The Best Cities in America for Next-Level Cannabis Experiences
Less than a decade ago, if you wanted to legally smoke cannabis without a medical card, you likely were dreaming of a trip to Amsterdam. Today, 11 states have legalized recreational cannabis (with more to certainly come), making it extremely easy to have a cannabis-forward vacation experience without having to bring your passport along.
Cannabis has unlocked excellent excuses to visit places that might not already be on your radar, be it a chill Massachusetts beach town flanked by dispensaries or a West Coast hamlet where great food pairs with potent flower. But what makes a truly great destination for those who dream in green isn't just a wealth of good dispensaries and things to look at. It's the presence of a whole cannabis culture wrapped around excellent activities, food, drink, people… and yeah, a lot of great dispensaries and things to look at. With the help of our most trusted cannabis explorers around the US, we rounded up the places for your next heady adventure. Be sure to bookmark this story, just in case something might compel you to forget to visit one of America's best cannabis destinations.
Los Angeles, California
Feel free to treat Los Angeles like it’s cannabis Candyland, only instead of a Peppermint Forest or Molasses Swamp there are amazing places to explore like Wisdome’s immersive art park, conveyor belt sushi bars, Korean day spas, and beach boardwalks where you can ride those fun e-scooters that everyone hates. It might not have been the first city to legalize, but LA is by far the biggest, and it’s flush with 420-friendly experiences, well-curated dispensaries, and leaders in cannabis media like High Times, Merry Jane, and Civilized.
Visit the Original Cannabis Cafe, a landmark toke patio that opened in West Hollywood in 2019 offering up pre-rolls and blunts from stalwart brands like Caliva, Stone Road, and Henry’s Original along with infused eats and rentable accessories for those who want to dabble in concentrates or smoke out of a classy Bud Vase flower bong. Take any pastime and cross it with great bud and there’s likely an established community for it in LA: a Cannabis Supper Club for culinary-types, the 420 Games for athletes, and an often-mesmerizing Stoned Video Game League. There’s cannabis-centric events from Hazy and Grassfed and, for the biggest of aficionados, opportunities to visit a local grow-op as part of LA Hemp Tours or get far out in a glass-blowing factory with Tommy Chong on Green Tours. -- Sean Cooley
MORE: The best dispensaries in Los Angeles
Necessary supplies for an Alaskan hiker’s survival kit: a pocket knife, flashlight, and a big fat joint. The latter ought to be rolled with premium flower from Frost Farms, the most heralded cultivator in the state with six NorthWest Cannabis Classic Trophies, four NWCC medals, and a High Times Cannabis Cup for best Sativa to its name. In Anchorage, cannabis is legal and readily available in a mature market with a surprising variety of high-end and low-cost options across consumption types. It’s a natural accessory for a lifestyle centered around adventure travel (as well as snowed-in days of reindeer sausage and Fortnite).
Applying the gruff and rebellious attitude of their homesteading predecessors, Alaskans have long held liberal views on cannabis consumption. Today, recreational legalization has increased competition and therefore the quality of bud, and the general non-using public has very few detractors. As in most places, you may find it tricky to find a venue to smoke at a hotel, restaurant, public space, so all the more reason to take it outside -- whether it’s a karaoke smoke break at a prestigious dive bar like Chilkoot Charlies or while spotting Beluga whales at Turnagain Arm. One item to add to your bucket list: an aurora borealis helicopter tour where you can view the Northern Lights while you yourself are lit. -- Sean Cooley
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To say product flew off the shelf in Chicago post-legalization this year is a massive understatement. Hell, the genius Girl Scouts stationed outside of Dispensary 33 can barely keep cookies in stock. Supply and demand being what they are, dispensary lines will continue to be out the door for the months to come, and with good reason: Chicago is an excellent high city. Let the plant be your guide and pick up GTI’s Brown Scout strain, testing at a pleasantly heady 30% THC, or any of local James Beard-winning chef Mindy Segal’s groundbreaking artisanal edibles.
While recurring events and on-site consumption lounges have yet to take shape, there are numerous formal gatherings you can attend this spring, among them the Waldos Forever Fest, a free street fair from Do312 and Chicago Cannabis Alliance; live tunes and infused beverages at Lagunitas Taproom; and the South Chicago 420 Block Party. Any time of year, your own Ferris Bueller’s psychedelic day off should include arcade jockeying at Emporium, picnicking at a free concert or movie in Millennium Park, and checking out The Annoyance Theatre’s Let's Be Blunt show or Holy Fuck Comedy Hour for shades of Adult Swim humor. -- Sean Cooley
MORE: Everything you need to know about legal cannabis in Chicago
Between a craft-obsessed artisan culture, dogmatic attention to organic and sustainable growing practices, and a shared joy of doing things purely for the love of it, Portland served as the perfect incubator for a thriving legal cannabis scene. Less than two years after adult-use cannabis was legalized in 2014, the Cultivation Classic was born -- the first cannabis cup to require all submissions be grown in living soil and free of mineral salt fertilizers, in which winners were assessed in a double-blind review by a vetted group of sommeliers, brewers, and esteemed growers. Near instantly, Portland's embrace of all things local, organic, and traceable found a home in the cannabis scene.
