Learn All About Club 33: Past, Present and Future
We’ve been asked countless times by our readers about Club 33 and that we should do an “insider article” on what it’s like inside this infamous club at Disneyland. We’ll, here you go! We finally put something together after gathering countless interviews from current and former members (all who will remain anonymous). We’ve broken things down into questions that we get asked a lot and plugged in our interviewed members and non-members two cents. Names have been changed for privacy. Their opinions are their own.
What is Club 33?
If you’re not familiar with Club 33 at Disneyland, it’s a members only club “hidden in plain sight” in Disneyland Park’s New Orleans Square. Guests who are members of the Club are allowed access to its facilities that include a bar, restaurant and courtyard. You can see Club 33’s main dining hall from most locations in New Orleans Square just by looking up. The 2nd level balconies in the photo below is where the dining hall is. “Most people think that Club 33 is hidden and you can’t see it. They also get it confused with the Dream Suite that is above Pirates of the Caribbean. The entrance to the Club, dining balconies as well as the bar and some hallways can all be seen from New Orleans Square,” said one member. “All you have to do is look.”
How Did Club 33 Start?
The Club got its start when Walt Disney was looking for a way he could wine and dine his special guests that ranged from dignitaries to investors of the park. He wanted it hidden for privacy but still offer great views of the park. He was able to achieve both by placing it in New Orleans Square. There are rumors that the name comes from the 33 original investors of the park but this is false. Having verified with several members and Cast Members at the Club we can tell you that the name comes from its original address, 33 Royal Street.
Since Club 33 use to be the only place in Disneyland Park where guests could purchase alcohol (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge now serves it as well), the establishment required a liquor license. And if you wanted a liquor license you had to have an address for the establishment. Thus 33 Royal Street was used and the name Club 33 was derived from that.
What does Club 33 Look Like Inside?
“When you walk into the Club you’re actually entering a very small reception office that has a desk for Cast Members, some furnishings and a small glass cabinet that holds Club 33 merchandise. It’s really nothing special,” said John M., a current Club member. “From here you walk out into what is called the Court of Angels. If you have a reservation at the Club you’ll wait here until you’re called up. Cast Members typically offer you a cold or hot towel (depending on the time of year) and a flavored water. There are small tables and chairs to sit at as well as the grand staircase, a small fountain and an elevator if you need it.”
“From here guests climb the grand staircase to the 2nd floor. On the left hand side there are restrooms and a phone booth with a working telephone and to the right you enter the Club. Inside the Club you’ll find a reception desk, a harpsichord, the elevator door and another cabinet with Club 33 merchandise. Facing the reception desk you can go into the bar on the left hand side or you can do a 90 degree turn and head into the actual dining hall.”
“If you head into the bar you’ll pass 4 booths, each with a unique painting that changes over the course of several hours. Past these is the actual bar on the right hand side and tables throughout. There is a Yamaha piano towards the back center of the room that plays music. The room is furnished with stained glass and paintings.”
“Towards the dining hall you’ll pass several original wall paintings and an end table that was used in the Mary Poppins films. There are several tables throughout the dining hall, some for two and some for larger groups. There are several ground to ceiling windows that open and allow guests to walk out onto the balconies for a great view of New Orleans Square. There are also some 2 person tables out there seasonally.”
What’s It Like To Dine There?
“From the time you enter the Club till you leave you’ll experience some fantastic service,” Shirley D., a current member told us. “The Cast Members here are the best of the best and provide fantastic personal service. The waiters, waitresses and their teams are very knowledgeable and professional. It’s the kind of place where you look down at the table and wonder what the extra fork is used for. The menu is always changing and fresh. It will be one of the best meals you’ve had.”
Many guests of Club 33 told us that dining at the Club, especially your first time, can be intimidating. They also told us that guests should take a deep breath and relax. While Club 33 is a very nice restaurant, you should enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about using the wrong fork or spoon. Pick up the one you want to use and use it! Your waiter or waitress doesn’t care and will replace anything they need to on their own.
“Many times I will bring someone who hasn’t been and they’re very nervous that they’re going to mess up in some way,” said Josh L., also a current member. I just tell them to relax and enjoy themselves. You really can’t mess up anything. If you don’t know what’s on the menu, ask! Your waiter or waitress is happy to explain everything to you. Can’t pronounce it, that’s fine, just point!”
