When I heard about D23′s Off the Map event, I made sure to be home when tickets went on sale. A visit to the Disneyland Dream Suite, touring Walt’s Apartment, a ride on the Lilly Belle, and a super surprise dinner at one of the resort’s most unique restaurants (hmmmm, wonder where that could be)? Sign. Me. Up.
I sat down at my computer at about 9:50am, tickets would be available starting at 10:00am. I literally sat and refreshed for 10 minutes straight. Yes, I’m that nerdy. It paid off, because at exactly 10:01 (according to my computer’s clock) I had two tickets in my shopping cart and was checking out, credit card in hand. By the time I finished checking out, the event had sold out. I was surprised that they went so fast, but I then realized that it must be a very small and obviously sought after event.
NOTE: This review is long and has lots of pictures of awesome things. There’s a whole meal and a snack in the write-up (of course, this is the Disney Food Blog), but we couldn’t help including pics of the rest of the tour as well! I hope you enjoy!
We checked in at 9:00am on a Tuesday morning and were put into groups. We soon met with our uber fabulous D23 guide, Jeffrey (you may know him as the Disney Geek)!
This is where we learned that there were only 72 tickets sold for the event and that it sold out in 30 seconds. Wow, so lucky to have scored two! The crowd was very mixed, the age range spanned from teen to senior and some people traveled from across the country to be here. We had 11 people in our group; most were southern California Disneyland locals, others were from Las Vegas, and there was one all the way from Georgia (Hi Andy!).
Our group was scheduled to go to Walt’s Apartment at 10:30, so we had a bit of time to kill. Disneyland had just opened at 10:00, so it was fun to watch the park “wake up” as the horse drawn carriages emerged, characters came running from backstage, and the Disneyland Band marched right in front of us. We met our apartment tour guide outside of the Disneyland Fire Department promptly at 10:30.
Touring Walt’s Apartment in Disneyland
After given some history of Walt’s Apartment, we walked backstage and headed up the stairs (holding the handrail like we were asked) and entered the Victorian style apartment. Immediately I noticed the musty smell and got goosebumps knowing that I was in a room that Walt Disney spent many a night in, entertaining friends, playing with his grandchildren, and looking out the window smiling down on all of his “guests” enjoying what he’d created.
I look at that lamp in the window from the street below every time I enter the park. And there I was standing right in front of it, only this time, from the inside.
We were told there would only be one photo op in the apartment, near the lamp, which stays lit in honor of Walt’s “presence” at the park. I so wish I could’ve taken more pics to share with you, because it was just amazing to see this very personal side of Walt Disney.
The apartment is only about 500 square feet, and consists of a living room with two pull out sofa beds (one was Walt’s and one was Lillian’s). There is a small kitchenette with a mini bar type fridge, and cupboards/counters containing the following kitchen supplies (I note these, because we all love food and would want to know what Walt had stocked):
- Original glassware,
- PINK frying pans,
- a clear glass water pitcher,
- white coffee mugs, and
- two glass baby bottles that were used for the grandchildren.
- Walt’s original sandwich maker (looked like a panini maker), cloth cord and all. Apparently he made himself his favorite sandwich with it quite often: a simple grilled cheese.
- A “Tom and Jerry” drink serving set. Not the cat and mouse you’re thinking of, but a holiday drink invented in the 1850′s consisting of egg, rum, milk, brandy & other spices. AJ says it’s still very popular where she grew up.
- An old metal orange juicer, because Walt loved fresh squeezed orange juice.
We were told that even though cast members kept him stocked with fresh oranges, he still preferred to go down to the Sunkist Citrus House to use the fancy automatic squeezer they had. This was also an excuse for him to go and mingle with guests!
After being shown around the living room, we headed out to the balcony that overlooks Town Square, and then peeked into the tiny dressing/shower/bathroom area. If you want to take a peek for yourself, there are images online, but I’m not a rule breaker, so you’ll have to find those own your own. In the photo below you can see Walt’s pull out couch.
Besides the obvious foodie facts, my favorite story about Walt’s apartment was why the hole for the fire pole was plugged up. Originally the fire pole went from the apartment down to the fire station so that the grandchildren could use it to get into the park quickly. …That was until one day when a young guest shimmed up into Walt’s apartment for a surprise visit. Can you imagine???
