Chips, a pack of gum, and bottled water. These are standard items that can be found in vending machines anywhere.
But did you know that you can also get an automobile, an engagement ring, and socks dispensed from a vending machine?
Welcome to the wild and wacky world of vending machines. From low-end items like fresh eggs and cold beer to extravagant finds like gold, here’s where to find ’em. We’ve scoured the world to provide a global representation of just how crazy on-demand purchases can get.
INSIDER TIPBring local currency because many of these require it.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: San Francisco, California
Got chilly feet and you’re already on the go? No worries as The Sock Spot–
WHERE: San Diego, California and Baltimore, Maryland
Did you forget to pack some bubbly—or not find a wine shop near the room? A few luxury hotels now stock a vending machine with chilled bottles of Moet & Chandon Champagne or other sparkling wines. Find Moet & Chandon at Pendry San Diego in San Diego’s Gaslamp District and at Sagamore Pendry Baltimore on Baltimore’s historic Recreation Pier. To get your bubbles, redeem cash for a gold coin at the front desk, then simply pop it into the machine in the lobby. Drinks are served!
WHERE: London, England
Given the flurry last year about Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle, many couples now pop the question in London. But what if you lack a ring and get all caught up in the moment? The new Bankside Hotel, in the South Bank neighborhood (River Thames’ South Bank, near the Tate Modern and National Theatre) has thoughtfully placed, on every floor, a vending machine with ROKUS engagement rings, featuring gold-plated brass and a Labradorite stone. All you have to do is pad in your slippers to make one of the most important decisions of your life.
WHERE: Locations Nationwide
Looking for a last-minute gift for someone’s birthday (or another special occasion) as you are celebrating out on the town? Simply excuse yourself to “run to the loo” and you can return to the table with a gift—an affordable original art—in hand. That is if an Art-o-Mat machine is in the house. Check this handy map on Art-o-Mat’s website before booking dinner reservations. Locations vary from art museums and libraries to resorts, including The Farmer’s Daughter Hotel (Los Angeles), and restaurants (like The Richardson in Brooklyn, N.Y.).
WHERE: 12 U.S. locations including Chicago, Beverly Hills, Disney World, and Houston
Ever have a late-night craving for something sweeter than diner food? Sprinkles, a cult-favorite cupcakes bakery with locations around the U.S., understands. Some of its locations keep an ATM out front stocked after hours. Before taking your sweet tooth out into the night, however, avoid disappointment by checking this list on Sprinkles’ website ahead of time. The first one debuted in 2012. Look for the petal-pink machines.
WHERE: 20 U.S. cities including Kansas City, Orlando, Nashville, and Tampa
This car vending machine (not toy cars) debuted in 2015. Dubbed Carvana, the Tempe, Arizona-based retailer of used vehicles unleashed a vending-machine concept in 20 U.S. cities, holding 20-some cars within its five glass-walled stories. Just purchase one online to get access—and you will have new wheels in no time. Buyers report saving thousands of dollars, maybe because the middle man is eliminated?
WHERE: Chengdu, China
This has got to be the weirdest vending-machine find of all because your purchase is a big fat secret. Called “Lucky Boxes,” they aren’t all that different from grab bags at gift stores. Basically, you have no idea what’s inside. It could be an iPhone or a set of flatware. The fun is in the surprise. Just tell yourself that so you won’t be disappointed, okay?
WHERE: Throughout Japan
As any traveler to Japan knows, this country holds the title of coolest vending machines. In terms of beverages, you already know you can swipe your card or pop in some coins and sip a soda, juice, coffee or water. But beer? Heck, yeah! Is there anything more refreshing after a bicycle ride or horrendous commute? There’s also no need to tip the bartender.
WHERE: Italy, Hungary (Budapest), and Mexico
Leave it to Italy to pioneer a pizza trend (hello, Neapolitan-style ovens!). Let’s Pizza is a vending machine created in the Netherlands, tested in Italy beginning in 2009 and is now, whew, in other countries. Every step is done within three minutes inside that little red machine, from stretching out the dough to adding fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. Five different pizzas can be made, from margherita to smoked bacon, delivered in a cardboard box just like your favorite take-out pizzeria. Trust us, you knead this, pun intended.
WHERE: Throughout Japan
You’re most likely going to have to stray from Tokyo to find vending machines dispensing—with great care—fresh eggs. These are found in the countryside, in places like Northern Hyogo Prefecture. When you think about it, the concept makes perfect sense because by dropping the eggs off to these machines, small-scale farmers can return to their work in the fields—and also not have to drive into the city to distribute at grocers.
WHERE: New York City
Moxy Hotels, a Millennium-minded brand from Marriott, rolled out an ice-cream vending machine at its New York City property in Times Square last fall. Stoelting Foodservice’s AutoVend machines dispense soft-serve frozen ice cream in two flavors (at Moxy in NYC it’s chocolate and vanilla) with up to four toppings per order. Hotel employees call it the Love Machine—and you should, too. Look for it on the second floor.
WHERE: London, England
Maybe you got caught in the rain or discovered you have armpit sweat stains and a clean, dry shirt sounds like the best thing ever. A vending machine at Dover Street Market (home to fashion brands like Comme des Garçons, Burberry and Balenciaga) in London is stocked with logoed tees in a variety of colors and, of course, by size.
WHERE: Tokyo, Japan
You can thank Dole for launching a banana vending machine in Tokyo. The concept is actually an engineering marvel because the interior temperature has to be just right so as not to bruise the fruit. Look for it in the fashionable Shibuya neighborhood, near Village Vanguard, a fun pop-culture shop. No more Cheetos and Doritos when you have healthier options to choose from! Right?