How to Join Disneyland’s Exclusive Club 33
Most of Disneyland’s visitors never see, or even know about, the park’s most highly rated restaurant: Club 33. Situated above Cafe Orleans and the French Market in New Orleans Square, the five star restaurant is surrounded by a mythical air thanks to its limited guest list and rumored history. Unlike the rest of the park, the elusive Club 33 is not open to the general public and access is extremely limited – but, every few years, a couple lucky Disney fans are somehow able to get a coveted membership. But how do they do it?
The History of Club 33
There isn’t an overwhelming amount of information on the founding of Club 33, since the restaurant likes to keep things as private as possible for the sake of its members. However, there are a few rumors regarding both the name “33” and why it was made. According to Disney officials, the name stems from the restaurant’s address on Disneyland’s Royal Street. But, others speculate its origins lie in Walt Disney’s true intentions for the exclusive club. As Disneyland was being formed, Walt Disney quickly realized that he would need a place to entertain important guests that would not be as public as the other restaurants in the park. Disney himself never saw the completion of the club before his death in 1966, but it was still opened and used for the purposes Disney’s planned purposes. Since then, Disney executives have used the club to entertain VIP’s, donors, and investors from across the globe. The name “33,” which was chosen after the club had been completed, might have come from the list of Disneyland sponsors from 1966. Although the number of Disney sponsors and investors has changed over the years, in 1966 there were exactly thirty-three.
Where can I sign up?
It isn’t impossible to become a member of Club 33…but it isn’t exactly easy either. Disney doesn’t release the length of the waiting list but some speculate it to be years long, with hundreds of people trying to snag a coveted membership. The first step to becoming a member is submitting a letter, or email, to the club, requesting a spot on the waiting list. The next step is waiting for a really, really long time. Asking Club 33 staff where you are on the list of other applicants is frowned upon but if you are given an answer, it’s usually within the realm of four or more years. If you’re lucky enough to get a membership to Club 33, be ready to pay some hefty fines. The club annually costs, on average, $10,000, with a $25,000 initiation fee per person. Some of the alleged high profile members include Tom Hanks, Elton John, and Christina Aguilera.
The best part about becoming a member of Club 33 is, of course, getting to go to Club 33. The restaurant is decorated in a lavish, but not overdone, New Orleans style, with French and Art Deco accents. Like everything Disney does, it was made with an eye for detail. Eclectic items from Walt Disney’s travels around the Southern United States line the walls and the simple yet elegant “33” logo adorns everything from fine china to tile mosaics. The club is open for lunch and dinner, with the menu varying from season to season. Although members pay astronomical annual fees, dinners at the club are still pretty pricey at $150 a plate – excluding drinks. Perhaps the biggest perk for club members is the option to order alcoholic drinks in the normally dry park. But, guests are always reminded to behave with proper conduct – which means drunkenness isn’t allowed. Other things that aren’t allowed past Club 33’s doors are shorts, flip-flops, and faded or torn jeans.
Club 33 members get more than just access to the physical Club 33 restaurant – they also get the VIP Disney treatment. This includes: valet parking, free park passes, itinerary planning, and special access to the newly opened 1901 lounge in the Disney California Adventure section of Disneyland. Special discounts on Disney cruises are also available, as well as other unforeseen perks. Still, reservations at the Club 33 restaurant are never guaranteed and neither are the aforementioned perks. So, why do people go through so much to become a member of Club 33?
Is it worth it?
For the ultimate Disney fan, Club 33 is a dream come true, but for the average park visitor, it comes across as a bit extreme. The price and the wait that accompanies a membership are way too much for most people, but clearly the demand for access to Club 33 is higher than ever. Although Club 33 guests do get a lot from their membership, it comes down to status more than physical perks. It’s a way to see and be seen for well-to-do Disney fans. Whatever your reason for wanting to join Club 33, just make sure you don’t talk too much about it. It’s a (supposedly) secret club, after all.
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Special thanks to Peyton Hinkle for writing this article! My name is Peyton Hinckle and I am Junior at UNC-Chapel Hill where I am currently studying English and Studio Art. I’ve been an avid Disney fan since I was little, with a special appreciation for everything creative, colorful, and geeky. Some of my favorite Disney characters include Princess Aurora, Moana, and Marvel’s Avengers.