Thanks to chefs like Liv Vasquez and Leather Storrs, culinary cannabis experiences quickly advanced past infused olive oil-drizzled appetizers to masterly orchestrations of seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients and single-strain cannabis extract, every bite carefully timed and dosed to ensure ideal dinner party rhythms. The members-only NW Cannabis Club, meanwhile, offers a rare consumption lounge for communal smoking. While the breadth of consumption-friendly events like cannabis aerobics, arts classes, and even an adult summer camp are well worth waiting for, walk into Farma or Archive any day for a dispensary menu as trustworthy as it is star-studded with renowned genetics descendant from Oregon’s legacy cannabis community. If you’re feeling more experiential, check out the aesthetically artful, gallery-like Serra stores, or the 1960s time capsule that is Electric Lettuce. -- Lauren Yoshiko
MORE: The best dispensaries in Portland
We're not saying to skip Denver. Denver's great. Go to Denver. But Boulder is legendary. Recreational cannabis has been legal in Colorado since 2012, but the culture in this progressive mountain town goes back decades. It’s one of the true originals. The University of Colorado Boulder holds one of our most iconic 4/20 smoke outs (Denver’s Mile High 420 Festival, though, is the biggest free 4/20 smoke out in the world). Interchangeable dispensaries are popping up two to a block down in Denver, but in Boulder they feel a little more personal -- make your way to some of the town’s most legendary and beloved, which include The Farm, Helping Hands, Fresh Baked, and The Village Green Society.
The stereotype of the chilled-out Boulder hippie is one that you’re probably familiar with even if you don’t smoke and have never been to Boulder. Up here, in the rarified Mile High air, we don’t just smoke and kick back -- we’re active, we’re outdoors, we’re incorporating a healthy amount of bud into the other parts of our lives. Hit up a Ganja Yoga class during your visit, treat yourself to a cannabis-infused massage, try staying at a smoke-friendly hotel, or opt for a full-on Weed Tour if you’re ready to go all-out. This is Colorado cannabis culture at its finest… and in a much smaller, chiller package. And if you want something bigger and wilder, Denver's just down the road. -- Kastalia Medrano
MORE: These are the best dispensaries in Colorado
When people think of DC, they usually think of politics and museums. Increasingly, cannabis is also part of the conversation. Medical cannabis became legal in 2011 and recreational product got the green light four years later. Residents can even grow up to six plants at home. There are caveats, of course: it’s illegal to possess cannabis on federal land (which makes up more than a quarter of the District) or smoke up anywhere in public. For those with a medical license, there are excellent dispensaries in the city -- such as Capital City Care and National Holistic -- as well as in neighboring Maryland, where canna-connoisseurs give high ratings to Takoma Wellness Center in Takoma Park.
Leveraging the unique intersection with the political sphere, proponents gather for Cannabis Lobbying Days and the CannAtlantic Cannabis Conference. But the biggest get-together is the National Cannabis Festival, taking place this year on 4/18 and featuring talks, food, vendors and a concert this year headlined by Method Man and Redman. Visitors shouldn’t overlook the cultural opportunities -- and many are even better when you’ve popped an edible. Wander the grounds of Glenstone, an indoor-outdoor art museum dotted with pieces both trippy and thought-provoking; immerse yourself in the interactive digital installations at Artechouse; and feel like you’re flying by taking in a 3D IMAX movie at the National Air and Space Museum. After all, you came all this way. You might as well see what made the city famous. -- Nevin Martell
Las Vegas, Nevada
It's hard to believe -- given its history of psychedelia and general debauchery -- that Nevada was, until fairly recently, pretty hardline against cannabis. But Vegas wasted absolutely no time positioning itself as a world-class cannabis destination in the two years since recreational use became legal. The first feather in that cap is Planet 13, the world’s largest dispensary and a standout in a city full of great bud shops. Built to look like a cross between Costco and Disneyland and blessed with one of the most detailed menus on the West Coast, it’s a 112,000-square-foot dream come true. Bonus: it’s open 24/7. You can get infinite shuttles to take you here, day or night, and buy as much cannabis as your heart desires (well, up to an ounce of flower).
