I grew up in Orange County and even worked at Disneyland as a Jungle Cruise guy when I was in college, so I've spent a lot of time at the Magic Kingdom. And while one can appreciate the World's Largest People Trap Built by a Mouse despite knowing its ins and outs--as my brother says, it's like enjoying Christmas even though you know Santa Claus is fake--I have to admit that the park had lost some of its lustre for me. Cost, crowds, and newer, lesser attractions and reboots will do that. But when a friend mentioned that he just became a member of
Club 33 and could get me in, I was all over it.
In case you're not familiar with Club 33, it's an exclusive club and restaurant at Disneyland located a few doors down from the Pirates of the Carribbean exit on the other side of the Blue Bayou. I used to think the latter was the raddest place to eat at the park with its permament dusk, fake fireflies, and boats returning from Davy Jones' Locker drifting by, but anyone can get a reservation there. To get into Club 33 you have to be a member or know a member. It's also famously the only place at Disneyland where you can drink alcohol. (No, beers in the caverns on Tom Sawyer's Island don't count.)
After securing a reservation weeks in advance, receiving your passes at Guest Relations, entering the park, and finally being buzzed in, you walk up a red-carpeted stairway that wraps around a Parisian glass elevator. The French decor is a nice step up from (but not too far away from) the Pirates of the Carribbean and the Haunted Mansion, its New Orleans Square neighbors. The spot has been frequented by celebrity guests from RFK to Elton John to Kobe Bryant, and I was hoping that Wendy would recognize someone in town for this weekend's Grammy Awards. Although that didn't happen, we still felt like VIPs just being there.
From the lunch menu's five or six entrees, Wendy picked the filet mignon. She said it was great. Eloise had the Mickey Mouse-shaped pasta with cheddar sauce--perhaps the fanciest macaroni and cheese I've ever tasted. I had the pasta dish without meat, which was unspectacular but solid. Our dishes were bookended by an excellent buffet of cold appetizers with an amazing mushroom-and-goat-cheese soup and comprehensive dessert bar with coffee. Including tip we got out for a little over 200 bucks--with service that matched--and complementary admission to Disneyland and California Adventure. We were too stuffed after our hour-and-a-half meal to eat any junk food for the remainder of our visit.
We definitely took our time at Club 33, investigating and appreciating every detail. When Wendy walked Eloise to the companions' restroom, she oohed and ahhed, "Fancy potty!" Scattered around the restaurant are props and details such as a table from
Mary Poppins and watercolors by the park's planners, but everything is tastefully arranged to keep the ambience of a high-end club and not a junk room. Who knows what business deals and entertaining gets done there?
Running along the alley to the building's facade facing the Rivers of America is a balcony that affords a nice second-floor view. It's a great place to relish the club's upscale ambience and aesthetic. There's even a dress code (no tank-tops, flip-flops, torn jeans...) which was easy to follow on a crisp February afternoon. In no time at all, you feel like you're above the touristy mobs below, even if you're one of them. Club 33 is an awesome experience for non-Disney otaku as well as full-on Mousketeers.
Perhaps we'll go back and see you there--if you can get in. The waiting list to join Club 33 is indefinitely closed.
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