As one who writes about Disney food, I’m so pleased to finally bring you my own personal review of what many consider to be the Mecca for Disney food-lovers — Club 33 in Disneyland Park.
Seeing as I had over 100 photos to share with you (taken by myself and Ms. Heather Sievers), and that the history and atmosphere of Club 33 are almost as important as the actual food served here, I wanted to split this post up into two separate parts. Today, we’ll walk through the Club from the mysterious doorbell to the Trophy Room, and all the way to the main Dining Room and balconies. And of course we’ll take a side trip to the restroom…
In tomorrow’s post, we’ll focus on the food, beverages, and even a special birthday surprise!
History of Club 33
You’ve all heard the myths and stories about this exclusive restaurant tucked into an unassuming address on 33 Royal Street in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. Walt himself describes his vision for New Orleans Square in this video…
It was designed by Walt and a shortlist of hand-picked experts to be a quiet and tranquil location for important business meetings and meals, and a place for Walt to entertain friends and visiting VIPs without leaving the park.
The restaurant was outfitted in the finest period antiques, lush fabrics and decor, original artwork and concept art created by Disney Imagineers, and authentic props from Disney films. And, of course, there were a few Disney touches that you wouldn’t expect to find anywhere else — like microphones hidden in the chandeliers and an audio-animatronic vulture who was meant to interact with guests!
What many people don’t realize is that Walt passed away before he was able to use Club 33 for its intended purpose. You can see the full history of the Club, including a few special secrets, in this history sheet… .
But the secrets don’t stop here! We actually had the opportunity to speak with a few cast members at Club 33 who shared a more interesting facts with us…read on!
Approaching Club 33: How Do I Get In?
Club 33 is, for all intents and purposes, hidden. A small “33″ marks an unassuming green doorway on Royal Street that blends into the rest of the decor in New Orleans Square. The Blue Bayou next door definitely draws more attention than the Club 33 entrance.
Club 33 Membership Details
But once you find the door, you can’t simply walk in to the restaurant. Club 33 is a members-only club. The wait for club membership once you’ve expressed interest and have been put on the waiting list is said to be approximately 14 years, and the last we heard, the waiting list was closed to new members.
So what do you get as a member of Club 33? The list of member benefits includes access to ride in the Lilly Bell car on the Disneyland Railway, access to visit the Mark Twain Pilot House on the Mark Twain Mississippi Riverboat, free entrance to Disneyland theme parks for themselves and any guests dining at the Club (free entrance is granted for one guest even if s/he is not dining at the Club), early entrance to the parks on select days, access to Club 33 special events, access to Club 33 “behind-the-scenes tours” where guests are treated to dinner and a ride on a new, or newly refurbished, attraction, and more. For an exact process for joining club 33, click through here to an unofficial Club 33 tribute website that shares lots of great information. The same site has a great list of Club 33 member benefits.
As we know, the rumors have been flying about potentially expanding Club 33, or creating a new members-only club in the Disneyland Resort. Nothing is confirmed. (Trivia Tidbit: There is a second Club 33 in Tokyo Disneyland.)
Once You Have a Reservation
These days, for those of us who aren’t members, the only way to get into Club 33 is to have a reservation made for you by an official member of the club. With a reservation, you’re entitled to a complimentary full-day park hopper pass to the theme parks — the reserving member can secure these for you, and you’ll be able to pick them up at Guest Relations upon arriving at Disneyland Resort. Don’t forget to dress for the occasion.
When you’re inside the park, Club 33 requests that guests arrive no sooner than 5 minutes prior to their reservation time. Waiting areas are minimal, and at prime dining hours they can fill up quickly.
After arriving at 33 Royal Street, of the great treats of having a reservation at Club 33 is getting the honor of pressing this special red button — the doorbell for Club 33!
Of course, Club members don’t have to press the button… they have a special card that will open the door automatically. You can see the card slot under the doorbell.
Once inside the club, your eyes will slowly adjust from the bright sunlight outside to take in the dark wood paneling, brass fixtures, stained glass, mirrors, and other decor in the downstairs lobby.
To your immediate right is the reception desk, where the cast member who buzzed you in will be sitting behind a desk adorned with fresh flowers and an old-fashioned telephone.
The candelabra sconce above you might remind you of a certain Mansion that also resides in New Orleans Square…
…and the stained glass over the door fits in well with the New Orleans decor outside as it gives the only natural light in the room.
Of course…gabbing on your cell phone at a time like this would be rude.
The main focal point of the downstairs lobby is the huge elevator (or “French Lift,” as the Club calls it).
But guests can also choose to take the stairs.
Along the stairway, you’ll see that Club 33 is customized through and through.
And you can get a cool pic if your compadres are taking the lift!
Upstairs Lobby Area
Once upstairs, wide windows illuminate the Gallery and its exquisite antiques and artwork during the day. To your right as you exit the elevator is another Club 33 Cast Member (responsible for seating arrangements) sitting behind a second reception desk. To his right is a wood-paneled wall, which holds a special secret that I’ll tell you about later!
To your left is the phone booth discussed in the Club 33 history sheet above. This is a prop from The Happiest Millionaire and holds a telephone that makes local calls.
