Monday, May 31, 2004

Welcome to Celebration, Florida

Welcome to Celebration, Florida, where residents get free passes to Disney World but have to surrender their homes in 30 years. But it always looks homey, thanks to the Disney employees who are paid to walk dogs and the gestapo committee that enforces the hundreds upon hundreds of rules and regulations. It's such a lovely place that "The Truman Show" was filmed here, although the biggest movie comparison is usually "The Stepford Wives."

Not really!!

Sadly, the information above often passes for the truth about Celebration. All myths spring from a kernel of truth, and those silly legends are no exception. Celebration was indeed started by Disney, in the form of The Celebration Company, on former alligator-ridden swampland. Once upon a time, this land was owned by the Mouse, and gators were located here when they grew too large to live in the more populous sections of the Disney World resort.

Other than that, the rest is distortions and misconceptions that continue to be believed, despite the fact that control of the town is in the final stages of being turned over to the residents. Disney recently sold the downtown area, which consists of stores and apartments (which are now being converted to condominiums), although it still owns many land parcels that The Celebration Company is marketing for commercial development. Awhile back, it also sold the golf course to a private consortium.

I have some myths vs. facts on my Celebration website at, and hopefully I will dispell many of them with my blog. There have been some books written about our fair little town, but they tend to be slanted to serve the authors' preconceived ideas. It's hard to give a lot of credibility to someone's opinions when they moved to the town solely for the purpose of writing about it and then promptly moved away. In these books, the authors repeatedly claim that they are impartial, but methinks they doth protesteth too much.

If you ever visit Celebration, rest assured that the people you see walking their dogs are real, genuine, living, breathing, non-robotic Celebration residents. The occasional dog poop you will see lying around, left by the minority of discourteous walkers, will convince you that the pooches are not Audioanimatronic either.

The 30 year myth comes from confusion with the Disney Vacation Club (DVC), which is a "vacation ownership plan" (i.e. timeshare) with a fixed ownership period. Those of us who live in Celebration own our homes and the land they sit on, just like anyone else. There isn't even a DVC resort located in Celebration. As of this writing, our only hotel is the Celebration Hotel, although there are many properties slated for future development as hotels, resorts, and perhaps even timeshares.

I wish that the "free Disney passes" myth was true, but alas, we Celebration residents must pony up the cash just like everyone else. Thankfully, we at least get Florida resident rates, but those are the same for everyone who lives in our sunny southern state. Even though we must pay for the privilege, it's wonderful to live so close to Disney World that you can decide on the spur of the moment to have dinner somewhere around the "world" in Epcot, run over to Typhoon Lagoon to enjoy the last couple of uncrowded hours, or catch Illuminations or Fantasmic. Even when you're not in the parks, you can still hear the distance echo of the fireworks each evening.

Celebration does have covenants that fill an intimidating-looking binder, but they are no more restrictive than any others you would find in a similar planned community. They cover common sense items, like not parking an excessive number of cars or huge vehicles like campers on the street for inordinate lengths of time or keeping your house in decent shape, with no junk littering your yard. They are also aimed at preventing a transient atmosphere by restricting leases to certain terms and preventing short term rentals.

The covenants are meant primarily to protect property values. You can review them in full before you make a decision to move into Celebration, and if you are not comfortable with the restrictions, you can always buy a home in a community that is more compatible with your tastes.

"The Truman Show" was filmed in Florida, but in a town called Seaside that is quite a distance away from Celebration, and quite different in character. It is an expensive resort town, and most of its residents are seasonal. While there are snowbirds in Celebration, the majority of people are around for most of the year.

As for the frequent "Stepford Wife" comparison, one look at my house and you'll know that's not true! Celebration is made up of an eclectic mix of people. It's probably one of the friendliest towns you could ever move into. In the midwest, we lived in the same condo building for almost a decade, and we got to know our Celebration neighbors more quickly in a few weeks than we ever got to know people we literally lived on top of for years.

That's a little background. Next time, I'll share why we decided to move to Celebration and our house hunt for the perfect place.

Learn more about Celebration on my website: