Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Villages of Celebration

Many newcomers (myself included) are not aware that the town of Celebration is actually made up of several "villages." You won't see any official billboards proclaiming, "Welcome to North Village" or "Now Entering East Village." Artisan Park does have some kind of brick-column-and-tile-picture thing at its entrance, and the entrances for Lake Evalyn and Aquila Reserve are more apparent than the others. But for the most part, the transition is so seemless that you'll never even realize you have left one village and entered another.

But even though the boundaries are, for the most part, invisible, each village is a separate entity with a character of its own. Each area has it advantages and drawbacks, and each one is unique in its own specal way.

Here is a quick rundown on the villages. Just remember, this is my two cents, so take it for what it's worth. Other opinions may vary, but this is my blog, so my opinion goes! And thanks to Jan E. for her assistance on the village boundaries.

North Village is the closest village to 192, the mega-tourist strip. You can reach it easily if you make a left turn off of Celebration Avenue before crossing the bridge. The intersection has a traffic light, and the lane is left turn only. I always get lots of amusement at watching the tourists, who have no clue that Celebration Avenue is going to turn into a one-lane road. As soon as the left side of the road turns into left-turn-only, they suddenly slam on the brakes and turn on their blinkers; the more ballsy ones just cut the right-lane drivers off.

North Village has some golf course frontage and easy access to 192, 417, and I-4. But that 192 proximity means that it is practically next door neighbors with the Old Town amusement area. The attractions there include a 300 foot tall slingshot chair, 300 foot tall swing tower, and a noisy, G-force-inducing dragster ride. The neon lit towers beckon visitors from miles away, and noise from the attractions is an ongoing sore spot with many residents.

But for the people who moved in after the rides were there, I look at it like people who move down the road from an airport and then complain about the planes roaring overhead all day long. If you didn't do your research and figure out the obvious, there's not much anyone can do for you. Recent arrivals to North Village can't help but notice those 300 foot towers. It doesn't take much sense to deduce that Attractions + Tourists + Busy Strip = Noise.

North Village has a good-sized community pool, conveniently located in the center of the main drag. It is mostly a residential area, but there are some businesses, like Children's World, in the area. It's a bit far from downtown; you can get there reasonably fast on a bike, but you have to cross the bridge with its famously narrow sidewalks. However, it is nice and close to the new Water Tower Place strip mall, which features such crowd pleasers as Joe's Crab Shack, as well as the usual variety of "strip stores." A new Goodings grocery store is in the future plans.

Besides being convenient to major streets and expressways, North Village is also close to the office buildings on Celebration Place. For those who work there, the commute would be all of two minutes; you'd spend more time finding a parking space than driving.

Celebration Village (also called Main Village) and West Village are adjacent. Celebration Village encompasses the downtown area, while West Village starts at the back of the grade school school (right hand side of Celebration Ave. as you head into town, just past the flagpole) and includes Westpark, Starling, Trumpet, Nadina, Canne, and part of Greenbrier. West Village has plenty of golf course frontage, but the golf course club house is actually located in Celebration Village.

These are the two original villages, where the Celebration "pioneers" first settled. Celebration Village came first, and West Village was Phase 2. Many people like them for their proximity to the downtown area, which can be easily reached on foot. But that convenient proximity also means hordes of tourists and traffic jams at certain times of the year. Still, many people consider it a badge of pride to live in this area.

Lakeside Park, home of a heated swimming pool, is located downtown, and Celebration Village also features the "home business district" for people running their own cottage industries. Most of the businesses are real estate offices, but there are a few others, such as the Bumpus architectural firm. I had the pleasure of touring their home/office during the Holiday House Walk, and it was gorgeous and very unique.

The Celebration Village/West Village area features another architectural landmark. If you turn right a few streets down after driving over the bridge and wander around a bit, you'll stumble upon a home that looks for all the world like the Bates Motel house. When people try to insist that Celebration is a cookie cutter town, I just show them a photo of that place. If you'd like to see it, click here to view a photo on my Celebration website.

This quaint little neighborhood is just past the downtown area, on your left. If you don't turn in, you'll see the brick wall that blocks off the homes from the sidewalk running along Celebration Avenue. It is very close to the school, so like downtown, it is a very convenient place to live if you have grade-school age children in the public school system.

In a stroke of originality by some would-be imagineer, this neighborhood was named after the lake that fronts the most desirable homesites. The lake is ringing by a walking path that leads to downtown, which is mere minutes away by foot. Lake Evalyn doesn't have its own pool, but it is within a reasonable distance of both Lakeside Park and Spring Park's swimming facilities. It's a very pleasant area, where you can take a stroll along the lake and feed the family of ducks that has taken up residence there (although I hear they don't pay their homeowners assocation fees).

The one drawback is that most homes have tiny, post stamp-sized yards. Some don't even have a front sidewalk. Their grass simply ends at the parkway. The official marketing blah-blah describes this as being meant "to evoke a Key West feel." I think that's market-speak for "let's cram in as many homes as possible."

Still, it's a cute little area that allows people to live near downtown without being in the midst of tourists and traffic.

Head a little farther down Celebration Avenue and you'll find South Village on your right. You'll know you're there when you see Spring Park, which features a lovely pool. This area is a little farther from downtown, but still within reasonable striking distance. It's mainly a residental area, with no major distinguishing features like 300 foot towers or the Bates Hotel. But it's a comfortable place with a nice variety of homes, and you can easily access the "back entrance" to town from Waterside Street. This allows you to get to Celebration Boulevard, and you can easily access World Drive to get to Disney World without major traffic headaches.

If we had purchased the condo we originally put a contract on, this is where I would be living. The unit we would have bought was kitty corner from Spring Park.

I've heard Roseville Corner referred to as part of South Village, but it is actually adjacent to East Village. It's a little enclave of single family bungalow homes, duplexes, and triplexes. This is where the bungalow models that I couldn't find while house hunting on our first visit were located.

It's a pleasant area, and convenient to the East Village pool, although I do find the row of duplexes and triplexes to be somewhat crowded. Of course, I am totally spoiled because my own triplex is located on a street of single family bungalows with large side yards and a grassy park-like area across the street.

But Roseville itself is very pleasant, too, with easy access to Celebration Avenue. It's a bit far from downtown, but that means it's also quiet and relatively crowd free.

East Village is my home sweet home, and I love it! You can get to East Village a couple of different ways. You can turn left just past the Lake Evalyn area, or you can make a left on the last street before you enter Artisan Park. Either way, you'll eventually end up in the same general area.

We have a community pool, although it's rather small; it's still a nice place to cool off on those summer scorchers. Because we're so far off the beaten path, we never get traffic and crowds. Downtown is a good 20 minute hike by foot via the path that links up with the Lake Evalyn walkway, but you can make it much more quickly on a bike.

The major drawback that I've found is that delivery people will inevitably get lost, no matter how explicitly you give them directions. Now, when they frantically call from their cell phone, my husband just walks down to wherever they are and leads them back to our house.

Peronally, I like a peaceful neighborhood, but I guess that East Village is rather extreme. Several of my nieces and nephews recently came for a week's visit. They spent a lot of time relaxing in my porch swing, and one day one of my nieces exclaimed, "It is always this QUIET here?!"

If you turn left on Celebration Avenue and then drive for a little ways through East Village, you'll find the turnoff for Aquila Reserve on your right. It's a lovely wooded neighborhood with a big lake ringed by a walking path. I often encouter deer there when I go biking at dusk.

Aquila is pretty far from downtown, but this means that it's even more peaceful than my little corner of East Village. It reminds me of a larger Lake Evalyn, right down to the non-existent yards in some of the houses. But there many with big lots, too, and I can see that there might be an advantage to the no-yard homes. If you don't have to bother with your own landscaping, you'll have more time to enjoy the gorgeous wooded land around you.

Artisan Park was originally rumored to be an "age 55 and up development" (some wags dubbed it "Rest Village). But that idea was quickly abandoned, and now it's just a huge area that is billed as "The Last Great Neighborhood in Celebration."

Besides being the final area to be developed, it is also the only one that is not being developed directly by The Celebration Company. Instead, it was turned over to Arvida/St. Joe.

Artisan Park can be easily found by following Celebration Avenue as far as it goes. As of this writing, most of this area is still under construction, although the first brave families have already moved in.

Artisan is far from downtown, but I don't think it will be as peaceful as East Village or Aquila Reserve because lost tourists tend to stay on Celebration Avenue. On snowfall and leaf fall days, I predict that there will be lots of lost sould wandering around back there.

Artisan will have a community center and pool, but unlike the other village pools, it will only be open to its own residents. To me, that smacks of exclusivity and goes against the principles of Celebration. They will be able to use the pools in the other villages, but we can't use theirs. True, they will be paying a separate fee, but I still find it odd and a bit disquieting. Outsiders tend to think of Celebration as a snobby, exclusive area, so now I guess we have our own "exclusively exclusive" neighborhood.

I enjoy the street names in Artisan; unlike those in the rest of the town, which tend to be flowers or variations on how to append the words "Park" and "Celebration," these are all named after various types of craftsmen. My favorite is Stonecutter, and every time I bike by it, I expect to see Homer Simpson and hear the strains of the Stonecutters Lodge song.

Those are the villages of Celebration, and those are my thoughts about each of them. As I said earlier, these are strictly my own opinions. The viewpoint of others might vary widely. But what it all boils down to is, when you think of the town of Celebration, don't lump us all together into one big heap. We've a collection of many vibrant neighborhoods that, when put all together, make up our beloved town.

Learn more about Celebration on my website:


Cato Zachrisen said...

This was great information ! we are considering to relocate to celebration. And even though there are lots of Celebration info online, village-info is very rare. Thanks a lot ! Best regards, Cato Zachrisen

Anonymous said...

Wonderful website! I am a displaced, 50+ woman, with a dream to start over in Celebration. After seeing the town on a family vacation more than 10 years ago I have never forgotten it. Your website makes me feel like Celebration would make me feel at home. Thanks.