A Day in Yellow Springs – Ohio’s Hippie Enclave

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The counterculture movement is alive and well in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

This hippie-minded village in Southwest Ohio has always sort of fascinated me, ever since I first visited during my college years. It's colorful — often to the point of garishness — exterior drew me in, and its liberal undertones kept me interested.

What can I say? I think I'm a hippie at heart.

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Yellow Springs was founded in 1825 by about 100 families who were followers of Welsh social reformer Robert Owen. Their goal was to turn Yellow Springs into the sort of utopian community already in place in New Harmony, Indiana. (However, internal conflicts between the families tore any dreams of utopia apart.)

In 1846, the Little Miami Railway was completed, bringing more business, inhabitants and tourism to Yellow Springs. And so the town began to emerge in a different fashion than intended.

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Despite the whole utopian thing not working out, Yellow Springs has always been a bit artsy, and more than a bit open-minded. The town was one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad, and has a long history of racial tolerance. And, in 1979, Yellow Springs was the smallest municipality in the U.S. to pass legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Yellow Springs' free-spirited history is reflected in its many store fronts, eateries and inhabitants. Bright colors adorn most buildings. Many cafes serve only locally-grown food. And don't be surprised to see a barefooted busker or two out on the sidewalks.

Yellow Springs

Some of my favorite things about Yellow Springs?

The sweaters that telephone poles and trees wear year-round:

Yellow Springs, Ohio

All the colorful doors:

Yellow Springs, Ohio
Yellow Springs, Ohio

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Yellow Springs, Ohio
Yellow Springs, Ohio

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Yellow Springs,
Yellow Springs, Ohio

The comic shop/used book store where books are organized haphazardly on shelves and the floor with hand-written signs:

Yellow Springs,

Salt water taffy — lots of it:

Yellow Springs, Ohio
Yellow Springs, Ohio

Specialty stores like the tie-dye shop, or the import stores that sell items from far-off places like Tibet and Peru:

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Yellow Springs, Ohio

The Winds Cafe and Bakery, which only uses fresh, locally-grown ingredients:

The Winds, Yellow Springs

The Winds, Yellow Springs
The Winds, Yellow Springs

The Winds, Yellow Springs

So what exactly is there to DO in Yellow Springs? Well, other than simply wandering around the colorful downtown area and popping in and out of shops and galleries, you can:

  • Visit one of two nearby nature preserves (Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve and Glen Helen Nature Preserve) and one state park (John Bryan State Park).
  • Rent a bike and hit the Little Miami Scenic Trail.
  • Check out Young’s Jersey Dairy, which is a working dairy farm but also has lots of family-friendly activities.

Yes, Yellow Springs is a special place. (So special, in fact, that Dave Chappelle even calls it home.) And it's definitely worth visiting if ever you find yourself in Southwest Ohio.

Where to stay in Yellow Springs

There aren't any chain hotels in Yellow Springs, but there are a few B&Bs and inns to choose from. Check out:

READ NEXT: 48 Hours in Cincinnati, Ohio

Have you ever been to Yellow Springs, or to any similar hippie-infused town around the world?

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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107 Comments on “A Day in Yellow Springs – Ohio’s Hippie Enclave

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  1. I moved to Xenia, OH 3 years ago. I forget that Yellow Springs is there. We have gone through it a couple of time just this week and I really need to just enjoy all that Yellow Springs has to offer

      Even 900 square foot houses sell for about 234,000 on average here in YS. The housing market is completely borked here…but for good reason. The place is magical.

    Thank you, Amanda❣️ A fun and informative article ? I’m in CT now, looking to move to Yellow Springs. Might you know what the rental situation is there? Ohio is certainly cheaper to live than Fairfield County CT, but wondering about prices and availability.

      Sorry, I only write about traveling and visiting places; I don’t know anything about real estate or rentals in Yellow Springs.

