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.
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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.
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Where to eat
Food and pot are synonymous with each other. Whether they’re 420-themed spaces or owned by someone who’s marijuana friendly, these are places that are safe to grub while you’re ridiculously stoned.
Cheba Hut, 1531 Champa St. Website
Listen, I know it’s just a glorified Subway that panders to stoners. Their website has a cartoon parrot getting high, for Pete’s sake. But that doesn’t stop the 5-0 sandwich (because it has lots of pork products, of course) from being freaking delicious. Order any size, starting from the 4-inch “nug” up to the foot-long “blunt” and complete your combo with Kool-Aid. It’s fun eating and being marketed to like a child, right?
Sexy Pizza, 1018 E. 11th Ave. Website
Disclosue: I currently volunteer for Sexy Pizza owner Kayvan Khalatbari’s Sexpot Comedy project.
Sexy Pizza actually donates a portion of proceeds on certain pies to organizations such as Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), so they put their money where your mouth is. With three locations, they deliver just about anywhere you stay in Denver.
Mary Jane’s Pizza, 2013 W. 32nd Ave. Website
Delivering until 4:20 a.m., they’ve become a staple in late-night grub, even if they don’t go as far as Cheba Hut in letting you know they’re totally cool with potheads. Sure, it’s not the best slice in town. It’s also open until 4:20 a.m., when anything tastes good. If you’re outside of the delivery zone or just happen to be partying it up in the Highlands area, stop in and see David and Greg.
Coohills, 1400 Wewatta St. Website
For those interested in a dining experience that doesn’t involve a box or busing your own table, meet Tom Coohill. He’s a marijuana dabbler and chef who cooks up delicious plates at the eponymous Coohills. With a focus on local and fresh, it’s a Euro-style dining experience with a gorgeous patio that overlooks the mountains. Or grab a seat at a community table and see how many others in the vicinity look like they might have indulged in some herb before dinner.
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Where to score
The downtown area is lucky enough to have a number of dispensaries within walking distance from wherever you’re staying (check The Cannabist’s shop map here). Which one you visit depends a lot on what you’re looking for.
Lodo Wellness Center, 1617 Wazee St. #B. Website
One of first shops I scoped out in January, I was surprised to find the line nearly nonexistent on a blustery afternoon. The space is very Eastern with huge oriental rugs, large pots filled with nothing, the occasional Buddha, and then smokeable “buddha” in the back. It’s my least favorite dispensing area (just a table with some jars) and the staff was preoccupied when I shopped last. They have a few high-quality strains, however, and a variety of edibles, including drinks. Just make sure to call ahead and verify what’s in stock before you make the trip, as supply has been an issue.
Pros: clean, goregeous space and great location.
Cons: selection and service.
Euflora, 401 16th Street Mall. Website
I originally wrote “Euflora reminded me much more of a Gap that went defunct and had to sell pot to make rent. Jars with tablets next to them were set on various tables, with guys wearing headsets occasionally asking ‘Is there anything I can help you find?’ like I was looking for a new pair of chinos.” I stand by that. While their selection of edibles (and kitschy souvenirs) was fairly large, most of their bud was enough to make me avert my eyes like walking through a zoo full of sad animals in their tiny plastic cages. Not to mention they’re the longest line of any place downtown.
Pros: edibles selection and fancy shopping experience.
Cons: bud quality and product knowledge.
Natural Remedies, 1620 Market St. Website
From June: “The place seemed like it had grown up, with the racks of novelty t-shirts no longer towering over you. Instead, slick furnishings and exposed brick made the place seem like it had hit its mid-twenties and had a girlfriend that packed all of the dorm room aesthetic into a box in the garage.” Staff members know their strains and genetics inside and out, helping novices make the right selection. Be prepared to wait, however, as they usually have a line going that starts on the first floor. They’ll make it up to you with 20% off on your first visit as of Aug. 25.
Pros: low prices, strong marijuana, and great staff.
Cons: long lines.
