By J.S. Fletcher and Kathy M. Newbern © 2010
(Part 1 of 3)
Celebration. It’s a town in Florida.
Celebration. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of place you’d like to wake up in every morning?
We had the pleasure of doing that for three days in a row, and know what? It was.
Our accommodations were at the Bohemian Hotel Celebration, a boutique hotel in the oh-so-fab Kessler Collection. After staying at other Kessler properties – the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront, the Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah, and the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Asheville, NC, we were excited to add another to our list.
And after three days of summertime crowds at Disney World, we were ready for the tranquility that seemed to beckon as we examined the hotel’s website. Ahhh.
Kessler Enterprise Inc. actually owns the properties, lead by Richard Kessler, Chairman and CEO since 1984, who was formerly the President and Chairman of Days Inn of America for nine years. His four- and five-diamond quality properties are located in Florida, Georgia, Colorado and New Mexico. Kessler is to high-end, small hotels what the late, great George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees was to star baseball players.
Yet not even the most diehard fan knew all the Yankees by name so while Bohemian Hotel Celebration is tony and comfortable, she’s suffering a wee bit of an identity crisis. We got a hint of that when we were asking for directions from the Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World. Everyone we asked had heard of the Grand Bohemian Hotel in downtown Orlando, but no one had heard of one in Celebration. Not even the taxi driver’s GPS could hone in exactly on the site, and even townfolk simply refer to it as the Celebration Hotel, not bringing Bohemian to mind.
Our evening arrival did provide us with a grand look at the hotel’s signage – blazing red beautiful block letters spelling out the name vertically on a neon marquee. Well, it says Bohemian right there, we thought, so why the confusion?
Regardless of what you call it, the hotel fits perfectly in Celebration, which feels like a step back in time to a quiet, neighborly place where sidewalks made it easy for an evening stroll, and a quaint downtown served as a focal point for gathering, shopping and eating.
Perhaps another great man at another great company had something to do with that. The Town of Celebration, it turns out, was part of the Disney braintrust, starting in the early 1990s as a real estate development lead by The Walt Disney Company. Some may describe it as charming, especially those inclined to sing along to “It’s a Small World” while cruising along the waterway of one of Disney World’s most well-known attractions.
For us, the town brought to mind the movie” Pleasantville” without any of the not-nice stuff. Really, it is quite charming in a white-bread kind of way.
It turns out that the hotel was built as part of the development of the Town of Celebration, the first and only time Disney partnered with an independent hotelier to develop and operate a hotel. The concept of the town was actually the original EPCOT (Environmentally Planned Community of Tomorrow.) During the initial introduction of sales, there was such demand that homebuyers were actually chosen through a lottery. Even today, there’s a high demand for residences in the community. Yes, we chatted with a Realtor and looked at some listings just for fun.
Celebration is still linked to Walt Disney World by a road called World Drive, which allows residents (estimated at around 10,000) and visitors to drive from town to the Magic Kingdom with little hassle of traveling busy roads.
We found so many pluses to this gem of a property for a different kind of Orlando stay:
– It’s convenient to Disney and other Orlando attractions,
– As a boutique property, it’s very much out of the ordinary for Orlando,
– The turn-of-the-century Florida architecture evokes a slow-down and take-a-few-breaths feeling from the minute you arrive here,
– The lakeside location is stunning, and
– The fact that it’s located in this charming little town called Celebration with fun shopping, dining and entertainment gives the hotel a real resort feel without the sprawl of a real resort.
(Read more details about the hotel in Part 2, and our experiences out and about in Celebration in Part 3)
If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy these:
• Other Stories by Kathy M. Newbern
• Stories by J.S. Fletcher, International Travel Examiner
Luxury Travel Examiner Kathy M. Newbern and spouse, J.S. Fletcher, report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the globe. They are award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers and created YourSpaReport.com and YourNovel.com, their personalized romance novel business.