Return of the Deadheads: Discovering the Grateful Dead in San Francisco

By: Christine Ciarmello

June 10, 2015

A reunion tour has Deadheads re-emerging for one last summer of love. See the Grateful Dead in San Francisco or Chicago, and explore deadhead territory in the Bay Area’s Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood.

Discovering the Grateful Dead in San Francisco

Discovering the Grateful Dead in San Francisco © torbakhopper/Flickr

Ready yourself for the second coming of the Deadheads. For those not familiar with a Deadhead or the psychedelic rock group that reared them, the Grateful Dead, where have you been hiding? Among the tribe is former U.S. President Bill Clinton.


Led by charismatic guitarist Jerry Garcia, the band played a weighty part in the American counterculture movement of the 1960s. They were at the heart of the famous Summer of Love (1967). They helped define San Francisco as a place for free spirits and free thinkers, to the tune of their bluesy, sometimes-folksy music. They were the original hippies. And their fans became just as famous, following them from show to show, like a moveable hippie-commune spreading a message of peace, love, and liberation.

Discovering the Grateful Dead in San Francisco

Grateful Dead show at the Warfield in 1980 © Chris Stone/Flickr

Even with Garcia’s passing 20 years ago, the Deadheads never died. They took to the Web, starting fan blogs, recounting past experiences, and sharing fan art. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream created Cherry Garcia. Haight-Ashbury’s Magnolia Pub & Brewery plays their music and names brews after lyrics. Dogfish Head released American Beauty, an IPA, in their honour.


Now, the living members of the Grateful Dead are commemorating the anniversary of Garcia’s passing with a reunion tour, “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead.” They will take the stage at Chicago’s Soldier Field (where they last performed together with Garcia), and in the San Francisco Bay Area, back to their roots, in late June and early July.

Discovering the Grateful Dead in San Francisco

Visit the former home of the Grateful Dead at 710 Ashbury Street © elchicogris/Flickr

For those deadheads out there, here are some of the best places to discover the legacy of the Grateful Dead in Dead San Francisco:


  • An annual music event held at the one-and-only Jerry Garcia Amphitheatre in McLaren Park, Jerry Day will take place on 2nd August this year. The pretty park is in San Francisco’s Excelsior District, where Garcia grew up.


  • Back in 1967, the Haight-Ashbury district beloved of Deadhead hippies was rather run-down. Since then, this San Fran neighbourhood has become gentrified, but you can still see where the Grateful Dead crashed for two years, at 710 Ashbury Street. The Flower Power tour leads walkers on a hippy (and architecture) trail, including a look at the Psychedelic History Museum.

Discovering the Grateful Dead in San Francisco

Discover the hippie neighbourhood of Haight-Ashbury © Frank Kovalchek/Flickr
  • All dedicated fans should make sure to visit Dead Central. That’s the name of the Grateful Dead archive in the McHenry Library at University of California Santa Cruz, about 90 miles from San Francisco. Archivist Nicholas Meriwether fields questions about the extensive donated archive, which includes fan art, 89 stuffed bean bears, scribbled song ideas, audio and video recordings, graphics and backstage passes.


  • The Dear Jerry exhibit at Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History will provide yet more insight into the strong relationship between band and fan. Showing until 23rd August 2015.


Reunion shows


Catch the reunion tour at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara (San Francisco Bay Area) on 27th and 28th June, or at Soldier Field in Chicago on 3rd, 4th and 5th July 2015.


Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights from London Heathrow to San Francisco, bringing your Deadhead adventure well within reach.


Have you delved into the history of the Grateful Dead in San Francisco? Where are your favourite Deadhead haunts in the Bay Area? Let us know in the comments section below.


Written by Christine Ciarmello


Christine Ciarmello

A San Francisco-based freelancer and now fog aficionado, Christine Ciarmello was editor-in-chief of Islands, then deputy editor of one of the largest circ lifestyle magazines, Sunset, where she created the culture blog Westphoria. She left her hometown of New Orleans after a nearly lifetime stint, three hurricane evacuations, and too much seafood gumbo. She covers the hedonistic sports of traveling, eating, drinking, and design-hunting. Places that require a ferry to get there, plus modern-vintage hotels and the tropics are her weaknesses.

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