The Happiest Place on Earth is no longer the vapiest place on Earth

Going to Disney? Leave the Juul, the Double-Wide Bugaboo, and Your Dry Ice at Home
Travis Gergen/Unsplash

While Disneyland can be an overwhelming visual experience, it is also (though more subtly) an olfactory one: fresh popcorn and swirling cotton candy, sunscreen and sweat, and the unmistakable aroma of flavored nicotine emanating from a nearby vape cloud. Well, not for long on that last odor! On March 28, Disney announced that it was banning smoking and vaping in all parks and resorts, starting May 1. No more puffing in public, and no more smoking areas at all.

As we look to Disney’s smoke-free future, it’s worth looking into its surprisingly hazy past. Because for much of Disneyland’s history (we’re talking California’s Disneyland—the real Disney), smoking was not only permitted but encouraged. There was a tobacco shop on Main Street and a cigar shop in Frontierland and “ashtrays conveniently located at the entrance to every attraction,” so that you could put out your cigarette before queuing. Walt Disney was a big smoker himself; he died of lung cancer caused by smoking in 1966.

The smoking free-for-all did exclude attractions and lines, though. President Barack Obama learned this the hard way when, in his youth, he was kicked out of the park for lighting up on the Skywalk gondola ride. The jury is still out on what exactly he was smoking.  

That all started to change in the early ‘90s, just as “smoking was banned on all interstate buses and all domestic airline flights lasting six hours or less.” In 1991, Disney closed the Tobacco Shop and converted it into Great American Pastimes, which “sold baseball cards and sports memorabilia until 1999.” In late 1999, Disneyland stopped selling cigarettes anywhere, and in early 2000, “Disneyland Park limited outdoor smoking to three locations.”

Since then, MacGyver-ish tobacco smokers and potheads have done extensive research on secret spots to light up in the park. In 2011, the New York Times did a deep dive into a community of Disney World park-goers who created a crowdsourced “Rough Guide” to the Magic Kingdom:

It pinpointed the safest places for burning the proverbial rope, telling what in particular to watch for at each spot. Isolated footpaths that didn’t see much traffic, conventional smoking areas with good hedge cover, places where you could hide under a bridge by a little artificial river—those were its points of interest. The number of views suggested that the list had helped a lot of desperate people.

In the eight years that have transpired since the Grey Lady’s report, we can only imagine the clandestine lengths smokers (and more recently, vapers) have undertaken to  engage in the habit in the parks. No doubt last week’s announcement has stubbed out any future efforts to continue.

Smoking and vaping were not, however, the only things exiled from the Magic Kingdom in last week’s announcement. Large strollers—more than 31 inches wide or 52 inches long—will no longer be allowed starting May 1. Disney says that “many existing double jogging strollers fit within those limits,” but parents of triplets, or several young children, will need multiple adults on hand to push multiple “smaller” strollers. The reason for the restriction? Deb Koma, editor of Disney fansite AllEars.Net, told that with growing attendance numbers, which are expected to boom with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, “Restricting stroller size and prohibiting wagon strollers will, hopefully, eliminate the traffic problems they can cause—blocking walkways, bumping into guests (especially little ones) and taking up space in queues and elsewhere.”

The most unexpected item in this Disney crackdown is the ban on “loose or dry ice.” (What?!) For a little context, you can bring small coolers and backpacks under 24 inches long, 15 inches wide, and 18 inches high into the park; Disney recommends that you bring reusable ice packs to keep your items cool. However, alcohol and glass jars, except for baby food, are not permitted. Disney hasn’t commented on its rationale for the ice ban, but speculates that ice makes “security checks longer and more difficult to conduct and/or that leaking water might present a slipping hazard.” (That feels like a stretch.) No need to sweat, ice fans, you can visit any Quick-Service dining location in the park for a free cup of that frozen stuff.

When we read about Disney’s chilly feelings toward ice, we laughed, but it also got us thinking about what you can and can’t bring into Disney parks. Here’s a list of some of the most remarkable bans. Never fear, miniature horse service animals are still allowed!

  • Pets, except for service animals (dogs or miniature horses only). Disneyland does have a climate-controlled pet daycare near the park entrance called the Disneyland Kennel Club.
  • Selfie sticks, hand-held extension poles for cameras or mobile devices, flags, and banners. (Thank you, Disney! Here’s our guide to avoiding tourist faux-pas.)
  • Drones and remote-control toys. (Thanks again!)
  • Cremate remains. (There have been some incidents…)
  • Bicycles, motorcycles, tricycles, unicycles, pogo sticks, and Segways. (Disneyland on a Segway would be kind of epic, though.)
  • Folding chairs. (The masses must brave the long lines for rides without ‘em.)
  • Sporting goods, including baseball bats, helmets, and Frisbees. (How about hacky sacks?)
  • Wrapped gifts. (Sorry, you can’t bring birthday gifts to Disney.)
  • Items with spikes, including purses, bracelets, and shoes.
  • Tripods and monopods that cannot fit inside a standard backpack or that extend over six feet.
  • Horns, whistles, large megaphones, or noise makers. (So, you can bring small megaphones?)
  • Fireworks, smoke machines, or fog machines. (Don’t steal Fantasmic’s thunder!)
  • Skateboards, scooters, skates, or shoes with built-in wheels.
  • Costumes or masks if you’re over 14 years old. Those rules are relaxed on Halloween, but there are still regulations.
  • Visible tattoos considered inappropriate, such as those containing objectionable language or design.
  • Clothing that drags on the ground. (Sorry, duster-loving goths!)
  • Balloons and plastic straws are not permitted at Water Parks, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park or Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge—this is a precaution to keep the animals safe.
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