The magic of Disney has been something that fans have enjoyed for nearly a century and as time goes on, they continue to perfect the art of wonder and mystery. Every year hundreds of millions of visitors stampede into Disneyland parks around the world and put up with large, uncomfortable crowds so that they can get up close and personal with the characters that remind them of what life was like before taxes and death took over our lives.
Disney is known for keeping secrets. Did you know that all over Disneyland there are secret Mickeys? Inside rides, restaurants, stores, parking structures, sign posts, and well, just about any and every place you look, there’s a secret Mickey face just waiting to be found. Just as much as Disney knows how to hide their favorite mouse’s face in plain sight, since 1967 there has also been a private club in the Disneyland park that is only open to exclusive guests. These members pay a pretty penny to experience the good life during their visits and vacations, and people come from various walks of life. Dignitaries and politicians from around the world come to have dinner and drinks, and oftentime there is an A-list celebrity over at the next table.
Disney tried for years to keep the club and its members a secret, but it became impossible. But as much information about Club 33 as has been made readily available for anyone with Google and an internet connection, there are still things that people don’t know…like this nugget, folks- it’s the only place in Disneyland where you can get a cocktail.
15. Disney Props And Alcohol
Before Disney’s California Adventure opened across from Disneyland in Anaheim, there wasn’t a place for adults to enjoy an alcoholic beverage. Now all anyone over 21 needs to do is visit DCA where there’s a full bar, a winery, and a craft beer bar. If you’re at Disneyland, you can forget it. The only place that sells alcohol is Club 33 and their bars are exquisite. The restaurant and lounge areas are decorated with authentic props from Disney films and antique furniture that was collected by Lillian Disney, Walt Disney’s wife.
Club 33 is in the New Orleans Square area of Disneyland and sits above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. While there is a big blue door next to the Blue Bayou restaurant that used to be the entrance to Club 33, guests make their way upstairs through a store nearby. Members not only have access to the club, but they are also able to visit the private jazz lounge Le Salon Nouveau and the new lounge called 1901 in DCA.
14. 33 Royal Street
While the address sits on “33 Royal Street” inside of Disneyland, there’s still much speculation as to how and why the number 33 was used. Some say that there were initially 33 investors who contributed to the creation of Disneyland so Walt wanted to make someplace where he could entertain them separately. Others say that Walt wanted to use the number 33 because if you turn it sideways, it looks like “mm” for Mickey Mouse. Whatever the reason, the five-star restaurant has gone from being a place of peace for members and their families to another tourist attraction at Disneyland. Members are able to make reservations for friends, so many times the people inside of Club 33 aren’t members at all. Many people who have had memberships for decades and whose memberships have been passed down through generations believe that this is a watering down of Club 33 and the exclusivity Walt desired.
13. Ten-Year Wait
If you thought that the prices of Disneyland annual passes were out of this world, you haven’t seen what it costs to be a Club 33 member. The initial fee for a Platinum member is $25,000 and then $10,000 per year. They receive four annual passes for their themselves and members of their families, and if they need more for larger families they can buy passes at a discount. Members may also get early admission to the park so they can enjoy rides without hassle, and they also get access to private and exclusive events. Just because someone can afford the membership doesn’t mean that they’re automatically approved. People seeking Club 33 memberships have to begin the application process with a formal letter and the waiting list for the club is said to be 10 years.
12. Private Celebrities
For those wanting to get a more scenic look at the New Orleans Square, visitors to Club 33 are able to walk through The Grand Salon and sit on one of the private balconies overlooking the water. The light, pyrotechnic, and water show Fantasmic takes place there in the evenings, so if a guest is lucky enough to have that balcony seat at night, they have the best seats in house.
Walt died before its completion. However, they pushed forward with construction and now it boasts members such as Tom Hanks and Christina Aguilera, celebs who are celebrity Disney buffs who enjoy the more quiet and controlled environment.
11. Party With Mickey!
After paying that insane membership fee, if you have more cash to toss around, you can make special reservations (well in advance, of course) to use the entire club for business events, birthday parties, or any other themed occasion. Not only that, but you can also request for Disney costumed characters to visit you and your party at Club 33.
However, on average, dinner reservations for Club 33 are booked months in advance, so one could only imagine what kind of notice the club secretary needs to schedule and coordinate an event that would shut down the entire restaurant. If you’re just looking to enjoy a lunch or dinner just know that the meal will set you back about $150, not including any alcohol that you may have with your meal. You’d think that paying $10,000 for a membership fee would somehow, somewhere, get you a complimentary meal, but that would be way too logical.
10. The Perks
No matter how many times you think you’ve been to Disneyland and have seen all there is to see, there are places that Club 33 members have access to that would make you green with envy. Before the park underwent renovation for Pirates of the Caribbean, club members were given an exclusive walk through of the attraction. They also are able to gain access to the wheelhouse of the Mark Twain Mississippi River Boat when available — an area that is closed to the public.
The best way to enjoy all the perks is to be there with a platinum or gold member, but some people do try to sell reservations or dinner seats. This is completely against policy, but wherever there’s Disney, there’s someone trying to make a profit off of Mickey. Members who have been caught selling tickets or reservations have lost all privileges and typically have memberships for themselves and their family members canceled.
9. You Can Die Waiting On An Acceptance
While the wait list to get in can be 10 years or more, the number of members they accept each year varies. When the 1901 club was opened in Disney’s California Adventure to become the equivalent to Club 33, there was an unusual influx of members who were accepted. However, there are years where Club 33 doesn’t accept anyone. The rich and famous who become members are often invited to join and can skip the wait list, although they still have to pay membership fees.
