High City Guides is Weedmaps News' ongoing look at all the weed-offerings cities have to offer to the modern-day traveling cannabis consumer. High City Guides provides recommendations on how to spend your time and money while giving you the ins and outs of Denver's weed scene.
Could there have been any doubt that the Mile High City would be the epicenter of adult-use cannabis legalization and regulation?
Colorado voters enshrined recreational weed legalization and regulation in the state constitution with the 2012 passage of Amendment 64, but Deverites got the train out of the station back in 2005 when they approved a ballot measure that made the city the first to decriminalize possession of up to 1 ounce, or 28.35 grams, of marijuana. Legalization provided a skunky perfume to a decadelong economic expansion that has transformed Denver from a gateway to the Rocky Mountains into an entirely different sort of destination. In the last decade, the city has seen an influx of hip hotels, chef-driven restaurants, craft breweries, vibrant live-music venues, art museums and galleries serving a growing metropolis — and a wave of canna-curious visitors.
Legalization hasn't been all sunshine and Blue Dreams. It remains illegal to consume cannabis “openly or publicly” anywhere in Colorado, but a slew of new laws passed in 2018 by the Democratic supermajority promise to open the doors to “marijuana hospitality establishments” starting in January 2019.
Whether you're landing at Denver International Airport for the first time, or just back in the Mile High City for the first time in a long time, here's your guide to the best the city has to offer.
Where's the Best Weed?
With 179 retail dispensaries and 211 cultivators in its city limits, you can find high-quality flower, potent concentrates, and tasty edibles around nearly every corner in the city of Denver. Here's a taste of the top shops in the city's hottest 'hoods.
4735 W 38th Ave, Denver, CO 80212
Set in an old house on a commercial strip of 38th Avenue, The Joint is the “Cheers” of northwest Denver's Berkley district – a dispensary where everybody knows your name. Budtenders exude the good-neighbor energy to first-timers, too. Let The Joint walk you through its massive selection of flower and then have budtenders give you their picks for a stroll down nearby Tennyson Street, a rejuvenated cultural strip lined with shops, bars and restaurants. Pop in on Tuesdays for a five joints for $20 special; if you prefer to roll your own, pick up a shake ounce for $60 on Sundays.
1724 S Broadway, Denver, CO 80210
In the legalization era, South Broadway, a thoroughfare stretching from Speer Boulevard through the Baker neighborhood to the southern border of the city, was rebranded as Denver's “Green Mile” as dispensaries filled in the gaps between pubs, restaurants, art galleries and antique shops. You can count Good Chemistry among the best of the Broadway bunch thanks to its massive selection, passionate budtenders and a commitment to philanthropy, supporting the Ray of Hope Cancer Foundation and LGBTQ nonprofits including AIDS Walk Colorado.
Twenty-plus strains of flower showcase the work of the vertically integrated operation's nurseries; try proprietary Geraldine, a fruity cross of Purple Mayhem and Ingrid (another proprietary strain), named after the CEO's mother. Good Chemistry also partners with the state's top labs to offer one of the largest lineups of concentrates in the state, many produced with its own flower. Look for GC x Chronic Creations wax, shatter and live sugar, or get a rip of GC x Viola live resin.
5101 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80220
The Beat Generation was born on East Colfax Avenue where Denver native Neal Cassidy first met Hal Chase; Allen Ginsberg frequented the avenue's Coburn Hotel and Jack Kerouac – like “On the Road” narrator Sal Paradise – lived on Colfax for a spell. Can you imagine what those Beats might have come up with if they could have rolled into Verde Natural for a hit of master cultivator Chuck Blackton's Lemon Skunk?
This dispensary founded in 2009 stayed true to its medical roots until fall 2017, when Amsterdam-trained Blackton opened his genetics to the 21-and-older masses. Every nug on offer in this woodsy outpost was grown in living soil teeming with beneficial microbes, hand-trimmed, then cured just right to maintain potency and terpene profile.
745 E 6th Ave, Denver, CO 80203
Since its founding in 2011, owners Steven and Shannon Brooks have grown their vertically integrated mom-and-pop shop into a humble empire. Lightshade, with 8 locations throughout Denver, is beloved by locals for two big reasons: It is affordable and the weed is always dank. Popular strains grown by their cultivation team include The White, Mother's Milk, Red-Headed Stranger, and a violet-hued, floral Lavender Jones.
Lightshade storefronts are always a bustling scene. Its Sixth Avenue location is down the street from Governor's Park, the Cherry Creek Bike Path, and is surrounded by tons of great restaurants. Through its longtime partnership with KindColorado, pioneers in Cannabis Social Responsibility, Lightshade has given back in a different form to each community it enters. Notably, Lightshade has fully funded the Amazing Grace Food Pantry, a community food bank in Federal Heights that feeds 1,500 people — all while helping to demystify cannabis to the masses.
