Celebration Florida: Inside Walt Disney Ideal Town

Celebration florida is a master-planned community located in Osceola County, Florida, near Walt Disney World Resort. Developed by The Walt Disney Company, Celebration opened in 1996 as an experimental “New Urbanist” town with a focus on traditional architecture, pedestrian friendliness, and a strong sense of community.

Celebration was conceived in the early 1990s by Disney executives who wanted to build an idealistic community reflecting Walt Disney’s vision. After purchasing thousands of acres of land, Disney hired famous architects like Philip Johnson, Michael Graves, Cesar Pelli, and Robert A.M. Stern to design the town. The first residents moved into Celebration in 1996.

Some key facts about Celebration:

  • Population is around 8,000 residents
  • Land area covers 4,900 acres
  • Houses a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and apartments
  • Has a quaint downtown area with shops, restaurants and a movie theater
  • Home to the Celebration K-12 School, a public charter school
  • Known for its annual Celebration Founders Day festival and holiday events
  • Has a community swimming pool, golf club, hospital and other amenities
  • Maintains strict design guidelines and rules enforced by a homeowner’s association
  • Has the look and feel of a quaint, pre-World War II American town

Celebration is an interesting experiment in New Urbanism and planned community development led by Disney. Over the last 25+ years, it has fostered a tight-knit community feel despite some ongoing criticism.

Transportation and Location

Celebration is located just south of Orlando in Osceola County, Florida. It sits only 6 miles from the Walt Disney World Resort, making it a popular community for those who work at or frequently visit the Disney parks.

The town is conveniently located near several major highways and roads. To the west is Interstate 4, which provides access to downtown Orlando and Tampa. US Highway 192, also known as Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, runs along the southern edge of Celebration parallel to I-4. State Road 417, or the Central Florida GreeneWay, passes just north of the town.

While Celebration itself does not have significant public transportation options, it is close to the Lynx bus system routes that serve the Orlando metropolitan area. The closest Lynx station is on Irlo Bronson Highway, about 2 miles from downtown Celebration. The town is also building a multimodal path to connect residents to the Orlando area’s SunRail commuter train line.

Housing and Neighborhoods

Celebration is well known for its diverse and unique housing options. The town was designed by Disney to have a mix of housing styles and price points to attract a range of residents.

Some of the most notable neighborhoods include:

  • West Village: This neighborhood features beautiful Victorian, Colonial Revival, and Coastal-style homes. Home prices range from $400,000 to over $1 million.

  • North Village: The homes here are influenced by French Country and Mediterranean styles. Home prices range from $300,000 to $600,000.

  • East Village: Featuring Craftsman and Bungalow style homes, this neighborhood has more modestly priced homes from $200,000 to $400,000.

  • South Village: With architecture inspired by the Florida Vernacular style, homes in this area start around $250,000.

  • Downtown: The downtown area features condos, townhomes, and apartments in the $150,000 to $300,000 range.

Some architectural highlights include the prominent use of porches, picket fences, front yards, and rear alleys reminiscent of small town America. No two homes are alike thanks to the diverse architectural styles. Disney employed many famous architects to design custom homes for Celebration.

Economy and Jobs

Celebration is known for having a strong local economy and low unemployment rate compared to the national average. Some of the major local employers in Celebration include:

  • Disney – As the master-planned community was founded and developed by Disney, they continue to have a strong presence and employ thousands of residents. Disney World and other Disney properties provide jobs in entertainment, hospitality, retail and more.

  • AdventHealth – The large hospital system operates AdventHealth Celebration which provides healthcare jobs.

  • Public Schools – The K-12 school system is one of the largest employers with teachers, administrators and other school staff.

  • Retail – With a vibrant downtown area, retail stores and restaurants also provide many service and hospitality jobs.

The unemployment rate in Celebration is around 3% which is lower than both the state and national average. Residents benefit from the wide range of stable jobs available through these major employers.

Typical incomes and wages are above average compared to statewide figures. The median household income is around $80,000 annually. Individuals working in professional services, healthcare, technology and management roles tend to earn salaries of $50,000 to over $100,000 on average. Overall wages are boosted by the abundance of jobs with Disney and the low unemployment rate.

Celebration provides a strong job market across many industries for residents. The economic outlook remains positive due to low unemployment and high wages from major local employers.


Celebration is part of the Osceola County School District. There are several public schools located within Celebration for K-12 students:

  • Celebration K-8 School provides education for grades K through 8. It has received an “A” rating from the Florida Department of Education.

  • Highlands Elementary School provides education for grades K through 5. It has received an “A” rating.

  • Horizons Elementary School provides education for grades K through 5. It has also received an “A” rating.

  • Neptune Middle School provides education for grades 6 through 8. It has received a “B” rating.

For high school, most students living in Celebration attend Celebration High School located just outside the community. It serves grades 9 through 12 and has received an “A” rating.

In terms of higher education, there are no colleges or universities located directly within Celebration. However, it is under an hour’s drive from several notable institutions:

  • University of Central Florida – One of the largest universities in the country with over 68,000 students. Offers over 200 degree programs.

  • Valencia College – Local community college with multiple campuses in the Orlando area. Offers associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees in specialized fields.

  • Rollins College – Private liberal arts college located in Winter Park, Florida. Consistently ranked one of the best regional universities in the South.

So while Celebration does not have its own colleges, residents have easy access to many excellent higher education options in the surrounding metro area.

Things to Do

Celebration is a planned community created by the Walt Disney Company, so there are plenty of fun things to do for residents and visitors of all ages.

