By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Category — Military Families at Disney World

Photo Tour of a Standard Room at Shades of Green Resort

(For the first page of this review of Shades of Green, see this.)

PHOTO TOUR OF A SHADES OF GREEN STANDARD ROOM

Shades of Green Floor Plan from yourfirstvisit.net
Standard rooms at Shades of Green are among the largest at Walt Disney World, and are larger than those in any Disney-owned hotel.

The floor plan is of one of the newer Palm wing rooms.  Magnolia wing rooms have the same stuff, but in some (perhaps all), the couch is closer to the balcony, the beds closer to the bath, and there’s short half walls separating a bit the couch/table area from the rest of the room.

Closet Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

At the entry, on one side is the connecting door, and then after that a large closet.

Door Side Closet Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Here’s the door side of the closet…

Room Side Closet Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…and the room side.

Sinks Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

On the other side of the entry is the divided bath. One part has sinks, and unlike in many Disney rooms, there’s a door between the sinks and the hall…

Tub Shower Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…then, in their own separate room, you’ll find the tub…

Bath  Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net…and toilet.

Bed Side Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Further down into the room, one side has the queen beds and a table and chairs.

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

The beds and table from the other side…

bed Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…a closer view of a bed.

Bedside Table Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The bedside table, with a bit of storage. The black square object is a powerpoint with jacks for four power plugs.  If your laptop’s power cord explodes while it’s plugged into this, it may short out much of your room, including your TV, during the Super Bowl.  I’m just sayin’.

Table and Chairs Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The table and chairs.

Balcony Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

At the end of the room is two wide sliding glass doors that open to the balcony. Every room has a full-width balcony.

Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (12)

There are no bad views at Shades of Green–here’s the view from the balcony in our Palm Wing room.

TV Side Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The other side of the room has a convertible couch and a long TV/dresser/mini-fridge thingy.

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

From the other side.

Flip Down Couch Bed Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The couch flips down into this bed.  I measured the bed as 72 inches long by 32 inches wide (it sleeps long–there’s a couple of inches of clearance at the ends). I spent a night on it, and slept fine.

Dresser Thingy Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The TV/dresser/mini-fridge thingy is enormous at eight feet long. The coffee service is on top.

Dresser Storage Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

There’s plenty of storage here for the five people the room sleeps.

Mini Fridge Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The mini-fridge is typical except for the small freezer compartment, which is now rare in the Disney resorts.

AMENITIES AT SHADES OF GREEN RESORT

This review continues here!

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TOPICS IN THIS REVIEW OF SHADES OF GREEN

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March 25, 2015   No Comments

Review: Shades of Green Resort at Walt Disney World

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!

Steve Bell is the Military Moderator on this site. And Steve’s Military Disney Tips has always been the go-to site for military families looking to make the most out of their Disney World vacations.

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.

Walt Disney World for Military Families

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!!

It’s available as a PDF–probably the most convenient format–here, and on Amazon.com here.

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!

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March 24, 2015   7 Comments

Veterans Day 2014

(This is mostly a repeat from last year, as all my favorite vets have stayed the same…)

On this Veterans Day, just a note to thank all of those who have put their lives at risk so that the rest of us can be free.

Dad off the Korean Coast on DE 361
My favorite veteran is my dad, career Navy–that’s him above during the Korean War.

Amy Girl's Dad with 3rd Marine Division Buddies in the Pacific
Next favorite is my wife’s dad–that’s him above, on the right, during World War II. That hand was wounded on Tarawa.

After him, my next favorite is my sister’s husband, who served with the riverine Navy in Vietnam.

Steve from MilitaryDisneyTips.com

And another favorite is Steve (above) from MilitaryDisneyTips.com, a retired Air Force First Shirt who does a great job keeping military families up to date on great Disney World deals and other important info. Steve is also the Military Moderator on this site.

And all the millions of the rest of you are my favorites too!  Thank you for your service, and God bless! Wherever you are, and whatever you do, my gratitude goes with you.

