In 2020, when the pandemic put our travels to a halt, my family bought a four-bedroom, 3,600-square-foot home in Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida.
My parents had been wanting to buy a vacation home for some time. I have a now five-year-old daughter, and my brother was about to become a father, so we were looking for a place to spend quality time together.
My husband and I live about three and a half hours away in Miami, but Golden Oak is our home away from home. Since we both work remotely, we're able to visit at least twice a month with our daughter.
As a travel and parenting blogger, I get a lot of questions from my followers about what it's like to have a home in Disney's highly coveted residential community.
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What is Disney's Golden Oak?
Disney's Golden Oak is a gated property of luxury, single-family homes, just four miles from Disney's Magic Kingdom Park.
Sectioned into eight neighborhoods, the homes were designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, the Walt Disney Company division that oversees the design and construction of its theme parks.
Residents have access to pools, a fitness center, restaurants and other Disney resorts. They also have membership to the exclusive Golden Oak Club, which offers "concierge-style services," including private VIP park tours and special event tickets.
Buying a home in Disney's Golden Oak
Golden Oak first started listing homes in 2010. But despite being a Disney regular, I'd never heard of it until my parents visited friends at their vacation home there in 2020.
During their visit, they got to tour one of the newer houses. They FaceTimed my brother and me to show us the home. We all fell in love with the place and put a contract in at full asking price.
Houses in Golden Oak sell quickly, but we got lucky with timing. The entire first floor came furnished, so we were all able to enjoy Thanksgiving weekend there together just days after closing that year.
A look inside our 'princess cottage'
We live in The Cottages at Symphony Grove neighborhood. Each house has its own whimsical look. Ours was inspired by Belle's cottage in "Beauty and the Beast."
One thing that all the Golden Oak homes have in common are the tiny Disney-themed details. Our property, for example, has over 50 hidden Mickey Mouses. The kids love trying to find them every time they come over.
Our house is styled as a French cottage, particularly on the first floor.
The kitchen and dining room are complete with wooden beams and other countryside accents.
Upstairs, the house becomes more clearly Disney-themed. On the second floor, my bedroom has a quote from "Beauty and the Beast" above the bed.
The bunkbed room (a.k.a. the "Bambi" room) is tiny but full of beautiful details like wood-paneled walls and a small nightlight for each bed.
My favorite feature in entire house is a spiral staircase on the second floor that leads to "Belle's Reading Room" on the third floor, which is now the girls' playroom.
It has reclaimed wood beams on the ceilings, hand-painted drawings on the walls, a built-in bookshelf, and the same railing as the staircase on the windows.
Finally, there's a guest suite that connects to the home through the outdoor patio. That whole area feels like you've entered a princess suite, thanks to a few Disney touches like the "Alice in Wonderland" doorknob.
We also have a small pool and jacuzzi. It's completely surrounded by the home, making the space more private. In the patio area, there's a dining table for six, a sitting area with a couch and chairs, a fireplace and an outdoor kitchen.
Inside the Golden Oak neighborhood
We don't visit the theme parks too often when we're in Golden Oak. Most of the time, we mostly just enjoy the neighborhood and spend time at home together.
We have golf carts that we can use to visit Golden Oak's playground, parks and resident-only clubhouse.
The kids love watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the dock at Disney's Fort Wilderness. We also take my daughter there to ride ponies. In the summer, we use their splash pad and pool that has an amazing slide.
For us, this truly is the happiest place on earth.
Cristie Anne Cabrera, a.k.a. The Traveling Red, is a Miami-based mom, social media influencer and travel blogger. Follow her on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest and her blog for a look into her travels to Disney's Golden Oak and road trips in her school bus conversion.
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