History of Club 33 at Disneyland

Club 33 is a private membership restaurant at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. It’s the most exclusive Disney dining in the world, with a long waiting list to join. Access to the Club is restricted to members, VIPs, celebrities, and executives. Current pricing is unknown–Club 33 cost $25,000 for initiation plus $10,000 per year several years ago for an individual membership, with corporate accounts costing even more.

This makes 33 Royal Street the most “famous” address among fans, which is the nondescript entrance to the exclusive and somewhat mysterious restaurant in New Orleans Square at Disneyland. The existence of the Club 33 restaurant and lounge is denoted only by a cryptic “33” sign near the entrance.

In addition to Club 33 at Disneyland, there’s also the 1901 Lounge inside Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure, which is likewise reserved exclusively for Club 33 Members. This article contains “secrets” or little known facts about Club 33, the history of Club 33 at Disneyland, its connections to Walt Disney, and our impression of dinner at Club 33. Click here if you’re looking for our Club 33 lunch review.

Note that this article is not current in terms of offering a comprehensive look at the modernized Club 33. After being relatively unchanged for decades, Club 33 underwent a top-to-bottom refurbishment and expansion in the last few years. It’s now significantly larger, more modern, and features a separate bar.

If you’re looking for history of the Club 33 at Disneyland, this is the resource for you. If you’re wondering about the current Club 33–both in terms of the interior and cuisine, please read our New-Look Club 33 Review & Tour post. This post primarily focuses on the historic Club 33 that no longer exists.

In recent years, Club 33 has become the subject of scandalous gossip and screwball speculation that’s truly out of left field. We know this because, for some odd reason, this page has become popular with internet conspiracy theorists. I won’t dignify much of this by even addressing the specifics…but it’s all preposterous.

Suffice to say, Club 33 is not a secret society, the meeting place for a cult founded by Walt Disney, or anything nefarious. It’s a place where wealthy Disney dorks, Southern California executives, and celebrities (many of whom are also Disney geeks) can enjoy an alcoholic beverage and consume expensive meals inside Disneyland. That’s it.

While it’s private, Club 33 very much operates in plain view of Disneyland guests. It’s literally above New Orleans Square with a balcony and abundance of windows that can see out and in. Seriously, you can stand next to Pirates of the Caribbean and see inside.

It’s pretty easy to find dozens of articles, social media posts, etc. of random people who have dined here. There’s absolutely nothing scandalous about Club 33, save for its pricey membership fees. (Although I’m sure my denying it will only give further credence to the false beliefs that it’s a satanist society or whatever.)

On a more reasonable note, much lore exists as to how Club 33 got its name. Some claim that the restaurant is named after the original 33 investors in Disneyland, who Walt would entertain in the restaurant. Others have suggested that the name refers to the number of “yay” votes for proceeding with the Club after Walt’s death.

Others yet think it’s because 33 sideways looks like “mm.” Another rumor is that it represents the number of Disneyland lessees in 1966-67 when the Club was being built. Countless other fables likely exist to offer explanation for the name. While there may be some truth to these rumors, especially the last, the official reason goes back to the address.

Club 33 serves liquor, and as such, needed a liquor license. To receive a license, it needed an address separate from Disneyland. Quite simply, Club 33 is named after its address. Sorry to disappoint those who were hoping for a more salacious story, but the actual lore of Club 33 is pretty straightforward and about as dry as its martinis.

Here’s some more info about Club 33…

Our first experience at Club 33 started by heading to the doorway where I pressed a speak-easy style speaker-box. After a couple of seconds, a voice came over the other side of the intercom, and asked for our information. A few seconds later, we were buzzed inside.

No matter how much I had read about the restaurant and despite all of the photos I had seen online, I was blown away as I was enveloped in the sea of rich burgundy and ornate details. Everything about the lobby was lavish. Although I wasn’t around back in the 20s, it felt like what I envision the inside of a ritzy 20s speak-easy looking like. Much like the Lilly Belle, it appeared as if it had remained in pristine condition since 1967.

Right then, I knew the ambiance alone would justify the cost of the experience. I cannot fully stress how important it is to view this restaurant as an experience and not a meal. If you’re considering dining at Club 33 and you don’t really care about Disney history, don’t.

Immediately visible in the lobby is the most impressive piece of Club 33 lore, the French Lift. These lifts were frequently used in the late 1880’s, but are now quite rare. They were similarly rare when Club 33 was being constructed. When shopping in France with his wife, Lillian, Walt spotted a French Lift he immediately had to have in an older hotel.

He tried to purchase the elevator, but the hotel would not sell the elevator, so Walt had artists and engineers (Imagineers) visit the hotel to study the lift so that they could replicate the lift with necessary modernizations. If you dine at Club 33, you’d be remiss if you didn’t take the lift. As you step out of the elevator, you begin to notice all of the exquisite details that give Club 33 such a rich history.

A meal at Club 33 is the only way to consume alcohol in Disneyland, so we were not going to pass up this opportunity.

For dinner, there’s a seasonal five-course prix fixe menu and an a la carte appetizer and entrée menu. Everyone at our table chose the a la carte menu, which required spending the cost of a one-day park ticket. Each of our meals easily exceeded twice the cost of a one-day park ticket, so no issues there.

As this menu no longer exists, it’s not really worth fixating on the specific options served at Club 33 a decade ago. At the time, the Chateaubriand was the top menu item, but it was more like a country club steak than haute cuisine or anything envelope-pushing.

Club 33 is not a restaurant, it is the ultimate Disney experience, which happens to include a meal. Club 33 is not the most-sought after and elusive experience for Disneyland fans, with a closed waiting list because of its reputation as an exceptional restaurant.

