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 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.
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.
Some of my favorite things about Yellow Springs?
The sweaters that telephone poles and trees wear year-round:
All the colorful doors:
The comic shop/used book store where books are organized haphazardly on shelves and the floor with hand-written signs:
Salt water taffy — lots of it:
Specialty stores like the tie-dye shop, or the import stores that sell items from far-off places like Tibet and Peru:
The Winds Cafe and Bakery, which only uses fresh, locally-grown ingredients:
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:
- (which, yes, is housed in a former jail!)
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Have you ever been to Yellow Springs, or to any similar hippie-infused town around the world?