Home » Are These Ultra-Expensive Disney Dining Experiences Worth the Hype?

    Are These Ultra-Expensive Disney Dining Experiences Worth the Hype?

    Club 33

    Even the most enthusiastic corn-dog-and-churro connoisseurs know there’s more to the Disneyland Resort than your standard all-American theme park fare. Beyond the Dole Whips, Mickey bars and turkey legs, guests are invited to dine on crab hush puppies and N’awlins gumbo in the perpetual twilight of the Blue Bayou, sample Walt Disney’s famous chili at the Carnation Café, and partake in any of the wildly popular biannual food festivals that spring up in Disney California Adventure.

    Aside from the park’s everyday offerings, which span Cafe Orleans, Hungry Bear Restaurant, Carthay Circle, and the like, Disney offers a number of exclusive dining experiences and events for the insatiable theme park foodie. As might be expected, these come with some delectable dishes—and pretty hefty price tags, too. Is it worth paying top dollar for these exclusive experiences? Let’s find out.

    Club 33

    Club 33

    Image: Josh Hallett, Flickr (license)

    Price (per adult): $25,000-50,000 initiation fee; $15,000-30,000 annual dues; individual meal prices vary

    Additional perks: Access to the only bar in Disneyland Park

    There have been varying reports about the total cost it takes to break into Disneyland’s most exclusive club—some say it’s as high as $100,000—but just about everyone agrees that it’s a luxury experience far above the means of most parkgoers. (Unless, that is, you’re lucky enough to befriend a generous member or your savings plan perfectly aligns with the club’s 10+ year waiting period.)

    The downside? Membership doesn’t cover the cost of cocktails and appetizers at its swanky cocktail bar, Le Salon Nouveau, let alone the gourmet meals you’ll find at Le Grand Salon. The menu varies from time to time, with dishes ranging from expertly-prepared king crab-stuffed Maine lobster tail and fifty-dollar Osetra caviar to a quince-and-praline enhanced butternut squash cheesecake. And that doesn’t include the added expense of premium wine and cocktails—drinks the club can afford to hawk at a steep price, considering alcohol is banned at nearly all other locations within the park.

    No matter how many fancy drink stirrers, monogrammed napkins, private tours, or Walt-approved memorabilia Club 33 guests are permitted to access, there’s no meal on Earth that justifies a $40,000-80,000 price tag. Even the few guests who are lucky enough to score a one-time invitation to the restaurant will likely shell out a few hundred bucks for a single meal.

    Is Club 33 worth the hype? Given the exorbitant price of membership and Chateaubriand, no. Still, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience any hardcore Disney fan would be lucky to enjoy—as long as you don’t find yourself draining your savings account to do so.

    21 Royal

    21 Royal

    Image: HarshLight, Flickr (license)

    Price (per adult): $15,000 for up to 12 guests

    Additional perks: Park admission and valet service

    Far easier to get into, but almost as expensive, 21 Royal presents parkgoers with Disneyland’s second and final luxury dining option. There’s no miles-long waiting list or college tuition-level membership fees here; for a cool $15,000, you and 11 friends get the chance to dine in one of the most lavishly-decorated spots on the property. (That breaks down to about $1,250 per person, including the $97-185 cost of daily park admission.) Within the gilded dining room above Pirates of the Caribbean, diners are treated to a cocktail reception and an extravagant seven-course meal with a menu that has been specially tailored to them—and, on most nights, they can take their dessert on the balcony to enjoy Fantasmic! and the fireworks.

    This is what 21 Royal gets right. Where Club 33 boasts unparalleled exclusivity and a rich Disney history, 21 Royal gives guests something they really won’t find anywhere else in the park: privacy. Here, you and your friends are the center of attention… a true VIP experience if there ever was one.

    Is 21 Royal worth the hype? Of course, that privacy comes at a pretty steep price. $15,000 isn’t exactly pocket change, even discounting the $1,164-2,220 allotted for park admission for 12 guests. Like Club 33, this is a rare opportunity that the average parkgoer won’t be able to take advantage of more than once. One word of advice: If you decide to splurge on one of 21 Royal’s incredible feasts, make sure you split the bill 12 ways.

    Paint the Night Dining Packages

    Wine Country Trattoria

    Image: Loren Javier, Flickr (license)

    Price (per adult): $38-99

    Additional perks: A reserved viewing/seating voucher for Paint the Night

    If grabbing an Uptown Chili Dog from Award Wieners and booking a parade voucher with your MaxPass isn’t your style, you can pick from one of three dining-and-FASTPASS Paint the Night combo deals at Wine Country Trattoria and Carthay Circle.

    Wine Country Trattoria is the most affordable option, beginning at $38 per adult for a three-course, prix fixe lunch and topping out at $49 for dinner. The parade vouchers will grant you access to a reserved, standing room-only area when Paint the Night rolls through Disney California Adventure later in the night.

    Carthay Circle, naturally, is a little fancier. Lunch isn’t an option here, and a four-course dinner starts at $99. Granted, Carthay Circle will always have a higher price point than surrounding restaurants in the park—think of it as DCA’s Blue Bayou—but it’s worth pointing out that you can opt out of the package deal and still get a four-course dinner there for around $65. The voucher is good for a spot in a reserved seated area close to the restaurant, though again, it may not be worth an extra 30 bucks.