2000 W 32nd Ave, Denver, CO 80211
Stop in at Simply Pure for the award-winning, small-batch flower, stick around its LoHi neighborhood for craft cocktails, high-octane microbrews, gourmet grub and the best ice cream in town (see “The Munchie Situation”). Power-couple owners Wanda James and Scott Durrah are cannabis pioneers – and purists. Both are military veterans and together they're the first African Americans to own a cannabis business in Colorado.
To make sure their bud is up to their own standards, each strain is tested to develop detailed terpene profiles. Grab a go-to strain such as Super Lemon Haze or let the expert “budologists” guide you to unique genetics such as Chocolope, an energetic cross of Chocolate Thai and Cannalope Haze.
The Local Scene
There's no finer way to spend the early evening than riding the concrete waves of the Denver Skatepark. Pick up a shop deck at Emage (1620 Platte St.), a core skate shop across the river, for a souvenir you can shred. This is a bustling part of LoDo and the skatepark is popular with families, so you can't spark a doobie in the deep end. Take a stroll along the banks of the Platte River and you'll find a peaceful spot for firing up.
- You can't miss the Denver Art Museum (DAM) thanks to starchetict Daniel Libeskind's 2006 titanium-triangular extension, part of which protrudes over 13th Avenue. DAM's 70,000-piece permanent collection is strong on modern works, but the museum was also the first in the U.S. to collect American Indian, Art and its collection of 20,000-plus art objects provide a fascinating perspective on the nation's native cultures.
- For a different view of the American West, check out the nonprofit American Museum of Western Art In Downtown Denver. Anti-weed billionaire Phillip Anschutz recently parked his massive art collection in a historic 1880s building that once housed the city's premier brothel; the 600-plus piece collection spans from the early 19th century to present day and is focused on America's westward settlement.
- Set in LoDo, steps from bustling Union Station (see “The Munchie Situation”), the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is your stop for cutting-edge culture and community. The rotating exhibits range across the vanguard. Look for “Clark Richert in hyperspace & The Nth Dimension,” a retrospective of the Denver artist's dayglow-geometric masterpieces, on display through Sept. 1, 2019.. Its rooftop is a must-see and sets the stage for concerts throughout the year.
Root for the Home Team
Grab a ticket to catch Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, one of the finest stadiums in all of baseball. Pick up Rockpile tickets starting 2 hours prior to first pitch for as little as $4 or grab standing-room tickets for “The Rooftop” for $16, which includes a $6 concession credit.
The 38,000-square-foot patio in the upper right-field deck serves as a rooftop bar with a garden space and views of the game and city on one side and the mountains for which the team was named on the other. Smoking and vaping is prohibited in Coors Field except in designated smoking areas, and recreational marijuana is completely prohibited on the stadium grounds. All bags and persons are subject to search upon entry of Coors Field. Possession of, smoking, vaping, ingesting or otherwise consuming marijuana is prohibited in all areas of Coors Field, including the designated smoking areas, according to its website.
Where to Post up and Smoke
1130 Yuma Ct, Denver, CO 80204
Set in an industrial strip abutting Interstate 25, this vape- and dab-only spot is BYO cannabis concentrates and BYO rig (e-nails are provided). Pick up your stash next door at 1136 Yuma dispensary and the $5 cover charge is waived. Ping pong and video games give a rec-room vibe. Check its monthly calendar for events ranging from video game tournaments to poetry slams.
6125 Washington St, Denver, CO 80216
Located on the industrial far-north fringe of the city, this BYO cannabis club's five-person dab hookah is basically the only reason for tourists to be in this neck of the woods, and the ambiance is best described as “that dude's basement,” with a couple of couches and chairs scattered behind a small head shop.
You can smoke, vape, or dab at iBake because it is a private, members-only establishment. Become a member for the day ($3) or a full month ($12); bongs, dab rigs and grinders are available to members.
3039 Walnut St., Denver, Co 80205
Tetra 9 is a stylish spot set in a blacked-out RiNo warehouse surrounded by hip restaurants, bars and breweries. Dab or vape in the couch-lined lounge complete with pool table, or step outside for a blunt in the courtyard garden wrapped with murals. Tetra 9 is BYO cannabis products and provides members with an electric dab bar, vaporizers and other consumption accessories. Memberships are sold online by the day ($20), three-day ($40) or month ($60); monthly members get access to such exclusive events as concerts, parties, yoga, and more.
The Munchie Situation
With 396 craft breweries and 9.2 breweries per capita, beer counts as munchies in Colorado. Here's your primer to the finest pubs and suds in the Mile High City.
- Start with a pour of Tivoli Helles Lager at My Brother's Bar (2376 15th St.), the oldest bar in Denver (it traces its history to 1873) and a cherished haunt of Beat legends Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac.
