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Lani Teshima, editor

Lighting Up

A Smoker's Survival Guide to the Disneyland Resort

Wednesday, August 27, 2003
by Lani Teshima, staff writer

As a smoker, you're probably already used to making adjustments to take that cigarette break. No smoking on the bus? Wait until you get off. No smoking in the movie theater? Take a puff outside before the movie starts.

If you are a smoker in California, however, you can feel like a total pariah, made to feel completely disliked and unwanted because of your habit.

PHOTO: A smoking sign on the right, with the Sun Wheel in the background.
A smoking area in Paradise Pier provides a great view of Paradise Bay and the Sun Wheel. Photo by Lani Teshima.

While state laws are very rigid, you can—with just a little extra planning—still have a good time visiting the Disneyland Resort without suffering because of your smoking.

Hotels

Accommodating your habit begins well before you go on your trip, when you start calling around to make hotel reservations. You might be used to asking for smoking rooms, but did you know that there are only a handful of smoking-designated rooms around the Disneyland hotels and motels?

The resort's Paradise Pier Hotel is probably the most smoker-friendly. All of its smoking rooms are on the 13th floor, just two floors below the top Concierge-level suites. You even get a view of Disney's California Adventure park across the street, if that's the view you prefer.

The original Disneyland Hotel has three tall towers, but smoking rooms are now only located on the second floor of the Bonita Tower. If you want to smoke in your room, forget the nice views.

If you want a Concierge-floor room, you're out of luck, unless you are willing to walk outside.

If you think your options at these two hotels are limited, consider the newest Disneyland Resort hotel, the Grand Californian. The entire hotel has been designated smoke-free. There are no smoking-designated rooms, and you cannot even smoke on your balcony, or at the pool area. If you were hoping to prop your feet up for a relaxing smoke, you are completely out of luck at the Grand Californian.

The neighboring hotels aren't particularly better. Some motels are also smoke-free facilities. And unlike staying in a no-smoking room in a smoking-allowed hotel, you will not find ashtrays in the common areas at all. Make sure to ask specifically when you make your hotel reservations.

Flying

If you are unaccustomed to long flights, or flying makes you nervous, you might want to be prepared with some alternatives to help you while you travel. Although they are diminishing in number, some airports still provide smoking lounges. These glass-enclosed “zoo exhibit” rooms, however, are pretty disgusting, even for the smoker. The ventilator may be turned up, but the furniture is often tacky from the tar and nicotine, and the rooms usually smell like very stale dive bars because their only use is for people to light up and blow smoke.

Unfortunately, most airports no longer provide smoking rooms, and with increased airport security, it may be too inconvenient to leave a secure area at a connecting airport to catch a smoke outside.

Two options are the nicotine patches and nicotine gum. If you haven't tried either, consider giving them a trial run well before your trip. Not everyone likes the patches, since the dosage is not controllable in the way the nicotine gum is.

Smoking allowed here

Disneyland has contemplated banning smoking altogether in its parks. This, however, would cause a problem for visitors from other countries such as France and Japan, where smoking is quite prevalent. Instead, Disney came up with an oddly worded policy: the park is designated “smoke-free” except for specially marked smoking locations in the park. Disney has never permitted smoking by guests waiting in attraction queues or watching parades, but the strict restrictions were put in place prior to the turn of the century.

While people may complain that there is less to do at Disney's California Adventure park, it actually has more designated areas (five) than Disneyland (three).

PHOTO: Two park visitors sit down at a bench to smoke.
The walkway between Frontierland and Fantasyland provides a nice, shady smoking area. Although there are only a few benches, the rock wall provides plenty of seats. Photo by Lani Teshima.

However, be warned: Neither park is smoker-friendly. Expect to make a lot of accommodations for your habit, and make sure you make arrangements with your party so they don't have to keep waiting for you to finish your smokes.

Smoking not permitted in restaurants or bars

California's smoking laws are very stringent. You cannot smoke in restaurants. This means you cannot ask for a smoking table, and get your smoking in after your meal. If you want an after-meal smoke, you have to leave the restaurant and walk to the nearest smoking area, at least if you are in the parks. Incredibly, the state does not permit smoking in nightclubs or bars, either. Keep this in mind if you were hoping for a fun night out at the clubs or bars.

Smoking strategies

There are a number of strategies you can incorporate to make your visit more pleasant.

