Category: Celebration

Spring Escape Pt 7: Sunday in Celebration

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By , April 25, 2010 11:19 pm

Pt 7: Sunday in Celebration

Sunday, April 25

For as long as I’ve been coming to Orlando I’ve heard about Celebration, the little dream community Disney built for Walt, but had never visited. Until the last year I didn’t really know where it was beyond “just outside Disney’s gate”. But this trip I decided we would make time to visit.

I researched the town on the web over our long dreary Winter. They had little restaurants and a movie theater. Yesterday I met a local resident who told us about the brand new church. There was a pie festival today. The weather was beautiful. All the signs pointed us towardthis little town in the shadow of a theme park and large city.

So I plugged our destination into Dave the Navigator and made sure was in the van in ti to make morning mass at Corpus Christi. Dave took us down I-4 on the fastest route. Exit 74 to World Drive but we bared to the left (East) on US 192 toward Kissimmee. A mile away, Dave told us to turn right at the traffic light, just past the water tower, onto Celebration Ave.

Now 192 is a busy multi-lane thoroughfare like many of Orlando’s roads. Chain restaurants and hotels/motels line the street. It’s very urban. But once you turn right you enter a whole new world.

Celebration is thought by some locals to be just where the rich people live. And yes housing here is a little pricier. You have to pay a community association fee to live here. But you get miles of roaming sidewalks, a golf course, a community pool, playground, park and lakes for fishing or birdwatching. Dave took us down Celebration Ave, right up to front Street and to the gates of the Great American Pie Festival.

Uh Dave, what happened to church? Apparently Dave likes pie just as much as he loves directing us on Buena Vista Drive.

The church is new so we look for our little notes from our chance meet with local Dr. Harold and continue on past the center of town. Out Celebration Avenue beyond the houses designed to look like a slice of old time Americana and just across from the elementary school we find the brand new Corpus Christi parish.

It’s a beautiful community church done in white, brown and decorated with Florida palms. We were instantly welcomed inside and placed right before the altar. This is not a giant cathedral like Mary Queen of the Universe but a small town parish with all the Southern Hospitality you expect from this region.

Today there’s a special treat. A local children’s choir is singing, joined by a bell choir. They sound like little angels. The parish priest (a very tall man named Fr. Gregory) tells us that we are all truly blessed to be here today. Indeed he is happy for this parish is just 5 years old, and before Christmas Eve they met in the auditorium of the local school. Now they have a very permanent and very pretty home.

After mass, we head back to the Town Center. It’s time for the festival to begin. We find parking behind the university (Stetson University) and walk the half mile across small town streets to the lakefront park. The Great American Pie Festival is just beginning.

For $10 an adult ($5 for seniors and kids) you get a wristband into the all-you-can-eat courtyard. Slices of all variety of pies are handed out like candy, along with coffee, milk and ice water. The sponsors are a variety of local groceries and bakeries.

We sample everything our stomachs can take: sugar free custard pie, chocolate mousse pie, candy cane pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, dazzleberry pie, lemon meringue pie, apple pie with vanilla ice cream. So much pie, GM goes into sugar overload.

I detox with a bit of regular food from the tents outside and lots of ice water. Little did we realize that nice cool morning has slowly turned into one hot, humid day. But we didn’t care. We had pie… and we made lots of new friends. The favorite line of the day is “are you a local or out of towner”. It seems everyone is here today. There’s Marion the pie lady (a Celebration local and transplant from up north); Kay the Four Corners local, two sisters visiting from Tampa, and even Andrew our favorite lifeguard from Saratoga Springs. Seems the Great American Pie Festival is a national event written up in all the best food magazines. Word is getting out too.

In another section they have pie baking contest, pie eating contest, pie decorating for the kids, a live jazz band and a live brass band playing. Arts & Crafts vendors sell their wares. There are moonbounces and rock climbing walls for the kids. There’s even the giant pie man walking around on stilts, a mascot raison and girls dressed up as pies. As you go around you think this must be what small town life is like.

When we’ve eaten our fill we head for the lake in hopes of some cool breezes and a chance to walk off all that pie. That’s when we discovered all these miles and miles of walkways. You walk around one lake, stumble upon a wood bridge through the trees and stumble onto another lake and another section of town. People walk. People ride bikes. Kids ride skateboards. People even fish the lake while the residents sit on their porches and enjoy the afternoon sun.

We happen by one such house and ask the resident a couple questions. Next we know another resident comes up in her festival uniform looking for supper from her neighbor friend. There’s something saved in the fridge she’s told before being welcomed inside.

Then we move on down the street where we see a realtor’s sign. A couple realtors are standing on the veranda talking. On a whim we ask if there are any homes made for folks with wheelchairs. Yes, they know one on the market. It’s all decked out with ramps and roll-in showers. Only costs about $330k. Wow, less than our house goes for back in MD. Oh do you think we could sell out and move down here to this idyllic community?

It’s nice to dream, but GM doesn’t want to leave home and his family. Besides there’s all that work stuff to do back there. But it’s a nice dream. If I won the lottery maybe.

The day is growing late and I really wanted to visit that Celebration Hotel in the town center. So we make our way back the many walkways and hidden bridges to the Grand Bohemian Celebration Hotel.

It is a large white building in the West corner of the main lake. Inside you step into a world that looks just like the old Adventurer’s Club of Pleasure Island. There are carvings of wild animals on the walls, a restaurant and bar right in the lobby, knickknacks in curio cabinets and an entire hallway filled with artwork expensive enough to pay for several of my BWV and SSR add-ons. But where is the Front Desk?

I’m used to hotel lobbies with tall sweeping desks staffed by a half dozen eager clerks. But there’s none in sight here. All I see is a couple of very ornate desks in the corner. A lady sits there working. I presume it’s the concierge and ask her. This is the front desk, she tells me. Seems when you check in here, you’re met at the door by the valet and given plush chairs to sit in while Abby processes your reservation.

I’m liking this. I ask her about the accessible rooms and booking. They have 6 rooms with roll-in showers throughout the hotel. And she tells me they are now part of the Marriott collection. I can use my Marriott Reward points and book online. Wow, when did that happen? Just a couple weeks ago, she tells me, showing me the Marriott handbook she and her comrade are still learning.

I decide no matter the rate this is a place I want to visit again. I’m thinking a weekend at the hotel, between our Marriott and Disney timeshare weeks. Maybe during another Great American festival. Abby tells me it’s a busy time for them right now. It doesn’t get less busy until summer.

At home I look up the hotel on Marriott and check out the rates for our upcoming September trip. $144 per night or 30,000 reward points. There’s availability if I’m willing to pay. But our plans are already set for Fall so I think I’ll just try to work it in for next Spring. Maybe for the pie festival, or just to walk around, take in a movie and try one of those taverns along Front Street.

Outside the sky begins to darken. Someone tells us the weatherman says we’re under a tornado watch tonight. Those big storms that hit Mississippi are coming our way. Time to head home and pack for tomorrow’s big move to Disney’s Bay Lake Tower.

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