When Disneyland first opened in 1955, an admission ticket cost one dollar. Today, it is nearly 100 times that amount, and it’s easy to spend a lot more. For those truly committed to luxury, for whom price is no object, there is a secret menu just for Disneyland high rollers.
The masterminds behind the park have set up separate offices that keep celebrity visits under wraps and visiting dignitaries safe (every president from Truman to Bush—and even Obama as a child—has visited the park). Even if you’re just a civilian with money to blow, you can still breeze by the crowds, enjoy the fanciest of foods, and never wait in line again.
Disney-speak for special treatment at a special price is a “premium experience,” and there are plenty offered throughout the year. Become a member of the D23 fan club to learn about the most unusual ones. Last year, members were eligible for an early morning safari breakfast hosted by a Jungle Cruise skipper (cost $300) and a paranormal dinner inside the Blue Bayou restaurant overlooking Pirates of the Caribbean.
To be fully inside the bubble for a day, you need to hire a VIP Ambassador. For a fee of $2,700 (not including admission) you are granted six hours with your own personal concierge schooled in the history and lore of the park. Your plaid-clad host or hostess will accompany you to the front of the line on more than 30 attractions and will have a reserved spot for you every parade, fireworks, or stage show like Mickey and the Magical Map. Costumed characters will magically appear to greet you—and up to 9 additional guests—throughout the day.
When it’s time to break for dinner, the most deluxe is to be found at the chef’s counter in Napa Rose in the Grand Californian Hotel. Over a glass of wine, you can engage the chef in a conversation about your food likes and dislikes, and they will prepare four courses custom tailored to your palate. The $100 meal (add $50 for the wine pairing) is only available to 12 guests per seating.
After all that, you’ll want to retire to your suite at the Grand Californian. The grandest one is named for Mt. Whitney and rents for almost $7,000 per night in the summer. In addition to two big bedrooms, the 2,300 square-foot accommodation has an office, a dining room, and a giant wrap-around balcony with a view of the park. The room includes access to the private “Craftsman’s Club” which offers complimentary breakfast, all-day snacks and drinks you can bring into the park, and a wine and cheese dessert hour. Hotel guests are also eligible to enter the park before anyone else every day of their stay—it’s called an “extra magic hour.” That perk is also available (but only for one “magic morning”) if you buy a $255 3-day pass.
Indulging in these decadent perks is exciting—just take their $80 World of Color Dessert Party. I didn’t know how much I could enjoy the World of Color show until I was sipping champagne and munching berries at private table in the splash zone close to the action (I hear a similar event is coming to the Hyperion Theater Frozen show). The experience was fun and special and indulgent, and media night was a blast. Thank you, Disney.
I didn’t know I was supposed to feel guilty about all this until a superfan friend with an annual pass let all the air out of the room. “Separating guests by economic status is wrong. If you’re not special other than being rich, you shouldn’t be able to shove average people out of what they’ve paid for,” a filmmaker friend told me. “If you have that much money and hate people, build Neverland like Michael Jackson. Walt meant for this to be a people’s park.”
I like to think I’m egalitarian, but when somebody dangles a Bundt cake so close to the action, it’s hard to resist.
“If Disney wants to go back to charging ticket prices for things, they should lower the gate fee,” Mr. We The People ranted. “It makes it feel like a bad airline—charging you a buck for a Coke when you’ve paid $900 for the flight already.”
Whoa! I didn’t mean to unleash such populist fervor. I can’t be held responsible if the tank top set overruns Club 33.
“I hate those things. It’s all part of the one-percenting of Disneyland,” my collectivist buddy said. “I’m a Bernie Sanders so far as Disneyland is concerned.”
I love my friend, but I have nowhere near the willpower he does. When opportunity knocks, you’ll find me behind the velvet rope.