My recent visit to
Disneyland's exclusive Club 33
By Binnie Betten
||On June 22, 2005, my
granddaughter, business partner, our two husbands, and I
were lucky enough to receive an invitation to dine at
Disneyland's private, pricey and semi-secret Club 33.
Very few visitors to Disneyland ever get to enter the
legendary establishment. Needless to say, I was excited.
If one was not previously aware of
its existence, discretely tucked amid restaurants and
shops in Disneyland's New Orleans Square, one would
never imagine that something extraordinary lies behind
the grayish-green paneled door unassumingly numbered
"33." It's rumored that Disney Imagineers actually
researched the color spectrum to determine the hue that
was least likely to be noticed by the human eye--dubbing
the shade of door paint, "No-See-Um Green."
I could walk right by and never even
notice the entrance, I silently mused to myself, personally
validating the rumor.
Simply named for its address on Royal
Street, the famous club was originally intended as a place where
Walt could entertain colleagues, dignitaries and influential
businessmen in an ambiance of fine cuisine and distinguished
decor, undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of the theme park
below. After Walt's death in 1966, the concept of the club was
reassessed. It opened in 1967 as a private establishment to a
limited number of members who could afford the five-digit
membership fee and equally costly annual dues. Membership is so
limited, in fact, applicants can remain on a waiting list for
|Usage of Club 33 is by
reservation only, and it is advisable to obtain
reservations well in advance. Our benevolent,
member-sponsor had made our lunch reservations for 11
am, and we were the first party to arrive that morning.
Members simply have to place their card-keys into a slot
to gain admittance, but we needed to locate the "guest"
buzzer hidden beneath a small brass door and press it.
As we awaited access to the "inner
sanctum," I imagined all of the heads of state, foreign
dignitaries, royalty, corporate CEOs and Hollywood
celebrities that had gone before me. According to the
Seeing Stars web site, Robert Wagner, Michael
Jackson, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Phoebe Cates and Kevin
Kline have all recently been spotted dining at Club 33.
Years ago, a rigorous dress
code was in place for the exclusive club, but it has
become more relaxed over the years. We arrived attired
in "dressy resort casual."
"Gee, I hope we don't look out of
place," I mumbled hopefully to no one in particular.
I was worried needlessly, however.
While we did see a number of "society ladies" stylish adorned in
Sunday dresses and a variety of summer straw hats (whom were
clearly in the park only to dine at Club 33), there was also the
occasional guest who ventured into the club dressed in shorts.
||The small, intimate entrance
foyer to the club was nothing like I expected. What it
lacked in space, however, it more than made up for in
regal elegance. After confirming our reservations, the
club hostess positioned behind an antique, desk-style
podium invited three of our five party members to take
the replica of a 19th-century French lift to the main
dining area. Linda and Mike opted to take the stairs.
We disembarked on the second floor
Gallery. There are lots of interesting things to look at
here, including an oak phone booth modeled after the one
seen in the Disney film "The Happiest Millionaire." Also
to be found are Victorian antiques said to have been
collected for the club by Lillian Disney, original
artwork by Disney artists, huge vases of freshly cut
flowers and a small display cabinet containing various
Club 33 logo merchandise. The telephone inside the
glass-paneled booth is said to be a working model, and
guests are welcome to make calls. The logo merchandise
is for sale upon inquiry, but don't expect to see price
tags or a cash register nearby; business here is
Purchase the Club 33 logo pin, I
made a mental note to myself, realizing it was sold nowhere else
in the park and would make an exciting addition to my Disney pin
|We were met in the Gallery by
the maitre de who escorted us through Lounge Alley, a
small area where the club bar, appetizer buffet and
dessert buffet are located. This area also holds a
unique, antique harpsichord hand-painted with a
Renaissance-style mural depicting New Orleans's Harbor
during the nineteenth century.
Club 33 is the only place in
Disneyland where alcohol is available. Here it is served
in grand style by award winning bartenders with access
to an extensive wine cellar stocked with a huge
assortment of vintage wines and fine liqueurs.
We were seated in one of the
clubs two dining rooms, The Banquet Room, lavishly
furnished with rich woods, hand-crafted furniture and
elegant chandeliers, all crafted in the First Empire
style of the Napoleonic era. I couldn't help noticing
the little gold plaque over the entranceway, informing
us that the dining capacity for the room is 66.
Cute touch! Definitely by
design, I thought.
I only got a quick peek at the second,
smaller dining area, The Trophy Room. There is a lot of
interesting history and speculation connected with this room.
Originally, the walls of the room were lined with big game
trophies such as spears, African masks, antelope and mountain
goat heads, a stuffed owl, various other small stuffed mammals
and a nine-foot long ivory mammoth tusk. Most of these trophies
have since been removed by Walt's family, and now only an
animatronic vulture remains. While some will claim that Walt had
this room wired with electronic equipment with which to
eavesdrop on his guests, the speaker-microphone system that
remains visible in the room was installed for a far less
sinister purpose. Walt had hoped to entertain his guests with
the state-of-the-art audio-animatronic vulture and other animals
like those seen in many of the attractions at Disneyland.
||The lunch menu at
Club 33 offers classic, continental dishes created by
five-star chefs and no stated prices. Each entree,
however, was approximately $50--curiously, close to the
price of the complimentary one-day hopper passes that
came with our reservations.
TheMouseForLess.com's Club 33 menu
page lists the 2005
spring and summer entree menus, as well as the appetizer
and dessert buffet items that were included with our
While I didn't venture onto the club's
open balcony, complete with decorative iron railings draped with
flowers, I'm told that it offers an amazing view of Disneyland's
Rivers of America and nightly Fantasmic show. If you ever get
the opportunity to visit Club 33, consider timing your visit
close to evening; meander through the French doors that lead to
the balcony, with Mint Julep in hand, and see if it's true.
The number 33 is prominently displayed
throughout the establishment. We found it embossed on rich, dark
chocolate garnishing desserts, exhibited on foil-wrapped
chocolate, after-dinner mints and printed on the neatly folded
linen paper towels.
|As we finished a
third cup of coffee and prepared to depart the
restaurant, Walt's Imagineers had one final Club 33
surprise with which to dazzle us. Designed for royalty,
ornate, white and gold trimmed, lavatory thrones were
installed in the lavish Ladies' room for the use of any
princess who is so inclined to drop in during her visit.
Feeling like a queen as I desended
the plush stairway, anxious to get started on a fun day
in the park, I paused for one last look around.
As perfect and as elegant as our
service and the surroundings had been, I reflected to
myself, it was the rich history and mystique connected with
this legendary establishment that had made our visit to Club 33
a, truly, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Editor's Note: For
more photographs, please visit the
Club 33 Photo Essay