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Disneyland's Hidden Gems

Updated on March 14, 2013
Most everyone is familiar with Disneyland, where fantasy, adventure, and the dreams of tomorrow are celebrated every day. But not everyone is familiar with the hidden gems of Disneyland. There are several interesting treasures that many visitors to the Happiest Place on Earth never discover.

Membership Has Its Rewards

This unassuming door is the quiet entrance to Disneyland's exclusive Club 33.
This unassuming door is the quiet entrance to Disneyland's exclusive Club 33. | Source

Of these concealed treasures, the most famous one, which yet remains elusive to the great majority of guests, is the park’s “secret” club. Tucked in among a barrage of colorful shops and eateries in New Orleans Square stands an unobtrusive door with the simple identifier of the number 33 to the right of the door, and a doorbell that seems to have no effect when pressed. For those with approved access, however, a press of the doorbell is rewarded with a response via intercom, followed by that grand moment of the door’s opening, affording an immediate view of the beautiful staircase and rare French Lift that carries guests upstairs to the exclusive Club 33. Crossing the threshold is a special moment to savor: the bustling sounds of New Orleans Square quickly subside as the door gently closes, and you are enveloped in elegance. Your VIP treatment begins as the Club 33 host greets you and invites you upstairs.

Hidden in Plain Sight

This popular restaurant overshadows the recessed entrance to Club 33. The private club is upstairs above the Blue Bayou, and stretches across the New Orleans Square walkways.
This popular restaurant overshadows the recessed entrance to Club 33. The private club is upstairs above the Blue Bayou, and stretches across the New Orleans Square walkways. | Source
Since it is open only to members and their guests, a visit to Club 33 is the brass ring of achievements for many dedicated Disney fans. This restaurant and bar--the only place inside Disneyland where alcohol is served--was originally designed to be Walt’s place to schmooze and impress investors and VIPs back in the day. Today, it is a status symbol for those who can afford the hefty initiation fee (rumored to be $27,500 for a corporate membership and over $10,000 for an individual membership) and who are patient enough to endure the current membership wait list of approximately 14 years. The only other way to visit Club 33 is to receive a gracious invitation from one who has approved membership admittance.

New Orleans Square Secret

Behind thematic set dressing on the second story above New Orleans Square, special guests are wined and dined in Disneyland's exclusive Club 33.
Behind thematic set dressing on the second story above New Orleans Square, special guests are wined and dined in Disneyland's exclusive Club 33. | Source
The club itself is located upstairs on the second floor above the Blue Bayou restaurant. With no identifying exterior demarcations, it stretches across the tops of shops in New Orleans Square, in plain view of the throngs of guests unwittingly strolling by below. The view from Club 33 is breathtaking, and sipping on a cocktail while taking in the park’s vista, particularly during a Fantasmic! or fireworks show, is an experience not soon forgotten.

How to See Club 33 Without a Membership!

The Secret Tour of Disneyland
The Secret Tour of Disneyland

Want to see Club 33? This professionally produced DVD takes you on a Disneyland tour packed with trivia, history and interviews. Tour includes Club 33, the Lilly Belle and more!

 

Suite Dreams

A curving brick staircase beckons guests up to the Disney Dream Suite.
A curving brick staircase beckons guests up to the Disney Dream Suite. | Source

The nearby Pirates of the Caribbean attraction is crowned with the Dream Suite, unique accommodations crafted as a prize for winners of a particular Disneyland promotion. Long before the Dream Suite was developed, this space was originally built to serve as special accommodations for another purpose: a private apartment for use by the Walt Disney family. A series of connected rooms surrounded an open, outdoor patio with a cheery, splashing fountain, and vestibules opened out to balconies overlooking New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America. Sadly, Walt did not live to enjoy this in-park cottage, but luckily for Disneyland visitors, these rooms were opened to guests for two decades, serving as the Disney Gallery, which sold cels, lithographs and prints of Disney artwork. The Disney Gallery has since relocated to Main Street, in the former Bank of America location, and with the end of the Year of a Million Dreams promotion, the lovely rooms above the Pirates of the Caribbean have once again been closed off from visitors, save for VIPs or the lucky few who win or otherwise obtain a special stay in the now beautifully refurbished rooms.

Capture the Hidden Secrets!

Disney Pix Jr. - Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
Disney Pix Jr. - Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

What better camera for catching hidden Mickeys than this durable, kid-friendly camera? It can even tuck digital Disney characters right into photos of your family! Huh-ha!

