Northern California Pot Travel: San Francisco
The Aficionados’ Treat
California’s most sophisticated city promises the Golden State’s most sophisticated cannabis travel experience. Chic dispensaries, high-quality cannabis, smoking and vaping lounges, pot-paired dinners, edibles cooking classes and ganja yoga all available to visitors with valid medical cannabis recommendations. Plus all the general tourist attractions — restaurants, museums, shopping, big-city energy — that make San Francisco a world-class travel destination without weed. — Ed Murrieta
San Francisco dispensaries have blossomed from black-windowed dope dens where you view goods behind bullet-proof glass into haute retail salons where you can handle merchandise displayed on reclaimed-wood shelves. Design-wise, SPARC set the standard with its Genius Bar tones. As for those that feel like day-spa gift shops, The Apothecary recently outgrew its sanctuary-style space and moved into new gracefully designed digs next to Whole Foods. Apothecary will open in the tony Marina District soon. Harvest, San Francisco’s newest and most luxe dispensary, belongs in Union Square, not the fog-bound Richmond District. Prices and quality at these dispensaries, of course, reflect their surroundings.
SMOKE & VAPE LOUNGES
San Francisco dispensaries are models of social cannabis lounges, providing locals and tourists safe and convenient spaces to smoke, vaporize or ediblize cannabis. Many are located South of Market, near major downtown shopping and entertainment destinations. SPARC, sleek and cold like a nightclub inside an Apple store; Igzactly420, homey and warm in a high-rise jungle; and Bloom Room, hip and colorfully arty in an alley, are vape-only and provide high-end Volcano vaporizers. If you purchase something at The Green Door, go next door to its lounge, the appropriately loungey Lounge847, which, when not being rented for private events, accommodates all forms of cannabis consumption. Exhuding a steamy steampunk sex club vibe, Urban Pharm allows smoking and vaping but provides no vaporizers. Surfers will appreciate 1944 Ocean Collective’s proximity to Ocean Beach, plus its stellar lineup of concentrates and cozy Volcano bar. Some dispensary lounges post time limits. Some offer perks like hot tea stations and lemony water. All offer clean restrooms, a top tourist perk anywhere. Planning a longer-term visit? Harvest offers San Francisco’s most exclusive place to smoke pot — a plush private lounge that requires management approval of prospective members and $100 monthly dues. Member perks include cannabis concierges and private stash lockers.
JUST DAB IT
Dabbing cannabis concentrates — consuming shatter, wax, budder and other newfangled forms with the assistance of white-hot metal tools — is de rigeur. Urban Pharm offers $5 dabs at its budtender-manned dab bar, double-rigged so you can dab with your bestie. Barbary Coast Collective features four pages of concentrates in its book-like menu and plans to open a dab bar this fall.
Do you prefer to smoke, vaporize or ediblize before double-dog downing? Ganja Yoga instructor Dee Dussalt is flexible. She has different classes at different private locations South of Market and near Civic Center, $25 per stretch sesh, vape pens, edibles and cannabis included for yogis and yoginis who possess California medical cannabis recommendations.
POP-UP POP POT DINNER
The Cannaisseur Series is a pop-up dinner South of Market featuring four courses containing no cannabis but paired with pot — intermezzos of buds, joints, extracts and edibles. Note: The amuse bouche are always amusingly medicated; help and pace yourself. A recent dinner celebrated Oktoberfest. The Nov. 20 fall-harvest dinner ($149) promises seasonal vegetables, sun-grown cannabis and a vapor bar. The Cannaisseur Series anticipated legalization but says on its invite, “Until further notice you are required to have a California medical cannabis recommendation to attend this event.”
Learn to make gourmet cannabis butter and cannabis oil from Jeff the 420 Chef. Bring your own cannabis (an eighth is recommended) and your doctor’s recommendation to use medical cannabis; Jeff the 420 Chef will provide all the other ingredients and kitchen tools you’ll need and guide you through recipes from simple hors d’oeuvres to gourmet meals. Classes are $85 and $175 (the latter includes the chef’s home-kitchen butter/oil-infusing kit).