The application process is formal and can take forever, so it isn’t like trying to get into some nightclub. You can’t just call and ask where your name is on the list in order to find out how much longer you have to wait. However, we do believe that if you have to jump through all these hoops just to become apart of Mickey’s “It” crowd, when you are accepted, Mickey and friends should show up at your house with all the appropriate fanfare.
8. Don’t Skip The Dress Code
No matter what your name may be and how much you spend to get into this place, there’s still a dress code for both lunch and dinner. Disney has gone above and beyond to make this place feel as if you’ve stepped into the lap of Walt and Lillian’s luxury, so they’d like to keep the dining experiences as classy as possible. Lunch attire is much more casual than dinner but no tank tops, swimsuits, bare midriffs, sandals, flip flops, sweatpants, or beachwear. Shorts are okay, but they need to be a length that covers private areas. Jeans are acceptable, too, but they can’t be faded, torn, or show your undergarments.
7. The Lilly Belle Train
Walt Disney loved trains so the Lilly Belle, the Presidential Parlor Car named after Walt’s wife, is another one of the perks that Club 33 members get to enjoy. Lillian was very hands on with designing the car, including placing family photos and select memorabilia that remained there for years. There are polished brass lamps and fans, antique furniture, mahogany wood, and seating upholstered with red mohair. The beautiful Victorian look will make you feel as if you’ve travelled back in time.
Club 33 members can, if staff and time are available, take their guests for a quiet tour. Unlike lunch or dinner reservations where members can just call ahead for their guests, an actual member must be with the guest in order for them to board the Lilly Belle.
6. Mickey And The Masons
Walt was rumored to be a 33rd degree Mason, another reason why it might be named Club 33, or why Disney was so big on privacy. Some who have visited Club 33 have pointed out that when they walk around the various rooms and levels in the club, much of the decor, especially in the tiles on the floor and the window frames, mimic symbols and shapes associated with Masons and their ceremonies.
This, of course, opens up all the rumors about the Illuminati and Walt’s relationship with that elite group who supposedly control the world. Disney hides Mickey’s face all over their parks and hotels, so why wouldn’t Walt hide his high level Mason connection in the one place he never intended for the public to see?
5. Expensive, Yet Satisfying
Why is dinner so expensive? Your meal at Club 33 costs just as much as a Disneyland ticket, but that’s because you’re ordering five or six courses, ranging from $105 to $120. Menu items taste just as delicious as they look and are prepared by the Club 33 chef and his elite staff of cooks. Usually the restaurant focuses on French and American food that can include lobster, crab, lamb, and steaks. There is a menu for children as well that is three courses and is $60. Kids start with a salad or fruit cocktail, move on to a main course that is child friendly, and then a Mickey-themed dessert. There are some members who, while they still appreciate the fine-dining menu, claim that over the years the menu has gone downhill and isn’t prepared with as much care as it used to be.
4. Walt’s Trophy Room
Disney wasn’t a big fan of hunting and didn’t see a purpose for it, so in response his friends would send him their mounted trophies. Inside of Walt’s trophy room there are a number of autographed items and memorabilia that is the ultimate Mickey man cave. Walt couldn’t have returned the stuffed birds and dead animals, but instead he’s said to have made them into animatronic show in the club. He wanted it to be a big to-do for his membership friends, but unfortunately he died before it was completed. There are a few pieces that still exist including microphones in the chandeliers and lights that were to be connected to an animatronic vulture that would have responded to guests’ questions through those mics.
3. Hold The Phone
It’s not just the way that you dress that matters in Club 33, it’s also the way that you act. If you’re prone to dirty jokes and crude language, then becoming a member or being an invited guest may not be for you. A part of the club’s rules are that all inappropriate attire, solicitation, and profanity are not acceptable.
Also, you smartphone addicts will have to give your mobile devices a break while at the lunch or dinner table. All phones should be set to silent or vibrate, and if you do have to take a call, you’ll be asked to leave the dining area and answer in the hallway as to not disturb other guests.
2. Cutting Back
There have been a number of people and families who have abused many of their Club 33 privileges, forcing Disney to cut back on the perks members have grown to enjoy. It used to be that members could call ahead and get in as many people as they wanted all year long, then it was limited to 50 complimentary guests a year before finally being changed to 20.
One family would use over 3,000 tickets for friends, family members, and strangers, forcing Disney to put their foot down. That same family would also make so many lunch and dinner reservations that almost the entire dining area was full of their guests. So, while members can make reservations for their non-member guests, only the first 20 can also receive free tickets into Disneyland. Anyone over that limit may still get into the restaurant and have a delicious meal; however they need to pay their own way inside.
1. Shady Member
The man responsible for Disney changing how they operated Club 33 is Joseph Cosgrove. The elderly man said that he was one of the original 100 members of Club 33 and has been enjoying his exclusivity for decades, but after they saw how he was abusing his privileges, they canceled his membership.
Other members accused Cosgrove and his family of selling passes and reservations. Once, the Cosgroves gave passes to a friend who, in turn, donated them to a charity auction. Suzi Brown, a spokesperson for Disneyland, was adamant that the Cosgroves were repeat offenders.
“Over the years, the Cosgroves repeatedly transferred and sold their membership privileges, which was a clear violation of membership rules,” she said. “Unfortunately, we were left with no other choice in order to preserve the integrity of membership.”
Cosgrove sued the company, citing elder abuse, for $100,000. His lawsuit was covered heavily in the press but it’s unknown whether he got himself back into Mickey’s good graces.