Review: Shades of Green Resort at Walt Disney World
By Dave Shute
OVERVIEW: SHADES OF GREEN RESORT FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS
Shades of Green is a military-owned Armed Forces Recreation Center at Walt Disney World.
Located near the Magic Kingdom, it’s verdantly nestled among championship golf courses just across the street from Disney’s Polynesian Village resort.
Eligible sponsors can rent three rooms, so long as one is for themselves; during much of the year, their spouse can also get another three.
So be nice to your military friends and family members and you might get invited to a room that is really inexpensive for its quality.
(More on eligibility is at Steve Bell’s Military Disney Tips here.)
My family has made a number of trips to Shades of Green. We visited most recently in late January and early February in a trip sponsored as always by my dad (above; retired career Navy).
Based on these visits, Shades of Green is a wonderful choice for eligible returning visitors to Walt Disney World.
However, for first time family visitors, a stay only at Shades is not the best choice. It does not participate in several key programs that Disney owned and operated resorts offer, especially the 60 day window for FastPass+, but also Disney’s Magical Express. (It does participate in Extra Magic Hours, but I don’t usually recommend them.)
Shades of Green has little kid appeal compared to alternatives, and despite a great location across the street from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort because of common late starts in its bus fleet, and changes to the bus destinations served from the Ticket and Transportation Center, so-so convenience.
Families who want to take advantage of Shades of Green’s great value—it is indeed one heck of a bargain—will have their best first family visit to Walt Disney World by staying in it as part of a “split stay.”
That is, they should start at a Disney resort, even for just one night and one ticket day if that’s all they can afford, thus enabling access to Magical Express and the 60 day window for FastPass+ for the length of their stay (two days if a one night stay, the check-in and check-out days), then shift to Shades of Green for the rest of their trip.
They should also check out Disney World’s Armed Forces Salute, which may give them more inexpensive lodging choices and for sure will give cheaper tickets if a four-day ticket is tolerable, and should keep their eye out for Shades of Green discounts.
OVERALL LOOK AND FEEL OF SHADES OF GREEN
What is now Shades of Green opened in 1973 as the Golf Resort, and changed its name in 1986 to the Disney Inn.
In 1994 it was leased to, and in 1996 purchased outright by, the US Government, to create a resort for U.S. military personnel and their families and friends at Walt Disney World.
It is a self-funding Armed Force Recreation Center, and is managed and staffed by federal employees.
…although the older three story wings aren’t as lovely as the newer five story section.
You’ll find lots of wildlife here too–I saw these deer jumping while I was walking the path down to Polynesian…
…and this bird (or perhaps an O10) deep in the resort itself.
As nice as it is, there’s hardly any Disney theming except for this Mickey statue in the lobby, and a Mickey-head pool. You really could be almost anywhere.
ACCOMMODATIONS AT SHADES OF GREEN RESORT
In 2004 a massive expansion was completed, and Shades of Green now offers almost 600 enormous rooms—at 480 square feet, the second largest standard rooms on Walt Disney World property (only standard rooms at the Four Seasons are larger).
Most rooms at Shades sleep five on two queens and a couch that folds down into 72×32 inch daybed.
There are also junior suites, family suites and regular suites.
Above is the floor plan of a standard room in the newer Palm wing.
Older Magnolia rooms have the same stuff, but some (maybe all–I’m not certain) have the couch closer to the window, the beds closer to the bath, and in the freed space a couple of partial walls that block, a bit, the couch and table area from the queens and dresser area.
POOLS AT SHADES OF GREEN RESORT
There’s two pools at Shades of Green, both in the Magnolia wing:
…the Magnolia pool…
…and the Mill Pond pool.
Each has its positives, but together they are objectively too small for the 2500+ people the resort can hold. Luckily, typically people don’t fill the pools. More on these pools will come later in this review.
DINING AT SHADES OF GREEN RESORT
Dining at Shades of Green is much better and more varied than that available at the Disney value resorts, but not nearly as good as that available at the typical Disney deluxe resort.
It is comparable to dining at moderates, but less expensive.
More on dining at Shades is here.
KID APPEAL AND CONVENIENCE AT SHADES OF GREEN
Shades has several negatives for first time visitors who are not sure whether or not they will ever return, and want to see the best of Walt Disney World for a reasonable price.
Most important of these is that, unlike the Disney resorts, FastPass+ can only be booked 30 days ahead. Disney resort guests, and those at the Swan or Dolphin, get 60 days. This means that Shades guests may be shut out of FastPass+ for the most popular offerings, and for others may find only inconvenient days or times remaining.
