Don't know what Club 33 is?
I didn't either until recently. But if you're a Disney freak, like lil' sis is, then "SQEEEEE!!!
For the past several years, I had seen kevinEats post about his first, second, and third visits to this exclusive club but hadn't paid particular attention. Plus, I didn't know he could invite guests so it wouldn't matter how exclusive it was, I wasn't getting in. Except last year, Mike of Famished LA did get in, as Kevin's guest. Mike is a Disney freak. So when he mentioned that Club 33 had closed its waiting list because there's a 14-year wait, then I paid attention.
Walt Disney built Club 33 as an exclusive and serene oasis where he could entertain visiting dignitaries away from the hustle and bustle of Disneyland. Unfortunately, Club 33 didn't open until June 15, 1967, six months after Disney's death.
If you are a Disney freak, then you probably already know about the door marked "33" in New Orleans Square. Entrance is only allowed if you're with someone who has membership. Membership itself is limited and corporations and individuals pay thousands of dollars at admittance and in annual fees. Not that that matters since there's a 14-year waiting list that's been closed to new additions for years. Once you secure an invite, locate the not-so-secret doorway and press the buzzer on the intercom concealed in a hidden panel. You are not allowed in unless your name is on the list. You are not allowed in more than 5 minutes before your reservation time. Dress code is nice-casual ie. if you're visiting the theme park that day, change out of your tank tops, shorts, and sneakers.
And if you are a Disney freak, like lil' sis is, then entering its hallowed doorway and dining there just might make your childhood and adult Disney dreams come true.
After I realized how special Club 33 really was, I casually asked lil' sis online if she knew about it...
WC: Did you know there's a super secret restaurant inside Disneyland in New Orleans Square that only members can enter?
WC: Walt Disney built it to entertain visiting dignitaries.
Lil' Sis: Yep
Lil' Sis: Club 33
WC: Did you know I know a food blogger who can get us in? :)
Lil' Sis: WHAAT
Lil' Sis: OMG
Lil' Sis: OMG
Lil' Sis: OMG
Lil' Sis: CAN WE GO?!?!?!?!?!
Lil' Sis: Ooomg!!!!
WC: Hahaha. I knew that would get you excited.
Lil' Sis: OMGGG!!!!
Lil' Sis: That would be
Lil' Sis: So
Lil' Sis: Wow
WC: He gets in through work. But I think he can only do it once a year. Around October. So I can ask him for next year.
Lil' Sis: Haha how?!?! Who's this food blogger???
WC: The one from Biggest Menu who eats at the fancy places
Lil' Sis: Oh oh oh!!!
Lil' Sis: Your bday!!!!
Lil' Sis: You get in free anyways!!!
Lil' Sis: Oooh
WC: he's been 3 times
Lil' Sis: Wow
Lil' Sis: WoOow wowoowowow
Lil' Sis: Ogmg
WC: and how excited you'd be
Lil' Sis: :):):):):)
Lil' Sis: Yay!!!!!!!
Lil' Sis: My life would be complete
Lil' Sis: And then we could do all the other food at disneyland
Lil' Sis: Like
Lil' Sis: The chili cheese fries
Lil' Sis: No one knows about those
Lil' Sis: Its like suuuuper exclusive
Lil' Sis: Suuuper super
Lil' Sis: That area of the park looks exclusive
Lil' Sis: Haha
Lil' Sis: This Is so exciting
Lil' Sis: Ahhh!!!
Lil' Sis: You just made my life
WC: yeah, i told him if he could get us in, he would totally make your life
Lil' Sis: YESSS
Lil' Sis: And its so
Lil' Sis: True
Lil' Sis: Hahah
Lil' Sis: I love your food blog now
WC: oh and the characters stop in too
Lil' Sis: OMG THEY DO?!?!
WC: yes. mickey. pluto
Lil' Sis: You know even now I'll wait in line to take pics with them haha
WC: you're such a dork!
Lil' Sis: Lol
Lil' Sis: Everyone says that
Lil' Sis: I don't get why
Lil' Sis: I really think I'm cool
Last month, Kevin sent out an invite. Dining at an exclusive club is not cheap. This year's meal was $117, which includes tax, tip, and entrance to both Disneyland and California Adventure for the day. Since the once a year opportunity to dine at Club 33 was Kevin's company's way of thanking the volunteers who participated in a fundraiser for the Children's Hospital of Orange County, the organizer also requested we each donate at least $50. It was a fair request and the money went to charity, but it also meant the meal would now cost $167 for each of us.
