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Review: Shades of Green Resort at Walt Disney World



By Dave Shute

OVERVIEW: SHADES OF GREEN RESORT FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS

Review Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

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.

Review ~ Shades of Green Resort at Walt Disney World from yourfirstvisit.netIt  provides really low prices on great rooms for U.S. military personnel, career military retirees, and their families and friends.

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.)

Dad off the KoreanCoast on DDE 3611

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.

Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

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.

Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

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.

Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

It is a self-funding Armed Force Recreation Center, and is managed and staffed by federal employees.

Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (4)
Nestled among two world-class golf courses with several inner courtyards as well, it has a lovely, tranquil setting…

Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (8)

…although the older three story wings aren’t as lovely as the newer five story section.

Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (11)

You’ll find lots of wildlife here too–I saw these deer jumping while I was walking the path down to Polynesian…

O10  Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…and this bird (or perhaps an O10) deep in the resort itself.

Theming Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

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.

Shades of Green Floor Plan from yourfirstvisit.net

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.

Bed Side from Back Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

In terms of quality of furniture, fixtures, and other amenities, these rooms are directly comparable to Walt Disney World deluxe resorts. More on the accommodations at Shades is here.

POOLS AT SHADES OF GREEN RESORT

There’s two pools at Shades of Green, both in the Magnolia wing:

Magnolia Pool Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

…the Magnolia pool…

Mill Pond Pool Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…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

Manginos Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

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.

Lobby Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

Otherwise, Shades has more of the look and feel of a country club, or a business or convention hotel, and could be anywhere.

Bus Schedule  Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

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).

Polynesian Walkway  Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

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

Map Shades of Green Resort at Walt Disney World

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.

RECOMMENDATIONS

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.

See also Steve Bell’s MilitaryDisneyTips.com for tons more on Shades, and also his ebook on Shades of Green!

PHOTO TOUR OF A SHADES OF GREEN STANDARD ROOM

This review continues here!

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5 comments

1 brian { 03.24.15 at 1:56 pm }

flat out disagree!!! :) SOG is truly a hidden gem for military…. been staying there for years…. yes I have stayed at GF, Contemporary, AKL and upcoming WL. I wont stay anywhere but a deluxe! So very one-sided

2 Dave { 03.24.15 at 3:36 pm }

Brian, please give me specifics where I’m wrong on the facts or one-sided in my judgement and I’ll gladly revise!!

Resort assessments on this site are aimed at first-time visitors who may never return, and have always been driven by 1. kid appeal compared to options, and 2. convenience compared to options.

Obviously other people use different criteria, which is why my reviews get so long!

3 Michael Randall { 03.24.15 at 3:43 pm }

I think your review is spot on for first time visitors, particularly for those with younger children. I have stayed at both SOG and the Value Resorts and think you have made many great points for the first trip. For those of us fortunate enough to get to return often, there are definitely times when SOG wins hands down. As one who has never grown up, the Value Resorts at Disney are much more appealing to us kids and should be experienced at least once. :-)

4 Dave { 03.24.15 at 4:51 pm }

Thanks Michael–and I edited your comment!

5 Steve From MilitaryDisneyTips.com - YourFirstVisit.net Military Moderator { 03.24.15 at 6:27 pm }

Perspective…

Everyone has one, and they are usually different!

Everyone also has different vacation and touring thoughts and objectives.

YourFirstVisit is a site expressly for first time WDW visitors, who might never return. Dave’s perspective as a reviewer is solely aimed at those individuals, though others can pick up info too.

Yes, Shades is a hidden gem, especially for Category 1 guests and it was all we had in the way of a military room discount prior to the Disney Armed Forces Salute.

My perspective is that of a WDW addict and the Disney Armed Forces Salutes, since 2009 have allowed me to stay at a wide variety of WDW resorts at a huge savings.

Shades holds a special place in my heart as the first on property, multi-night vacation my young family had back in 2000, made possible by the low cost. But I’d rather have the Disney experience and Shades could be a resort located anywhere in the world, there is no way to know that you are at WDW. I only stay at Shades (while the Salutes continue) for reviews and to keep up with changes.

Others bring a wide variety of perspectives to their WDW vacations, which fortunately all of the magic at WDW can accommodate.

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