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.
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.
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.