Located on Royal Street at New Orleans Square in Disneyland in California, Club 33 opened in 1967. It is an exclusive club that not everyone who goes to Disneyland can visit. In fact, it currently has about five hundred members, but the waiting list is far longer than that. This is what you need to know about Disneyland’s Club 33 as it is today, as well as its interesting history.
Club 33 is considered to be the most exclusive Disney restaurant of all its parks around the world. Because of its exclusivity, the club is a popular landmark among Disneyland fans, though most of them have probably never been inside the club. When Disney says the club is exclusive, they mean it. Membership to Club 33 is $25,000 as an initial membership fee, and $10,000 as an annual membership fee thereafter, as long as someone wishes to be a member of the club. This, naturally, makes the club a mysterious place to most Disney visitors, as the vast majority of them are probably not able, or at the very least not willing, to spend that kind of money to join a club at a theme park. The mysterious nature of the club is part of its attraction to non-members. Those who can’t get into the club want to know more about it.
Club 33 was designed to capture the atmosphere of the real-life New Orleans French Quarter of the 1800s. If you didn’t know the club was there, you would never suspect it by looking at the second story balconies and elaborate iron railings with flowers dangling from them that surround the exterior façade of the club. In fact, the exterior of the club is a little bit of camouflage, deliberately being designed to let it blend into the appearance and theme of the other buildings in New Orleans Square.
So, why is there such an expensive and exclusive club at Disneyland in the first place? The idea for Club 33 came from Walt Disney himself. He believed that Disneyland should have a special place to host and entertain visiting dignitaries, celebrities, and the families of the higher ups at the Walt Disney Company. In Walt’s vision for this special place, there would be distinctive décor, a serene and gentle atmosphere, and the finest cuisine served to guests. Walt hired a renowned watercolorist to render paintings of what the building should look like. Walt, his wife, and a highly regarded decorator also took a trip to New Orleans and purchased many of the authentic New Orleans antiques that are on display in the club. Walt wanted the old-timey New Orleans feel and atmosphere of the place to be authentic.
The idea for the club came when Walt visited the 1964 New York World’s Fair. He had been asked to create four pavilions for this fair, and being there in an official capacity afforded him the opportunity to explore the place and see what other vendors were doing. Many pavilions from other companies included sumptuous amenities for sponsors. This provided the idea of having an exclusive club at Disneyland for VIP people to the park.
Since the Disney family was having a private apartment built for themselves above New Orleans Square, Walt decided this exclusive club should be attached to that apartment, and that the club’s kitchen would serve both the club and the Disney family apartment above it. The club opened a few months after Walt passed away, so he didn’t get to enjoy it himself, but his family did, as have the countless VIPs and Disney enthusiasts who can afford the membership fee who have visited the club and made it their home base while at Disneyland.
There are a lot of myths about how Club 33 got its name, but the reality is far simpler than any of the myriad of conspiracy theories out there. It was named after its street address within Disneyland—33 Royal Street. There is a restaurant next door to it at 31 Royal Street called the Blue Bayou Restaurant, which is open to the general public at Disneyland.
Club 33 is comprised of two dining rooms, with several adjoining rooms. All of the rooms in the club have a gorgeous (and impressive) antiques from New Orleans (the same ones Walt and his wife personally purchased). There are also a number of beautiful works of original art in the club. Upon entering Club 33, guests take the French lift elevator to the second floor. They get off the lift and go into the Gallery. In the gallery are a number of interesting items, like an antique oak telephone booth and a French Quarter console table. Paintings, drawings, and design sketches from Disney artists for New Orleans Square and Pirates of the Caribbean adorn the walls.
After going through the Gallery, a guest to Club 33 will enter the main dining room. This room is decorated in the First Empire style that was popular during the reign of Napoleon in France during the early 1800s. This room alone has three chandeliers in it, as well as numerous wall sconces throughout to provide serene and mood-setting ambient lighting to the guests. The fresh flowers and parquet floors complete the authentic 19th century French feel to the place.
If the main dining room happens to be full, or if a guest prefers to dine elsewhere in the club, the second dining room is only steps away. In fact, some guests prefer the second dining room because it is more informal than the main one. The Trophy Room is located in the second dining room. The walls here are decorated with sketches done as design studies for the Jungle Cruise and Tiki Room. There are microphones within each chandelier in the second dining room, which provide voices for the statues of vultures that are also in the chandeliers. Walt’s concept for this second dining room was for it to be more laid back and fun that the formal main dining room, with guests able to have conversations with the vulture. Like the other rooms at Club 33, the second dining room also has authentic New Orleans antiques in it. In addition to its exclusivity, Club 33 is known for its gourmet meals, fine wines, gracious hospitality, and authentic New Orleans décor. While it is expensive to join, the waiting list to be a member is so long that it is probably safe to say that this club will be popular at Disneyland for decades yet to come.