Directly in front of you as you exit the elevator is Walt’s “Trophy Room.” This space was originally conceptualized as a casual place to display hunting trophies and stuffed game.
It was in this room that Walt planned to plant audio-animatronic animals (of which there were several) — including one or two who could speak directly to you and your guests. You can see the original photos and effects of the room here.
This vulture is the remaining animatronic, though he is not used in that capacity.
In addition to the talkative animals, Walt’s concept of the room included adding hidden microphones to the chandeliers so that the animals would be able to join in the conversation happening at the tables. We’ve heard a rumor that the wiring and actual microphones were removed in the 70′s…coincident with Watergate… . The microphone screens remain, as seen here.
Some of the prized decor of the Trophy Room are Lillian Disney’s butterfly collection.
And concept art for attractions like the Jungle Cruise.
As you turn to exit the Trophy Room, you may notice a fireplace with a mirror embedded in the mantle. This, my friends, is no ordinary fireplace (according to Jeff, our informative Club 33 Cast Member). It’s actually a two-way mirror used by the seating cast member in the upstairs lobby to keep an eye on what’s happening in the Trophy Room.
Remember that wood paneling I showed you above? The wall directly across from the elevator, where the upstairs lobby cast member sits? There’s a tiny lock in the corner of one of the panels, and the other side of the two-way mirror can be viewed behind this panel.
Of course, a huge thanks goes out to Jeff, pictured below, who was kind enough to tell us plenty of stories and tall tales about the Club 33 Trophy Room! What a wonderful cast member!
Assuming you’re dining in the main dining room and not in the Trophy room, you’ll exit back out into upstairs lobby and proceed past the phone booth and elevator into the Gallery.
Here you’ll walk by the special antiques chosen by Walt and Lilly to adorn Club 33′s lounge along with some wonderful paintings and concept art sketches.
You’ll pass the men’s restroom to your left, then come upon the Club 33 merchandise cabinet on the right. While the merchandise here changes from time to time, members and guests are able to purchase souvenirs of their visit. The Club sells everything from keychains to golf towels to bathrobes and backpacks.
You can even get a special Club 33 member ring…assuming you’re a member, of course.
From here, the women’s bathroom and companion bathrooms are straight ahead, but most guests turn right into the Lounge Alley.
This area houses seating areas for those waiting to be seated in the restaurant, and moves on to encompass the Club 33 bar and buffets.
The view down to New Orleans Square reminds you that, yes, you really are still in a theme park!
As you saw in the Club 33 History sheet above, the walls here hold concept art sketches of New Orleans Square and the Pirates of the Caribbean.
And right before you reach the buffet, you’ll pass this custom-designed reproduction harpsichord depicting New Orleans Harbor in the 19th century.
Main Dining Room
Once you’re about to be seated, you’ll move through the Lounge Alley, past the bar (on your right) and the buffet areas on either side of the alley, and into the Main Dining Room.
Decorated in early Nineteenth Century “First Empire” style, with heavy chandeliers and lush, multi-layered draperies on the french doors that open onto the balcony.
The room is smaller than I expected, with only about a dozen tables. On both of my visits last month, there were large parties celebrating special events and birthdays.
The tablescapes are simple and classic — white linens, Club 33 patterned dishes, and simple flower centerpieces.
We’ll discuss the edible portion of the experience tomorrow!
When you’re finished dining, or if you want to take a break between entree and dessert, ask your server if it’s possible to pop outside onto the Club 33 balcony. This is a truly exclusive experience, and will give you a really interesting vantage point over New Orleans Square!
The “windows” in Club 33 are usually French doors that open out onto the balcony. While they’re all “blocked” with tables, if one of the tables is free, you’ll usually be able to squeeze by the table and head outside.
The Club 33 balconies wrap around several “buildings” in New Orleans Square, so there are multiple views and vantage points. Here’s a ragtime band playing in front of Cafe Orleans downstairs…
And I seriously considered yelling down to these people that they should have gotten the Monte Cristo and Pommes Frites. I mean, seriously — they didn’t get the Pommes Frites?!??! (So, yes, spying on the people at Cafe Orleans is an option from the Club 33 balcony… .)
Here are a couple other views from the other side of balcony right off of the main dining room.
And here’s a shot of the balcony itself, with the Pirates of the Caribbean queue line and the stairs to the Dream Suite dead center beyond the balcony.
Now, for those of you who are as curious as I was about the famous toilets in the Club 33 bathroom, we had to go snap a couple of photos there. Through door number 1, the restroom has a tiny lounge area with an even tinier vanity.
And then you enter into the main restroom area through a second door. Main features are the marble and bronze vanity here…
…the snazzy chandelier, wallpaper, and mirrored doors…
…and, of course, the toilets themselves. The caned seat lifts to expose a real, live toilet, so no worries.
Coming Up Next…
Tomorrow, it’s all about the food! We’ll show you photos of the famous Chateaubriand, the yummy truffle mac and cheese that caused a fork war between my husband and me (not really…but kind of…), what you’ll get when you celebrate your birthday at Club 33, and more!