Pack your smokes

Consider bringing extra packs of cigarettes with you. Gift shops on property don't sell cigarettes, and the vending machine in your hotel may charge over $5 a pack (assuming they carry your brand). Nothing as unpleasant as having to cut short your day's visit to the park so you can go to a convenience store to buy overpriced cigarettes.

Smoke less

Consider smoking less during your park visits. If you are normally a lazy smoker—someone who lights up without thinking, and lets a cigarette sit in an ashtray to burn to its butt on its own—you might not need to light up as often as you normally do.

Determine how often you need a smoke break—every hour, every few hours, a couple of times a day, and so on. Depending on what you think you can get by with, you can adjust your day's schedule and be less tied to smoking areas in the parks.

Whether your strategy is to use nicotine patches, nicotine gum, or regular chewing gum, the less time you have to spend at the smoking areas means more time to enjoy the parks. Keep in mind that smoking in the parks means not just the time it takes to smoke, but the time it takes to walk to the designated smoking areas. On crowded days, trying to get in a short smoke break can end up robbing you of a half an hour out of your precious day!

Save your smokes

Instead of taking 10 minutes to smoke an entire cigarette, try smoking half a cigarette, or even just a handful of puffs. Considering how much cigarettes cost these days, don't toss your smoked butts. Carry an empty tin with you (such as those that you can buy for Altoid mints). After you put your cigarette out, keep it in your tin. It won't get crushed or wet, and will easily hold a partially smoked cigarette. For example, if you know you are going to walk past a smoking area, you can take a quick smoke break without holding up the rest of the party.

Take a long midday smoke break

Do you have children? If so, whether they have a midday nap or rest period can make or break your trip. Why not take advantage of this down time by considering it your relaxing smoke break? Take your kids to the hotel pool. If your hotel allows smoking, many of them will provide ashtrays near the pool, assuming it's outdoors. Grab a book or magazine and your cigarettes. Prop your feet up and enjoy smoking without feeling rushed.

Pick attractions near smoking areas

In Disneyland, there are a few rides that are very close to smoking areas. The entrance to the Matterhorn Bobsled is a straight sight line to the Fantasyland smoking area. The Condor Flats smoking area is across the walkway from the entrance to Soarin' Over California.

PHOTO: A smoking area sign near Fantasyland.
Even the signs are themed to the land they are in. This sign is for the Fantasyland smoking area, located under the monorail track. Photo by Lani Teshima.

One good strategy is to time your smoke break with these nearby rides. Although you might miss out on an attraction, you will be able to relax and light a cigarette while the rest of your party goes on these attractions.

Designated smoking areas

Disneyland has three smoking areas, and DCA has five.

Disneyland

New Orleans Square: Rivers of America Landing – The former keelboat landing has been converted to a smoking area. Of the three smoking areas in Disneyland, this area probably has the nicest views, since you can see Tom Sawyer Island and much of the New Orleans and Frontierland waterfront. Although benches are provided, there is no shade.

This location is most convenient if you are coming from Critter Country, New Orleans Square, Tom Sawyer Island, or Adventureland.

[By the way, this area is very close to the Tom Sawyer Island raft loading dock, and unfortunately, the cast members who work on this attraction end up smelling the smoke all day.]

Walkway between Fantasyland and Frontierland near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Although the entire area is not covered in shade, this smoking area is probably the coolest and quietest. Located among foliage, the area is small but probably the most relaxing.

This location is most convenient if you are coming from Frontierland, Main Street, U.S.A., or on the side of Fantasyland near the Casey Junior Circus Train.

Fantasyland on the way to “it's a small world,” near Matterhorn Bobsled – The area is also accessible from Tomorrowland, and is easily identifiable because it is under the monorail track on the way to the Matterhorn Bobsled entrance. Although the monorail track provides adequate shade, there are no benches in the shade. The benches are set back and are not protected under shade.

This location is most convenient if you are coming from Fantasyland near the Mad Tea Party and “it's a small world,” Toontown, and Tomorrowland.

Disney's California Adventure park

Hollywood Backlot, behind Superstar Limo – Tucked behind the Superstar Limo ride is a smoking area that is well enclosed and provides some privacy. Because the attraction next to the area is no longer open, and the area is tucked away in the very back of Hollywood Backlot, you can usually expect to have the area to yourself.

