by Dan Ketchum
Like your favorite leaf itself, weed festivals come in all kinds of strains. From freewheeling street celebrations to ganja-flavored concerts, some cannabis festivals are a little more of a laid-back indicia, others are a euphoric sativa all the way. And like most of the canna-community, they’re usually pretty welcoming affairs – you don’t need a certification or anything to attend, but a little bit of prep to suit each event’s unique vibe can only help you enjoy yourself.
Cannabis Festivals: Variety Is the Weed of Life
Look, even outside of Weed World, people play pretty fast and loose with what a festival is. You got 80K people in a desert tripping to Infected Mushroom at Burning Man, and you got seven people eating free Dunkin’ at your local dealership’s summer Toyota Fest. Both are festivals. Technically.
In an industry not really well known for throwing rulebooks around, you can bet your ass that “what’s a cannabis festival?” is a question with a super broad answer. Most of the time, you can expect a large, open-air event with a casual (festive even) atmosphere, crowds numbering in the hundreds or thousands, and lots of weed-themed or weed-adjacent attractions to check out. This often includes live music with 420-friendly acts at the center, vendor booths advertising or (where it’s legal) selling cannabis products, local crafts and food, and lots of paraphernalia for sale.
Prep Your Kit
No matter the fest, you’re gonna need a care kit before you hit any flavor of weed festival. Nnot to sound like your mom, but being better prepared can only lead to a better time, so make sure you check each fest’s official recs and guidelines before heading out.
For Festive (Outdoor) Festivals
Prepping for a banger of a cannabis festival, whether it’s a day of walking around or a weekend of desert camping, is a lot like prepping for a mini version of Bonnaroo or Coachella. Keep this stuff in mind before you partake under the sun:
- Check the forecast. Bring a layer if it’s gonna get chilly, don’t dress to sweat if it ain’t. And lather on that sunscreen, maybe even paired with a hat and sunglasses.
- Pack light. Go for stuff secured to your body, like a fanny pack or crossbody bag. You’re gonna be under the elements and in groups, so you wanna be comfy and safe. Opt for a backpack if you’re camping out.
- BYOB. At most festivals, you are A-OK to bring your own bud (though not booze), so you won’t need to worry about sneaking it into the venue in your underwear or buying some off of some random guy on the cheap once you’re in.
- Hydrate. Instead of investing in an $8 Aquafina, bring your own generously sized, refillable bottle for the event. Water also pairs really well with getting high.
- Snack well. Put some easy-traveling snacks in that lil bag of yours, like granola, nuts, jerky, or protein bars. Festival food can get expensive, and you’ll need the energy.
- Bring some body wipes. Just trust us on this one.
- Stash cash (safely) in your bag. Some vendors still haven’t gotten with the whole “2023” thing.
- Mind your footwear. Even if you wanna dress like a neon glowstick space fairy or whatever, choose comfort here. You need kicks that are good for a lot of walking, and also for a lot of standing if there’s a stage show involved.
- Check in on current Covid health guidelines, as regions and events vary.
Different Fests, Different Vibes
Different cannabis festivals shoot for all kinds of different aims, and that means different vibes, different expectations, and different prep, too. Here’s what you generally expect at some of our favorite weed festivals in California, for a start:
Green Street Festival (Los Angeles)
This springtime weed festival joins together music, the best local restaurants and cannabis brands big and small. It’s an outdoor-indoor (at the Green Street Building) cannabis festival with everything from DJ sets to keynotes – not too much of a concert, not too much of a trade show. Expect about 7,000 attendees, withindustry awards at the center. Oh, and any time you’re at a weed festival in Cali, keep an eye out for a certain 6-foot-tall gorilla handing out free swag (we hear she’s kind of a Tough Mama).
420 Hippie Hill (San Francisco)
Every April 20th around the meadows of the Golden Gate Park, you can expect about 20,000 stoners to gather at the biggest free cannabis festival in the country. Despite the size and 21-and-over rule, this is a no-camping, no-alcohol, no-pets deal. It’s all about the music, special guests, and ganja – which was officially legally for sale for the first time at the fest in 2022 – and wraps up at night.
Grass Lands at Outside Lands (San Francisco)
Another Golden Gate Park fest, the late-summer Outside Lands attracts hundreds of thousands of guests to see musical artists ranging from Kendrick Lamar to The 1975 to Lil Yachty and beyond. The three days also packs booze, food, and shopping, all while playing host to Grass Lands, one of the biggest cannabis festivals in the country. The Grass Lands area now offers plenty of legal vendors (so there’s no need to sneak your weed into this festival!) and partners on-site and is fully accommodating of getting real high in designated, zaza compliant areas.
The Emerald Cup Harvest Ball (Santa Rosa)
It’s pretty common for cannabis festivals to have an awards component, but at the Emerald Cup, the awards are the star of the show. For two decades, the spring EC has doled out accolades for everything from best flower to best dispensary and way beyond. Before the awards, though, the idyllic hills of the Emerald Triangle host the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball, a community-focused farm party to kick things off. Across its two days, you’ll find a vast marketplace, numerous concert stages, enlightening speaker panels, exclusive VIP rooms, cannabis consumption areas, lots of food, and even some hands-on agricultural workshops.
No matter which weed festival you choose to partake in, here’s the most important thing to expect: expect to have a good time. That’s what weed and weed culture is all about. A little bit of healthy prep can make things smoother, but don’t stress too much. They’ve got food over there, they’ve got bathrooms, they’ve got water – so trust us, you’re not gonna die before you get high. Soak it up, enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes, and throw some Mini Mofoz in the bag for easy travel.