Living at Disney is a daydream for most, but for those residing in the Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort luxury residential community, it’s a dream come true. Located five miles east of Disney World in Orlando, Florida, Golden Oak is a one-of-a-kind resort development boasting magnificent homes and a magical lifestyle—a seductive combination as I discovered on a recent over-the-top visit.
Golden Oak is more than a collection of houses—although these are pretty spectacular. Old-world Mediterranean- and Caribbean-inspired custom homes, priced starting at $1.8 million offer dreamy kitchens, fantasy pools, and all the bells and whistles imaginable. The limited collection of dwellings—400 in all—is spread through five distinct neighborhoods, each offering an abundance of privacy, green space, and community.
At the center is the Summerhouse, a multi-purpose community hub providing a family game room, heated outdoor pool, and state-of-the-art fitness facilities. Most welcoming of all are the bar lounge and dining room inspired by Walt Disney productions filmed at the Golden Oak Ranch in California. The warm and inviting Tyler’s Lounge refers to the 1960 movie Toby Tyler while the upscale yet relaxed Markham’s can be traced to “Spin and Marty,” TV shorts that were part of the mid-1950s The Mickey Mouse Club.
When treated to a wine pairing at Markham’s, I was told that despite owning some of the most extravagant kitchens in the world, many residents choose to dine at the clubhouse. They enjoy the chance to meet up with friends and neighbors, but also appreciate the inventive farm-to-table fare. More than that, there’s a sense that every meal is a celebration.
Summerhouse is where I met with Golden Oak’s greatest treasure, the Resident Services team who—much like Cinderella’s fairy godmother—spin magic. As “ambassadors to the Disney level of services,” they take care of anything guest related from home maintenance and pre-arrival services to itinerary planning and reservations. Josh Wild, Resident Services Coordinator, explains that his mission is to take a vision and expand it to the next level. For example, when a guest asked for help planning a birthday dinner for his wife, he ordered up more than just flowers. Instead, Disney characters joined the celebratory meal at a private Disney fireworks viewing area.
Pushing the limits of imagination seems to be a Golden Oak hallmark. As often as I have visited Disney World, I was amazed at what is available to guests guided by the uber-concierge Resident Services team.
Memorable meals included several multicourse wine pairings; a private party brunch in the Tamu Tamu Courtyard of Disney’s Animal Kingdom preceded by an African drum circle; an exclusive Epcot dinner experience featuring ice sculptures and guest appearance by Chef Mickey; and an IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth private dessert party where the spectacle of fireworks seen through 3D glasses competed with the drama of gourmet dry ice sorbet prepared tableside.
On one whirlwind day that began with the Animal Kingdom brunch and ended with the Epcot dessert party, I was escorted to several of my favorite attractions—located across various Disney World parks—by a VIP tour guide who also ensured my on-time arrival at a Food & Wine Festival luncheon in Epcot’s French Pavilion as well as an afternoon spa treatment at Senses Disney Spa in the Saratoga Springs Resort.
Each night was marked by another extraordinary way to see Disney fireworks, but nothing topped seeing the Magic Kingdom’s Wishes display aboard the Grand 1 Yacht while nibbling dark chocolate and sipping Rosa Regale. Available at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, where we were staying in the newly opened Villas, Yacht 1 is the most luxurious—and hard to get—of Disney’s fireworks cruises.
And yet, as much as I adored all these special activities, there was one experience that brought home what it’s like to be a Golden Oak guest.
Long before my arrival, I had requested tickets for my nieces to join me at our media tour group’s attendance of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Not wanting to push what was already a very generous provision, I hadn’t asked to include my sister. I figured that she could always purchase a ticket if she later decided to join us. But I hadn’t counted on the popularity of the sold out event. Nothing was available online or onsite until a last shot call to the Golden Oak crew saved the day.
It was easy, and typical of life as a Golden Oak guest. Because one of the top reasons for purchasing a second home in this resort community is to provide a base for family reunions—one with the comforts of home and the fun of Disney—securing special-event ticketing is a standard perk. That’s in addition to the Disney Connection which provides all the best aspects of Disney resort stays, including park access, Extra Magic Hour benefit, merchandise discounts and delivery, park transportation, and more.
Our Golden Oak tour guide likes to tell the story of a young boy who joined the 30 percent of residents who make this their primary home. Upon arrival, he turned to his Dad and asked, with stars in his eyes and wonder in his voice, “Are we really going to live at Disney World?” Surely, there’s no age limit to awestricken responses; I’m still marveling over living large at Disney World courtesy of Golden Oak.
Author Sandra Foyt makes her home in New York and writes about family travel at AlbanyKid.com and all sorts of vacations at GetawayMavens.com. Many thanks to Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort for hosting Sandra’s stay.