    Is a Paint the Night dining package worth the hype? Avoid the unnecessary $30-per-person markup to secure parade seating by Carthay Circle. The quality of the food may be superb, and the comfort of sitting down during a parade unmistakable, but you’re far better off booking an affordable lunch at Wine Country Trattoria instead. Think of all the money you’ll save (and subsequently spend on alien macarons and Mike Wazowski bread).

    Frozen – Live at the Hyperion Dining Package

    Carthay Circle

    Image: Patrick Pelletier, Flickr (license)

    Price (per adult): $89

    Additional perks: Reserved seating for Frozen – Live at the Hyperion

    This package may have come in handy when Frozen first debuted at the Hyperion Theater in 2016, but it’s still a worthwhile option if you are determined to skip the crowds prior to the show or simply don’t have enough time to jump in line to get a good seat.

    The only restaurant currently participating in this offer is Carthay Circle, where guests can select dishes from a three-course, prix fixe menu before trekking over to the edge of Hollywood Land for the performance. Dining options reportedly include roasted chicken breast over coconut red rice, an herb-crusted petite filet, and an ambiguous dessert called “Olaf’s Summer Dream Vacation.” As with the Paint the Night packages, keep in mind that you’re still paying $30-some just for the privilege of sitting in the first few rows of the theater.

    Is a Frozen dining package worth the hype? This entirely depends on how important Frozen is to you. It might be worth gambling on a pricy meal just to say that you did it, but in all honesty, you can find cheaper, better food before the curtain rises—and, if you get back in line early enough, a decent seat, too. If it’s your kids that are clamoring to see Anna and Elsa up close and personal (and not you; no shame either way), it makes more sense to grab a bite with them outside of Carthay Circle, where you won’t need to dish out an additional $59 per kid.

    Sonoma Terrace Paint the Night Reception

    Sonoma Terrace

    Image: HarshLight, Flickr (license)

    Price (per adult): $79

    Additional perks: Reserved seating in an exclusive viewing area for Paint the Night

    If you don’t have the time or the appetite to enjoy one of the Paint the Night dining packages, you might want to consider getting a few appetizers and a drink at Sonoma Terrace, where guests are promised a unique view of the parade, as well as a charcuterie tray, boxed truffles, and beverage of their choice. Guests can enjoy the terrace a full hour before the parade begins and will be given a voucher for reserved seating.

    Is Sonoma Terrace worth the hype? The quality of the viewing area will help balance out the steep $80 fee for a cheese plate and a handful of chocolates—then again, maybe not.

    Fantasmic! Dining Packages

    Blue Bayou

    Image: Loren Javier, Flickr (license)

    Price (per adult): $30-69

    Additional perks: A reserved viewing/seating voucher for Fantasmic!

    As with Paint the Night dining packages, there are a variety of affordable (and not-so-affordable) options available to guests here. The priciest dinner tops out at $69 for three courses at Blue Bayou, including dishes like New Orleans gumbo, Louisiana popcorn rice, and vanilla bean crème brûlèe, among other treats. River Belle Terrace also has a three-course meal for $45 per person, with offerings that range from pork spare ribs and fried chicken sandwiches to BBQ tofu and butterscotch pudding. The cheapest option by far, however, is the $30 pre-packaged dinners at Hungry Bear, where guests can choose from a vegetarian frittata, blackberry BBQ pork, BBQ chicken, or salt-roasted salmon. All three restaurants offer preferred seating for the show that is unobtainable by using MaxPass or standby viewing locations.

    Is a Fantasmic! dining package worth the hype? Yes. You don’t need to splurge on the top-tier package to make this deal work for you, however. Even the $30 Hungry Bear pre-packaged meals are filling, delicious, and well-packaged for a meal on the go (of course, there’s nothing to stop you from enjoying it at the Hungry Bear Restaurant, either). Unlike Disneyland’s parades and stage shows, many of the viewing locations for Fantasmic! are partially obscured by trees and other objects, making it nearly impossible to secure a good spot with a regular FASTPASS or by showing up early to the standby sections. With a dining package, you’re guaranteed a spot that’s front and center to the show.

    Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge

    Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge

    Image: Disney

    Price (per adult): $45 ($50 beginning May 9, 2018)

    Additional perks: Exclusive viewing area for fireworks

    The “Sonoma Terrace” of Disneyland, Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge claims one of the best—that is, the most secluded—viewing locations for the fireworks. For just around $50, guests receive two hours of access to the lounge, a box of snacks (cream-filled sponge cakes, cherry pies, assorted cheeses, olives, and bacon), and a variety of non-alcoholic beverages.

    Here, of course, the main draw is the (mostly) private, (mostly) unobstructed view of the fireworks. It’s worth noting that because the lounge is located in Tomorrowland, guests will be unable to get a clear view of the castle or its projections—and watching the fireworks is never 100% guaranteed, as the show may be canceled some nights due to inclement weather. The trade-off, then, is getting to watch the show without dealing with the insane crowds that gather along Main Street, U.S.A. and the Hub.

    Is Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge worth the hype? The lounge itself is relaxing and the food is tasty, if fairly limited (again, think ‘snack box’ rather than a full meal). Given how steep the cost of admission is, however, this particularly experience might be best reserved for the park’s busiest days during the summer and holidays.

    Which exclusive dining experience are you dying to try? Let us know in the comments below!