Home » 4 Amazing Things to Do in Celebration, Fl.

4 Amazing Things to Do in Celebration, Fl.

joeshlabotnik, Flickr (license)

When Walt Disney first purchased his massive tract of land in Central Florida, he did so with the purpose of pursuing a dream. He called that dream the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT. It was meant to be a place where families could live, work, and play together — commuting from master-planned residential areas to New Urbanist downtown clusters. There was an industrial park, a city center, single-family hones, and — of course — a theme park.

The EPCOT of Walt’s imagination never came to be, however. Shortly after he announced his intentions for the Florida Project, Walt grew ill and passed away. And, not keen to get involved in urban planning, the company pivoted the project away from an exploration in city life to a vacation resort that would be unlike any other.

And yet, ideas never die at The Walt Disney Company. At worst, they enter a period of long hibernation. So, in the early 1990s, the company dusted off some of the ideas at the heart of EPCOT and got to work designing a New Urbanist community on a piece of undeveloped property at the south end of the resort. That area became known as Celebration, a town built and designed entirely by Walt Disney Imagineering.

Celebration isn’t owned or operated by the Walt Disney Company anymore, but it’s worth a visit for any hard core Disney fan obsessed with the company’s history. It’s also simply a beautiful and fun village worth exploring on its own, even for the most Disney-agnostic traveler.

Here are a few fun things to do when exploring this incredible gem of a town.

Walk the Downtown

 joeshlabotnik, Flickr (license)

Image: joeshlabotnik, Flickr (license)

The heart of Celebration is the Celebration Town Center — a walkable stretch of mixed-use buildings that includes shops, restaurants, apartments, and a wonderful lakeside stroll. It is most notable for its architecture — a west coast-inspired Art Deco vision that evokes the familiarity of 1950s domestic life.

The former Celebration movie theater dominates the skyline, offering a glimpse at the kind of place making Walt Disney Imagineering is famous for. It was designed by Cesar Pelli — a world-renowned architect most notable for his work on the Petronas Towers and the Aria Resort in Las Vegas. 

Michael Graves, an architect most known for postmodern constructions like the Swan and Dolphin Resorts on Walt Disney World property, designed Celebration’s post office — itself a postmodern play on New Urbanist ideas. 

Other buildings include designs from notable architects like Robert A.M. Stern, Graham Gund, and Philip Johnson make Celebration an incredible spot to regard some of the most famous architects in the world coming to play with Disney’s ideas and concepts. Walking the downtown area is a deeply pleasurable experience, particularly if you hail from a more traditional urban landscape.


 wellingtoncorp, Flickr (license)

Image: wellingtoncorp, Flickr (license)

Of course, the principal thing to do once you’ve walked a bit around the area is to enjoy some delicious food. And, if you’re hungry, Celebration has more than enough excellent options for you.

The centerpiece of dining is Columbia Restaurant, an outpost of the Tampa-based Cuban restaurant empire. Their famed 1908 salad is the big ticket item, with an assist from some exquisite sangria and Cuban bread to boot.

Celebration Town Tavern offers traditional American fare in a comfortable bar environment. The restaurant’s aesthetics evoke southeastern beach town bars with handsome wood and bright light. Pickier eaters will find something here, but those with a solid palate won’t be disappointed either.

Imperium Food and Wine offers a nice post-dinner hangout spot. Or, alternatively, their light bites can offer some sustenance to break up the day trip’s pace. Celebration is, itself, an excellent spot to relax, and outdoor dining here is generally excellent even in the muggy months. And, if you want something to cool off, Celebration offers both Kilwins’ excellent ice cream and a local cookie dough company serving delicious raw cookie dough in the style of other frozen treats.

In all, you won’t go hungry in Celebration.


 Celebration Golf Club

Image: Celebration Golf Club

If you want to do something more sporting, Celebration Golf Club is among the very best in Central Florida. 

Built in 1996, this course is the very last course co-designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior and Junior — a father-son duo who have designed hundreds of golf courses both together and separately. The course is challenging, with lots of water, tight fairways, and difficult sand obstacles.

Additionally, Celebration Golf Club offers a unique driving range with floating island greens. The result is a scenic and relaxing practice area that is unlike any other you’ve likely experienced before. 

Ultimately, Celebration Golf Club is a well-maintained, difficult golf course that exemplifies what golf should be like while on vacation. It is challenging but luxurious, thought-provoking but relaxing. If you like to golf, it’s a must-do destination in the Walt Disney World area.

Explore Nature

 wellingtoncorp, Flickr (license)

Image: wellingtoncorp, Flickr (license)

Celebration’s greatest attribute, however, has little to do with the designs of architects and golf course artisans. It is its tremendous green space, defined by a massive townside lake and numerous walking and running trails.

The centerpiece trail, which circles Lake Rianhard near the downtown area, is a surprising bit of Old Florida located in heart of everything New Florida. The residential streets all feature well-designed sidewalks, allowing visitors to explore the area and discover the numerous parks and greenways that inhabit it.

Celebration Lakeside Park features large and open green space, tennis courts, and a weekend farmer’s market. It offers a glimpse not only at the beautiful village of Celebration on the other side of the lake, but also the idyllic residential life Celebration was always meant to represent.

That is, ultimately, the main takeaway from a day at Celebration. Yes, it was a wholly-masterplanned community built by one of the largest corporations on Earth. Yet, somehow, it captures a kind of classically American view of what life outside of work was meant to look like. And, importantly, it evokes the dream Walt Disney himself put forward when he first announced the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow in the middle part of the 20th Century. 

All it really needs is some public transportation to turn it into the true New Urban utopia Walt originally envisioned. Maybe someday, Disney will extend the Skyliner Gondola down that way and complete the mission.