If you want to dine at an exceptional restaurant at Disneyland, you should be heading to Napa Rose in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel or Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure. There’s no waiting list for either of those restaurants, the food is easily twice as good, and the prices are substantially less.

Club 33 is the Disney Holy Grail because of its history and exclusiveness. There is truly nothing else like it in the Disney universe. You don’t eat there because of the food, you eat there because of the ambiance.

Following the meal, our waiter offered to give us a tour of Club 33. We immediately and enthusiastically accepted his offer. Although I wanted to savor the experience as much as possible, this tour was in the back of my mind throughout dinner, and I was quite excited for the tour to arrive.

The tour was interesting, to say the least. By the time we were finished eating, the room of the restaurant where we were seated was fairly empty, with the exception of a couple of tables, meaning that our tour would not be rushed, nor would it interfere with other guests’ enjoyment of their meals.

Our waiter mixed history of Club 33. After leaving the main dining room, where we were seated, our tour proceeded to the room that’s known informally as the Trophy Room.

Over the years, this room has changed, with animal heads and other once-living creatures removed from the years gradually as Disney attempted to distance itself from sport-hunts. The references to hunting are now more subtle, with memorabilia, art, and masks displacing some of the actual trophy heads.

Some remnants of the previous decor remain. An Audio Animatronic vulture that once entertained diners still sits perched in the upper corner of the room under the door, and microphones/speakers that were once used for the vulture’s interactive “show” can be found in the light fixtures hanging about tables.

The Trophy Room is smaller than the main dining room, and appears set for parties and visiting dignitaries who demand privacy from the rest of high society (although when we were there, I was surprised at how many of the patrons appeared to be “regular folk” just like our party; there were few patrons who seemed as if they were part of the pantheon of Southern California’s elite).

If Teddy Roosevelt ever ate at Club 33, this is the room I imagine him utilizing. It oozed of restrained and refined manliness, yet I can’t help but imagine the place becoming a rowdy bastion of ‘stories from the hunt’ of an African hunting expedition amongst the elite after the liquor began flowing. Perhaps I let my imagination get the best of me. It definitely has a cozier feel, but is equally as ornate and well-appointed as the main dining room.

Leaving the Trophy Room and continuing down the hall, we encountered one of the Club’s more famous pieces of decor: a phone booth. This functional phone booth is quite ornate, with its bevelled glass windows and flawless oak panels is actually a prop from the 1960’s film, “The Happiest Millionaire,” which is one of the last films Walt Disney personally touched.

In the same vicinity is another movie prop, and arguably the Cub’s most famous piece: an ornate walnut table with white marble top. It was used in the legendary 1964 Disney film, “Mary Poppins.” If it’s not the most famous piece in the Club, it’s second (to the French Lift).

While neat, the table doesn’t do nearly as much for me as the things there that are more personal to Walt himself. I know Mary Poppins was an incredibly personal movie for Walt, but it still doesn’t seem as significant as something from his personal life.

Moving along with the “normal” tour, one of the highlights of the restaurant is probably the piano just past the Gallery and across from the bar. Seemingly innocuous and no more refined than your average piano (at least to my untrained eyes), the inside of the lid features a meticulous painting of 19th century New Orleans Harbor.

Our waiter listed off a few celebrity musicians who had played the piano, which is now non-working, but I’m not sure of the veracity of that story. He also stated that Lillian Disney had picked out the piano for the Club. Again, I’m not sure whether this is true.

Sadly, as implied above, Walt Disney never lived to dine at Club 33. It was completed just a few months after his death. Around the time of Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary, the Club had a painting commissioned of Walt dining at the restaurant.

The painting now hangs in the restaurant, and features Walt at a window table, with the Mark Twain Riverboat outside, sipping a cup of coffee as he reads the paper. As far as art goes, this is probably the only piece I have ever seen that actually gave me chills. It is truly a moving piece of art.

At the end of the tour, in typical Disney fashion there was, of course, a gift shop! (This joke is so tired now, but what the heck.) Contrasting typical Disney fashion was that there was no counter or cash register nearby or any other means of knowing how to make a purchase.

Rather, you simply loitered around a glass case, and sooner or later, a Cast Member would ask you what you’d like to purchase. It was almost as if the case was daring you to buy something, and waiting around a bit before being able to make a purchase was like even deeper initiation into “The Club.”

Our tour of Club 33 at Disneyland is over here, but these few brief paragraphs can hardly do justice to all of the details about the Club, which quite simply oozes history.

A voluminous book could, and really should, be written about the Club itself, before the true history of the place is lost or morphed over the years by discrepancies in retellings from the generations of Cast Members who keep its history alive with anecdotes like those contained in our tour.

Keeping in mind my lukewarm review of the meal itself, which was heavily influenced by the main entree, I would give our experience at Club 33 a 10/10. Had the entree been better, I would put the meal on par with something like California Grill at Walt Disney World, but probably still below Jiko and Flying Fish.

Club 33 definitely doesn’t approach the quality of restaurants like Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World, or Napa Rose at Disneyland Resort. That said, if ever a restaurant deserved a mantra of, “come for the food, stay for the experience,” it is Club 33. Our hours there will likely go down as some of the best ever in any Disney park, and if we ever have the opportunity to go back, we will in an instant.

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!

Your Thoughts

Have you ever dined at Club 33? How do you think it compares to other restaurants at Disneyland Resort? Is Club 33 on your Disney bucket list? Any questions about dining at Club 33? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

43 Responses to “History of Club 33 at Disneyland”
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