You’re probably already familiar with the fact that Walt Disney World is home to several wonderful Resorts right on the premises.
And you’ve likely already heard the well-rehearsed facts about how staying on Disney property comes with a host of added benefits, including complimentary transportation services to and from the four theme parks, two water parks, and nearby Disney Springs in addition to allowing Guests first dibs on making Lightning Lane selections through Disney Genie+, spending extra time in the Parks, and numerous other advantages.
Furthermore, you probably think you know about all the Disney Resort options out there, which have been listed over and over again by now. But what if I were to tell you that there is an almost secret Resort on Disney World property that’s largely off-limits to everyday folks? There indeed exists such a place, and it is the Shades of Green Resort.
Reserved exclusively for members of the United States Armed Forces, their families, and other authorized personnel in connection to the United States Department of Defense, this lesser-known accommodation lies unassumingly within the Magic Kingdom Resort Area, within walkable distance to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, no less.
It’s also nestled unobtrusively between two of Disney’s acclaimed PGA Championship Golf Courses—Disney’s Magnolia Course and Disney’s Palm Golf Course.
While most folks go their whole lives never even getting to see this ultra-secret Resort hindered smack-dab in the middle of Disney World, there are others who may be eligible but have never even considered this as a possibility for where to stay while taking a Walt Disney World vacation. So, for the benefit of the latter, as well as for any curious folks who want to learn more, here’s an overview of everything to know about the Shades of Green Resort at Walt Disney World.
A Bit of Resort History
Surprisingly, this Resort has actually been around for a very long time. But it wasn’t always known as the “Shades of Green” Resort. The site originally housed a two-story clubhouse for the existing golf courses and did not actually contain Guest rooms. Those came later in 1973 when built-on additions transformed it into what then emerged as Disney’s Golf Resort.
It featured 151 rooms—all impressively spacious. Further expansions came about in 1986 when it was renamed The Disney Inn and given a new Snow White-inspired theme. By that time, the Resort had 288 rooms to its credit.
In the 1990s, following Desert Storm, United States Army officials were looking to build a new Armed Forces Recreation Center on the home front. And Orlando, Florida, was the ideal location. After pitching their intent to local businesses, and inquiring if anyone would be willing to lease Resort property to the Army, Disney’s offer for the Disney Inn was the most enticing. So, by 1994 the Shades of Green—new name and all—was opened.
The U.S. Army M.W.R. purchased it directly from the Walt Disney Company in 1996, and it is no longer considered a Disney World-managed property despite still sitting on more than 30 acres of Disney-owned land. Additional extensions have since come to the Resort over the years, including the building of additional rooms and suites as well as a host of onsite amenities and recreations. It also features a massive 500-space multi-level parking garage—the first-ever on Disney World property. The Shades of Green Resort of today is an impressively different place than ever before.
Eligibility For Staying Here
Eligibility requirements for staying at Shades of Green include both active duty and retired members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reserves (and their families). Others who qualify to stay here are currently employed DOD civilians as well as United States Public Health Officers (frontline workers). There are various other levels of eligibility to be considered as well, all of which can be found here.
Onsite Recreations and Amenities
There are just so many on-premises recreational endeavors and awesome amenities for Resort Guests at Shades of Green to delight in. There are golf courses, obviously, but in addition to such pursuits, there are also lighted tennis courts, arcade games, playgrounds for children, and options to swim within their two resident-heated pools.
One is the fun-loving Mickey Mouse-shaped Mill Pond Pool with a waterslide. The other is the quieter Magnolia Pool with a hot tub. There’s also a wonderful children’s pool/water play area as well.
The state-of-the-art fitness center on location here, available 24 hours a day, will not disappoint those looking to get in some good workouts. And for others looking to unwind, relax, and rejuvenate, the stellar services and available packages offered via Magnolia Spa will be all you ever need.
Onsite Shopping and Dining
There are plenty of other onsite amenities and services to take note of at Shades of Green as well, but among those of the greatest interest are, of course, the two universal favorites among most folks—shopping and dining.
The impressive resident Exchange is your one-stop-shopping source for everything you will ever need while on vacation. From tax-free souvenirs (both of a Disney designation as well as those encompassing the greater Orlando Area) to essentials like snacks and convenience foods, toiletries, over-the-counter meds, rain gear, and more, this truly is one of the most well-supplied Resort gift shops on Disney property.
As for dining, pretty much all options here are nothing short of exceptional. What is perhaps the Resort’s most acclaimed dining go-to is its full-service Garden Gallery Restaurant, which features a wonderful breakfast buffet daily and offers takeout options starting at 5 p.m. every evening.
Another excellent pick is Evergreens, which operates as both a sports bar and casual family-favorite dining option from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. The Express Café and Java Café are two other options onsite, with the first serving up light bites, breakfast hits, and sandwich selections. The latter is open around the clock and features all your Starbucks brand favorites. But what is probably the most impressive establishment on location here is their one and only Mangino’s Tuscan Italian restaurant.
Guests have 586 rooms to choose from, 11 of which are actually spacious suites. But even if you stick with a standard or poolside room, you’ll find that they’re all massive in comparison to what you’d typically expect at other hotels—spanning an impressive 450 square feet, no less. These rooms can sleep up to five and come with two queen beds, a single sleeper sofa, roomy bathrooms with double sink/vanity setups, tables, chairs, patios or private balconies, and all those essential in-room amenities, including television, Internet access ($6.95 per day), coffee maker, refrigerator, and more.
Designated pricing is based on which category status you fit into for your stay at Shades of Green. Going room rates are based on two-adult occupancy for standard or poolside accommodations and four-adult occupancy for the suites. An extra $15 is applied for every additional adult over 18. Parties may reserve a maximum of three rooms at a time.
Travel and Transportation Services
While Disney World’s own complimentary shuttle services do not operate on the grounds of Shades of Green, the Resort does have its own bus transportation services available free to Guests. In fact, there are actually two different bus lines operating here daily.
Bus A departs from the Resort approximately every 15 to 20 minutes beginning at 8 a.m. and continuing throughout the day. These buses take Guests to Disney World’s Transportation & Ticket Center, where they may either continue on to Magic Kingdom Park via ferryboat or monorail or on to EPCOT by way of the separate monorail line. This same bus also goes to Disney Springs every half-hour on the hour. The last bus departs the Transportation & Ticket Center two hours and 15 minutes after the Magic Kingdom closes for the evening.
Bus B takes folks to such places as Disney’s Animal Kingdom (every 15 and 45 minutes) and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (every 45 and 15 minutes after the hour). The last bus leaves both Parks for two hours and 15 minutes following those Parks’ evening closures. This is also the bus you would take to Disney’s water parks. Riders do take note, however, that in order to access Shades of Green’s complimentary transportation services, you must be prepared to show your room key for proof of your Guest status.
Purchasing Tickets to Disney Parks
Any tickets, passes, and even Stars and Stripes Passes can be purchased through the Guest Services and Attraction Ticket Sales Office on location at Shades of Green, seven days a week. In addition to seeing to all your Disney theme park needs, they also sell tickets to other attractions in the greater Orlando area, including Sea World and Universal Studios, among others. And they can even provide an additional shuttle service to these locations for an added fee.
For those who are eligible, a stay at Shades of Green is an excellent alternate consideration for your family’s upcoming vacation to Walt Disney World Resort. It’s a way of getting back what you’ve so given of your own time and service—an ultimate way of saying thank you with a gift of such an esoteric, ideal accommodation just for you.