What is “Shades of Green”?
If you’ve been to Disney a couple of times, you may be wondering about “Shades of Green.” Well, I am here to demystify this location and who can stay there, and provide an overview of the regular guest room.
The US Armed Forces has Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) facilities all over the world. They are located in Germany, Hawaii, South Korea, Tokyo… and Orlando, located right at Walt Disney World. We are a military family here (I am a USAF veteran, and hubby is USAF military retired) and we are eligible to use Shades of Green and other military benefits. These are self-supporting resorts: Our US tax dollars DO NOT SUPPORT these facilities! They must sustain themselves–and since AFRCs have been around seemingly forever, they seem to do a good job at it.
Shades of Green Eligibility
Before we get too much further into this, not everyone is eligible to use the facilities or benefits at Shades of Green! Please view their page here to check your eligibility. In general if you are active duty military, or retired military with proper retired ID card, or an eligible spouse with an ID, you can book a room at Shades of Green and purchase theme park admission at a military rate. (Dependent children of military sponsors are not eligible for military rooms at Disney or the Military Salute tickets.) Here is the ticket eligibility for the Military Salute theme park admission:. 2019 Military ID Guide for Shades of Green . Disabled vets with a VA card who do not have a military retiree ID usually do not meet the criteria for this facility. Just having a DD214 does not make you eligible to use Shades of Green except in certain cases, and the DD214 does not qualify you for discounted theme park admission. You are responsible to self-screen for eligibility. You can also book a military room rate at Disney if you are active duty or retired with valid military ID–or are a spouse of AD or Retired, or an unremarried widow of the active duty or retired military member. And on a related note–while The Magic For Less Travel can not book a reservation at Shades of Green, we CAN book a reservation under a military rate for eligible members in a Disney owned hotel and you CAN use your own military tickets! How’s that for a win-win situation? A military room rate at Disney is never available for all room types or resorts, and they do sell out. So if you want a military rate at Disney you need to book it early!
The best way for me to describe Shades of Green (SoG) is to say its “Wilderness Lodge without Mickey”–and without Mickey’s prices. Originally open in 1971 as a golf clubhouse, the facility became the Golf Resort in 1973 after the addition of hotel rooms. Through the years it languished with low occupancy. In the early 1990’s the US Army put out a call for a resort in Orlando, and Disney answered. Shades of Green came to life in early 1992, and there is a 100 year lease with Disney for the US Army to manage the property. While Shades of Green is a lovely hotel, you don’t really find Mickey or Disney amenities. There’s no ‘theme’ like you would find at a Disney hotel. Seriously, there’s no question you’re back in the military when you stay at SoG. I am called “Ma’am” frequently, and gentlemen are called “Sir.” I swear my husband stands up straighter when we go to SoG; after 24 years in uniform he is very comfortable there and in the event I can actually get him to Disney, this is his preferred hotel.
Pricing for guest rooms are set by rank. For service members who are retired, or up there in rank, prices are often in line with a Disney Value or Moderate resort depending on time of year. The people who really come out ahead at SoG are junior enlisted personnel when comparing rates at Disney vs Shades of Green. Look at their rates and compare for yourself.
What you do NOT have at Shades of Green
Shades of Green is NOT DISNEY. It doesn’t even pretend to be a Disney hotel. You do not have access to any Disney Dining Plan. They have their own plan, but it can only be used there–which means you’re leaving the parks to eat dinner, and usually fighting a pretty big crowd for breakfast. There is NO Magical Express–which means you have to pay for transportation from Orlando International Airport. No Magic Bands, and no room charge in the parks. However you can purchase Magic Bands and since there is a full Disney ticket office located at Shades of Green they can link your theme park admission to the bands. (They do not issue annual passes at the SoG ticket office but they will sell a voucher: you must visit Guest Relations at any theme park to activate your AP voucher and provide proper ID .) You CAN buy Military Salute tickets at Shades of Green and they will activate them with proper ID. Transportation to the theme parks is so-so, and this where I get frustrated. They do an ID check to board the bus, and you must show your hotel ID as well–which is not your room key. There is a bus that goes to the Ticket and Transportation Center where you can get the Monorail or Ferry to the Magic Kingdom, and the bus goes to each park most times of the year; they will sometimes combine busses for two parks. Expect bus transportation every 30 minutes and they run on a schedule which is usually quite prompt. Not exactly super convenient or speedy-but you’ll get there. Eventually. If you have a vehicle at Shades of Green, you will pay a parking fee to the hotel ($7 per night as of September 2018) AND you will pay for parking at the Disney theme park. As an Annual Passholder, I always drive to Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom if I am staying at SoG and have a vehicle as it just reduces my frustration level. To get to the Magic Kingdom it is about 15 minutes of walking to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and then up to the monorail but remember that monorails don’t run during Extra Magic Hours. Shades of Green guests can book Fastpass+ experiences 60 days prior to check in and even purchase theme park admission to various Orlando attractions at a small discount and no sales tax. I pay for all of my theme park tickets just like you, and I usually purchase them at Shades of Green–despite some horrendous lines at their ticket office most of the time. If you are heading to Shades of Green to purchase theme park admission–think about the Commissary lines on military payday and you will be prepared for worse case scenario with lines. Personally I plan for the worst when heading there to purchase tickets and then I’m happy when I don’t see an awful line.
The Standard Guest Room
The regular guest rooms at Shades of Green will overlook a landscaped area or a pool. The pool view is a small additional cost. The facility itself is nestled past the Polynesian Resort between the Palm and Magnolia Golf Courses and it is quite peaceful. Guest rooms have recently undergone a refurbishment and they’re comfortable and restful–with very comfy beds. Here are some photos of what to expect:
This is a photo from the grounds looking towards the Palm wing:
Ground floor rooms frequently have visitors–the local wildlife. You’ll always find wild turkeys and geese wandering around Shades of Green–so watch where you walk!
This is a room from the Palm wing. You know it is the Palm because there’s no divider wall separating the beds from the table:
The refurbishment updated the shower. Most guest rooms include a tub:
The main dining facility at Shades of Green is the Garden Gallery, which is a buffet. Expect very reasonable prices and decent food. Even when I am staying at at Disney resort I will often pop in to the Garden Gallery for a meal. They also have a sports bar, called Evergreen’s. Pricing at Evergreen’s is consistent with most Disney Quick Service dining locations–but no sales tax. For finer dining, there’s Mangino’s. Ice cream, gelato and snacks can be found at the Java Cafe, which is lobby coffee bar. If you need any personal items, there is an AAFES Exchange Store. They have a very large selection of alcoholic beverages, mixers, snacks, and even shelf stable food in the Exchange.
In summary, Shades of Green is clearly NOT Disney. However it is a great place to stay for eligible military families not looking for the full Disney experience.
For those looking for the full Disney experience with Magical Express, Magic Bands and a dining plan, Disney has released military rates for their hotels for 2019. Valid dates for the Military Salute guest room discount at Walt Disney World are January 1-December 19, 2019. Blockout dates are April 14-25, 2019. Contact your Magic For Less Travel agent for more information.