The second thing cultured cannabis travelers do in Amsterdam is visit museums. In San Francisco, enhance your art appreciation by vaping or smoking sativa-dominant strains at Igzactly420, Lounge847, Bloom Room, SPARC or Urban Pharm before entering nearby SFMOMA, Yerba Buena Gardens and the Asian Art Museum.
There’s more to shop for on Haight Street than pinched baggies of pot. Cookies, the dispensary with the eponymous genetics, is way off the tourists’ path in the city’s southern Excelsior District. But its clothing boutique is smack-dab in the center of San Francisco, selling $40 t-shirts and $100 hoodies emblazoned with the Cookies logo.
Tripping balls from your sesh at Igzactly420 or Lounge847 and got the urge to hit balls into a video golf simulator? Trip into nearby Eagle Club Indoor Golf, where it gets even tripper hitting balls into a simulation of San Francisco’s exclusive Olympic Club, one of dozens of elite courses around the world programmed for play. If paddles and plastic balls give you pleasure, hit SPiN, pothead actress Susan Sarandon’s ping pong cafe. The joint wears its “street” vibe like Axe Body Spray; so wear your $100 Cookies hoodie here.
Visit enough smoking and vaping lounges and you won’t think twice about consuming in your hotel room. If you must book a room and smoke, there’s a reason all the best cannabis industry conferences use the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero: smoking balconies. If you’re willing to give up a few star ratings in exchange for a brush with San Francisco cannabis royalty, book a room at Castro Castle, a smoke-it-if-you’ve-got-it bed and breakfast that doubles as the Flintstonian hippie home of Dennis Peron, the pot activist who ushered medical cannabis into California.
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CANNABIS TRAVEL AT A GLANCE
SAN FRANCISCO: The Aficionados’ Treat
California’s most sophisticated city promises the Golden State’s most sophisticated cannabis travel experience. Chic dispensaries, high-quality cannabis, smoking and vaping lounges, pot-paired dinners, edibles cooking classes and ganja yoga all available to visitors with valid medical cannabis recommendations. Plus all the general tourist attractions — restaurants, museums, shopping, big-city energy — that make San Francisco a world-class travel destination without weed.
MENDOCINO: Retired Hippies’ Retreat
Never has the tie-dyed dream of traveling back roads in a vintage Volkswagen bus been more palpable than when turning off Highway 101 onto Highway 128 wending west, where the landscape turns to grapevines and farm houses. Yes, this is Mendocino County wine country, and as the axiom asserts — where wine grows, weed grows — it’s also cannabis country. Seeds of cannabis tourism have been planted here and will mature over time like wine.
HUMBOLDT Firing Up Foodies
You think you’ve tasted Humboldt County? Clear your throat and try again. Humboldt’s farm-to-toke reputation overshadows its farm-to-fork roots — but behold grass-fed beef and grass-fed dairy; field-to-glass craft distilleries, cideries and breweries; single-origin drinking chocolates; and Humboldt Bay bivalves that account for 70 percent of California oysters.
HUMBOLDT The Outdoorsman’s Oasis
You’re midway into a 590-nautical-mile run down the Pacific from Seattle to San Francisco aboard your Tayana 37 sloop. Before you tackle Cape Mendocino, pull into the safe harbor of Humboldt Bay. Not a sailor? Bring or rent toys for paddling, surfing, rafting, biking and hiking. Take a pack-mule trip. Heck, just find naked swimming holes in any of the county’s six rivers. Humboldt’s a bounty of adventure — especially if you stray into the wrong pot patch.
SACRAMENTO Perfect for The Parents
Sacramento is a political town, but even cannabis regulation and taxation take back seats to the interest in the Kings’ new downtown arena. The city’s culinary scene sizzles and beckons even San Francisco food critics. To spark your appetite for Sacramento’s farm-to-fork fare, or to quell the nauseating hype of the new arena, medical cannabis patients can smoke throughout the state capital’s walkable and bikeable downtown neighborhoods — even on the Capitol steps. Stick to the city core and you may not need a car.