Downtown Celebration's lake front (@Laura Anders Lee)

The Town That Disney Built: Celebration, Fla.

By Laura Lee on 05/08/14

Try to imagine the perfect town: picket fences, moss-draped oaks, wide porches and friendly neighbors. A few decades ago, the folks at Disney dreamt up their ideal town, and they came up with Celebration. Today, it's a thrivingand a very much realtown of 12,000 people. From award-winning architecture to gorgeous parks and a quaint downtown, Celebration is worth spending a day exploring. To help matters, take our recommended itinerary for first-time visitors:

Morning

From wherever you're staying (Tampa, Jacksonville or Orlando, most likely) head on over to Celebration, the town that Disney built. Here you’ll find visually stunning parks, award-winning architecture and Southern verandas dressed in bougainvillea. A premier example of new urbanism, the walkable town beckons visitors to explore. This perfectly planned community is an ideal place to get active. Book a tee time at Celebration Golf Club, a public course designed by Robert Trent Jones. Rent a bike or even a bicycle surrey, and the entire family can pedal through the charming streets of downtown. Or, head to the back of the property where you'll discover a forest of palms, oranges and palmettos from one of Celebration’s raised, wooden boardwalks.

Afternoon

After working up an appetite, you'll want to visit Lakeside Park for the farmers market, if you happen to be in town on a Sunday. Choose from homemade treats such as chocolate croissants, made-to-order crepes and gluten-free breads, along with fresh vegetables, herbs and citrus straight from the farmer’s truck. After refueling with some healthy fare, browse the shops along Front and Market streets. Find something for the kids at Sanrio Surprises or Once Upon a Time, admire artistic works at Market Street Gallery or select from fresh, Florida fashions at Downeast, which carries brands such as Lacoste and Southern Tide. Don’t forget a little something for your pup at Wolf Gang Bakery.

Evening

There's no need to rush off anywhere. Downtown Celebration offers an array of dining choices from the casual to the refined. Join the locals for happy hour at Celebration Town Tavern, where the outside deck is always overflowing with cheer and the bar offers 99 bottles of beer (yes, they are on the wall). Or, perhaps walk under Market Street's twinkling lights to Imperium Food and Wine for a glass of vino with baked brie. For the main course, Columbia Restaurant’s lively atmosphere complements the flavorful food. Share a pitcher of sangria prepared tableside and nosh on seafood specialties with a Spanish twist such as the Snapper Alicante, Grouper Bilbao and the Mahi Mahi Varadero.

After Hours

The rocking chairs along downtown's lakefront invite you to linger in Celebration a little longer. Watch as children play in the nearby splashpad or just bask in the glow of the sunset while skimming the water's surface for the resident alligator. Then, end the evening at the posh Bohemian Hotel. The luxe interiors feature funky chandeliers, driftwood sconces, modern art and comfy seating. You can grab a nightcap at the bar with classic choices such as a cosmo or Manhattan, or indulge with a Bohemian Nightfall, featuring Kahlua midnight, Godiva caramel liquor and cream. You can also take your party to the outside deck to gaze out over the water, reflecting on a day well spent.