Daily Flag Retreat Magic Kingdom Veterans Day 2014 from yourfirstvisit.net

LINKS FOR MILITARY FAMILIES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

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November 11, 2014   No Comments

Disney’s Armed Forces Salute Renewed For Another Year

My friend Steve Bell has once again broken the news that Disney’s Armed Forces Salute has been renewed for another Federal fiscal year–through September 2015!

The full scoop is on Steve’s page here and its links.

Note particularly the “Important Considerations and Expected Issues” discussion right under the saluting Mickey.  None of this is ever as easy as it should be, especially for those targeting trips in October..or 2015…

While Steve is the official Military moderator of yourfirstvisit.net, don’t post questions here–he’ll be going crazy the next few days working with questions on his own site and his facebook page.

Instead, help keep Steve sane and check out the comments already asked and answered on Steve’s page here!

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July 21, 2014   No Comments

Still No Word on Disney Armed Forces Salute Extension

Update July 21, 2014: the Armed Forces Salute has been renewed for another year!

Disney’s Armed Forces Salute–often called the “Military Salute”–is one of the best deals out there, offering really low-priced four day tickets and also steep room rate discounts for eligible families and their friends.

The Armed Forces Salute is not a permanent feature of the landscape, but rather a response to the recession. The past few years, Disney has made it available during the Federal fiscal year, and has announced it before the fiscal year at various dates.  This year, it’s expected to be renewed again, with the announcement sometime in July.

Nothing is certain until–and if–the renewal happens.

I suspect that the timing is at least partially linked to Disney’s setting and announcing its 2015 resort prices–as Disney can’t fully analyze the deal until it knows the basis from which the discounts will be taken, and until 2015 prices are announced, rooms for then can’t be booked at the correct prices (they can be booked at the incorrect prices, then trued up later).

The past two years Disney has announced the prices for the upcoming year the second Wednesday in July.

There’s nothing magical to this–but it’s also true that with much of Disney business issues, the only sensible way to predict things is to predict for this year what they did last year. That would put the 2015 resort price announcement on July 9, and the Armed Forces Salute Announcement after that.

The best way to keep up with this–and everything else military for central Florida–is to check MilitaryDisneyTips.com and its blog, and in particular to sign up for its newsletter (add your email to the big blue form on the right side of this page).

Steve of MilitaryDisneyTips.com
Run by my friend Steve Bell–that’s him on the right–MilitaryDisneyTips covers the gamut of military-related opportunities at Disney World and the rest of the central Florida theme parks, with a particular focus on available deals.

A tireless advocate for US forces, Steve has built a special relationship with Disney around these issues–and thus is likely to be the first to be notified when–if–the Armed Forces salute is renewed. Sign up for his newsletter and you’ll be among the first to find out what’s happening with the salute!

Steve covers lots of other related stuff, too, and has published a great e-book on Shades of Green.

As you can tell, I think the world of Steve and his contributions.  While we could have added tons of sites and links to our book, we tried to keep The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit as short as possible–but even so, we do refer in it to exactly two other Disney sites: Mousesavers.com and MilitaryDisneyTips.com, because no good guidebook can be complete without those two!

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July 1, 2014   No Comments

Landmark Eligibility Info for Military Discounts

Military Disney Discount Eligibility from Steve BellMy friend Steve Bell, writer of MilitaryDisneyTips.com, has published a new Military Discount Finder. (That’s Steve in the white T-shirt, at our joint meet-up at the Magic Kingdom in November.)

This tool helps resolve the most complex part of Disney World (and other Orlando-area) discounts for military folk–who is eligible for what.

Steve and I answer on this site hundreds of questions on this topic–there’s two today–and he gets thousands more on his own site.  His new finder will help people get eligibility questions answered much faster!

If you have military ties, or have friends with military ties, check it out!

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March 24, 2014   1 Comment