        Thank you. I figured, but maybe somebody who can help me will comment. Never know. Thanks again❣️

          Nan, I was just in Yellow Springs yesterday (Oct. 25) to visit my daughter who’s a student at Antioch College. We noticed several listings posted outside the ReMax Realty office there. There’s also a realty office called Dunphy Realty. Perhaps that would be of help to you. I hope so! I’m slightly green with envy that you’re moving to Yellow Springs — it’s such a sweet place! Best wishes to you!

            Tamela,

            Thank you so much❣️ I’ll check out those two agencies. ? Nan

      Hello, Nan!
      I’m in thecsame boat. Very interested in moving to YS & was wondering the same regarding renting, etc.
      I wish you an easy transition ✌

    My daughter and I just made a trip to Yellow Springs today because she is interested in Antioch College. We were careful, in this time of pandemic, and stayed in the car the whole time — but are anxious to make a return trip when we can experience everything we longingly viewed from behind glass! From our outside vantage point, YS could easily be labeled “Friendliest Town in America.” Almost every home and business displayed signs and banners with social justice themes like “save a life by wearing a mask,” “Black lives matter” and “love can change the world.” My daughter has already been accepted to a college, paid her deposit and scheduled her classes, but then she learned about Antioch and wanted to explore it as a potentially better option. What I’ve read in these posts has made me feel better about her interest in the school, but I’d love to hear more about the college itself, with its recent reopening, and the town-college relationship. Can alums, faculty and YS residents help me out?

    I am wanting to take my 16 year old daughter to visit Yellow Springs for a day.

    You never mentioned about the Amerian Indians. There is history that they were sent here. So i guess there are no longer signs of anything showing that part of history.

      There is Native American history in just about every part of Ohio! I don’t know that there’s a whole lot to be found in the town of Yellow Springs itself these days, but if it’s something you’re interested in, there are several sites nearby that you could visit.

    I just wanted to say I have been through Yellow Springs many time. I have never spent the day there. Some day I hope to. This seems to be a neat Little place. I would love to live here. I wasn’t finding any apartments a this time. Some Day maybe

    My granddaughter happened to see a peace rally in Yellow Springs with “hippies” carrying signs that said :”Make Love Not War”, when we went there to get an ice cream cone. Now, all she talks about is how she wants to be a hippie, shave her head or get dreadlocks! The problem is that she doesn’t live in Yellow Springs and I’m afraid that she’ll be discrimated against or kicked out if she tries this at her Chistian school. Yellow Springs is not her school district. I fear that if she gets dreadlocks people will assume that she is into drugs and offer her them. I need advice on how to handle this! Help.

      I’m afraid I’m no expert on parenting tips since I don’t have kids. I would tell her to check with her school’s dress code, which might not allow dreadlocks! I do think that the image of “hippies” isn’t quite the same as it used to be – I have several friends with dreadlocks who don’t do drugs. 🙂

    I’m from Dayton and have visited Yellow Springs since my college years at Central State University in the mid 80’s. I plan on moving there the summer of 2018.

    A friend introduced me to Yellow Springs when I was a student at Central State University in Wilberforce in the early 90s. That place really left an impression on me, and I think in the back of my mind I’ve been looking for a place like it to call home ever since. Now, as a middle aged single parent to two young kids, I dream of returning soon to raise them there!

    Visiting Yellow Springs this summer for vacation. After reading your posts and the comments I am super excited.
    I always look for out of the ordinary vacations. Hubs and I aren’t city people. Also I crochet so seeing the yarnbomed things makes me happy. Thanks for ideas on things to see. Can’t wait till August gets here.

    Enjoyed reading this, I went there for music festivals on the weekends while in grad school at Ohio State in Columbus. Ended up dropping out of that and travelling the world for 6 years. A similar town is Takaka, New Zealand – pure magic and great coffee 🙂

      Yep, Takaka, NZ is a cool place, but most places I’ve been in NZ are cool 🙂
      As for Yellow Springs, love in and have many friends there, though it’s way outside my budget to live there 🙂

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