 

Although Walt never did get to enjoy his fancy New Orleans Square apartment, he did have a special home away from home located right in the park. It is still there to this day, discreetly positioned above the fire station on Main Street. Glancing up from the fire truck, visitors may see a light on in the upstairs window. That lamp stands in Walt Disney’s private apartment, where he could keep an eye on the construction of Disneyland and gather his family to be with him during the long hours he put in at the park. The lit lamp in the window was a signal that Walt was in the park. After Walt’s passing, his widow, Lillian, would still come to Disneyland and use the apartment. Then, the lit lamp in the window was a signal to all that Mrs. Disney was present in the park.

Walt's Home Away From Home

Exterior view of Walt's apartment, just above the Main Street Fire Department.
Exterior view of Walt's apartment, just above the Main Street Fire Department. | Source

Mrs. Disney is also connected with another quiet gem of the park. Working with model trains was intended as a relaxing hobby for Walt Disney, but it turned into a major production when he installed a ⅛ scale line at his Holmby Hills residence. He loved to play engineer and invite people over for a ride on his Carolwood Pacific line. In his wife’s honor, Walt named one of his model trains the Lilly Belle. All visitors can see the actual scale model Lilly Belle on display inside the Main Street Railroad Station in Disneyland.

A Belle Model

The scale model Lilly Belle is on display inside the Main Street Train Station.
The scale model Lilly Belle is on display inside the Main Street Train Station. | Source

Own the Lilly Belle Yourself!

Bachmann Trains Walt Disney's Carolwood Pacific Railroad Ready-to-Run HO Train Set
Bachmann Trains Walt Disney's Carolwood Pacific Railroad Ready-to-Run HO Train Set

A model-sized replica of Walt Disney's own Carolwood Pacific Railroad that used to run in his backyard. An exact duplicate of the Lilly Belle displayed today in Disneyland's Main Street Station!

 

The Lilly Belle Car

Look for the bright red caboose on your next Disneyland visit. If you get the opportunity, ask the conductor for a ride!
Look for the bright red caboose on your next Disneyland visit. If you get the opportunity, ask the conductor for a ride! | Source

Walt extended his love of trains from his home to the new park he was building in Anaheim. Years later, after Walt had passed, the original Grand Canyon Observation Car was made over into a VIP car and also named the Lilly Belle in honor of Walt’s widow. This car was romantically dressed out for her comfort and in her taste, with burgundy mohair upholstered furnishings, mahogany wood panels, carpeting from the bolt originally intended for Walt’s apartment, stained glass windows at the ceiling and delicate lace curtains throughout. This parlor car still runs at the park, primarily reserved for VIPs and special guests. Visitors may yet catch a glimpse of it on the tracks now and then, always placed as the caboose. While it is not typically available to Disneyland guests in general, a request to a friendly conductor just might afford an opportunity to ride in this ornate car of Victorian elegance. 

Walt's Hobby

This Disney Gallery display shows the original Lilly Belle Blueprint, a photo of Walt Disney with his beloved Carolwood Pacific train, and the last remaining section of track from Walt's Holmby Hills railroad, built by the first "Imagineer."
This Disney Gallery display shows the original Lilly Belle Blueprint, a photo of Walt Disney with his beloved Carolwood Pacific train, and the last remaining section of track from Walt's Holmby Hills railroad, built by the first "Imagineer." | Source

The Walking In Walt’s Footsteps tour at Disneyland may grant guests limited access to some or all of these special places within the park. But even without gaining entrance to Club 33, Walt’s apartments or the Lilly Belle, just knowing of their presence at the park adds another layer to the Disneyland experience, one of mystique and intrigue that goes beyond the thrill of the E-ticket rides, adding the thrill of history and romance to any visit.

© M.S. Ross - All Rights Reserved


Your Turn: What Hidden Gems Have You Experienced?

Have you ever dined in Club 33, spent a night in the Dream Suite, visited Walt's apartment or ridden the Lilly Belle? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Join the Fun!

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Join HubPages and write your way to earnings! | Source

Comments

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    • Miss Mellie profile imageAUTHOR

      M.S. Ross 

      5 years ago

      New for 2013 are plans in the works for Disneyland guests to be granted limited access to Club 33 and Walt's apartment...for an additional fee, of course. ;)

    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 

      5 years ago from Cardiff

      Wow that club 33 sounds interesting but mega pricy! Jeez! the apartment in the park is cool too, lucky competition winners eh!

    • Miss Mellie profile imageAUTHOR

      M.S. Ross 

      7 years ago

      If you've never done it before, next time you go to Disneyland, do take the Walking In Walt's Footsteps tour, even if just once. It gives you access to some of the areas mentioned in this article, as well as other special locales, and brims with all kinds of interesting tidbits about Walt and his original park.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 

      7 years ago

      Interesting, although have been to Disneyland several times over the years (I am not a US resident), have not heard of what you write here. Good useful information. Thanks!

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