Bengal Barbecue Snack
We had about 30 minutes in between our tour of the apartment and the Dream Suite, so we stopped for a little snack at the Bengal Barbecue. The snack was not part of the D23 event; we decided on our own to kill the time here.
I am excited to say that I finally had my first Jalapeno Cheese Stuffed Pretzel, while my husband munched on some bacon wrapped asparagus.
Normally I am not a spicy fan, but the cheese in this is more of a creamy cheese, not nacho type cheese; and it’s not at all too spicy. It’s really flavorful actually, and I loved the baked Parmesan cheese on the pretzel surface as well.
We weren’t huge fans of the Bacon Wrapped Asparagus (GASP!). The bacon was undercooked and tasted sort of like liquid smoke. Look for my full review of Bengal Barbeque coming very soon. Ok, you still with me? On to the Dream Suite…
Disneyland Dream Suite Tour
The Dream Suite entrance is actually not at the sign shown above. There’s an elevator, which you may have seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean queue, that takes you up to the suite.
Once you exit the elevator, there is a door that leads to a hallway, which leads to another door. Complicated right? Anyhow, when you first enter, the master bedroom is located directly on your right. This room is “Adventure” land themed and featured a gorgeous bedroom set complete with a canopy bed and a “Goodnight Kiss” surprise.
Now for that goodnight kiss. Our guide told us that Walt was very fond of good night kisses, so each room in the Dream Suite has a special “Goodnight Kiss” switch that makes something magical happen.
In this room, when the button is pushed, you start to hear waterfall noises and slight giggles, and the painting above the bed turns from scenery to a mermaid-filled lagoon.
The lighting also changes and you see some special Pirate Ship shadows on the walls. It’s amazing.
How could it get better than this? Well it does. Let me take you to the bathroom where you will find a giant tiled tub, a beautiful stained glass window, and the Good Night Kiss that gives you the ultimate bath time: 30 minutes of night sky with twinkling stars above you! There’s even a Mickey Constellation (which I didn’t get a pic of, sorry).
I was too busy exploring the nearby Main St. closet, which was inspired by the decor of Main St. USA. This closet is my dream closet. Just beautiful.
On to the parlor for more fantasticness. The parlor is very “princess” based. The room is a lovely blue color and features glass figurines, a pretty glass slipper, a gorgeous painted mirror, and murals of the two castles that inspired the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland: Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and the Chateau d’ Usse in France.
In this room you will also find a gorgeous chandelier, a magical fireplace, and one of the “birdcages” that inspired the tiki room and other animal animatronics.
There’s also a clock that magically turns from “plain” to themed when you press the “Goodnight Kiss” button!
After the gloriousness of the parlor, we headed to the second bedroom in the Dream Suite: The Frontierland Room. This room features two twin beds and is decked out in wild west decor that comes to life when you press the Goodnight Kiss button.
Surrounding the entire perimeter of the top of the room is a fun shelf filled with themed decor — the most obvious being a train framed in a display box. Once the goodnight kiss starts, the train takes off and travels along the shelf all the way around the room. As it passes different objects they come to life while you enjoy the Disneyland Railroad soundtrack! The same music plays in the room that plays on the ride. Simply amazing to see.
From here we went out onto the balcony of the Dream Suite, as it is connected to this room. The balcony has an amazing view of Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. I so wish I could watch Fantasmic from it!
After the balcony view we were taken to our final spot of the tour: the enclosed courtyard area. Here there are lounge chairs, a lovely fountain that features the Disney Family Crest, and fun outdoor lighting that includes “fireflies” like those of the Pirates of the Caribbean. So, at night, it looks like there are fireflies buzzing about.
In fact, our guide told us that guests often request the lounges be made up into beds so they can sleep in the courtyard. YES, PLEASE. How amazing would that be?
At this point, it was time to leave the Dream Suite and go back down the hallway into the real world. I must find a way to spend the night here. Must.
Lilly Belle VIP Parlor Car Ride on the Disneyland Railroad
Next up is our ride on the Lilly Belle VIP Parlor Car on the Disneyland Railroad.
