San Rafael High School’s claims to fame include adult actress Nikki Tyler and Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” video, but the California campus is best known as the alleged birthplace of 420. Back in 1971, five classmates sought a hidden cannabis crop in the Point Reyes Peninsula, and 420 served as the code word for the search and their 4:20 p.m. meeting time. The legend may or may not be historically accurate, but 420 is definitely the preeminent counterculture holiday with annual cannabis celebrations on April 20. On the fifty shades of green scale, 420 ranks up there with St. Patty’s and Earth Day, and travelers can celebrate with cities to visit, things to do and places to munch.
Punta del Este, Uruguay
When Jimmy Carter was Commander-in-Chief, his son Chip blazed with Willie Nelson on the White House roof. That is certainly the pinnacle of presidential ganja lore, but Uruguayan President José Mujica ranks second for helping his country legalize weed. Brigitte Bardot, Bob Dylan, Che Guevara and Frank Sinatra are just a few names that visited Uruguay’s beachfront Punta del Este, and the so-called St. Tropez of South America is a top choice for ritzy 420 fiestas.
While Colorado made headlines for approving recreational use, Denver residents actually voted to legalize weed seven years earlier. It is a curious coincidence then that Denver calls itself the mile high city and its basketball team the Nuggets. Today, the city has everything from THC-infused massage spas to cannabis tasting tours, and its green-themed tourism is tops in North America.
The U.S. Cannabis Cup
Speaking of Denver, the third annual U.S. Cannabis Cup takes place April 18 to 20 in the mile high city, and Broken Lizard will reprise their Super Troopers roles as the hosts. The three-day itinerary includes a conversation with Bill Kreutzmann (Grateful Dead), a cannabis cooking workshop, the awards celebration and a Saturday night concert at Red Rocks with Nas, SOJA and J Boog. Naturally, the festivities also include a Snoop Dogg Wellness Retreat.
New Delhi, India
Shiva, the badass Hindu god with the third eye, is the creator of cannabis in some religious texts, and certain followers believe drinking the holy bhang will cleanse them of transgressions. Those seeking a spiritual twist on 420 can visit the Indian capital and enjoy a milk- or yogurt-based bhang lassi typically made with nuts, spices and cannabis. In Central Delhi, Paharganj is a smoke-friendly neighborhood at the corner of hippie and hipster.
When William S. Burroughs lived in Tangiers, the Beat writer loved the sativa-based majoun confections. Maybe that is why the Moroccan city made it into his famed Naked Lunch novel. The North African nation, a famous stop on the 1960s Hippie Trail, is currently one of the world’s largest cannabis cultivators. The Rif Mountains is the primary growing grounds for what locals call kif, and nearby Chefchaouen is the best place to enjoy farm-to-fingers fatties.
In the past few years, cannabis social clubs in Barcelona opened at a rate that puts Starbucks to shame. Local officials recently instituted new regulations to curb toker tourism, but hundreds of clubs currently operate up from a few dozen in 2010. The media-coined Holland of the South also hosts the annual Spannabis expo and Champions Cup, and the city’s Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum is the perfect place to wake, bake and educate.
Cambodia strictly outlaws cannabis, so skip the smoke in the Southeast Asian country, but sprinkling some ground bud on a pizza is apparently a different story. The pies Anthony Bourdain called “insane in the membrane” started in the Nineties with Happy Herb Pizza and expanded with Ecstatic Pizza, Pink Elephant Pizza, the Smokin’ Pot and others. Many places now accommodate requests for a “happy” dish or cocktail, which makes Cambodia an haute spot for 420 cuisine.
Prague, Czech Republic
A century ago, a Czech generation had to choose between religious faith and existential despair, and famed Prague author Franz Kafka says they “chose marijuana.” The Bohemian capital, which imports seeds from the Netherlands, has one of the highest usage rates in Europe, and Prague legitimately claims its Amsterdam of the East title. The Czech Republic is home to the original Budweiser beer, but the country’s other famous bud wins the Prague popularity contest.
For those living in the six states with a Cheba Hut, the sandwich chain draws tens of thousands of people each 420 for its annual customer appreciation day. Promotions and activities vary by store, but toasted sub options include the Chronic (BBQ beef), Thai Stick (teriyaki chicken), Kush (BLT) and the Kind (turkey-Swiss-bacon-mushroom) served in sizes like the four-inch nug and the foot-long blunt. For those keeping it local, the neighborhood Cheba Hut is the place for some green-themed grub and maybe a few spins of Tone L?c’s Cheeba Cheeba.
On its 2010 list of the World’s Top Marijuana Travel Destinations, CNBC (yes, that CNBC) ranked Vancouver second only to Amsterdam. Along the 300-block of West Hastings Street, Vansterdam is 420 central with cannabis tours, the Vapour Lounge, the New Amsterdam Cafe and the political headquarters of the B.C. Marijuana Party. People who think Canadians only obsess over hockey clearly don’t know what the puck they’re talking about.
Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop
The hippie ice cream makers have produced flavors like Satisfy My Bowl, Half Baked and Magic Brownies, and their annual Free Cone Day celebrates B&J’s anniversary in mid-April despite opening its first scoop shop in May. Cone Day will have passed a few days earlier, but April 20 is the day B&J debuts its new ice cream BRRR-ito, a stoner-friendly move that most media outlets believe was intentional. With munchies-minded flavors like Hazed & Confused and Phish Food, the local scoop shop is an ideal place to pack a bowl.
420 at Home
Staying home on 420 does not necessarily preclude people from the holiday hoopla, and here are a few recommendations on what to do. First, watch Pulp Fiction, and count how many clocks in the film are set to 4:20pm. Next, visit YouTube to watch a stoner exclusively bid $420 or $1420 on The Price Is Right. Finally, ponder Bob Dylan’s potential role as a prophet for his 1966 song Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. Dylan claims the “Everybody must get stoned” chorus is not a cannabis reference, but take one guess what 12 × 35 equals.
Bonus Bake: Amsterdam
The main list excludes Amsterdam because it is too obvious a choice, and as such, the city’s 420 tourists might not represent the travel spirit at its finest. Those who do head for Holland, however, should maximize the visit by researching the best plants and coffee shops. Barney’s claims the most awards for seeds, smoke and edibles, and check out recent Cannabis Cup winners for other top picks.
David Jenison is a Los Angeles native. He has covered entertainment, restaurants and travel for more than 20 years as a writer and editor.