The Best Cities in America for Next-Level Cannabis Experiences

December 2, 2023 · thrillist

It’s hard to imagine now, but legal cannabis only became a thing in the US in 2012, when Colorado blazed the trail to more enlightened legislation. Before that, if you wanted to legally smoke cannabis without a medical card, you were probably eyeballing a trip to Amsterdam. What a difference a decade makes!

Today, 24 states have legalized recreational toking, with more hot on their heels. We now live in the golden age of the weed vacation.

The right to smoke up freely 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 it’s also helped amplify some truly great cities’ potential thanks to the boom in dispensaries paired with excellent activities, food, drink, people… and yeah, a lot of great 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 and get ready to re-think a red-eye en route to  one of America’s best cannabis destinations. 

Los Angeles, California

Feel free to treat Los Angeles like it’s your own personal cannabis Candyland—only instead of a Peppermint Forest or Molasses Swamp, there are immersive museumssushi bars, comedy clubs, night marketsKorean day spas, world-class amusement parks, sprawling botanical gardens, 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 and well-curated dispensaries. It’s no surprise, then, that it’s home to leaders in cannabis media like High Times, Merry Jane, and Civilized.

Visit the recently reopened Original Cannabis Cafe, a landmark hangout that opened in West Hollywood in 2019 offering up pre-rolls and blunts 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. That stalwart paved the way for an emerging consumption-lounge scene in WeHo, including the psychedelic three-story restaurant/consumption lounge/bar hybrid PleasureMed and luxe The Woods, which is, shockingly, co-owned by Woody Harrelson.

Take any pastime and cross it with great bud, and there’s likely an established community for it in LA, from epicurean-friendly supper clubs to hiking groups and video-game leagues. There are cannabis-centric events from Hazy and Grassfed and, for the biggest of out-of-town aficionados, Green Tours offers a four-our tour complete with dispensary and glass-warehouse tours—they’ll even pick you up from the airport and rent you a vape for your trip. –Sean Cooley

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe went legal in April, 2022, and immediately took the term “high desert” to heart. Today, you can immerse yourself in Santa Fe’s incredible Canyon Road art scene with a different mindset after picking up some newly legalized recreational cannabis at one of the city’s just-opened dispensaries, most of which you’ll find in the north side of the city near downtown.

Santa Fe perfectly personifies New Mexico’s reputation as the Land of Enchantment. Nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo range, come here to spend hours dazed and confused amongst the adobe architecture. While the hours away in the grassy central plaza or consume your weight in green chiles and margaritas at one of the numerous sidewalk and rooftop restaurants that make the city one of the southwest’s best culinary destinations.

The art-focused city is also home to the original Meow Wolf, the mind-meltingly psychedelic interactive art installation that is perhaps the trippiest thing in arguably the country’s trippiest state (this isn’t the last time you’ll see them mentioned here). If you’d prefer to just chill with a hot spring soak and a massage treatment in a Japanese onsen-style resort, head to Ten Thousand Waves for some serious R&R just 20 minutes from downtown. It hardly gets more soothing than a smoke-and-spa sesh. –Becca Blond

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Long before Michigan legalized recreational cannabis in 2020, Ann Arbor spent five decades cultivating its own green legend thanks to Hash Bash, an annual cannabis-activism gathering/magnet for hula-hoopers where, for one day, the city’s slap-on-the-wrist penalties for possession became more-or-less nonexistent. Hash Bash is still a thing, but now that the hippies won, Ann Arbor has settled into its status as the laid-back elder statesman of Michigan’s cannabis culture, which is alive and very, very well.

Located in the palm of the Mitten, Ann Arbor is a land where laid-back artists and Summer of Love nostalgics coexist beautifully and unexpectedly with the massive college culture of University of Michigan—it turns out, both demographics enjoy getting down. The small, arty town is home to the state’s largest concentration of dispensaries, including Exclusive Ann Arbor Marijuana and Cannabis Dispensary and 3Fifteen Cannabis Dispensary, which are easy to peruse on foot throughout this easily walkable college town full of stunning green spaces and an old-school downtown that’s as wholesome as it is stony.

The city’s home to tons of galleries and boutiques, eateries selling everything from college drunchies to international cuisine, and intimate venues like the legendary Blind Pig, which brings in soon-to-explode national acts and under-the-radar legends alike. And while the city’s size isn’t ideal for an extended stay for non-students, its convenient location makes it the perfect getaway to see the rest of Michigan’s greatest hits. Whether you’re headed to nearby Detroit or one of the best beaches on the continent, check out the Michigan Cannabis Trail, which connects cannabis experiences and events across the state, acts as a repository for all the latest cannabis news, and keeps a detailed dispensary list for each city.