Good Chemistry, 330 E. Colfax. Website
Just down the street from the Colorado Capitol is Good Chem, one of the smallest dispensaries (in terms of square footage) in the downtown area. It’s a credit to the staff that it runs like such a well-oiled machine, as there’s always someone coming out of the door as I’m walking in. That’s in part because they’re the rare dual threat of cheap prices and quality products, having one of the least expensive recreational eighths out there. They also carry a house line of edibles called Mountain Medicine, so it’s usually a good bet they’ll have some in stock.
Pros: edibles in stock, quality herb at a decent price.
Cons: small, stuffy space and occasional lines.
Map: Colorado recreational marijuana shops and medical dispensaries
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How to smoke
Bringing your own pipe to Denver is like trying to bring your own beer to Oktoberfest — there’s plenty already here and you can get in serious trouble doing it. Need an implement? Check out these suggestions.
7-Eleven, 820 16th St. Mall #100 (and others around downtown). Website
For the low, low price of $2.57 you can be the proud owner of some Zig Zag rolling papers. There’s also a selection of blunt wraps, flavored and non, and occasionally an apple that you can MacGyver into a smoking device. Where you can casually smoke pot out of an apple downtown, however, is a mystery to everyone.
Purple Haze, 1355 Santa Fe Dr. Website
A short walk from downtown, Purple Haze is the easiest legit head shop to pick up a pipe that won’t break the bank. Avoid the temptation of paying dispensary prices for a limited selection of glass. They’ve got your standard spoons and tubes, bubblers of all shapes and sizes, and even the kits that’ll supposedly help you pass that drug test when you get home. The biggest new trend is not smoking, however, and they have a wide variety of vaporizers that can help you (and your lungs) while you’re here.
Illuzion Glass, 238 Broadway. Website
Glass fanatics travel from all over to check out Illuzion. It’s simply one of the best glass shops in the country, and only about 5 minutes from downtown by car. Pipes are fine, but the true connoisseur will appreciate their blown art, cases after cases of one-of-a-kind pieces, and the $30,000 fully functioning glass pirate ship. The staff of cute heady chicks can help you navigate the showroom, as it can be a bit overwhelming.
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How to get around
Like any town, you can always rent a car to get around, but driving around stoned is no fun. It’s also very illegal. Here are some alternatives for getting around our fine city.
Uber and Lyft — While Colorado continues to battle over how to regulate these pop-up transportation services, take advantage of their incredibly low prices versus traditional cabs. If you’re a first time user, a simple Google search can net you a coupon code for a deal on your first trip, and you get to watch them every step of the way like it’s the Domino’s Pizza Tracker. How big are Uber and Lyft in Denver? My college-educated friends keep talking about getting jobs as glorified cab drivers. Probably because they don’t drug test.
Denver B-cycle. Website
Go green with Denver’s official bike sharing program that started in 2010. Pick-up and drop-off stations are littered around the downtown area making them a favorite of vacationers. The bikes themselves are basically tanks, heavy enough to make them a hard target for theft, and have a little basket on the front to toss your recent bud purchase in. (By law, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers when sharing roads with vehicles. So don’t get all baked then get on the bike, mmmkay?) Make sure to read the terms of service carefully to avoid extra charges, as you only get the bike for 30 minute increments. Or don’t and end up looking like an idiot on Yelp.
I love the bus. It’s also terrible for getting around outside of downtown, with infrequent stops and unpredictable schedules. Some have dubbed the acronym “Reason To Drive.” I still love the bus. There’s the free MallRide on 16th Street, great for getting from one end to another in a hurry and taking in the great “smells” of the city. Then there’s the actual bus system, OK for getting to areas like RiNo (River North), SoBo (South Broadway or SoBro, as I call it), Cap Hill and more. If you’re planning on making it a late night, a return trip might be an issue so plan ahead. For longer jaunts, consider the Light Rail, which can get you to hard-to-park areas like the Pepsi Center or Sports Authority Field. You can even attempt to lug your B-cycle onto it for a vacation workout.
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