Is D23 Gold Membership worth it? Yes! And it’s becoming more and more worth it all the time. If you don’t know what D23 is, D23 is a membership club for Disney fans. They have a website, exclusive merchandise (sold through the Disney Store online), articles, videos, and lots of great info. They also sponsor events like the D23 Expo, but smaller events too like movies at the Walt Disney Studios. There aren’t a lot of downsides to becoming a gold member except that it does cost money. Sort of like buying a Barnes and Noble membership card, it’s only worth it if you use it. At $79.99 (as of 8/2015), it might seem a bit steep, but if you want to attend D23 premium events you need this card and there are other great benefits as well. In the long run, my experience is that membership DOES have its privileges! But let’s start out with the cons:
It costs money. General membership in D23 is free and with that membership you have access to the website, member articles, some member discounts, and a very limited number of general membership events. So going from free to $79.99 might seem to be a big leap.
Events are often location specific. While D23 has done a great job of expanding its events to include locations across the country, the number and “coolness” of the events don’t come close to the stuff they put on in Los Angeles and Orlando. And to be honest, so far Los Angeles and Anaheim get the bulk of cool events. It makes sense since the archives, WDI, the studios, AND the original Disney theme park are all in this one area, but it certainly adds value to your membership if you live close by or are willing to travel.
Two cons, but so many pros:
Gold Membership privileges. Being a Gold Member of D23 means added benefits like getting into D23 Expo an hour early. If you think that’s nothing, you haven’t tried to get some of the limited edition stuff they have for sale. Or get an early Stage or Shop Pass. Or…well you get the picture. But on top of that Gold Members have discounts at places General Members do not. Places like the Disney Store, Ghirardelli’s, ESPN Zone, House of Blues, UVA Bar, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, and the Walt Disney Family Museum are just a few. You also get a special annual membership gift each year you renew. This year it was the Disneyland Pitch Portfolio and last year it was an 18-month calendar highlighting the attractions of the parks. They used to give you jumbo collectible pins, but haven’t done that for a while.
Disney twenty-three quarterly publication. Calling it a magazine doesn’t do it justice. This over-sized treasure of Disney lore covers everything from movies to theme parks to Disney history. The pictures in it are stunning and the coverage and insider info gives you such depth into your favorite Disney subjects from the professionals that make it happen. At one time, you could purchase this magazine at your local book store, but it now comes exclusively to your mailbox to D23 members. The newsstand price was $15 per issue which would cover $60 of your $79.99 right there.
Gold Member events. This really is the best part of membership. While the discounts, free gifts, and perks are nice, and while I love the magazine, I do it for the access to the Gold Member events. I’ve done quite a few and they not only do a great job at the events, but they always add something to make you feel extra special. I loved the Camp Itch pin and flipbook we got from The Parent Trap event. Touring the Walt Disney Studio was made even better when Dave Smith, archivist extraordinaire happened to be there. And the WDI pin events are just phenomenal. At one they had the lead Imagineers on the New Fantasyland project on hand to sign autographs and talk to them. There are so many great opportunities and while they do cost more money (always a problem), they are worth it if you can go.
Overall, the benefits are worth every penny. We even upgraded to family membership where you can invite up to three people with you to an event. I still regret not having bought it in the first year and becoming a “charter member.” I was skeptical about the cost myself, but now my friend John (who bought it right away) gets to go into the “Charter Member Lounge” at D23 Expo while I have to wait outside. I’m glad Disney has done this and if you’re considering joining I hope this helps you to decide.