Named after Walt Disney’s wife, Lillian, The Lilly Belle train car can be found making its way around the Disneyland Railroad on most days of the year (she’s not brought out if it’s raining to preserve the carpeted interior from becoming muddy). The Lilly Belle is the former “Grand Canyon” observation train car from Disneyland’s earliest days. It was converted to this beautiful Victorian Parlor style VIP car during the 1975-1976 American Bicentennial and re-christened the Lilly Belle in Lillian’s honor.
The car features velvet seats, including a “love seat” for two; images of Walt & Lillian; glass knick knacks; flower arrangements; books; and even one of Lillian’s robes displayed on a hanger. There are beautiful light fixtures, and there’s even a guest book you can sign, which of course we did! A cast member stays in the car with you and talks about the train’s history while you circle the park.
The Lilly Belle IS open to the public. In order to ride, you must head straight to the Main Street Train Station at park opening to ask about getting a seat (it’s pretty popular). If the car is out for the day, you can sign up for a time slot to come back and ride. There is no extra fee and you even get a cool souvenir if you ride: Lilly Belle tickets!
What a morning, right? The trifecta of Disneyland gems!
Once our ride around the park was complete, most of our group disembarked the Lilly Belle to break for lunch and spend a few hours touring the park on their own. The cast member told us we could stay on and take another spin around the park. Ummm, yes please! I couldn’t believe everyone left but my husband, myself and two others from our group. We had a pretty good chunk of alone time to kill until the surprise dinner meet up at 6:00, so I was happy to stay on the Lilly Belle until someone forced me off.
Club 33 Dinner
At 6:00, all 72 of us promptly met back at the Mark Twain on the Rivers of America for a walk to our group photo spot. We still weren’t officially told where dinner would be, but due to the “dress code” and fact that there would be “adult” beverages involved with dinner, I was 99.9% sure we were going to Club 33.
All day long we had a running joke that Corn Dog Castle would be our destination for dinner, since that was the “On the Map” favorite place I chose during group introduction that morning (yes, I was the only one to pick food over an attraction for my favorite spot).
Photos shot, we walked just around the corner where our lovely D23 reps rang “the” doorbell. Yep! It’s official — dinner at Club 33. It was pretty awesome to see the excitement on the faces of those who have never been behind the mysterious green door.
We were just a few minutes early, and if you know Club 33, that is a no-no. So we waited outside until it was 6:30 on-the-dot and then we were let in. Most of the restaurant (the entire main dining room and the corridor where the bar is) was reserved for our group. The only seating are we did not use was the Trophy Room, which was reserved for members that night. You can see a detailed tour of the restaurant and the Trophy Room here.
Once inside, up the stairs to the main dining room we went. The first thing I noticed (besides the 5,000 glasses placed on each table) was that the table settings had a special little something extra on them: A fun booklet describing our day as well as a souvenir Club 33 wine glass filled with yummy Club 33 mint chocolates.
AND…. In the booklet was also our menu for the night, which included wine parings. Just to mix it up and be able to have a variety of food photos, I went “Off the Map” for the vegetarian option.
The seating was not reserved, so it was nice that we could choose our own tables and sit with our new buddies from the day’s events. Our group chose one of the long dining tables and 9 of the 11 of us sat together for a really fun meal. Bread service was already on the table and the wine was immediately flowing.
I passed on bread tonight, but I’ve had the bread and butter here before; it’s fantastic. AND I love that the butter isn’t served cold and hard, so it’s very easy to spread.
First up was the Amuse Bouche: a pistachio crusted scallop with aged goat cheese and candied Kalamata olives. My husband is not normally a goat cheese fan, but he said the flavor was actually quite mild and he really enjoyed the scallop dish.
My vegetarian option came out with the scallops and I was super excited to hear it was an artichoke puff dish. I love artichokes!
This dish was fantastic. Smooth and creamy with sides of asparagus tips that were cooked to perfection. Normally I do not eat olives under any circumstances. I had a very bad experience (ate a whole can of black olives, that’s all I will say) with them as a child and cannot stomach them to this day.