This location is most convenient if you are coming from anywhere in Hollywood Backlot, although it is also an option from A Bug's Land (Flik's Fun Fair and Bountiful Valley Farm) and Sunshine Plaza.

Condor Flats in Golden State, next to the Fly 'n' Buy gift store – Yet another well-enclosed area, this smoking area is somewhat narrow, and tends to be heavily used because it is next to a popular store, and right across from the queue for Soarin' Over California.

This location is most convenient if you are coming from anywhere in Condor Flats, as well as Sunshine Plaza.

Grizzly Peak Recreation Area in Golden State, near Grizzly River Run ride underpass – This smoking area is easy to miss, because the only signs are those that point you toward the walkway, and are not posted in the actual area itself. This area is not heavily used because there is another smoking area by the Fly 'n' Buy, and is not visible from the main walkway.

PHOTO: A sign pointing to a smoking area near Grizzly River Run.
The only real sign pointing to the Grizzly River Run smoking area, this one can be easily missed, and may explain why the area is not crowded with smokers. Photo by Lani Teshima.

This location is most convenient if you are coming from Grizzly River Run, Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, or Golden Vine Winery. It can also be accessible from Pacific Wharf.

Paradise Pier, near the waterfront by California Screamin' track and Sun Wheel – Both this and the San Francisco Bay Area smoking area (next) provide sweeping views of Paradise Bay. Although this area is in a wide open area, it is deceptively difficult to find. Keep your eyes peeled for “Smoking Area” signs posted on light poles. Note that this area has no shade.

This location is most convenient if you are coming from the California Screamin' side of Paradise Pier.

San Francisco Bay Area waterfront near Golden Zephyr – Located on the opposite side of Paradise Bay from the other smoking area, this area is also less crowded because there are fewer attractions nearby. This area has no shade, either.

This location is most convenient if you are coming from most of Paradise Pier. It can also be accessible from as far as the Golden Dreams theater.

The one place you can smoke liberally

With all of the restrictions against smoking in the Disneyland Resort, there is one location where you can smoke all you want in the outdoor common area: Downtown Disney.

PHOTO: A trash can in Downtown Disney.
Trash cans in Downtown Disney come with ashtrays. Photo by Lani Teshima.

Most (if not all; we didn't check every single one) trash cans in Downtown Disney come equipped with an ashtray top. Most of these trash cans are located near concrete benches, making it easy to rest your feet while you take a cigarette break. And while the stores are no-smoking, you can easily wait outside while members of your party go shopping. On weekends, Downtown Disney is also often sprinkled with New Age musicians who sell their CDs and play live concerts, making this a nice area to relax.

Amusingly, if you are a smoker wishing to stay at the Grand Californian, your reservation operator may suggest Downtown Disney as your smoking area. Of course, while Downtown Disney is just a short walk from the Grand Californian, with several hundred rooms, walking to Downtown Disney means a major trek (certainly more than stepping out on your balcony).

No butts about it

You might already be accustomed to getting dirty looks or comments while you are smoking. Just remember to limit your smoking to designated smoking areas, and you should be fine.

MousePlanet reader Margaret Silva suggests taking some nicotine gum into the park to save even more time. “I do end up smoking a lot less, probably for several reasons,” she said. “I hate hate hate wasting time in the smokers' pits… and I know I have limited time in the park and treasure all of it.”

Margaret always makes sure to have a cigarette before entering the park, so she can go quite a bit without needing a smoke break. When she needs to smoke, she leads her group to attractions nearest the smoking areas, such as the Matterhorn Bobsled, so her party can go on a ride and avoid waiting for her to finish her cigarette.

Each of these strategies are small, but add up to give you far more time to enjoy the parks. And if you end up smoking less, you not only stretch your stash and save some money (all the more to buy souvenirs), but your lungs will thank you for the vacation, too.



ABOUT THE EDITOR

Contact Lani Teshima if you have any travel tips or questions about trip planning.

A Hawaii ex-patriate, Lani is a technical writer for a San Francisco Bay Area software company.

When Lani is not managing the copy editing tasks here, you can usually find her at the gym, slogging away those slow miles on the treadmill as she trains for the WDW Marathon (held in January). She also maintains her internationally recognized Travelite FAQ.

In the occasional spare moment, Lani and her husband, Alex—our MousePlanet CEO and MouseAdventure event coordinator—attend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).

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