The fact that you can’t readily access alcohol at Disney Land, a place where you might, at any time, be approached by something looking like this*—well, it’s a bit unreasonable. Then again, there are children (so many, many screaming children), long lines, and various cartoon-themed machines designed to disrupt your physical equilibrium. So yes, booze may not be the best choice.
And that’s why, in most of Disneyland, there isn’t a drop of alcohol to be found. We say “most” because there is one place, a by now entirely “faux” speakeasy where alcoholic beverages can be served. At a bit of a cost. (We’ll get to that.) It’s called Club 33, and it makes no sense in Disneyland at all. Then again, it is Disneyland.
The club, located in the New Orleans Square section of the park, was developed by Walt himself as a sort of watering hole for “important” visitors to the original Disneyland location in Anaheim, California—the types who might invest, or lobby in Washington for amusement park mascot casualty write-offs. Walt did not himself live to see 33 in all its glory; he died, with a lot of weird ideas as yet unexpressed, five months before Club 33’s opening. But the splendor, and exclusivity, live on.
Despite any recent recessions, plus the abundant availability of alcohol and mouse cartoons at home, Club 33 endures in its full “secret” swankitude to this day. At a Benjamin per meal—though that meal does include unlimited desserts, and we would make them pay for that bargain—you’ll eat in the warmly stiff feng shui of old school 20th century memorabilia: original Disney artist drawings, an ornate (non-functioning) French elevator, antiques hand-picked by the Disneys themselves, a harpsichord that’s since been played by both McCartney and Elton John, and, oh yes, definitely a stuffed eagle and turkey vulture perched over a doorway, plus some taxonomy of a skunk and an owl (as you can see in this charming YouTube tour).
We have to admit, dead animal glares aside, the interior does look grand and warm, like the kind of place you’d want to drink Scotch after hunting a fox, or after just imagining yourself murdering a fox. Not that it quite matters. Most people don’t come here for the ambiance. They don’t even necessarily come to Club 33 for the booze (you can go off-campus to get your pre-“It’s A Small World” buzz on).
Club 33 is actually a weird hub of ultra-exclusivity, with a New American-French fusion menu and membership purchased for $25,000, annual feels at $12,000, and let’s not forget the six-course prix fixe meal at $100. It includes all-you-can-eat dessert, which again, given the price tag, we encourage you to punish them for. (If you’ve never put crème brulee in your purse, today’s the day to start.)
Except you probably can’t. Now at 500 members, and with a years’ long waiting list, the club is so exclusive that one of the original 100 members actually got membership revoked after mistakenly allowing a friend to auction off passes into the club (that’s a no-no, even for charity, which this was). Maybe not a huge surprise, since Club 33 puts $6 movie theater water bottle prices to shame: even after that 25K entrance fee, member rings are $500—to start.
Considering the relative insanity of all this, you’d think people would back away. Heck, even Per Se got a bad rap for charging too much for its $40 foie gras add-on. Why are people waiting in years’ long lines to get into Club 33 (or its sister location in Tokyo Disneyland)? Weirdly enough, it’s not the alcohol. In fact, our guess is the alcohol is the least worshipped thing in the space. It’s the cult of Disney. Which, ironically for most of us, would maybe go down smoother with a bit of booze.