Guests really make their Club experience what they want it to be so just be ready, ask questions, take pictures (video is not allowed) and have fun.
The Club does have a dress code that changes seasonally but overall it’s pretty relaxed. In the summertime, shorts are fine, tee-shirts are fine. No clothes with holes in them or flip flops. In the fall and winter time, long pants, collar shirt and again, no flip flops or clothes with holes in them. Don’t wear anything that would contain offensive material.
Keep in mind though that the Club is expensive and is not free for members to dine there or their guests. There are two different times to dine, lunch or dinner. Lunch typically runs $100 per person after tip, not including drinks. Dinner is about $120 per person including tip, excluding drinks. You can order a la-carte but you’ll need to spend a minimum of about $50 per person.
The lunch menu offers 4 courses including an “appetizer”, soup or salad, main course and a dessert. Dinner includes 5-6 courses. You are allowed to skip over a course if you’d like and order two of something. If you’d like to try two of the desserts, go for it!
“One of the best menu items the Club use to offer was the Truffle Mac n Cheese,” said Shirley. “When the previous Club chef left for Steakhouse 55 it was taken off the menu. Club members started to go over to Steakhouse 55 and request it so often from the chef there that they eventually added it to their menu! It’s amazing!”
What’s the New Club like vs. The Original Club?
If you’re not aware, Club 33 was redone several years ago from its original “Walt-era” to what it is now. The entrance to the Club changed from being right next door to the Blue Bayou to a bit further down Royal Street, across from the perfume shop. When the Club underwent renovations, many long-time members were not happy with the changes.
“I’ve been a long-time fan of Disneyland, since I was a little kid,” said Blake Y., a former Club 33 member, “but when I saw what they were going to do to Walt’s club I couldn’t stand it. There were many long-time Club 33 members who left over the renovations. Club 33 was all about nostalgia and history. They took all that away when the Club was redone. I haven’t been back since I left my membership.”
For many, redoing Club 33 was pretty hurtful, not just to members but long-time Walt-era fans. “I had always wanted to go to Club 33,” said long-time park goer Ryan R., “it was on my bucket list. Once I heard they were changing everything from the way Walt had it to its current state I took it off my list. What’s the point in visiting a place like that if it has no meaning behind it?”
The original Club 33 featured a small reception area with a coat closet, a desk, a french lift and a staircase up to the dining area. Guests were offered the chance to take the french lift which was designed after one Walt wanted from a hotel he stayed at in France. The hotel refused to sell him the lift so he had his Imagineers make an exact copy of it, including the sliding doors. It was a really unique experience to ride it.
Upstairs there was a small waiting area and two separate dining halls. The first was the main dining hall which featured a small bar and the dining tables. The second dining area was known as the trophy room and featured many collectibles from Walt’s adventures. It was typically used for larger parties. It is here where Walt used his animatronic vulture and hidden microphones in the hanging lights to listen in on his guests conversations. He would then have the animatronic vulture make comments that flowed with the table conversation.
Throughout our interviews with members and non-members, we found that many would still recommend experiencing Club 33 once in their life if given the opportunity, though it was pretty close with many not recommending it because of the changes. Those who felt that way all seemed to express the same feeling towards the Club; there just isn’t anything meaningful there anymore.
“If I wanted to pay for an expensive meal with a great view and great service, I would rather just make a reservation at the Blue Bayou next door and enjoy what they have,” said guest Jody W., who’s visited the Club before. “It was great and all but I actually enjoy the Blue Bayou a little more. Plus it’s about half the price.”
While the old Club 33 use to be packed almost all the time, the new Club seems to struggle a bit. We spoke with several guests who told us their dining experience was fantastic, mostly because there wasn’t anyone else around. “I had lunch at the Club one time and my group of 4 were the only people sitting in the dining hall,” said Laura B., “eventually more guests showed up but there were still more empty tables than full ones.”
“The bar is empty most of the day,” said Jonathan W., a current member. “It’s actually pretty nice when I take a group up there and it’s just us. I don’t know if it’s good for business but so far that’s how it’s been since the new Club opened. When asked how the Club could get more members in he stated, “They would definitely be busier if they opened the bar up to the lower-tiered memberships.”
How Much Does It Cost To Be a Member?
Pricing for Club 33 memberships varies on the type that you purchase. Let’s be clear though, you can’t just “purchase” a membership. You have to qualify and then wait. And wait some more. Then wait some more. Memberships aren’t offered that often and if you do come up for membership, be ready to pay a pretty penny.
