Even in its budding infancy, California cannabis tourism is as abundant and diverse as the Golden State itself, with activities and adventures that showcase the intoxicating plant and its heady homegrown culture from luxury outings to DIY day trips.
The spirit that drives wine and food enthusiasts to explore California also drives cannabis connoisseurs. And like programs offering tourists total, if temporary, immersion in those cultures, emerging businesses and entrepreneurs are creating cannabis-centric experiences for the expected onslaught of eager visitors — beyond simply augmenting typical tourism activities with a legal buzz.
Here are five of our favorite California cannabis-infused vacation destinations, with something for all budgets, styles and levels of interest.
The Emerald Triangle
Best for: Cannabis connoisseurs
When to go: May to November
Remote and rugged, Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties grow what can arguably called California’s most famous crop, legendary cannabis revered as much for its quality and potency as its back-to-the-land outlaw-to-law-abiding backstories.
Begin your Emerald Triangle trip 100 miles north of San Francisco in Hopland at Emerald Pharms, California’s only solar-powered cannabis store, where you can enjoy vape pens and yoga classes on a deck surrounded by redwoods and vernal ponds.
Humboldt Cannabis Tours, based in Arcata, takes you to small outdoor cannabis farms, inside dispensaries and behind the scenes at edibles and hash-oil production facilities. Look forward to visiting private properties where you can smoke Humboldt’s top crop with land owners’ permission.
Stay at Feeling Groovy at Eagle Creek Ranch, the state’s first full-fledged cannabis resort. (It’s also a working livestock ranch.) The ranch, situated on a 65-acre Gold Rush-era property in Trinity City, features country breakfasts, fine linens, velvet couches and a daily 4:20 p.m. cannabis bar. It also hosts cannabis wellness and education events.
Pro tip: Plan your trip around homegrown Humboldt events. Cannifest, in Eureka in April, features judged cannabis and glass competitions, discussion panels, a job fair and growers’ games like a growing-medium pebble toss. The Golden Tarp Awards, in Redway in November, shines a light on greenhouse growing. Hempfest, also in Redway in November, gathers growers and activists at the community center built by pot money.
San Francisco Bay Area
Best for: Dabblers and dilettantes
When to go: Year-round
California’s most sophisticated city is chock-full of chic dispensaries, world-class cannabis, decadent smoking and vaping lounges, ganja yoga classes, pot-paired dinners and immersive tours that explore San Francisco’s history of marijuana culture and cuisine. Whether it’s licensed or not, the most dedicated cannabis enthusiasts will attend the annual 4/20 smoke out on April 20 at Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill.
Take a quick jaunt across the Bay Bridge to Harborside, in Oakland, the store that rung up California’s first legal cannabis sale Jan. 1. Express your artistic side at Oakland Cannabis Creative, a cannabis-friendly events space that hosts smoke-friendly painting and sculpture classes and recently started a weed-and-wine tasting series.
Pro tip: Use San Francisco as your base to explore the rich culture that has taken root in the greater Bay Area. For example, Emerald Country Tours in Santa Rosa offers half-day, full-day and multiday insider access to the North Bay’s cannabis heritage and bohemian subculture. Tours start in May. Or head south to Pescadero for women-only ganja “glampouts” in the lush coastal redwoods of San Mateo County April 20-22 and Aug. 24-26.
Best for: Luxury seekers
When to go: Year-round
Despite an unfashionably late start to recreational cannabis sales, Los Angeles is the world’s largest legal cannabis market and a prime destination for well-heeled cannabis tourists seeking celebrity weed and luxe events.
Up to 1,700 dispensaries operated in Los Angeles pre-legalization, but only 139 complied with city tax regulations in 2017. If you visit only one legal cannabis store here, make it Buds & Roses, an elegant pot emporium known for celebrity strains like Tangie and LA Confidential and strains from celebrity grower Kyle Kushman and indie movie celebrity director Kevin Smith. If you can visit two, make the second 13-year-old Los Angeles Patients Care Group, whose super-potent Classic Trainwreck is arguably the best commercial version of the strain.
Satisfy your curiouser-and-curiouser cannabis urges at White Rabbit High Tea, a monthly salon that combines hors d’oeuvres, artsy bonhomie, edibles and endless joints. Snag a seat at private dinners and tastings hosted by fine-dining-chef-turned-cannabis-chef Andrea Drummer, who balances flavors and effects in medium-dose meals.
For an authentically L.A. experience, hit Hitman Coffee Shop. This members-only glass gallery, art gallery and gathering space a mile from La Brea Tar Pits is BYOC (bring your own cannabis). Vaporize concentrates using Hitman’s prized dab rigs or smoke joints on the patio, perfect with cups of Hitman’s custom-roasted coffee.
Pro tip: Keep your eye out for new high-end businesses opening here. L.A.’s most anticipated cannabis opening of 2018 is a store operated by leading cannabis-infused product maker Lord Jones inside The Standard, a swank West Hollywood hotel.
The Coachella Valley
Best for: Hedonists
When to go: October-May
Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Joshua Tree and Palm Springs are blossoming with massive grow facilities, cannabis-friendly resorts and high-end dispensaries that belie the area’s barren, sun-bleached surroundings. The Coachella Valley kicked off recreational sales this year with 12 stores, the most per-capita of any region in California.
Cannabis has revitalized some of the region’s midcentury hot springs hotels and those aging, clothing-optional resorts popular with Europeans and leathery sun-lovers. The O Resort & Spa, Living Waters Spa and Desert Hot Spring Inn offer guests places to smoke and vape by the pools (but not in rooms). Book massages with cannabis-infused oils and have cannabis delivered to your room by a local service provider. An hour’s drive from Palm Springs in the San Jacinto Mountains, Hicksville Pines is a cluster of colorful chalets, one of which has been decorated stoner-style and features an in-room vaporizer. No smoking in chalets but smoking allowed on the property.
Pro tip: As you plan your trip, check for high-end cannabis-themed outdoor dinner events near Joshua Tree hosted by High Dining (formerly Moonlit Moveable Feast), which feature well-crafted menus of pot-infused fare and curated art displays.
Best for: Curious Boomers
When to go: Year-round
San Diego craft beer tours became a red-hot thing real fast. Cannabis tour operators are looking to ride a similar wave. West Coast Cannabis Tours operates a smoke-on-board party bus (legal, thanks to a provision in the California Vehicle Code) that takes you to a dispensary, a glass-blowing bong-making demo and an edibles cooking class. In addition to feeding you lunch and local beer, tour guides put guests through cannabis trivia challenges.
Pro tip: Don’t drive with cannabis in the San Diego region; it’s ground-zero for U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints.