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9 Great Places to Live When You Retire and Move To Disney!

Celebration Florida
Credit: Celebration, Florida

For a number of fortunate folks the idea of living in the heart of the greater Orlando area, in close proximity to Walt Disney World Resort no less, is more than just a pipe dream—it is a reality. With the fair central Florida weather conditions year-round, readily available Disney diversions just around the corner, and that energizing magic that makes you feel like a kid again even if you are a retired senior, who can deny the unending excellent reasons for why you should make the decision to move here permanently?

Of course, your decision may be impacted on where exactly you settle depending on your own specific needs, like whether or not you are looking for assisted living, moving here independently, with a spouse, or as a family unit. In this article, we’ve listed a couple of ideas for you to consider when reflecting on the specifics about retiring to Orlando, near Disney, on a permanent basis.

9. Celebration

What better way to celebrate moving to the central Florida region than to live in a place called “Celebration”? A utopian demonstration of small-town idyllic life in almost every aspect, it’s no surprise to learn that the original concept for Celebration was modeled after Walt Disney’s own idea of an experimental prototype community of tomorrow—the very foundational elements behind EPCOT Park. These include the clean friendly neighborhood streets, charming shops, family-friendly downtown diversions, and even efficient businesses—some of which are connected to the Walt Disney Company brand.

Celebration Bungalo
Home in Celebration, FL

There are several single residences perfect for families as well as independent and assisted living facilities for seniors. The most popular choice for the latter can best be demonstrated by the Windsor at Celebration, which even includes onsite memory care along with plenty of world-class amenities to fit a host of specific and individualized needs alike. What’s more, the community’s convenient location to Walt Disney World Resort via a series of main streets that even include the famous World Drive only adds to Celebration’s reasons to celebrate.

8. Doctor Phillips

The rather unconventional and somewhat baffling name of this community comes directly from Dr. Phillip Phillips—central Florida’s historically renowned philanthropist and citrus entrepreneur, who contributed greatly to the packaging and processing methods of orange juice during the first half of the 20th century. He was also the owner of thousands of acres of land, once serving as massive orange groves but now comprising of what makes up the crisp, pristine locale of the Doctor Phillips suburb. Living in Doctor Phillips places you right in the heart of Orlando theme Park Resort glory, with its five-minute location from Universal Studios and less than a 15-minute commute to Walt Disney World Resort.
Doctor Phillips

Another notable credential that puts this place on the map is its famed Restaurant Row set up—an attraction in its own right. The homes making up Doctor Phillips range in varying accommodations, perfect for families, singles, and retirees alike. Elderly residents may consider various independent and assisted living accommodations in the community depending on personal needs. One highly recommended consideration for seniors is HarborChase, which offers up both independent and assisted living amenities in a hospitable resort-like facility. Wherever you decide to move, Doctor Phillips may be just what the doctor ordered. 

7. Windermere

There are plenty of great things to say about this large lakeside oasis of a community, which admittedly along with the aforementioned Doctor Phillips, boasts higher median home price ranges on average in the greater Orlando area. All the same, depending on what you are looking for and which neighborhood you choose to reside in, you can find plenty of decent homes (townhouses, single-family homes, apartments, etc.) priced at just $300,000 and even lower (or higher).

But all the same, living in the charm and splendor of this premium suburb, located just north of the Walt Disney World Resort, is entirely worth it. Magic Kingdom Park is so close, in fact, that some Disney Cast Members actually park right off Windermere’s own Reams Road for a few minutes’ convenient commute by foot into work each day.

Please note, however, this route is a little longer to take for non-cast members (adding 15 to 20 minutes or so). All the same, it is still significantly close in proximity to Disney Property as well as other neighborhood back roads to get you to other Disney Parks and destinations in a more residential and esoteric fashion.

And as you probably guessed by now, living in the Windermere community is an all-over enjoyable experience for residents of any age, including families with children, empty nesters, and independent seniors as well as those that require assisted living services alike. For the second situation, Windermere’s recommendations are plenty. One such noteworthy consideration to look into is the Sheridan at Windermere, which boasts a compilation of independent housing, assisted living services, and even memory care all in one convenient location.

6. Kissimmee

If you’re looking for some of the most affordable housing within a 15 to 20-minute commute to nearby Disney Parks and attractions, then Kissimmee just may be the place for you. And in addition to these prior perks, as a community, Kissimmee has a rich and rurally cultured past to be appreciated, with many unique sights and attractions to boot. It’s also a mega-hub for visitors and residents alike from all around the world. While the town’s history dates back to the late 19th century, many people who come here today are much more familiar with the newer and more modern developments and refurbishments within the community, including themed restaurants, shops, and of course what’s known as the 192 corridors. Here you’ll find a wide range of popular touristy commerce and attractions, both Disney-related and otherwise.

Downtown Kissimmee

As mentioned previously, Kissimmee boasts some of the most affordable housing in the Orlando area, easily one of the highest-ranking communities for homeownership. Residents of all ages and situations find plenty to love about living here, from the very young to the much older retirees living either independently or requiring assisted living.

There are plenty of suggestions for retirement living, from luxurious gated communities for those 55 and older at the Solivita to compassionate assisted living at Roses Terrace, which also offers adult daycare, around-the-clock nursing, and rehabilitation services. There are many other options as well, including the notable Good Samaritan Society villages. Kissimmee is also home to Give Kids the World Village, an 84-acre nonprofit Resort offering weeklong, cost-free vacations for families and children suffering from critical illnesses. 

5. St. Cloud

Like Kissimmee, neighboring St. Cloud is one of the more affordable options for housing in the greater Orlando area. With a low-key, quaint, and relaxing atmosphere within a little over half an hour’s drive to Disney Property, it’s easy to see why someone would choose a spot like this to retire to. In fact, that’s how the community got its start originally in the late 1800s—to serve as a place of retirement for Civil War Union Army veterans.

Of course, much has changed since then, but much has remained the same also. St. Cloud still retains its suburban, country/agrarian charm and appeal—a retreat for those looking for a quiet spot that gives the sense of being far removed from the hustle and bustle of fast-paced Resort life but in fact, remains a convenient commute to Disney and other nearby Orlando liveliness.

From pristine acreage, surrounding wilderness, and a median home price range that’s in the $220,000s ballpark, it’s no wonder that St. Cloud is the ideal place for families, singles, and retirees alike. With its aforementioned reputation for historically being a place founded on retirement, St. Cloud still boasts plenty of venues for seniors aged 55 and older looking to settle here, whether via independent living or assisted living services. Palamar House is one of the most highly recommended options for senior living in St. Cloud, offering upscale assisted living, adult daycare, and even respite care services in addition to options for independent living.  Many other suggestions can also be found throughout the community as well to suit any need.

4. Lake Nona

Residency and regional developments throughout Lake Nona have been on the rise over the years, earning it such nicknames as “a community of and for the future” as well as “Medical City,” for the fact that several prestigious hospitals centers and research facilities can be found here. So opting to live in a place like Lake Nona puts you at the forefront of all the latest innovations in health, wellness, and emerging technologies—all driving motivations toward a better way of life. This parses nicely with the concept of seeking out the perfect community to live in, whether you are a retired senior, making the move here as a family, or even a younger working-age adult. Sustainable practices have been actively implemented all throughout the community, including the various buildings and businesses making up the stellar Town Center, all of which are LEED certified.

Lake Nona Town Center
Lake Nona Town Center

Lake Nona has several other affluent attributes that place it on the map as well. It is not only home to the United States Tennis Association’s National Campus, but also the official training facility for Orlando City Soccer (SC). And as you’d expect from a community that carries the word “lake” in its name, Lake Nona is also where you will find water—and lots of it. The Crystal Lagoons Company created what’s currently the largest crystal water lagoon in the United States right in Lake Nona, spanning a grand total of 15 acres. This makes for plenty of recreational activities and pursuits to enjoy.

And for other endeavors and diversions, keep in mind that Lake Nona may seem far removed but it is only in fact a half hour or so from Disney Property and other Orlando-based attractions. As for living options, community life here offers plenty of perks—many of which carry a prestigious and elite feel. For active independent seniors 55 and older it doesn’t get any better than the Gatherings at Lake Nona community, which features an array of upscale amenities. Those who may require assisted living care and more supervised attention can’t go wrong with the Somerby Lake Nona community, which even offers Alzheimer’s and other memory care services in addition to providing for plentiful other needs.

3. Winter Park

Easily one of the most sought-after suburbs in the greater Orlando area to make a home in, Winter Park is also one of the priciest places to live in Orange County, with a median range that hovers around the mid-400k to 600k marker. But that’s to be expected living in such a vibrant cultural hub known throughout the nation for its multitude of art festivals, annual and seasonal events, and numerous other notable claims to fame, not to mention the fact that it’s just a 30-minute drive away from Walt Disney World Resort. But Winter Park, as a community, does well to stand on its own by way of its merits, just as it always has since its founding back in the 1880s when the creation of the South Florida Railroad increased the overall population in the surrounding area.

Winter Park
Winter Park Downtown

By 1885 Rollins College, which now holds the title for being the oldest college in the state, was established here. And while we are on the topic of antiquity and going back to the aforementioned art festivals, you should know that the Winter Park Sidewalk Festival, now in its 61st year, is also nationally recognized for being one of the oldest outdoor juried art events in the country. And the extensions to Winter Park’s various claims to fame do not end there. From being home to the famed Morse Museum to boasting myriad shopping and dining venues alike, this community seemingly has it all. Even better, the spirited sense of companionship here is alive and well, as residents can vouch. It is an excellent place to raise a family or move permanently to upon retirement.

Housing options, are among some of the most vibrant and versatile distinctions, coming in a wide range of styles to suit any need. For retirees making the move to Winter Park, options are plentiful, from independent living lifestyles to those that require assisted living. One of the highest recommendations we can make for the aforementioned is the Mayflower, which provides the best of independent luxury Resort living in addition to onsite continuing care healthcare services that even include rehabilitation, memory care, holistic healing, and more health and wellness services. 

2. ChampionsGate

While the primary focus of this article is on retiring “permanently” to the Orlando area, close to Disney, it should be noted that ChampionsGate is the place where you will find some of the largest selections of short-term property leases and rentals within the immediate area. This can be perfect if you’re just starting out, making the transition to move here, and not yet ready to put down permanent roots at a specific property. But if you do decide to make the move to ChampionsGate your final destination, it will be a win-win decision. How could it not be with a name that denotes living like a champion? And being just a 10 to 12-minute drive from Walt Disney World Resort paired with affordable home pricing and numerous other amenities, in addition, earns this community first place. Golfers take note that ChampionsGate is where you will find the famed ChampionsGate Golf Club, recipient of numerous awards and home to two notable golf courses—the National and International Courses. It’s also where you will find the David Leadbetter Academy World Headquarters.

ChampionsGate also boasts various resorts to stay at like the renowned Omni Hotel, luxury villa condos via the Villas at ChampionsGate (also a great place to live via extended lease), and spacious condos amid the Mediterranean-themed Tuscana Resort (another long-term option). As for accommodations in general, the suggestions are plentiful, from the aforementioned and other condominiums, apartments of all ranges and sizes, townhouses, and even single-family homes. ChampionsGate is even home to one of the finest retirement communities in central Florida—Merrill Gardens, which is renowned for offering up the best in independent living and assisted living services onsite, including memory care. And let’s not forget all the convenience that’s to be yours by way of shopping and restaurant venues galore. 

1. Disney Golden Oak

The ultimate ideal of what living in a Disney utopian community is all about, those countless scores of Disney fanatics who have ever done fun Internet searches on where to live near Walt Disney World Resort have undoubtedly come across the Disney Golden Oak Community. Located just southeast of Magic Kingdom Park (and just minutes away from all other Walt Disney World Parks), to live in Golden Oak really is practically the same thing as living on Disney Property. In fact, the distinguished neighborhoods that make up the community were even designed by Disney Imagineers, no less. And you’ll even find hidden Mickeys in the various homes, which are admittedly highly expensive in the extreme—starting at around the two million dollar marker.

Golden Oak
Credit: Golden Oak

So being a diehard Disney fan alone isn’t what qualifies you for residency here; it’s being a rich Disney diehard fan. And living at Golden Oak comes with all the same Disney perks and benefits as the finest Walt Disney World hotels, including membership passes (which are reportedly even better than Annual Passholder Passes), and so much more. Other premiums worth mentioning also include the chance to dine at refined restaurants (in this case, right in the heart of the Golden Oak Community), access to gyms and private facilities via community clubhouse membership, poolside privileges, and other onsite amenities at the clubhouse. What’s more, there are even special shuttle services that deliver residents to and from the four parks, two water parks, and Disney Springs throughout the day. So with all that, plus so much more we haven’t even covered, living at Disney Golden Oak is definitely worth the cost, but it is also admittedly impractical for just anybody to do. But if you do have the funds and fun love for Disney, then we say go for it! It doesn’t get any better than this, whether you are a family with kids, empty nesters looking toward a new chapter in your life, or otherwise retiring permanently to the place where dreams come true. 

There are numerous other great places to live throughout the greater Orlando area, close to all the magic of Walt Disney World Resort. Whatever your age, family/financial situation, or lifestyle, making the move in close range to Disney is entirely doable. So if you ever dreamed of living in the heart of the magic, now may very well be the time to do so, because “if you can dream it, you can do it.”

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.

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