Inside Club 33, Disneyland's Most Exclusive Secret Spot
Who's a member of the club that's made for you and me? That would be the Mickey Mouse Club, but there's another super secret club in Disneyland that is decidedly NOT for you and me, but instead for only a lucky few. With so many great restaurants, Disneyland is the most magical place on Earth and for those chosen (and wealthy enough) to be among the exclusive VIP ranks, that magic goes even further. It's these elite few who are granted access to the only alcohol-serving restaurant in the theme park. Club 33 at Disneyland provides a jazz-infused, upscale dining (and drinking) experience fit for royalty.
A membership to this club comes with much more than valet parking. The exclusive restaurant at Disneyland features a dining room, called Le Grand Salon, where diners are offered a fancy array of meals and wine pairings. The ultimate jazz bar atmosphere awaits in the Le Salon Nouveau where patrons can enjoy a full bar with mini-menu for a more upbeat experience.
If you're wondering how to get in to Club 33, just know that it's not easy. The purpose of its creation was to provide a level of exclusivity and class to what is, overall, a family-friendly amusement park. Access is only available to those with corporate connections and/or loads of cash. It's not impossible to join, but it is tricky, so be prepared for a long and expensive ride. Memberships are capped at a certain number with a waitlist that spans over a decade. Individual initiation prices cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Those of us who can only dream of dining at this exclusive restaurant at Disneyland will have to resign ourselves to poring over the photos, blogs, and reviews that the lucky souls with memberships post online. Here's a look inside the elusive Club 33 to tide you over until you hit either the jackpot or make friends with a card carrying member.
Club 33's Name Has Mysterious Origins
The origins of the name "Club 33" are as mysterious as what lies within. If you ask the park staff, they'll say it refers to the club's prior address at "33 Royal Street" right in the heart of New Orleans Square in Disneyland. This was back when the club was unnamed. A former Club 33 manager, Mr. Roger Craig, has another explanation for the number, though.
When the club was first constructed and opened in 1967, Walt Disney had died and the club still had no official name. Since the corporate VIP club was built to support its sponsors, Roger Craig says it was the number of investors that made up the new name. At the time there were 33 investors in the theme park including General Electric, Ford, and Pepsi-Cola.
The Set Designer For Gone With The Wind Designed The Look For Club 33
In the early to mid-'60s, Walt Disney was working with various sponsors for additional attractions that were in the works at his park. It was these large corporate sponsors who preferred the idea that there be somewhere in the park that felt exclusive. Namely, General Electric executives wanted a lounge area to wine and dine in.
To satisfy Disney's partners, Club 33 was built into the plans for New Orleans Square in 1966. The design for the secret restaurant was thought up by the Hollywood set designer for Gone With the Wind to fit the French Quarter architecture and Disney artists decorated the interior.
The Waiting List Is Nearly 15 Years Long
This Club 33 fan website states that membership "like all good things, requires patience," but they don't tell you what they mean is 14 years or more of patience. This is the potential wait time to even be considered for membership.
The number of available memberships offered per year depends on how many people leave the club. Club 33 is capped at 500 members, so only by someone leaving is a new member on the list able to join. Some years may see several memberships open up; it is, after all, a very expensive membership to maintain. Other years will have zero openings. In 2012, the waitlist reopened after being closed for five years and added a new exclusive club at Disney's California Adventure, called 1901, to the mix.
The Cost Of Membership Is Crazy Expensive
There's a hefty fee to be a VIP member of Disneyland's Club 33. The current prices aren't advertised anywhere, but older reports show the cost includes an initiation fee of $40,000 for corporate memberships and $25,000 for individual memberships, with annual dues of $10,000.
And food and drink costs aren't included with those fees. Depending on the meal, your bill can cost upwards of $100 a person for the most minimal items on the menu. However, if you are getting into Club 33 as the guest of a member, you'll also need to pay for entry into the park (unless your friend has the elite Premium membership, which includes 50 passes for guests a year). As of 2017, the cost of entrance to Disneyland alone was $97 for a non-peak day.
Membership Perks Include An Annual Pass And Character Appearances On Demand
Membership to Club 33 is the only ticket to boozeland in Disneyland. But membership comes with an annual pass that gets members into Disneyland Resort and Disney's California Adventure. They also get complimentary valet parking at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, exclusive access to various park events, and, since 2012, access to Disney California Adventure's new private lounge in Carthay Circle, 1901.
As if all of that wasn't lux enough, members can also request their favorite characters visit them while dining. All they have to do is make the request ahead of time. Dinner with Donald Duck on demand; not bad.
Better Dress To Impress If You Snag An Invite To The Club
Creating an air of elegance and high-class style, Club 33 adheres to a very strict dress code policy. Your basic theme park clothes won't cut it if you expect to gain entry. To allow enjoyment of the park on the same day as a trip to the club, casual attire is permitted for lunch. But watch out, this excludes tank tops, cutoffs, bare midriffs, sweatpants, or any sort of beach wear, and shorts need to be walking length and jeans cannot be faded or torn. For dinner, guests should wear evening casual attire, such as collared shirts, slacks, and informal dresses, but no shorts of any kind are allowed in.