In addition, this site ranks resorts for first time family visitors based on their kid-appeal and then their convenience, and Shades of Green comes up short on both.
Kid Appeal. Unlike the richly kid-appealing theming of the Walt Disney World Resorts this site recommends, Shades of Green has very little evidence that you are staying within a mile of the Magic Kingdom.
Disney theming is limited to a pool shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head, and a statue of Mickey in the lobby.
Otherwise, Shades has more of the look and feel of a country club, or a business or convention hotel, and could be anywhere.
Convenience. Shades of Green has its own buses, and they run too infrequently, and (especially during off-peak seasons) too late in the morning for the resort to be convenient.
- Buses are available to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC), Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
- The first morning buses to the latter two theme parks arrive too late for you to follow this site’s itineraries. See the bus schedule (click it to enlarge it), where buses leave at 8.30a for these parks. You should arrive at the turnstiles before 8.30a, not leave the hotel then
- The bus to the TTC is not nearly as convenient for Magic Kingdom visitors as are the buses from the other Walt Disney World resorts, which drop you off just outside—and 15-30 minutes closer—to the Magic Kingdom. Moreover, buses to the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios no longer depart from TTC, eliminating an option–walking to TTC for these buses– that visitors to Shades in the past had had
- Shades of Green visitors can walk to Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and there take advantage of its transportation options. But this walk adds another 10-20 minutes to your transportation time (depending on your pace and your room location).
It’s better to have your own car. But while Disney resorts offer free parking at both the hotels and the parks, Shades guests have to pay for both–$5 per day to park at Shades, and $17 per day to park at the theme parks.
PRICING AT SHADES OF GREEN
The most remarkable thing about Shades of Green is its prices.
Shades of Green sets three basic levels of prices, increasing by military rate/rank. Standard room prices per night range from $95 through $131. (See Steve Bell’s Military Disney Tips here for details)
This means that during most times of the year, you get a deluxe-level room for less–often much less–than what you would pay to stay in a Walt Disney World moderate resort.
Moreover, unlike other hotels in Orlando, these prices are not jacked up during the various higher-demand seasons of the year.
These rates can be shared with family and friends:
- Eligible guests can sponsor up to three rooms for family and friends, and, during most times of the year, their spouses can sponsor three more.
- Such guests must be checked in by the sponsor when the sponsor checks in, and check out no later than when the sponsor checks out
But do check out Disney World’s Armed Forces Salute, which may give more inexpensive lodging choices and for sure will give cheaper tickets if a four-day ticket is tolerable, and should keep your eye out for Shades of Green discounts.
BEST PLACES TO STAY AT SHADES OF GREEN
There are two wings at Shades of Green (see the map; click it to enlarge it).
- The newer Palm wing rooms (lower right) are closer to the parking garage, and, on average, closer to the lobby where you’ll find most dining and shops, and, at a lower level, the bus stop.
- The older Magnolia wing rooms (center left) are closer to the pools, arcade, and playground, but can be a hike to the main lobby.
If your group is such that you expect heavy use of the pools and playground, go with the Magnolia wing. Otherwise choose Palm.
Eligible families looking for deluxe rooms at Walt Disney World at prices comparable to or well below those of a Walt Disney World moderate resort should investigate Shades of Green, after noting any deals and discounts that may bring Disney owned and operated resorts into their price range, and after considering a split stay.
This is particularly the case for families returning to Walt Disney World.
First time visitors will likely have a better trip by staying at a Disney owned-and operated resort.
If that can’t work, the next best option is to do a split stay, dividing your visit between a Disney owned and operated resort for kid appeal and access to FastPass+ at 60 days ahead, then Shades of Green.
But like every other website (especially mine), finding exactly what you need to know, in the right order, sometimes isn’t as easy as you’d like it to be.
So the great news is that Steve has just published a Disney World guidebook for military families.
With entire chapters devoted to the 2016 Armed Forces Salute, to Shades of Green, and to other deals and perks available to military families, I can’t recommend it enough!!
This book will be a great help to military families contemplating a Disney World visit in 2016!!
PHOTO TOUR OF A SHADES OF GREEN STANDARD ROOM
This review continues here!
TOPICS IN THIS REVIEW OF SHADES OF GREEN
- Overview of Shades of Green
- Photo Tour of a Standard Shades of Green Room
- Amenities at Shade of Green
- The Pools at Shades of Green
- Using Shades of Green’s Amenities Even if You Aren’t Staying There