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. While going to school at Wittenberg in 1969 we would go to Yellow Springs on the weekends. Perfect for a bunch of dope smoking conscientious objectors to pick up their tie-die, ZigZags and herbage!!

    I love this! I grew up in a small hippie town very much like YellowSprings (although I haven’t seen any yarnbombing around there yet!) If you are up in Canada again you should check out Nelson B.C.

    Ahhh the Springs my old home away from home. So many lovely memories of the town, the art and the Glen. The Winds serves amazing food but I so miss the old Carols Kitchen- it truly was the coolest eatery on earth.YellowSprings will always be my happy place.

    I grew up in the area, I used to go to Youngs Jersey Dairy and pick strawberries as a kid. Summer camps at Glen Hellen. We used to go and watch the hippie’s too. Neat little town that never quite discovered it isn’t the 1960’s anymore. Still love to visit there once in a while.

    I grew up in YSO, in fact my family came here in 1862 as part of the Conway Escaped Slaves. It’s a very interesting story; there is a Historical Marker on the bike path in town with the story on it. Antioch College is alive and well. You should investigate some of the college’s alumni, you may be surprised at who you’ll see. It also boast the reputation for graduating the most students that have the ability to cause change. An aside note, Dave’s father was a prof. at Antioch. By the by I received my BA from there. A unique aspect about YSO is the number of published and award winning authors that either live here or have once lived here. All of the above plus more is the recipe for YSO.

    I love Yellow Springs, I go there everytime I go home to CATAWBA. Can’t wait to go back.

    Very nice place, but the local pizza/sandwich shop stopped making my favorite sandwich (the most delicious chicken salad sandwich ever) so I now have a hard time visiting YS. Sure would be nice to get my favorite sandwich back.

    We lived in Y.S.O. for about 2 yrs following the Xenia tornado of 1974. Loved every minute of it and still return often. HAHA pizza now has a Xenia location. Delicious!
    R.W.H.

    I live here in Yellow Springs! I live out in the country, but it takes a few minutes to get in to town. It is a very interesting place. I am always driving around looking for garage sales because you never know what you’ll find! Take a hike at Glen Helen, go to Ha Ha Pizza, eat at Peaches, and stop and get ice cream at Youngs….or just walk around and people watch!

      Good tips! I really need to make another trip there soon…

    I live in Ohio and have briefly heard about YSO. My Aunt gave me a gift card to Youngs Dairy and I am so so Sooo excited to head that way in a couple weeks!!! I most likely will not be coming home 🙂

    I traveled with friends of mine to a festival there in 1969. They were one of the performing bands. I still have the flyer from that day. It’s true. Yellow Springs is a special place.

      How cool! Yes, it’s definitely a special place. I really need to visit it again!

    I’m from Belgium, which is (as you may know) in Europe. Far away from Yellow Springs and America in general, but as i’m seeing these pictures and reading about the atmosphere in that nice little town… i’m just aching to go there and spending a day or more… In my dreams right now, i’m just living there for the rest of my life and only getting back to Belgium to see my family and friends.

    I think i just got a hippie-heart too, and here in my country it just feels too, … well, crowded and small, too much traffic, people just rushing and doing their jobs, no nature parks where you can just be at peace… And the atmosphere here is just so old-fashioned, conservative and not at all openminded. And people in general don’t care much for arts, music (and i mean GOOD real music), … It sounds like i just want to escape, and yeah sometimes i really do.

    Some day i’ll visit Yellow Springs and hope to see some nice people and feel the good vibes there. Thanks for posting this article, ‘cuz i never heard of this town before either 🙂 see ya!

    I had the chance to meet someone who had lived in Yellow Springs for 10 years while working on an organic farm in Connecticut! She was such a cool person and Yellow Springs sounds like such an inspiring place. Can’t wait to visit myself one day! Thanks for the article

      It’s such a unique little town. Reminds me that I really should go back for another visit this year!

    I live in Ohio and had no clue this town existed. I was researching/making a list of “hippie” towns in that I would like to visit in the next year and stumbled upon this and so happy I did. It’s about 1 1/2 hrs from me but I’m so excited that I want to get in the car and go now!

      You definitely need to go!!! I would wait until spring or summer when the weather is nicer, but I think you’ll really enjoy it, especially if you were researching “hippie towns”!

        Yes, I love little towns like that. They have so much character and fits me perfectly! I think I will resist the urge and wait until spring as you suggested. Thanks again.

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