You're in for constant stimulation, so once you've partaken, prepare for the Strip, where public consumption is technically illegal despite the omnipresent smell of cannabis. Do yourself a favor and hit a great show (my vote is for The Beatles’ LOVE) or a nice, sexy buffet like Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan. Maybe dip in for some heat at Wing King, a chicken joint run by a dude nicknamed the Ganjfather that offers CBD-laced sauces. Want to keep the party going? You also have events like 420 bus tours, puff and paint, or cannabis pastry classes… but really, we all know you’re here for the pretty lights and romantic moonlit walks on the Strip. Whatever your preferred experience, you'll find it here. -- Janelle Lassalle
New England’s crunchy hippie capital and quaint-as-hell weekend destination is also an unsurprisingly idyllic place to partake. While recreational cannabis has been legal since 2018, the Green Mountain State is still getting its adult-use market up and running, which leaves most users to home grow their own. But if there’s one group of resourceful locavores who can be trusted to handle grow lamps, meticulously test soil pH, and destroy spider mites, it’s Vermonters. So if you’re offered a joint on the Bolton Valley ski lift -- which is likely -- know that it's probably good shit. Expect craft cannabis to come in bloom and receive the same coveted presentation as maple syrup or beer -- they’re already there with farm-to-body CBD products.
Leading the local culture crusade, Heady Vermont is a media and activist group hosting events throughout the year, including the Headies, an annual growers cup naming the best flower, topicals, edibles, concentrates, and more. Vermontijuana tracks the cannabis movement at the legislative level, though even if you’re not boning up for Champlain College’s "Special Topics in Cannabis Marketing" course, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy a trip to Burlington while in an altered state. Take in a Grace Potter show on the waterfront (it’s not all jam bands here), bike the lakeshore trail lit by lightning bugs, or succumb to leaf peeping, an activity that was 1000% coined by a hiker with access to some of Vermont's finest. -- Sean Cooley
MORE:Everything else you should do in Burlington
The Bay Area, California
Taking a cue from San Francisco's hall-of-fame status in American cannabis culture, the Bay Area as a whole has a healthy appreciation for bud, which is probably why it’s one of the liveliest cannabis tourist destinations in the country right now. Let’s start off with the fact that taxes on cannabis in the city of Berkeley is an unreal 5% (!!!). Berkeley' also recently approved on-site cannabis consumption at dispensaries, and happens to be home to some truly fantastic culinary fare. Can’t wait for on-site consumption to officially kick in? Head down to Magnolia Wellness to partake in their on-site vapor lounge and dab bar. You can also visit the Purple Heart Patient Center adjacent to Jack London Square and smoke a joint by the water followed with a meal at Dyafa, Thrillist Best Chef 2018 Reem Assil’s ode to Syrian cuisine.
Oakland has its very own Cannabis Creative Space that hosts 420 friendly classes (pastry, painting, pottery) or doubles as a 420-friendly event space. You can find many other events in Oakland like “medicated comedy”. And lest you think San Francisco itself has lost its touch, it's still one of America's cannabis capitals. Once you're done ticking things off the go-to list -- hitting the Haight, strolling Golden Gate Park -- check out the new wave of cannabis-forward activities: Indulge in a little CBD shopping at Sidewalk Wellness, check out a sex and cannabis workshop at Good Vibrations, or indulge in a Green Queen matcha lemonade spiked with hemp drops from Steap Tea Bar. -- Janelle Lassalle
MORE:The 20 best recreational dispensaries in California
Seattle, on the whole, has a very normalized relationship with cannabis as well as a developed economy around it. “(Cannabis) has been normalized here for so long that you can light up a joint without getting stares or scowls from anyone, whether they are a Microsoft millionaire or a grandparent or a cop... pot just isn't that big of a deal here,” says Lester Black, a staff writer covering cannabis at The Stranger. Washington’s market is nearly as old as Colorado's, only with higher competition thanks to state laws forbidding vertical integration between farms and retailers. It makes for thousands of brands competing for limited shelf space at a few hundred stores, which has forced growers to improve their products while also giving shoppers some of the cheapest bud in the world.
Every August, the world's biggest ("as far as we can tell") cannabis rally, Hempfest, draws thousands to the city, but at this point it’s easy to indulge while enjoying the beauty of Seattle without an excuse. It's just a way of life to get an enhanced view of everything from skyscrapers to glacier-covered volcanoes to the awe-inspiring Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit -- which could only be improved if its 100-foot long suspended flower sculpture was also a functioning bong (dreams). Pack a vape and take in the views at Bainbridge Island Ferry, Gas Works Park, Alki Beach, or from a canoe in the arboretum. Toking up and catching a show at venues like The Showbox, Neumos, and the Crocodile is also a must. -- Sean Cooley