If you’ve never heard of Shades of Green, I don’t blame you. It’s rarely talked about in the Disney community, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a hidden gem.
Shades of Green is the only Armed Forces Recreation Center in the continental U.S., which means that the resort is available to U.S. military members and their families, as well as some other government employees (check eligibility).
Let's take a look...
Located just across Floridian Way from the Polynesian Villages Resort, it’s in a great location for being a non-Deluxe resort.
Not only is the location great, but the resort is beautiful as well.
Located on two PGA golf courses, the Magnolia and Palm offer an amazing setting for the rest that the resort has to offer. Anyone can golf at these courses, but they do offer reduced rates for military members.
If you’re not into golf, there’s an on-site spa that looks relaxing before even entering it. I’ve never experienced any of the treatments at the Magnolia Spa, but I’m always kind of tempted. Their prices aren’t terrible and the foot treatments always sound heavenly after a long day at the parks.
In this article
If you not into golfing or relaxing at the spa, I’m going to assume that you eat at some point each day. For those who need some sustenance, Shades of Green has lots dining options plus room service.
- Java Café is in the lobby and offers Starbucks drinks, pastries, and soft serve ice cream. My family likes to grab a muffin on our way to the parks and an ice cream as an afternoon or evening snack.
- Express Café is another super convenient option located just before you exit the building to get to the bus stops. They feature a lot of options for breakfast and lunch, and they even offer box lunches that you can order a day in advance so that you can pick them up the next morning before you head to your destination.
- Next is Manginos, which my family has dined in. It’s very casual but elegant as well. Everything we ate there was great and I would recommend it to anyone staying at the resort.
- Garden Gallery, Evergreens, and On the Greens are the three places I haven’t tried. However, the Garden Gallery breakfast buffet is extremely appealing, especially for the price. Adults (ages 12+) are just $12.95, children 5-11 are $5.95, and children under 4 are free. Despite the fact that this buffet doesn’t feature Disney characters, the difference in cost might just distract from the lack of entertainment. Evergreens and On the Greens are each located near the two pools on property.
For more information on the dining options (including menus), check the ShadesofGreen.org dining info.
The rooms at this resort are huge considering their low price. Standard rooms (and standard rooms with a poolside view) are never more than $150 per night and are over 400 square feet.
Magnolia Suites are $235 per night, Junior Suites are $250 per night, Family Suites are $275 per night and Palm Suites are $375 per night. (These are the advertised room rates as of April 2015. Be sure to check current room rates.)
Some of these suites can sleep up to 8, which is a huge benefit given the associated cost and compared to what you could be paying by staying on property.
While there isn’t any overwhelming theming like at some of the Disney-owned resorts, the rooms are neutral and pleasant to stay in. I would describe them as understated but beautiful in their own right.
Here's a short room tour I filmed on our last trip...
On-site benefits - what you do and don't get
Shades of Green is technically an off-site resort and due to this, guests here do not get:
- use of Magical Express buses to get to and from the airport (info on the airport shuttle is below)
- FastPass+ reservations 60 days ahead of time (they must be made 30 days beforehand)
- Free MagicBands (though they can be purchased)
- Dining reservations made all at once 180 days beforehand (must be made one day at a time, 180 days before the day you want to eat there)
However, Shades of Green guests do get to make use of Extra Magic Hours.
If you’re looking for transportation as a resort benefit, Shades of Green has their own buses that travel to and from the Disney parks. Buses to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) depart every 20 minutes - note that this is the only provided transportation to Magic Kingdom and Epcot, as they indicate you should board the monorail from the TTC to get to each of those parks.
(Note from Shannon: you can also walk to The Polynesian and use their transportation, including the monorail.)
Buses to the other parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney depart every 30 minutes. These are a great option for transportation and really came in handy for my family when driving to Downtown Disney is a little bit of a nightmare.
They also provide transportation to SeaWorld and Universal Studios for an extra cost with an advanced reservation.
One downside to staying at Shades of Green is that Magical Express doesn’t go to this resort. They do have an agreement for reduced airport shuttle rates through SunState Transportation.
See the ShadesofGreen.org transportation page for more info, including shuttle prices.
Park ticket discounts
I’m obviously saving the best for last. A HUGE - and I’m talking HUGE - benefit to staying at Shades of Green is the reduced price of park tickets. Because of this resort’s military benefits, it acts like a military base in that there is no tax. This reduces the prices of tickets a great deal.
They have a wide range of tickets you can purchase. I assume it's the same options you can buy at any Disney ticket window, but one of the best deals is the 4-day + hopper pass for $177.00 as of April 2015. According to the Disney site, this same ticket would be $392.99.
My family buys our annual passes through Shades of Green for a huge savings, just based on the lack of taxes applied. They also sell Universal, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Blue Man Group tickets as well.
If I had to rate this resort on a scale from 1-10, it would get a solid 9.5. The location is great, the staff is helpful and welcoming, I've never seen a room rate above $140/night, and the guests themselves are always polite and courteous. If you’re able, I would highly recommend booking a stay at Shades of Green.