue’s Grate Room, which is also the gathering spot for weekly Grateful Mondays. Deadheads also will delight in the photos that adorn the walls, and the Terrapin Crossroads well-stocked gift store is brimming with band merch like posters and T-shirts.
Acid Test House
Before they were known as the Grateful Dead, the five-man lineup of Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Bill Kreutzmann briefly called themselves the Warlocks, until they realized another band had the same name. Their first known performance under their new moniker, according to local music historian Corry Arnold, happened at a house that was originally located on South 5th Street in San Jose. It was a quick walk from the San Jose Civic Auditorium, where the Rolling Stones were playing, and flyers were passed out afterward inviting attendees to an acid test—an LSD-centric party—where the Grateful Dead would be playing. Specific accounts of the raucous shindig that ensued are, not surprisingly, blurry, but some versions also have Stones band members attending. The house was eventually moved to make way for San Jose City Hall. It’s now located at its current address at 635 East St. James Street.
Photo: Thomas Hawk, CC-BY
For the ultimate fan humblebrag, check into the Jerry Garcia Suite at Hotel Triton, which Garcia himself designed in about two decades ago for the kitschy, cheerful hotel near Chinatown. The 300-square-foot Room 220, which runs from around $350/night, exudes Garcia’s spirit, with his original watercolor paintings and drawings (including several in the bathroom) and iconic signature, as well as a photo of the musician lounging on the room’s bed. Groovy patterns on throw pillows and the headboard, which feature silk fabrics from the J. Garcia fashion line, complete the deliciously psychedelic vibe.
Cliff Lede Vineyards
Forget kitschy tasting room souvenirs: Garcia himself would surely raise a glass to the upscale art exhibit in his band’s honor at this Stags Leap property. “Out of the Attic: A Grateful Dead Retrospective” highlights a collection of the band’s iconic poster art and prints curated by the Haight Street Art Center and is located in the winery’s aptly named Backstage Tasting Lounge, a nod to proprietor Cliff Lede’s love of classic rock music. (The winery also takes rock inspiration for the names of its vineyard “rockblocks”; “Touch of Grey” is one of Lede’s favorite Dead songs.) The exhibit opened in April 2015 as a tribute to the band’s final shows and is available with the $50 tasting fee, which includes five wines. For the full rock star experience, splurge on a night at the vineyard’s sister property, the exquisite Poetry Inn, one of the most luxe spots in Napa.
Hippie Hill, Golden Gate Park
Photo: Walter Parenteau, CC-BY
One of the most popular gathering spots in Golden Gate Park, which was Ground Zero during the counterculture movement of the 1960s, Hippie Hill was also one of the Dead’s favorite spots to strike up an impromptu performance. Their memory still lives on at the grassy knoll, evidenced by such offbeat performances like the Ted 420 talks, a riff on the classic Ted Talks that took place on April 20. As one speaker proclaimed: “I took 1,013 milligrams of LSD today, because my wife and I have been to 1,013 Grateful Dead shows.” Hippie Hill is located near the park’s eastern boundary, nestled between Kezar and John F. Kennedy Drives. If you have trouble finding it, just follow the sound of drumbeats and the aroma of pot mingling with patchouli.
San Francisco-based freelance writer Blane Bachelor tries to avoid the fragrant fumes coming from Hippie Hill when she runs through Golden Gate Park. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, Runner’s World, Outside, and the San Francisco Chronicle.