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

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  1. […] Yellow Springs was a town about 8 miles from my house. It was notorious for it’s hippy culture, bright colors, liberal Antioch College, and back-to-nature attitude. I felt confident that time travelers would have very little trouble fitting in there.   […]

    My mother moved us to Yellow Springs in 1985 from Gainesville, FL and lived there until two years ago. In my yearly visits after I moved on in 1990, YS always felt like it hadn’t changed a bit. Moving my mother out, I began to worry–this was really the only home-town I knew: would I never get back?

    Well, not to worry, it turns out. My wife are moving there from NYC in three weeks. Can’t wait to get home.

    As you note, for me the town’s power is in its acceptance of others and its calm atmosphere. There’s not much to see, but one feels compelled to wander around anyway. Once you leave the town behind and enter southern Ohio proper, it feels like you’ve changed continents. Maybe those utopian roots rubbed off after all.

      It certainly is a very special place with a very cool vibe and atmosphere. Good luck with the move!

    I have lived in Yellow Springs for 25 years; I commute to Cincinnati for work because I refuse to leave my little corner of the world. While I appreciate the beauty of the wider world, there is no place I’d rather be. The people, the art, the TREES, the local food, the schools, and the open-mindedness makes this a most special place to live (and visit). Thanks for the positive review, and come back to see us soon!

      I’ve made 2 trips to Yellow Springs in the past few years, and I’ll definitely be making more, for sure!

      Hey, what a coincidence, the officiant at my wedding was named Aaron Maurice Saari too! 😉

    We have lived in Yellow Springs for 12 years and it is a wonderful community in which to live and raise your children. It’s more than a hippie and artist enclave; it’s also an enclave for academics. We have faculty here from Wright State, Wilmington College, Wilberforce University, Ohio State University, Wittenberg University, Central State University, University of Cincinnati, University of Louisville, Antioch College, Antioch University, University of Colorado and numerous community colleges. (I’m sure I have missed a few.) With all the artistic and academic people here, it is a creative, well-educated, liberal, open-minded and diverse community. We also love YSO because you can park your car and ride your bike or walk everywhere; we still have a hardware store, grocery, drug store, swimming pool and movie theater, so no need to go out of town or drive everywhere to live your daily life. Local activities such at t-ball, baseball, soccer, swim team, ecocamp add to the benefits of raising children here (not to mention a great public school system). A thousand-acre nature preserve practically downtown provides outdoor recreation (and a yellow spring!) as well. I could not imagine living anywhere else. We are glad that you liked it and happy to see your post and your great photos!

      It’s always great to get comments on this post from locals – it’s plain to see how much pride you have for you town, and I love that!

    […] just so fun and random.”  DangerousBiz wrote this comment last year in her article about A Day in Yellow Springs and I  this cartoon drawing and comment my Gillian Gabriel from her article about Yellow Springs […]

    Yes, Yellow Springs is a feel-good place. I live in Cincinnati, work in Dayton, and have managed to make it over to Yellow Springs to hike in Glen Helen and Clifton Gorge. Young’s Dairy during the fall is fun. The shops tend to lean toward incense, beads, and funky clothing, but it’s a nice diversion.

    I just read today that Antioch College – which recently reopened – is offering free tuition:

    http://financiallyfit.yahoo.com/finance/article-113840-11763-4-how-to-get-a-106000-college-education-for-free?ywaad=ad0035&nc

    Clifton Gorge was a favorite hiking spot fifty years ago for my wife and me, and a visit to Yellow Springs was always part of the trip. Antioch College also accounts for the local vibe. It experienced some difficulties a few years back. Does it still exist?

      Antioch is still there, but it’s currently closed. I heard they were going to try and reopen it this fall, but I’m not sure if that is actually going to happen or not…

    I didn’t know about Yellow Springs, Ohio before this article. It seems like it has an interesting history, perfect for ending up somewhat quirky! I love all of the colors. I bet Yellow Springs even looks bright in winter.

      The colors are great. I think it would be impossible for anyone to visit, walk through town, and leave in a bad mood. Everything just looks so cheery.

    I grew up outside of YSO and now live just up the road into Clark Co. I love the town because it is eclectic and diverse. You can always find a good meal and drink at Peaches. There are artistic stores in which to find the perfect unique gift. And, there are some wonderful street fairs and weekend events to attend. If you’ve never been there, make a trip. Walk down through Glen Helen. See the Yellow Springs. Bring your bike or blades and hit the bike trail. You won’t be disappointed.

      I love all the little shops in town. You’re right — you can find the perfect unique gift there, no matter what you’re looking for!

    I’m always fascinated by the response articles about Yellow Springs gets. I’ve yet to read one derogatory remark about my home town. Every time I go home it gets harder to leave (living in NC now). When I lived in Colorado, Manitou Springs would always give me that feeling of home. Hope it hasn’t changed.

      It’s just a great little town. And, clearly, a lot of people think so!

    Hippie towns always get my vote especially one that has that much salt water taffy. Its a mystery trying to find that where I am now. Love the colors and that slice of cake look delicious!

      For the record, that taffy is DELICIOUS. 15 cents a piece, and SO worth it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    I love a good hippy town or neighborhood. I have never heard of Yellow Springs even though I’m from Illinois. I have been to many hippy friendly towns, Port Townsend, WA, Santa Cruz, CA, Portland, OR, Arcata, CA, etc.
    That yarnbombing is awesome, so cute.

      The yarnbombing I think is one of my favorite things in Yellow Springs! It’s just so fun and random.

      And perhaps you should plan a trip over to Southwest Ohio sometime in the future to visit this town for yourself! Illinois isn’t that far away. 🙂

    What a great summary of an awesome-looking town! I had no idea it even existed. Your photography does an amazing job of capturing the feel of the town with vibrance and love. Me thinks I’m about to get lost on your site for a while 🙂

    Greg

      Thanks, Greg! I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos. I had a lot of fun taking them.

      And yes, please get as lost on my site as you’d like! 🙂

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