If you have ever visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California, you have probably been to Sleeping Beauty’s castle, ridden the monorail, hugged Mickey Mouse, or felt an adrenaline rush on the roller coaster inside the Matterhorn.
But you almost certainly have not been inside Club 33.
Located behind a pedestrian-looking door (seen right) in the theme park’s New Orleans Square, just next to the Blue Bayou Restaurant, is this incredibly exclusive, closed-to-the-public part of the Disneyland experience. Entrance is restricted to members who, in a process reminiscent of a Prohibition-era speakeasy, announce themselves via an intercom hidden under a panel on the doorway. A receptionist checks to make sure that the guest is indeed a member and, if so, admits the person to the club.
Once inside, members are met with an ornate elevator wrapped by a similarly ornate staircase, as seen here. The elevator is a replica of one Walt Disney himself wished to by from a Parisian hotel, but the owner would not sell. The ladies’ restroom resembles athrone (or at least it did in 1998.) Upstairs are two restaurants, which by reputation are two of the best in the area. And these restaurants — with their extensive wine lists — are also the only places in Disneyland where a guest can purchase alcohol.
Membership comes with benefits beyond club access. Members are given free access to Disneyland, of course, and are often allowed entry before the park regularly opens. They are entitled to up to six special Fastpasses – special, because they can be used to skip the Fastpass line itself — and are given access to other parts of the park which are typically reserved for special occasions and/or first-comers.
Want to become a member? Sorry, you can’t. Membership is limited to 487 people at a time, and the waiting list — which is so long, the estimated wait time (by most every account) is 14 years. In fact, the waiting list has become so long that, rumor has it, Disney has stopped accepting applications. (If you really want to try anyway, this unofficial information site suggests that you send a letter requesting membership information to Disneyland, Attn: Club 33, 1313 South Harbor Boulevard, Anaheim, California 92803.) And even if you are offered a spot, be prepared to take out a hefty loan, as memberships start at just over $3,000 a year with a $10,450 initiation fee.
Bonus fact: The Matterhorn has a break room near the top of the mountain, above the roller coaster and out of view. When the ride was originally built, the break room contained a basketball court — a hidden fringe benefit for the park performers and employees. (You can see pictures of the court here.) According to a footnote on Wikipedia, the court may (may) have served another purpose: “The basketball court satisfies an Orange County zoning ordinance that limits the height of amusement attractions. By including a basketball court, the structure can be classified as a ‘sports facility,’ which is exempt from the height limitation.”
From the Archives: The Kingdom of the Little People: It’s a small world after all.
Related: ”Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland Resort’s Best-Kept Secrets,” by Steven M. Barrett. 4 stars on 18 reviews. Not available on Kindle.