20 vintage photos of California during its heyday

Palm Springs was a popular destination in the '70s.

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Palm Springs was a popular destination in the ’70s.
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Slim Aarons/ Getty

  • California experienced a renaissance in the ’60s and ’70s.
  • The hippie movement was centered around San Francisco, bringing free love, big hair, and music into the Golden State.
  • Hollywood also experienced its own renaissance in the ’70s.
  • Disneyland, Joshua Tree, and Palm Springs were popular destinations in the state.

Long before Silicon Valley skyrocketed the rent in San Francisco or scooters littered the streets of Los Angeles, California was a symbol of cultural change.

During the ’60s and ’70s, California experienced a renaissance. With hippies taking over the corner of Ashbury and Haight streets and Hollywood producing game-changing movies, California was at its peak.

From hairier men and women to a stricter Disneyland, this is what California looked like during its old-school heydays.


Los Angeles experienced a housing boom in the ’60s, bringing more people to the Golden State.

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Housing development in Los Angeles in 1954.
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Bettmann/ Getty

During the ’60s, Los Angeles built 76% more houses than the previous decade, upping the number of homes to 232,379.


At the same time, the hippie movement was sweeping across the nation, especially in California.

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Hippies at a music festival in California.
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Robert Altman / Getty

As a reaction to the Vietnam War, hippies were known for their free love and creativity. They often expressed this love and openness at music festivals, like this one at Lake Amador in California in 1969.


The hippies actually referred to themselves as “freaks” or “love children.”

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Hippies in 1960s.
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Robert Altman / Getty

These so-called “freaks” loved to take drugs, preferably LSD, and often gathered together to listen to music. Here, a group of hippies enjoys one such jam session at Mt. Tamalpais near San Francisco.


In California, the heart of the hippie movement was San Francisco.

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Hippies in San Francisco.
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Robert Altman/ Getty

Although the movement reached every corner of the nation, it was mainly popular in San Francisco and New York.


The movement reached a fever pitch in 1967, which is now known as the Summer of Love.

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Epicenter of the Summer of Love.
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Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty

By 1967, 300,000 joined the movement, and many argue that the corner of Ashbury and Haight in San Francisco was the epicenter of the entire movement, especially of the Summer of Love.


At the time, music experienced a renaissance, especially in California.

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Jimi Hendrix in Los Angeles.
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Michael Ochs Archives / Getty

Jimi Hendrix performed all over the state in the ’60s, like this performance at the Hollywood Bowl in 1967. Live performances boomed during this time period, fueled with drugs, sex, and, well, rock and roll.


Style and fashion changed dramatically as well.

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Hippies in the 1970s.
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David Reed/ Getty

All over California during the ’60s and ’70s you could see hair growing well past the societal norms. For many, long hair and even longer beards were a symbol of rebellion and protest against the Vietnam War.


Another cornerstone for the hippie movement in California was free love, which started the sexual revolution.

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Hippies in 1967.
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Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty

During this time period, youths rejected their parent’s beliefs in sex and marriage. They shifted their views on the subjects and became more sexually free and more interested in free love.


It was also a time of protest and political activism.

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Black Panthers in 1969.
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Robert Altman/ Getty

It wasn’t all drugs and music. The ’60s and ’70s in California also saw a rise in political activism, especially among the younger demographic. While many protested the Vietnam War, others argued for civil rights, like the Black Panther Party seen here in 1969.


The hippie movement also ushered in the importance of acceptance, especially racial integration.

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Leapwood Elementary School in 1970.
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Ralph Crane/ Getty

During the ’60s and ’70s, much of the nation debated the issue of busing students farther away to prioritize integrating schools. However, some schools did not have any issues with integration and even celebrated it, like Leapwood Elementary School in Los Angeles.


This fully integrated school in California became a model for schools across the country.

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Leapwood Elementary School in 1970.
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Ralph Cane/ Getty

Leapwood Elementary School was equally balanced among white kids, black kids, Hispanic kids, and Asian-American kids.


Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the movie industry was experiencing a creative renaissance.

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Hollywood in 1970s.
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Michael Ochs Archives / Getty

The ’60s dealt a difficult financial blow to Hollywood, but the ’70s marked a significant creative pinnacle for the movie industry.


Movies like “Jaws,” “Halloween,” and “Star Wars” all helped bring Hollywood into a new Golden Age.

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Hollywood sign in 1970s.
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Michael Ochs Archives / Getty

“Jaws” was shot on a measly budget but made more than $100 million. The same could be said for “Star Wars.”


Outside of the hippie movement and movie industry, people also enjoyed the natural wonders and famous attractions within the state.

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Beach in California in 1970.
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Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty

California has always been well known for its legendary beaches because its coastline is 840 miles long and has more than 420 public beaches.


Some families even chose to experience the Golden State by van.

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Vacation van in 1970s.
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Ralph Cane/ Getty

From San Diego to San Francisco, there were a number of attractions that people loved to visit during the ’60s and ’70s.


Disneyland was just one popular destination in California’s heyday.

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Disneyland in 1966.
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Donaldson Collection / Getty

Although Disneyland opened in 1955 in Anaheim, California, it remained popular among travelers in the ’60s and ’70s.


Disneyland was even popular among adults.

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Disneyland in 1966.
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Donaldson Collection/ Getty

Disneyland issued a dress code at the end of the ’60s to avoid hippies from entering the park because they had a history of damaging or ruining the park experience.


Similarly, Joshua Tree National Park has always been a California favorite.

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Vintage car in Joshua Tree National Park.
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Robert Alexander/ Getty

Joshua Tree was frequented in the ’60s and ’70s as an adventurous destination to experience the rocky landscape of the Mojave Desert.


Palm Springs was also a popular destination in the 1970s.

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Palm Springs resort in the ’70s.
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Slim Aarons/ Getty

Palm Springs is located in Southern California and is known for its desert landscape, its hot springs, and its elaborate hotels.


Some even built homes in Palm Springs, as it’s close to Los Angeles.

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Home in Palm Springs in 1970.
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Slim Aarons/ Getty

This Palm Springs house highlights what was best about the small desert community: pools, greenery, and a scenic landscape.