Ouch! That's more than what I spend on groceries for a whole month.
I told lil' sis if she paid for her own donation, I would cover her meal.
"Are you doing this for me?" she asked. "Because I'll still love Disneyland even if we don't go."
Of course I did this for her. The price will always keep going up. Who knows if Kevin will move on to another job by next year. Gotta seize the opportunity when it comes. Besides, lil' sis is a good kid. She usually doesn't ask for much and I knew it would make her insanely happy.
That morning, we debated between stuffing an extra outfit into our purses, or going back out to the car to change before dinner. I ate breakfast. Caught up on blogging. Why was I taking foreeever to get ready when lil' sis was dyyyying to goooo. And didn't I want to get my money's worth out of the day?
What can I say?
I'm an old fogey. I'm not a Disney freak and a hot day of crowds and lines was not very appealing. I hadn't been to Disneyland in a decade, the last time because it was Norwegian girl cousin's first time in America so I played tour guide.
Things were off to a good start when we got free parking for the day. Something about the machine being broken? That made up for the fact that I have a knack for somehow always choosing the longest lines and lil' sis was getting annoyed as cars sped by in the line beside us.
We had to pick up our park passes from Guest Relations, which is located by the bathrooms past the C at the end of the CALIFORNIA sign. The Disneyland workers who directed us where to go were suitably impressed, as was the checkout girl who handed us our passes. Ooh, the prestige of it all.
We went into California Adventure first since I hadn't been.
I thought the fake Hollywood lot and sky were a nice touch.
Lil' sis took me to one of her favorite rooms where clips from all the animated films played on large screens.
"Isn't this sooo cool?" she asked.
"But you can watch all the films at home on TV," I said. Me=not so impressed.
Unwilling to let me rain on her parade, lil' sis said she knew what would make me happy and led me to the Beast's Library.
You know what would have made this even better? If there were real books in the library. In Robin McKinley's "Beauty: A Retelling of the Story Beauty and the Beast," the library was magical and filled with all the books in the world -- written and yet-to-be-written. "Beauty" was originally published in 1978, way before Disney's version with the iconic library scene. And I don't think the Beast giving Beauty the library was the most romantic gesture in the world because I'm a nerd and he gave her a freakin' library, but because he gave her her heart's desire. *Sigh.* That's why that only exists in fairy tales.
There's even a hologram of the rose losing its petals every once in a while.
She made me play a quiz to figure out which Disney princess I was most like...Belle! No surprise since I answered that I'd rather be reading a book. Ha!
But lil' sis was puzzled that the room didn't come as a complete surprise. How did I know?
Umm, because there was a sign that said, "To the Beast's Library"?
"There is? Where?"
And as we walked out, I pointed it out to her. Ha!
We then wandered over to the ferris wheel but there was too much construction and it didn't photograph so well.
The only ride I wanted to go on was Soarin' Over California, a simulated hang glider tour over California landmarks. Orange-scented mist would spritz through the room as we soared over orange groves. No photography or videotaping allowed or I would've shared.
"Wasn't that sooo cool?"
But how did I know what the ride was like in advance?
"Oh, people illegally sneak photos and videos on YouTube."
Darn you people who don't obey the signs. Lil' sis looked a little crestfallen that I hadn't been surprised by all the cool new things she wanted to show me.
We wandered around a bit and then decided to make our way over to Disneyland.
Bye, California Adventure!
We immediately saw Fairy Godmother, which excited lil' sis to no end because she had yet to take a photo with her. *Ahem.* And if you recall the end of the online conversation, she still waits in line for photos with the Disney characters. We had a quick wait and were the second-to-last people to get our photos in before Fairy Godmother had to rush off and help Cinderella.
Bibbity boppity boo and she was gone.
"What rides do you want to go on next?" Lil' sis asked.
I didn't really have any preferences. Space Mountain. Perhaps the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Didn't I want to revisit favorite spots or re-live memories?
Umm, I don't have any. This was only my fifth trip to Disneyland. I felt no need to go in the past decade so obviously I haven't any memories I needed to revisit.
"I don't understand," said a very confused lil' sis. "This is the weirdest Disneyland trip I've ever been on. How can you not love Disneyland?"
Oh dear, was this odd fascination a result of all the Disney movies we bought for her as a kid?
