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New Orleans Square in Anaheim’s Disneyland Park is a blend of food, shopping and mystery set along the Rivers of America. Whether battling pirates or hunting for ghosts, you are likely to find entertainment throughout this area. The New Orleans section has a few secrets of its own, however, which only the most exclusive guests are likely to ever see.
Unlike Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and Frontierland, New Orleans Square was not a part of Disneyland on opening day. Not until new innovations were made in Walt Disney’s research of animatronic technology were the rides of this park area even conceived. In 1966, shortly before the opening of Pirates of the Caribbean, the area became the first new land to be added to the park since its beginning 11 years before.
Two of Disneyland’s most popular attractions live in the New Orleans-themed area: Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. The pirate-themed water ride was the last ride designed in Walt Disney’s lifetime, though it was not completed until several months after Disney’s death. The ride pioneered animatronics technology that brought dozens of pirates, animals and villagers to life. Riders board boats at a dock set in a Louisiana bayou, across from a restaurant. Traveling past the swampy delta, the boats descend into deep caverns filled with treasure, curses, and many scurvy swabs.
Inspiration for the Haunted Mansion is often attributed to Walt Disney’s experiences in World War I. Popular legend suggests that he built the beautiful mansion to give a home to wandering spirits. The exterior of the house is a well-kept façade, leading visitors in to a mysterious elevator that takes you into the main ride area. After boarding a personal “doom buggy,” guests are taken past a variety of ghostly scenes, including dinner party, haunted attic, and all-out ghost party in the cemetery. Since 2001, the mansion is given a holiday overlay each year, using characters from The Nightmare before Christmas.
New Orleans Square has a reputation for hearty Louisiana-style food. Long lines stretch away from the Royal Street Veranda, where spicy gumbo is sold in French bread bowls. Since 2007, a table service restaurant named Café Orleans has served guests Monte Cristo sandwiches and Creole specialties. Diners can make reservations early in the day for a lunch or dinner spot at the Blue Bayou, an atmospheric locale inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. But what some call the best food in all of Disneyland is not available to the public, tucked away behind a mysterious door labeled “33.”
Club 33 is an exclusive members-only club hidden within the New Orleans Square streets. It was designed by Walt Disney as a hideaway location for super-VIPs and corporate meetings. Currently, there is a five year waiting list to receive membership into the club, along with a $10,000 US Dollars (USD) initiation fee and annual dues of several thousand dollars. Not surprisingly, members receive free admission into the park, but the food at the Club 33 restaurant is not included. Personal service and gourmet food is the rule at the club, although many wonder if it is truly worth the exorbitant fees.
New Orleans Square is an essential part of Disneyland, and often crowded due to the popular attractions. If you want to avoid lines, make Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion your first stops of the day. Even if you have done the rides, the area is well worth a stop for lunch or a rest to listen to the live jazz music that often fills the square.