Former member Matt T. told us that most members are locals and are very wealthy. “Some are Disney fans and some just like the fact that the club is exclusive and they want to be a part of that.”
Currently the lowest membership will cost you a buy-in fee around $24,000 up to $90,000 for the higher business memberships. On top of that you will have annual dues between $12,000 and $24,000. Your membership can be revoked at any time and no refund is given on any buy-in or dues depending on the reason.
There are still members of Club 33 who are grandfathered into lower memberships that are no longer offered such as the Silver and Gold memberships. They currently pay around $5,500 to $7,000 in annual dues.
Memberships cannot be willed. Once the original member leaves for whatever reason, it’s over.
“When the original Club was around, membership fees were pretty reasonable,” said Matt, “but with the renovation, membership dues went up significantly. For myself, there was no way it was worth it considering what they were taking away.”
So how do you get chosen for membership? You can reach out to the Club (try an internet search for their email) and request one. You may be asked to submit a resume amongst other things including your net worth. Be aware that your social media accounts may play a part in a membership offer. They seem to do their research on their members.
What Do Club 33 Members Get With Their Membership?
It depends on the type of membership you have. For 2019 Gold members received:
- Access to dine at Club 33 with membership ID’s
- Limited bar access, only available before and after dining
- Two Premiere Annual Passes valid at Disneyland and Walt Disney World ($4,000 value)
- 50 1-Day Park Hopper Tickets ($8,000 value)
- Club 33 member-only events
- 10 instant fastpasses each day they visit
- Free valet parking at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
Platinum members received*:
- Unlimited access to Club 33 and 1901 Lounge
- Two-Four Premiere Annual Passes ($4000-$8,000 value)
- 50 1-Day Park Hopper Tickets ($8,000 value)
- 5 VIP Tours ($10,500 value)
- Club 33 member-only events
- 24 instant fastpasses each day they visit
- Free valet parking at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
As you can see, adding up the benefits of membership probably evens out the cost of annual dues (for Gold members, the benefits outweigh the annual dues for now). As for Club 33 member only events, they typically cost money, several hundred dollars per person depending on what they are doing. In 2019, Club member were treated to a free event that included visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge one week before it opened to the public. Events like these are priceless to most members.
Over-time the Club has cut back on member benefits while raising membership pricing. “It started to get ridiculous,” said Matt, “I’d get my membership bill but at the same time I’d lose benefits. It used to be that if you were dining at the Club you would get a free 1 day Park Hopper ticket. They took that away. We used to be able to set up unlimited reservations for our guests to dine. They took that away and gave a set limit. Every member use to be able to go to the old Club bar and have a drink anytime. When the Club was redone they took that away for several members. It used to be that true Disney fans could afford membership, now it just seems like they cater to the wealthy who may not care about the benefits so much as just being a member.”
What’s The Future of Club 33 Look Like?
The Club seems to be headed in the same direction it has been for the last 6-7 years. They tend to keep the number of members fairly low. Annual dues continue to go up. Changes to member benefits will probably also continue to change as well.
“If I’m being honest,” said Jonathan, “the Club really isn’t a “Club” per-se. Members of a Club vote and make decisions about how the club should be ran; their input is valuable. At Club 33, members are really only paying for access to an expensive bar and dining experience. We have zero say in what happens and we just have to suck-up the changes whether good or bad. I don’t see that ever changing.”
While some members would love to keep the Club how it is, exclusive and private, some current and many former members would love to see the Club open its doors to the true Disneyland fans and make it a unique and fun dining experience.
“As an annual passholder and long-time Disneyland fan, I love to see the Club open up to more guests, add a bunch of historical items to the Club and make it a sort of “dine in the history” experience. So many people would get joy out of something like that instead of just a select few. I think that’s what Walt would have done eventually, sorta like the Dream Suite turning into the art museum.”
“Bring back the old Club environment but with more details and Disneyland artifacts. Then open it up to the fans, like D23 or something. You could probably still get away with charging $100-$120 per person but make it really fun,” said Matt.
Till then, here’s to standing outside the door and hoping!
Dean has been writing and blogging for over 10 years. He specializes in Disney theme park news including updates, openings, special events and general advice for travelers. He doesn’t shy away from the good, the bad and the ugly. His previous work includes being a Cast Member at Disneyland and working as a travel agent.