Lil' sis has a season pass and goes at least a few dozen times a year. Sometimes she just likes to walk around.
OK, then that's what we'll do.
We wandered down Main Street, USA where I still love seeing the facades of Americana.
Then made our way over to Tomorrowland but there were no more FASTPASSes for Space Mountain and it was a 90-minute wait.
Passed by the Matterhorn, where I chuckled recalling that her other friend lost his expensive Alexander McQueen scarf because the winds whipped it away, never to be found. He had thought the scarf would flutter so prettily around his neck during the candid photo.
Snapped some pictures in front of the Mad Tea Party cups.
Walked through Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Remarked that we both thought Prince Phillip was the best-looking Disney prince. That's if we had to crush on an animated man and all. Paused for a photo in front of the castle, of course.
Wended our way toward New Orleans Square, where lil' sis wondered out loud why it was located beyond Frontierland and Adventureland. Isn't that an odd place, she asked?
Not really. Seems fitting to me. Louisiana Purchase and all.
Now she gets it. ;)
Prior to this, the Blue Bayou Restaurant was lil' sis' nicest dining experience at Disneyland. And even though she had heard about Club 33, she had never noticed the door before. Blue Bayou Restaurant is located at 31 Royal Street. Club 33 is located at, you guessed it, 33 Royal Street.
Just a discreet 33. No other signage. The colors and decor blend in with Blue Bayou. So if you didn't know better, you'd think it was just part of the restaurant next door. But if you did know better...
Lil' sis was shocked that she had dined next door and walked by it all this time and had no idea.
We heard three guys whispering and wondering if they could somehow sneak in. Not likely boys, as we rubbed in that we had reservations there in an hour. I don't think they believed us.
Club 33 is U-shaped and stretches from atop the Blue Bayou to around and atop other shops.
I've always liked New Orleans Square with its wrought iron balconies and cute little shops.
We ducked into a bathroom to change into nicer clothes and then sat outside while lil' sis freshened her makeup.
A secret society of plaid-wearing folk walked by. What are they doing? Why are they whispering?
The nice guy on the far right wandered over to tell us they were training for holiday tours of Disneyland.
More lovely balconies.
How cute! An artist's studio with paintings and a beret. I wonder if they have to take it in each night? What happens if it rains? Maybe the paintings are lacquered?
Time to wander on back to see if the group had arrived.
Here we are back on Royal Street staring up at where we'll be dining.
More photos taken in front of the "33" sign.
Finally! We're in! Yes, they did a headcount and checked our names off the list. No sneaking in!
We ascended the staircase since only a few people could fit inside the famous elevator.
Remember, outside utensils first and work your way inward.
We were seated in the Trophy Room where, at one time, real stuffed animal heads hung on the walls.
Now, there are only a few taxidermy.
Notice the chandeliers?
See the microphones hidden inside each chandelier?
Walt thought it would be great fun to listen in and have the animal heads have conversations with guests. Unfortunately, other people didn't think so and the heads have been removed. The only stuffed animal left is this vulture above the door, which was wired but never hooked up.
The plates were created specifically for Club 33.
I ordered a Coke, but lil' sis ordered an iced tea and got a swizzle stick with the "33" logo stuck into her lemon. The lady next to me got a Coke too, so no souvenir for her. Her husband, who had only ordered water, then requested a club soda with a lime. His glass came out with the lime perched on the rim of the glass. Aww, still no swizzle stick souvenir for her, but I thought it was so sweet that her husband noticed and tried.
Regular and walnut-olive bread.
The lady noticed me snapping photos and positioned the salt and pepper shakers so they'd be in my shot. Unfortunately, those photos were too blurry. It was her and her husband's first time at Club 33 too.
Field greens salad with nectarines, English cucumbers, candied walnuts, and croutons.
Cheese platter. The reddish cheese in the back was an English Derby cheese with elderberry wine. Quite nice with its mottled red appearance and mild flavor. The other two were French chaumes and brie. I forgot what the red swirls in the middle were but it was tart and sweet with the scallion oil to contrast.
My filet of Chateaubriand on a bed of mashed potatoes with two pear tomatoes and a few green beans.
I ordered mine medium-rare.
Lil' sis ordered hers rare-medium.
Isn't that the same thing?
No, she insisted.
Shhh! The waiter motioned behind me with a smile.
The filet was good, could've been a little more tender, but if you're here for the food, you're missing the entire point.
