What is Club 33?
Club 33 was originally located behind an unassuming door at 33 Royal Street in the New Orleans square area of Disneyland. Today, entrance to Club 33 is via the Courtyard of Angels, just down the street from the Blue Bayou. The courtyard, once accessible to all visitors, can now only be seen by those with reservations to this exclusive club.
Club 33 was originally built by Walt Disney himself, as a place to take visiting dignitaries and VIPs who were visiting the resort. Over the years, the Club has stayed true to its mission, offering an unparalleled level of service and exclusivity to its members. How exclusive is Club 33? Very. It is rumored that the Disneyland club (Walt Disney World now also has a Club 33 offering) has a waiting list of at least 10 years to join. Getting off that waiting list requires the recommendation of at least one member. Once off the list, membership is not guaranteed; and once accepted you’ll have earned the privilege of paying a one-time initiation fee of $25k-$100k, and ongoing annual days rumored to be between $10k-$30k.
Membership does have its privileges, including access to a members-only lounge area, the ability to book dinner reservations at Le Grand Salon (one of only three signature restaurant offerings at the Disneyland resort, in addition to Napa Rose and Carthay Circle), access to a new member lounge in Disney’s California Adventure, annual passes, valet parking, one-time use park tickets for your guests, VIP tours and more.
So, how do you get in?
Well if you’re a member it’s as easy as ringing the bell. If you are not a member, the opportunity is singular – you will need to know a member who will either act as your escort into the members lounge (as guests are only allowed if accompanied by a member) or who will book you a reservation for dinner. Club 33 has tightened access over the last several years. VIP tours used to be able to enter the Club, but that is no longer possible. The Southern California Adventures by Disney tour used to stop at Club 33 for breakfast, but that too is no longer offered. Knowing a member who is willing to give you access is the only way into the Club.
Before you ask, no, we cannot connect you to a member. Indeed, many members won’t book reservations unless they know you personally, because if you do anything out-of-line in the Club, their membership is at stake. Trolling Facebook groups for Club 33 to identify members, or solicit reservations, is highly disfavored and typically will have the opposite of your hoped-for effect. If you know or meet someone who is a member, your best bet is to cultivate a good relationship with them before asking for a reservation. Be kind and be patient. We were truly lucky to befriend someone with a connection to the Club, and can’t thank her, or the member who made us our reservation, enough for the opportunity to enjoy this truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
What was the experience?
It was a beautiful evening in Southern California when we entered Disneyland, a 6pm Club 33 reservation in hand. As we approached the door, the excitement was palatable. Sam rang the bell and gave her name. A minute or so later, the door opened and we were welcomed into an anti-chamber by three attentive Club hosts. Once inside, they again confirmed our reservation, before directing us through another door into the Courtyard of Angels.
In the Courtyard we were again greeted by another host, who provided us with a cooling towel before offering to take our picture. Afterward we were given the rules for the evening. There is absolutely no videography inside the club, but we could take as many pictures as we wanted as long as we did not photograph other members, staff or guests. After we agreed to the rules we were asked if we wanted to take the elevator or the spiral stairs up to the Club. The host suggested taking the stairs up and the elevator down, to get both experiences.
Once up the stairs the host pointed out the bathrooms just off the courtyard, and outside the main doors to the club. I have to say, the bathrooms were quite elegant and offered the kinds of amenities once found in very high-end dining restaurants (mints, mouthwash and the like).
After entering the main foyer, we were told the member lounge was down a hallway to our left, and were reminded we could not enter the lounge without a member present. Ahead of us lay the host stand where we again confirmed our reservation and were offered an opportunity to browse a display case full of Club 33 exclusive merchandise that included everything from artwork and golf balls, to clothing, challenge coins, glassware, specialty ears, jewelry, Lounge Fly’s and more. After briefly perusing the display, it was suggested we wait until after dinner for any purchases, and we were then promptly led to our waiting table in Le Grand Salon.
Le Grand Salon is elegant and decorated in keeping with the New Orleans theming. Wonderful artwork adorned the walls. It was smaller than we expected with maybe twenty-five tables of various sizes. Attentive beverage and food servers wandered through the space with purpose. Once seated, we were given drink and food menus. The drink menu was extensive, but we couldn’t resist cocktails from the Club 33 exclusive menu. Brian tried a Stiggins’ Ruin and Sam tried the Throws & Maskers. Both drinks were delicious.
The food menu is a four-course prix fixe offering with a starter, salad or soup, main and dessert. The prix fixe menu is $130 per person, with optional wine pairings costing an additional $95 per person. Brian opted for the pan roasted scallop starter, seared romaine salad, Walt’s blue cheese crusted filet mignon (an original and fan favorite menu item) and the Lilian’s “trifle” lemon cake. Sam opted for the shaved prosciutto starter, sungold tomato soup, the fish and braised beef cheeks, and the creamy peanut crunch bar. When we mentioned how much we liked cheese, our server said she’d also happily include the “diligently selected cheese plate” for us to try.
After ordering, we couldn’t resist popping out on the dining room balcony for a view of New Orleans Square from above the fray. As the crowds walked by blissfully unaware of the private space right above them, we enjoyed people watching on a truly beautiful evening, while snapping a few photos.
On the whole, the food and drinks were delicious, the meal was paced extremely well, the service was attentive, and the atmosphere of the dining room was relaxed (despite the air of exclusivity and mystique pervasive throughout the Club). Sam loved the food overall. Brian enjoyed the meal, but would say the food at Napa Rose (whether à la carte, or at the chef’s counter) handily beats the food at the Club. Although, he would note his steak is one of the best he’s ever had.
After dinner we couldn’t resist buying some merchandise to commemorate this amazing experience. We wound down the evening with a brief ride down the glass elevator, exiting back the way we came to rejoin the crowds one a beautiful California evening as we ambled out of the park with our Club 33 bags in hand.
After experiencing Club 33 first hand, one can’t help but want to go back. It’s an enclave of serenity in a park where that is hard to find, especially these days. Scrambling for dining reservations and lightning lanes as you push a stroller endlessly from ride-to-ride, one can easily long for a bit of respite. In that way, the magic of Club 33 remains its exclusivity. It stands apart in every way from other Disney offerings, not just because it is special (indeed, the food at Napa Rose is on par with that of Club 33), but because it remains true to its original purpose as an exclusive place where life slows amidst the surrounding chaos. We can only hope we are able to experience Club 33 again in the future. But if we don’t, our memory of that evening and our dinner will remain a singular Disney experience we won’t soon forget.