Parks and Recreation

Celebration has several beautiful parks for outdoor recreation. Lakeside Park features a large playground, walking trails, and a fishing dock. Artisan Park is home to sports fields, tennis courts, and a skate park. For water activities, you can enjoy the large Celebration Pool or take a kayak out on Lake Evalyn. The town also has many scenic jogging and biking paths.

Events and Festivals

Throughout the year, Celebration hosts special events like music concerts, holiday celebrations, farmers markets, art festivals, and more. The Winter Wonderland Festival in November kicks off the holiday season with activities like ice skating, carolers, and photos with Santa. Food trucks and live music liven up Market Street on Saturdays during the Spring Market event.

Shopping and Dining

The pedestrian-friendly Market Street is the heart of dining and shopping in Celebration. You’ll find boutique shops, art galleries, salons, cafes, and restaurants ranging from casual to upscale. Popular spots include Columbia Restaurant for Cuban cuisine, Celebration Town Tavern for pub fare, and Sweet Boutique for homemade chocolates. The town also has a movie theater, brewery, and gelato cafe. With diverse eateries and retail, Market Street offers plenty to see, do, and taste.

Cost of Living

Celebration is known for having a higher than average cost of living compared to the national average and other areas of Florida. Housing prices in particular tend to be quite high.

The median home value in Celebration is around $412,000 according to Zillow. This is over 2.5 times higher than the national median home value. Rent prices are also well above average, with a typical 2 bedroom apartment renting for $1,700-$2,000 per month.

Part of the reason housing in Celebration commands such high prices is due to its status as a master-planned community developed by Disney. The neighborhoods feature upscale homes on large lots. Proximity to Disney World also drives up demand.

Food prices in grocery stores are comparable to the national average. You can expect to pay around $3.50 for a gallon of milk and $1.99 per pound for chicken breast. A loaf of bread costs $2-3 on average.

Utility costs are moderately higher than the national average. The average monthly bill for electricity is around $180, compared to $115 nationwide. Water bills average $70 per month. High speed internet costs $60-80 per month depending on speed.

Celebration residents pay slightly higher taxes compared to other parts of Florida. The property tax rate is 1.5% and there is a 6% sales tax on goods and services. Florida does not have a state income tax.

Overall the cost of living in Celebration is estimated to be 45% higher than the national average, according to Sperling’s Best Places. The higher costs, especially for housing, are the tradeoff for living in a prestigious master-planned community.

Crime and Safety

Celebration is known as a very safe city in Florida. It has low rates of violent crime and property crime compared to other cities in the state.

The violent crime rate in Celebration is well below the national average. Violent crimes like murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault almost never occur in the city. Residents feel comfortable walking alone at night.

Property crimes like burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft are also less common in Celebration than the rest of Florida. The city has effective policing that deters criminals from targeting homes and vehicles.

Celebration’s emergency services help maintain the low crime rates. The city has its own police department with around 20 sworn officers. Fire and medical services are provided by the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which serves Walt Disney World properties.

Response times for police, fire, and EMS are very quick in Celebration given its small size. The police department prides itself on community-oriented policing and working closely with residents and neighborhood watch groups.

Overall, Celebration’s low crime rates, active police force, and fast emergency response times make it one of the safest places to live in Florida. Residents and visitors alike can feel secure thanks to the city’s strong focus on safety and security.

Climate and Weather

Celebration Florida has a warm and humid subtropical climate, typical of Central Florida. The town experiences hot, humid summers and mild, dry winters.

The average high temperature in July and August reaches into the low 90s Fahrenheit (32-35°C), while the average low drops to the low to mid 70s F (22-24°C). The summer months also bring frequent thunderstorms and heavy rainfall.

Winters are much milder, with average high temperatures in the 70s F (21-24°C) and lows in the 50s F (10-15°C). Rainfall decreases in the winter but does not fully cease.

The transitional spring and fall seasons see temperatures in the 60s to 80s F (15-27°C) and less humidity and rain than summer.

Hurricane season runs from June to November, though August and September are peak months for tropical storms and hurricanes to impact Central Florida and Celebration.

Overall, Celebration sees average annual precipitation around 50 inches (127 cm). Summers are the wettest season while winters are the driest. The weather allows for year-round outdoor activities with proper planning around rainy periods in summer.

Famous Residents

Celebration is a planned community that was developed by the Walt Disney Company in the 1990s. Given its connection to Disney, it’s no surprise that a number of celebrities and notable figures have called Celebration home over the years.

One of the most famous residents of Celebration was Michael Jackson. The King of Pop lived in the town briefly in the early 2000s before his child molestation trial. His presence caused quite a stir in the quiet planned community.

Another celebrity resident is movie star Catherine Zeta-Jones. She and her husband Michael Douglas have owned property in Celebration on and off over the years. They were drawn to the privacy and security the community offered their family.

In addition to stars, a number of business leaders and entrepreneurs have lived in Celebration. Notable businessmen who have called the town home include Sanford “Sandy” Shugart, the president of Valencia College, and Al Weiss, the former president of worldwide operations for Disney Parks and Resorts.

The town has also been home to famous athletes like NBA player Tracy McGrady and PGA golfer Lee Janzen. Both were residents during the peak of their athletic careers.

While the list of renowned residents isn’t very long, it’s impressive that a small, master-planned community like Celebration could attract such well-known figures. The town’s connection to Disney and its reputation as an idyllic place to live have made it an appealing getaway for some of the world’s biggest stars and business leaders.

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