Service was excellent, as expected. I dropped my knife and before I could even lean down, a waiter had picked it up and nicely presented me with a replacement. Except, I fumbled and dropped that too and that one was promptly replaced as well.
The nice lady next to me shared some of her pan-seared John Dory fish.
Dessert was a giant truffle. Well, that's what it tasted like. Soft, but solid. I was expecting a molten lava cake by its appearance.
Here, I made it into Mickey Mouse for you. (:3
Can I have my food back, asked lil' sis who was a little embarrassed by her older sister's antics.
At one point, she had gone to the restroom and came back to tell me the toilet was shaped like a chair. Oh! I have to see this! I told the lady next to me what lil' sis said and promptly slipped my camera into my dress's pocket.
Making my way toward the bathroom, I glanced down at the scene below. What a contrast. The quiet, elegance above with touristy crowds below.
Ooh! Pretty nice bathroom.
Haha. The toilet is shaped like a chair!
Lil' sis said she had grabbed some paper towels with the "33" on them as souvenirs. Darn, maybe I should have coughed up $20 for a "33" souvenir mug after all...
Cleaning up the Trophy Room after our meal. You can't see in the photo but in the middle of that cabinet was a hole for a hidden camera that was never installed.
This phone was used in the movie, "The Happiest Millionaire."
Apparently, Walt saw a similar elevator at a hotel in New Orleans. The hotel wouldn't sell him their elevator so he had a replica made. We snapped some more photos inside the elevator and then it was time to go.
While in the foyer, we heard a woman buzz in and say she was here for her 8:15 reservation.
"We'll see you then," said the front desk receptionist with a smile.
"I have an 8:15 reservation," the woman insisted.
"We'll see you at 8:15," the receptionist said firmly.
As we exited, a few passersby looked at us with awe. So did the woman and her guests who were trying to get in for their 8:15 reservation.
"They won't even let us in early for a drink?" I heard her say with annoyance.
I checked my cell phone.
The time was 8:07 p.m.
Apparently, you can not get an extra 8 minutes of Club 33 time before you're scheduled.
Lil' sis and I laughed. Thus, making our whole experience even more surreal.
Lil' sis asked again if I wanted to go on any rides. Not really.
What about fireworks? There's a whole Halloween-themed show. Ugh! I hate Halloween. I love October at the beginning of the month, when the weather gets cooler, when the leaves change colors, when it seems like autumn is in the air. Up until my birthday. Then it comes too close to Halloween and I don't like being scared, or witches and vampires, or other ghoulish things.
Plus, we still had to get home and lil' sis still had a couple of hours' drive before she got back to school.
As we made our way to the exit, I recalled a recent text message conversation.
"Anything on your bday wish list?" Lil' sis asked.
"Nothing at all???"
Just my lil' sis coming home.
"Hahaha awwwww SAVE. Oh wait saving that text would be useless it doesn't show the context of it..."
So later, I sent her a text message that said, "All I want for my bday is for my little sister to come home." Or something to that effect.
While riding the tram back to the parking structure, I playfully groused that I didn't even get a "You're the best sister in the entire world."
Well! She was waiting for the right moment, but after I demanded it, lil' sis said she didn't want to say it now.
What time is it? she asked.
I checked my cell phone.
"You're the best sister in the entire world :)"
For more info about the mystique of Club 33, check out the unofficial Disneyland Club 33. By the by, lil' sis has a friend whose mom works at Disney and met and married Roy Disney, and even he can't get into Club 33. Thereby, making her feel even more special.
I always make her text me after she arrives at school so I know she got there safely.
"Thanks again for everything...you made one of my dreams come true. Looove you!"
Aww, it's nice to have a little sister. And just when I think she's getting too old, it's nice to be reminded that I can still impress her. She searches for herself on the blog, you know, so she can re-read all the entries where I mention her. So here you go lil' sis, you can re-live the day over and over again.
I still think you're a dork! And I never did get those chili cheese fries. Does that mean you'll be doing something for me when it's your birthday next year? ;)
And thanks again to kevinEats and his company for inviting us along.
33 Royal St.
New Orleans Square
(Unfortunately, this is just a Disneyland internal address. For mailing and location, refer to Disneyland's main address.)
1313 S. Harbor Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92803
1 year ago today, a gift of mignon dahlia bulbs that I'm still hoping will bloom.
2 years ago today, Quattro Porcini Pasta (Italian Four Mushroom Pasta).