Chicago, Illinois

Illinois legalized cannabis in 2019, and to say product flew off the shelf in Chicago post-legalization is a massive understatement. Hell, the genius Girl Scouts that stationed themselves outside of Dispensary 33 could barely keep cookies in stock. Five years later—now that the out-the-door lines have mellowed and dispensaries have multipliedChicago remains an excellent high city. Talk to any budtender to find the best strain for you, or opt for any of local James Beard-winning chef Mindy Segal’s groundbreaking artisanal edibles to get your journey started.

While recurring events and on-site consumption lounges still have yet to take shape in the city, 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, and live tunes and infused beverages at Lagunitas Taproom.

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’sLet’s Be Blunt show or Holy Fuck Comedy Hour for shades of Adult Swim humor. –SC

Anchorage, Alaska

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 either South Anchorage’s locally owned Catalyst Cannabis or Frost Farms, the most heralded cultivator in the state that historically makes a huge showing at the NorthWest Cannabis Classic Trophies. 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 you can smoke in, so all the more reason to take it outside—whether it’s a karaoke smoke break at a prestigious dive bar like the Salty Dawg Saloon 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. –SC

Portland, Oregon

Portland has long been a hub of artisanal culture, one where a built-in attention to detail, cultivation, and ingredients finds its way into everything from the world-renowned brewery and distillery scene to the restaurants and food carts that make it a culinary destination like no other. So it was no shock when, upon legalizing recreational use in 2014, the city became an idealized incubator for all things cannabis.

Today, Portland’s dispensary scene is legendary, with high-end stores popping up throughout the city. And in a city where restaurants meticulously list every ingredient right down to the salt, you can bet you’ll find flower and edible menus that are equally curated at places like Farma, the gallery-like Serra stores, or the throwback Electric Lettuce. Add in consumption-friendly pop-ups featuring everything from aerobics to art classes and you’ve got plenty to do while you’re in an elevated state.

But even if you’re not keen on seeking out an infused dinner party or crafty activity, Portland has long been a city tailor-made for those who partake, even if it lost a key destination with the closure of the NW Cannabis Club. The city’s music scene is positively electric, with indie-rock shows at Mississippi Studios, national acts at the Crystal Ballroom, and epic funk-fueled dance parties at hippie favorite The Goodfoot offering an immersion into the NW’s booming nightlife. Quirky theme bars range from the horror-focused Creepy’s to the massive arcade bar Ground Kontrol and ping-pong emporium Pips and Bounce. Galleries big and small beg to be explored post-session. Farmers markets and art fairs happen weekly. And the city’s famous green spaces—from the sprawling Washington Park to the technically active volcano Mount Tabor—are the perfect places to become one with the lush nature of this city. Book a 420-friendly AirBNB and get ready to explore, stopping often to fuel up at one of the city’s many, many food carts and donut shops along the way as you do your part to keep Portland weird. –Andy Kryza

Boulder, Colorado

We’re not saying to skip Denver. Denver’s great. Go to Denver (and read all about it below). But Boulder is legendary. Recreational cannabis has been legal since Colorado became the first state to come to its senses in 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 and curated. Make your way to some of the town’s most legendary and beloved, including The Farm, Helping Hands, Fresh Baked, and The Village Green Society, for a highly personal experience finding the exact right buzz for you.

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 acannabis-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, sunnier package. And if you want something bigger and wilder, Denver’s just down the road. –Kastalia Medrano

Washington, DC

Like many things in DC, the embrace of recreational cannabis is somewhat sticky: Medical cannabis became legal in 2011, and recreational got the green light four years later. But it’s still illegal to possess cannabis on federal land (which makes up more than a quarter of the District) or smoke in public. Oh, and dispensaries—with the exception of medical facilities—can’t technically sell cannabis. Luckily, this is the land of the loophole, and the cannabis-loving DC found a big one: Just give it away! Kind of.

Stroll into one of DC’s purveyors of flower—such as Capital City CareNational HolisticLifted, or the many other outstanding dispensaries—and buy yourself a sticker, t-shirt, piece of art, even a haiku. As a “thank you” the dispensary lets you choose a “gift” based on your purchase… and that gift just so happens to be your choice of the flower, edibles, pre-rolls, sables and more from the immaculately curated selection. It seems complicated. It’s not. You can even get it delivered. Just roll with it. 

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 April 19-20, 2024 and featuring talks, food, vendors, and a concert. (The 2024 lineup is TBD as of press time, but previous fests featured everyone from Wiz Khalifa, Ludacris, Method Man & Redman, Free Nationals, and more.)

Visitors shouldn’t overlook DC’s 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, fear, loathing, 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 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, like all things Vegas. 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 when you’re here, so once you’ve partake (perhaps in your cannabis-friendly hotel) 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 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 on some of America’s best wings. Let your brain melt at Meow Wolf’s psychedelic Omega Mart, or just stand outside and stare at that Sphere thingy for a while and see what $2.3 billion worth of LED screens can do to your mindset.

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

Burlington, Vermont

New England’s crunchy hippie capital and quaint-as-hell weekend destination is also an unsurprisingly idyllic place to partake thanks to its fairly recent boom in quality dispensaries, including Green StateCeresEuphoriaMagic MannFloat On, and the women- and queer-owned Grass Queen. But the Green Mountain State is also the kind of place where people can be trusted to handle grow lamps, meticulously test soil pH, and destroy spider mites. So if you’re offered a joint on the Bolton Valley ski lift—which is likely—know that it’s probably good shit, whether it’s from a dispensary or a home-grow garden.

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 prepping for Champlain College’s “Special Topics in Cannabis Marketing” course, there are 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. –SC

Denver, Colorado

Told you we wouldn’t tell you to skip Denver. How can you not get high in the Mile High City? Technically, that moniker comes from Denver’s 5,280-feet (or exactly one mile high) elevation—but the city also has more cannabis dispensaries than it does Starbucks or McDonald’s. Denver has been synonymous with weed culture since before Colorado legalized it in 2022, and the city’s had plenty of time to perfect its dispensary models and product, and you’ll find some of the best dispensaries in the country here. 

From 420-friendly airport pick-ups and hotel bookings to cannabis-infused dinners, companies like Colorado Cannabis Tours can organize a slew of weed experiences for you. There’s also the immersive Marijuana Mansion, an old Victorian manse transformed into a series of trippy (and probably haunted AF) rooms designed for Instagram photoshoots (there’s even a “pot tub” filled with ping pong balls in one). Smoking is permitted inside and there’s a dispensary attached to the back. The MJ Mansion offers self-guided tours, private photoshoots, and evening party rentals.

If you want to keep the DIY cannabis fun going, eat some edibles and check out Meow Wolf’s third permanent exhibition, Convergence Station, which opened in Denver in late 2021, or the iconic International Church of Cannabis. There are also always concerts at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater. Lighting up at the outdoor stadium isn’t officially condoned, but frankly, everyone does it. –Becca Blond

Bay Area, California

San Francisco has long held hall-of-fame status in American cannabis culture, and remains home to some of the west coast’s very best dispensaries. But today, things have spread far and wide, transforming the entire Bay Area into one of America’s liveliest cannabis tourist destinations. Let’s start off with the fact that taxes on cannabis in the city of Berkeley is an unreal 5% (!!!). Berkeley also allows on-site cannabis consumption at dispensaries and happens to be home to some truly fantastic culinary fare.

Visit the Purple Heart Patient Center adjacent to Jack London Square and smoke a joint by the water, or make friends at the Cannabis Creative Space, which hosts 420 friendly classes (pastry, painting, pottery) or doubles as a 420-friendly event space.

Once you’re done ticking things off the go-to list—hitting the Haight, strolling Golden Gate Park, eating the world’s best burritos—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—if you time your trip right—celebrate 420 on Hippie Hill. –JL

Seattle, Washington

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. –SC

New York City, New York

New York legalized recreational cannabis on March 31, 2021, but it took well more than a New York minute for dispensaries finally open up throughout the city… not that it really hindered New Yorkers’ ability to light up in a city where citizens can possess up to three ounces and, unlike other states, consume cannabis wherever tobacco is also allowed.

Now though? Now you can peruse well-curated dispensaries throughout the city without having to cultivate a garden in your packed studio or rely on a courier. Exploring Greenwich Village? The Housing Works nonprofit runs the city’s first legal weed shop and focuses on LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and women-led brands. The East Village’s Smacked Village is the state’s first Black-owned shop, women-owned Good Grades holds things down in Jamaica, and Union Square Travel Agency funnels half of its profits to the Doe Fund nonprofit. 

To be honest, it would be a little silly for us to rattle off a list of great things to do whilst partaking in NYC, what with all the incredible foodworld-class museums, incredible concert venues, sprawling greenspaces and waterfronts, thumping clubs, trippy art installations, and immaculate people watching. Simply walking through New York as a tourist is a high. And if you dig deeper, you’ll be able to unearth cannabis dinner parties, group activities, even crafting clubs. It’s New York. Every experience you could want is a no-doubt trippy subway ride away. –AK (Full Story)

In categories:Dispensaries Tourism Travel
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