Published 12:48 PM EDT Sep 12, 2019
Tens of thousands of vehicles filled with Mickey Mouse’s biggest fans drive by this discreet intersection on Walt Disney World property every day.
Yet only the super fans (who have a few extra dollars to spare) make the turn at the Golden Oak sign. Beyond the guarded gatehouse lies the exclusive neighborhood designed for ultimate Disney fans who want to live within the magic and enjoy luxury, privacy and VIP access.
“It’s fine living in the most magical place,” said Paige Pierce, vice president of Disney Resort Real Estate Development. “We have kept this a little bit quiet because Golden Oak isn’t for everyone.”
Homes start in the mid-$2 million range and go up. Way up. The largest residence onsite is about 20,000 square feet. Roughly 85% of the homeowners are from the USA. About half consider Golden Oak a vacation home. About 20 residents own more than two homes in Golden Oak or homes on double homesites. Most commonly, second homes are purchased for extended family.
Once fully built, the neighborhood will have almost 300 homes in eight sections, which all have their own gates. Essentially, you must pass through at least two gates to see these stunning abodes.
If you decide to put down roots in Golden Oak, your neighbors will include many entrepreneurs, a few athletes and even a game show host.
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“Mom and Dad, grandparents who buy here, they want to be the heroes,” Pierce said. “They want to share Disney memories with their family. They talk about passing the home down, for it to be a legacy.”
The Golden Oak neighborhood was inspired by Walt Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Newhall, California. The ranch was a filming location for segments of the Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s and received its name when some say gold was discovered under an oak tree in the mid-1800s. Disney Imagineers worked together to design the 980-acre neighborhood. The first residents arrived in 2012.
The grounds include perfectly manicured lawns, sprawling walking paths and subtle Disney touches sprinkled throughout, including a bronze sculpture of Snow White and the seven dwarfs and another of Bambi.
There are eight custom home builders in the neighborhood who help residents design their perfect Disney castles. Many of the homes have Spanish, Italian and Caribbean influences. You won’t see any faux finishes here. All wood beams, stone finishes and hardwood floors are the real deal. Many of the homes have unique touches – bowling alleys, a slide next to the staircase, elevators and secret doors.
For homeowners looking for that extra level of luxury, there’s the Four Seasons Private Residence section of Golden Oak. Homes here start around $5 million.
Residents in these homes get access to certain amenities at the Four Seasons Resort in the Golden Oak neighborhood. Benefits include access to the pools, spa and golf course.
If that wasn’t enough, these homeowners can have chefs from the Four Seasons Resort prepare meals for them in the comfort of their own homes. All the Four Seasons Private Residences include service kitchens that allow staff an area to prepare meals. The service kitchens rival some of the most elegant custom kitchens in any other home.
The perks of Golden Oak residency continue outside the home. All residents are members of a private club, Summerhouse. The roughly $19,000 yearly membership fee per household is a requirement.
The clubhouse is equipped with a lounge and restaurant, state-of-the-art workout facilities, a swimming pool and meeting areas often used by residents to conduct business. It is staffed with top-notch Disney cast members who provide a concierge-type lifestyle to members. If residents want to host a party, book tickets to an Orlando Magic game or schedule dinner at Cinderella’s Castle, these cast members magically make it happen. They even handle the more outlandish requests, such as helping transport a dog to Brazil.
The Summerhouse hosts private events for residents and their guests, including trivia nights, bingo and an over-the-top Christmas party. Some special Disney friends are known to make appearances at these events.
Exclusive outings are often arranged for the neighbors. For example, they got a sneak peak at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge before it was open to the public.
The first three years a resident lives in Golden Oak, they receive a free Golden Oak Member Pass. After those three years, the pass is available for a fee.
This coveted pass includes a Disney Platinum Plus Pass and five additional one-day theme park tickets with park hopper. Although parking is included, Golden Oak residents don’t need to worry about that. Whenever they want to visit their neighborhood park, whether it be Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom or Epcot, all they need to do is make a phone call. A vehicle will arrive at their home to transport the residents directly to the park and pick them up when they’re ready to leave.
For homeowners Ryan and Jill Molis, this has helped them appreciate Walt Disney World in a whole new light. The couple, along with their four children, used to take frequent trips to Florida from their Chicago home before purchasing their home minutes from the mouse.
“(I love) holding my daughters and son’s hands when we’re walking through any of the parks and not having to rush, enjoying those moments when they are kids,” Ryan Molis said.
When his family was looking for a new vacation home, they knew Golden Oak was the perfect spot. Two years ago, they moved into their five-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot home sprinkled throughout with Disney inspiration. Murals in the bedrooms include images from “Peter Pan,” “Star Wars” and “Frozen.” The door to the garage features Lightning McQueen, and the one to the laundry room has Cinderella. The iron staircase railing has the iconic Mickey Mouse head intertwined.
Jill Molis said that before they owned a home in Golden Oak, trips to Disney were often rushed.
“We can take our time now and enjoy it all,” she said. “We do other things on Disney property, mini-golf, bowling, things we weren’t doing when we could come on vacation. It’s also not bad seeing fireworks from your front door.”
The family, which includes a 7-year-old son and three daughters, 14, 12 and 10, makes it to the vacation home about once every six weeks and hopes to eventually make it a permanent residence.
“We have established lifelong friends here,” said Ryan Molis, who owns two dental practices. “When you’re down here, it’s truly about family and friends and special memories.”
Learn more at disneygoldenoak.com
Michelle Spitzer is a Viera-based freelance writer.