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Celebration, FL: Real life in Disney’s world

At Celebration, FL, Disney's own Utopia in the southern part of theme-park crazy Orlando, visitors can find a piece of real life in a world completely man-made. This bizarre invention may be America's long-lost dream town, reports Erik Bergin, but there is still something desperate about the place.

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Perfect parks, perfect façades,
perhaps even perfect neighbors. It was all made a reality by Disney in the 1990s. And not anywhere — what place could fit better than Orlando, FL, the city with more theme parks than any other?

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A sort of attraction in itself, the town of Celebration, FL, was founded by Disney Development Company, DDC, in the entertainment gigant’s quest to develop its business and boundaries into new areas.

For Europeans, at least, Celebration seems exotic. While many cities in Europe were founded, planned and built during Medieval times, Celebration is a new invention, a place to live and work that was formed not by accident and hammered out over decades, but by engineers trying to invest all their best knowledge on how a small modern town should look like.

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With its boundaries within the vast land of Walt Disney World in southern Orlando, Celebration should be on your Florida itinerary. No longer involved in the city, Disney’s spirit still lingers over the place. Is this for real? It’s almost something almost desperate about Celebration. It’s as if, finally, the United States managed to build an ideal city, an Utopia, the way the nation always wanted it – though it had to be made by man, since America itself proved unable to produce it by its own means through history. And maybe that’s the whole issue, lack of history – after all, the United States of America is a very young country.

I grasp a copy of the town’s local newspaper. It’s full of internal affairs aimed at the residents – no real news, no real events other than those concerning the immediate neighbors. I see stores, cafés and restaurants, there’s a Hello Kitty store close to the Main Street with everything in pink. But no groceries, no news stands, nothing of the stuff you’d find in any other normal town.


In Celebration’s Main Street, hidden in bushes, loudspeakers play soft music wherever you go. At the Main Street’s far end, with benches and a small square, there’s a small lake, or perhaps large pond, with water that doesn’t move. Here, you can watch the time stand still, silently licking your ice cream cone.

Yes, Celebration is an attraction alright – and if you’ve ventured to crazy Orlando, where most things are about theme parks, virtual worlds, façades, and artificial reefs and lagoons anyway, this little nugget of tourist attraction may be time well spent. After all, Celebration, however man-made, is a town with real residents. And as such, it’s certainly closer to the real world than neighboring Magic Kingdom. If not as magic.


The editor of the Traveling Reporter works as a business news editor, and is a frequent traveler. When not doing any of that, he spends time on his boat and tries to figure out where to travel next. Two of his top destinations are the Philippines and San Francisco. Email Erik! Follow the Traveling Reporter at Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Chime In, Pinterest, Google+, Weibo, Storify, Facebook, Traveldudes, Myspace.