One of the most frequent questions I get at The Cannabist is, “Will you send me pot?”
After that, it’s: “I’m coming to Colorado. What should I do?” and I wind up as their free vacation planner. After a decade of smoking dank in Denver, I feel like it’s my duty to help people find the best of the best while in town, and that doesn’t stop with pot. We work hard and play harder here. No matter what the season, there’s a professional sports team playing. There’s a booming foodie scene.
And most of my stoniest friends aren’t terribly interested in football, fancy dinners or going clubbing all night.
So I humbly present my guide if you’re planning a trip and are trying to keep it mellow, smoke a little ganja, and investigate the downtown area. It’s all here: places to stay, places to go, getting around, scoring some herb and something to smoke it out of, nearby eats and entertainment. You can stop with the emails now.
Here’s a refresher on Colorado’s laws about recreational sales, public consumption and transporting weed and such.
Where to stay
Don’t want to resort to a wet towel by the door or blowing your hits through a toilet paper roll filtered with a dryer sheet? In truth, openly 420-friendly lodging options downtown are rare. (You do have options with edibles/vaporizing alternatives.)
Sure, it might seem like asking for a room with a balcony is a good idea. That is, until you check in and receive a spiel like the one delivered at The Warwick, which reminds everyone that any marijuana use is outright banned on the property. Even the Colorado.gov marijuana FAQ makes sure to let you know “Denver city laws prohibit marijuana consumption on hotel balconies if visible from any public place.” And trust me, they’re on the lookout: One man was fined heavily for leaving behind evidence suggesting he MIGHT have toked up. Short of securing a designated smoking room, ask about the hotel’s specific policy, but don’t hold your breath. Or your hit.
Adagio Bud and Breakfast, 1430 Race St. Website
The list of amenities reads like a Stefon sketch from “Saturday Night Live.” This place has everything: a wake-n-bake cannabis sampler, a 4:20-6:20 happy hour, nightly milk and cookies (and cannabis). I’m not sure when you’re not getting high at the Adagio Bud and Breakfast, recently converted to a hookah-friendly hotel as many scrambled to find accommodations that weren’t run by “the man.” It’s a bit east of the heart of Denver and in a sort-of-sketchy area (just tell a local friend you’re staying off East Colfax and wait for their reaction), but it’s only a five-minute cab to downtown. Or the most interesting 20-minute bus ride of your life.
A fierce vacation rental market means people are always looking for an edge. Being “420 friendly” allows them to charge a premium for leaving their bong on the coffee table. While services like TravelTHC — similar to AirBNB — have popped up, their contact form asking for your name and email doesn’t provide much assurance that you’ll get the place of your dreams. It’s a bad sign when Craigslist seems less dodgy.
Where to go
There are few venues in which you can light up in the state of Colorado, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hot spots where people go after smoking pot. Some of the most venerable nightlife institutions are known for having customers who enjoy blazing.
Sancho’s Broken Arrow, 741 E. Colfax Ave. Website
Want to grab a cheap beer and listen to some Grateful Dead? These are the founding — and likely only — principles behind Sancho’s, a Denver institution located next to the Fillmore Auditorium. I’ve never seen the arcade games get much love (for that, visit The 1up Colfax next door), but there’s seemingly endless games of pool and air hockey going. Oh, and the smell of weed. Half dive bar, half Jerry Garcia memorial, you’ll find like-minded people of all ages hanging here.
El Chapultepec, 1962 Market St. Website
I promise that not all of my recommendations will be dive bars. El Chapultepec is the oasis of the bro-centric LoDo area, with amazing live jazz and funk pumping out the corner door every night of the week. While I wouldn’t recommend eating, there is a technically functioning kitchen that can whip you up a burrito if it comes to that. It’s an old-school joint (cash only) that packs them in every weekend. Smoke a jazz cigarette and be ready to box out for a booth. (Also a block away is arcade/bar outlet The 1up LoDo.)
iBake Lounge, 6125 Washington St. Website
Outside of downtown exists iBake, which claims to be the first “private-membership head shop” where people can come to smoke cannabis freely in the state. The super laid-back space isn’t a place to get gussied up and Uber over to, as it’s usually just a few people sitting around a bong or dab rig talking pot. Imagine the basement of the cool kid in high school whose parents didn’t care WHAT you did down there. Above all it’s a safe place to smoke, and that’s a huge relief to some.