Secrets of the Infamous Disney Community: Why It’s Not All That It Seems

Just a short drive away from the Walt Disney World Resort is a small town called Celebration. Celebration is less than ten miles from the Disney Parks. It’s 5 miles from Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, 8 miles from Magic Kingdom Park, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. But most Guests don’t even realize it’s in Osceola Country.

Celebration is a pretty town that offers picturesque walks and a quaint town center with independent stores and restaurants. Most Guests visiting Celebration will stroll the main street of the town, Market Street, Front Street, and around Lake Rianhard. Taking a bike ride around Celebration lakeside park and beyond by hiring bikes from Celebration Bike Rental is also a favorite activity among town visitors. Christmas and Halloween are ideal times to venture a little further from the town center to downtown Celebration and Celebration Boulevard to see the seasonal decorations that adorn the locals’ houses. The Celebration Farmers Market is also a lovely experience. Small shops and local businesses showcase their products for visitors to buy every Sunday, from 10 a.m. through 2 p.m., in the Celebration town center, just off Celebration Avenue.

Lake Rianhard Celebration
Credit: V Mills

But there are some secrets of Celebration that most visitors don’t know about. They may take you by surprise!

It’s not what Walt Disney envisioned

The Walt Disney Company began building Celebration village in Central Florida in March 1994. The Disney CEO at the time, Michael Eisner, was keen to make a master-planned community a reality. It is believed that Walt Disney’s vision of EPCOT inspired the community. Walt Disney envisioned a ‘perfect Utopian city’, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. However, Celebration differs from Walt’s original vision in that the town isn’t fully enclosed in a climate-controlled dome. Additionally, residents and visitors must travel by car, foot, or bike to get around rather than a monorail that Walt had planned. How would the town be different had Walt seen the development of Celebration? 

Walt Disney
Credit: D23

Diversity isn’t a trait of the community

Currently, the population of Celebration is 90% Caucasian. This likely reflects how expensive it is to live in the Floridian town. While residents do not have to have a certain income to live in Celebration, house prices are significantly inflated. Similarly, HOA fees are as high as $900 per month. Therefore, it is not surprising that the median gross income of Celebrations residents is close to $1 million. It seems then that Celebration isn’t affordable for low-income families.

Rules bind residents

There are several rules and regulations in place for residents of Celebration. Many buildings are still pastel-colored, and vibrant signage is displayed around the town. These regulations were initially in place when The Walt Disney Company owned the community. Similarly, architecture is still under strict regulation for residents and businesses. There are only six home styles permitted throughout the town. Residents also require permission to alter the exterior of their property, in particular their lawn.

Celebration Street Signs
Credit: V Mills

Other rules and regulations include:

  • students of the Celebration school, Celebration High School, must wear a uniform
  • residents can’t have more than two cars per household
  • pets are allowed by residents but are limited to two per household, of which dogs must be non-aggressive breeds.
  • pets that exceed 50 pounds are only allowed in certain areas of Celebration 

A lottery chooses initial residents

The first part of Celebration opened in 1996. Surprisingly, the first residents to occupy the town hat struck lucky in a lottery. The Walt Disney Company hosted a lottery in November 1995 that selected the first residents of Celebration. One thousand two hundred people each deposited $1000 to enter the lottery, with a chance to win the opportunity to own a Celebration home. 

Market Street Now Snowing
Credit: V Mills

Celebration is no longer affiliated with The Walt Disney Company

While The Walt Disney Company created Celebration, their ownership of the community lasted only a short time. Disney sold it less than a decade after opening the town to residents. In 2004, a private-equity firm took ownership for $6.5 million.

Celebration Golf Club
Credit: V Mills

There are dark spots in the history of Celebration

Despite the town’s idyllic set-up, a couple of dark events have taken place in Celebration. In 2010, the town was hit by a recession, resulting in foreclosed properties that were then sold. One of the foreclosures was used by a man who barricaded himself inside. Unfortunately, he was found dead 14 hours later when a SWAT team gained entry. The cause of death was suspected suicide.

Within the same year, a murder occurred just one block from Market Street. A man was bludgeoned and strangled in his own apartment by another man. The suspect, who was later arrested, claimed that the victim had made sexual advances toward him. As such, he became enraged and responded using an axe. The suspect had lived nearby to the victim.

A decade later, a second murder case was opened. A 44-year-old man allegedly killed his wife and three children in their rented home in Celebration. He was later charged with four counts of second-degree murder. 

Most people live in condos

Celebration has a relatively small population, having fewer than 7,500 residents. There is a mix of houses that are situated on the tree-lined streets. Some of the buildings are inspired by historical American towns, so visitors can admire plenty of estate-style houses when they are exploring. But there are also compact condo houses in Celebration. Some properties are made up of multiple condos. Meanwhile, many residents don’t own their own homes but instead rent them or reside in them at certain times of the year.

Celebration Houses
Credit: V Mills

While Celebration has many secrets, don’t let this stop you from visiting during your next Disney vacation. It’s a great place to visit while taking a break from a Disney Park. 

Victoria Mills

Victoria is a Disney-loving, tea-drinking, Math teacher from Liverpool, England. Her motto is 'work hard, Disney harder'! Having taken part in the Disney College Program back in 2010, Victoria's love and appreciation for Walt Disney World only grew, and it's the place where she feels most herself - it's home!

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