However, when the dish was put in front of me I did not realize that these were olives. The were hard and crunchy and I really didn’t know what they were, so I ate them. To my surprise, they were actually quite good. Crunchy and salty, they accompanied the rest of the dish well. I remain solid, though, on my decision to never eat a black olive again.
Our first course was already vegetarian, so we all had the same dish: Local asparagus croquette with Oregon mushroom ragout and caramelized fennel froth. My best words to describe this dish? It was like a warm, crispy, asparagus-filled Twinkie…and it was delicious.
The croquette was also served with a bundle of white asparagus that was really interesting. It was served cold and was held together with a gelatin like substance. Also very tasty, but I am an asparagus lover. There were several people at are table who weren’t going for this portion of the dish.
A glass of Fess Parker Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County 2009 was served with out first course.
Up next for the second course was Cabernet Braised Short Rib with Confit of Cipollini, Peruvian Potato, and Red Beet Quenelle, which I really didn’t get a great photo of. Although he did enjoy it, I think my husband would have rather been eating Club 33′s famous Chateaubriand!
The vegetarian option for the first course was some sort of layered veggie dish with beet, potato, onion, and green beans. Honestly, when I asked the waiter, he told me it was a “Beet Dish.” I’m still not sure what the veggies on top were, but all in all the dish was fantastic.
The sauce was sweet and the mixture of textures and flavors was very nice. I even ate my pearl onion, which was a perfect match for the green beans.
Our second course was served with a glass of Summerland Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles 2010.
The dessert served up for our third course was absolutely amazing. Valrhona Chocolate Terrine, Aerated Banana Panna Cotta with Caramel Fleur de Sel Sabayon. Sounds heavenly, right? Well it was. Here you go, from the frontside to the backside.
This dessert was SO rich; the chocolate was amazing and smooth. In fact, it was so rich, I could only handle a few bites. I know, I know. (Editor’s Note: We have to give Heather a break since she’s not a “chocolate girl.” Had I been there, that plate would have been clean. But I wouldn’t have eaten the beets, so she gets props for that.)
The Aerated Banana Panna Cotta with Caramel Fleur de Sel Sabayon situation, though? I could’ve eaten a whole plate of that. I really would have been ecstatic with a bowl of it.
I love anything banana, and this was seriously an amazing accompaniment. The candied walnuts also rocked my world. So delish.
Dessert came with a very sweet glass of Batasiolo, Moscato d’Asti, Italy 2008. If you’d like to see even more Club 33 food photos, you can see them here.
Ending the Event
After dinner, it was time to head out. By now it was after 9:00 and the park was closed. Back down the stairs we went, but the magic of this D23 event was not over yet.
A special goodie bag was waiting for us at the door: a Club 33 bag with a treasure inside. Some new photos were recently discovered at the Disney Archives, and one of them features Walt Disney looking down from his apartment window at his guests below. Along with our chocolate-filled wine glasses, this photo was matted for us to take home as a souvenir.
Because Disneyland had already closed for the evening, we had to have a Club 33 Cast Member escort us out of the park. Walking through Disneyland while closed was amazing. The lights lit, the music playing, but not a person in sight. Very cool.
As we exited the park and walked past the Disneyland Fire Station, I looked up at the light shining in Walt’s Apartment and thought to myself, “I’ve been up there! How freaking cool is that!?!”
The Off the Map event was truly a magical day. I feel so lucky to have been able to purchase 2 of those 72 coveted tickets. And in all honestly, the price of $250 was a steal. Dinner at Club 33 alone, especially with drinks, sets you back at least $150 a person. Dinner, plus the gifts and all of the amazing places we got to visit? Priceless.
One person in your party must be a D23 member to purchase event tickets. For more information on becoming a member of D23, you can visit their website. Please note that we paid for our own tickets, and I was not compensated by Disney in any way to write this post or review this tour.
Here’s our group picture, which, by the way, is totally embarrassing. Those two jerks throwing up “23″ hand signs? That’s my husband & me. Seriously, they took like 10 pics and I SWEAR we were not doing that in every photo.
D23 is hoping to offer the tour again in the future, and although my guess is that prices will rise a bit, D23 will do it’s best to make this event somewhat affordable for its loyal fans.
Are you a D23 member? Have you had the chance to attend any of their special events? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.