- If you liked Tivoli Helles Lager, check Tivoli Brewing Co.'s Taproom (900 Auraria Parkway). More than 50 craft beers are on draft in the original 1859 red-brick brewery, the state's oldest and a can't-miss landmark.
- Set in an old mechanic's garage just on the other side of the Platte River from the Denver Skatepark, Denver Beer Co.'s Beer Garden and Taproom (1695 Platte St.) pours small-batch beers such Graham Cracker Porter and Incredible Pedal IPA.
Between Denver's rich Hispanic heritage and the recent influx of trend-setting chefs and deep-pocketed restaurateurs, this city is loco for tacos. Here's a sampling of the top tacos in the Mile High City.
- Start at El Taco de Mexico (714 Santa Fe Dr.), a stalwart of the Santa Fe Arts District since 1985. Be bold and order the slow-cooked cabeza (beef cheek) platter.
- A few blocks east of The Joint dispensary in Berkeley, family-run Tacos Jalisco (4309 W. 38thAve.) serves up a perfect al pastor – slow-cooked pork shoulder shrouded with grilled onions and pineapple.
- Over in the Highlands neighborhood, Tacos Tequila Whiskey (3300 W. 32ndAve.) started as the Denver-famous Pinche Tacos truck and is now one of the hottest restaurants in town on the strength of dishes such as the lenguna — triple-cooked Colorado beef tongue, crispy avocado, tomatillo, and topped with guajillo honey mayo.
- You might roll in to Los Carboncitos (3757 Pecos St.) for the homemade corn tortillas alone – you can't go wrong no matter how you fill them. Be sure to wash the carnitas down with an authentic Mexican Coca-Cola.
Count LoDo's Kachina Cantina (1890 Wazee St.), among the trendy new entries to the taco scene. Inspired by the tastes of the Four Corners, this spot gets the green light for fry bread tacos topped with crispy fish and chipotle slaw.
Get on the Train
Denver's Union Station (1701 Wynkoop St.) is a 1914 Beaux-Arts beauty that has been reborn as a transit hub and a foodie destination – no easy feat.
- James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Seidel serves up elevated comfort food at Mercantile Dining & Provision. Think: grilled pork loin with polenta parmesan custard or BBQ short ribs with baby bok choy.
- Breakfast for lunch? Snag a booth at Snooze an AM Eatery where you can go sweet with the pineapple upside-down pancakes or savory with the smashed avocado benny.
- For a taste of Spain, head to Ultreia for tapas such as jamón Ibérico de bellota and goat-cheese-stuffed dates.
- Chinese street food and dumplings to die for can be found at the family-owned favorite Zoe Ma Ma.
- For burgers and microbrews, check out Next Door American Eatery.
Where to Stay
1430 Race St, Denver, CO 80206
Set in a restored 1892 Victorian home tucked in the blocks between East Colfax Avenue and the Denver Botanic Gardens, Adagio is an enlightened stay where you can smoke, vape or dab in the privacy of the patio/“Garagio” complete with hot tub. Bring your own implement or choose from a modest selection of pipes and bongs on offer. Daily breakfast is prepared to order until 10 a.m. and an evening happy hour is included in the rate.
9284 U.S. Hwy 85, Morrison, CO 80465
If catching a concert at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre is on your agenda, book a night or two at this Morrison mansion where every room has a jetted tub and a private deck where you can get high with mountain views. Crack concierges can answer all your cannabis questions and regularly hand out coupons for discounts at area dispensaries. The hotel offers a convenient shuttle service to and from Red Rocks at a reasonable rate – just be sure to book well in advance.
Last Tips for Your Trip
A happy outcome of the Mile High City's tremendous growth over the last decade – fueled in part by a cannabis boom – is that you no longer need a car to access and enjoy the best of Denver. If you've come here to partake in the fruits of legalization, do the voters a favor and don't get behind the wheel.
- Denver's Regional Transportation District (RTD) includes buses, light rail and a new commuter rail network connecting the region, including easy access to cannabis hot spots on South Broadway and East Colfax and buzzy stops such as Union Station, Coors Field, and LoHi. RTD can also get you from Denver International Airport, 30 miles east of the city via the A Line train.
- Uber, Lyft, and taxis are available virtually anytime, anywhere in the city.
- See the Mile High City by bike or scooter. Denver has more than 100 miles of multi-use trails, 130 miles of bike lanes, 39 miles of sharrows, and almost 400 miles of signed bike routes. You can get to and from the city's hottest hoods and top destinations on a Denver B-cycles, a non-profit bike-share program open to all.
- 2,000-plus electric scooters overseen by Bird, Lyft, and Lime are scattered across the city, providing a fun and fast way to zip to and from train stations, restaurants and parks.
Feature imaged by Owen CL/Unsplash