Shades of Disney – er – Green

by Abigail Hartlein
AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the August 5, 2014 Issue #776 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

Shades of Green EntranceIt's one of the hidden gems of Walt Disney World: Shades of Green resort. You may not have had any idea it was there as you drove right by it on your way to the Polynesian, or maybe you've golfed on the Palm and Magnolia golf courses. You might even remember it as the Golf Resort or the Disney Inn. Whether you've stayed there before or this is the first time you're hearing about Shades of Green, chances are that you didn't know about the perks offered to SoG guests or the super quick, painless way to get to the parks faster and in Disney style.

First, a little backstory: The Golf Resort opened across from the Polynesian in 1973, making it one of the very first Disney resorts. Thirteen years later, it became the Disney Inn with a Snow White theme in an attempt to appeal to more visitors. Finally, in 1996, the U.S. Government purchased the resort and property, and the Disney Inn became Shades of Green, a resort for military personnel and their families.

What makes Shades of Green so unique is that to stay there you must either be someone currently serving in the U.S. Military, Department of Defense civillians and their family members, a veteran or a family member (For exact specifics on eligibility visit This alone gives the resort a very special ambiance, knowing all that these men and women sacrificed for our country. It's nice that there's a place for military families to be able to get away and spend time together. What's more, eligible guests (meaning someone who is or was in the military) can "sponsor" up to three rooms of guests, and their spouses can sponsor up to three more.

It is important to keep in mind, though, when choosing accommodations for your trip, that while Shades of Green is on Disney property, it is not Disney-owned. This might mean nothing at all to you, or it could be enough to sway your decision. SoG employees are not Disney cast members, but they are very friendly and are held to the same standards that cast members are.

I think staying at Shades of Green, if you're eligible, is certainly worth considering.

Rooms at Shades of Green are about as spacious as a deluxe standard Disney resort room, and the furnishings are nice. (However, the housekeeping services weren't what you might be used to staying with Disney.) The Shades of Green grounds, however, are gorgeous. The resort is on a golf course, and the rolling green land is absolutely picturesque, with American flags adorning the resort. The land itself is a feature many guests don't fully appreciate or take advantage of, but SoG is actually a popular spot to have photo sessions done. Disney photographers will come to Shades, or you can hire your own, and they will take you all over the property to get the prettiest backdrops.

The buses are also Shades of Green's, not Disney's. They run on a very tight schedule, unlike at Disney resorts where you can often wait what seems like an eternity for a Magic Kingdom bus, after seeing two Animal Kingdom buses drive by in a row. SoG buses run as much as half an hour apart, so if you just barely miss one, you'll find yourself sitting at the stop for a bit. What makes the SoG buses worth it, though, is that often the drivers love to rattle off tips, tricks and secrets about the parks. You never know what you might learn while hitching a ride on the bus.

Buses don't suit your fancy? Shades of Green has a large parking garage available to all guests for a fee of $5 per day. Fair warning: the parking spots are very narrow and can be difficult to get in if you have a truck or SUV; we've spent our fair share of time trying to angle a Honda Pilot into a spot without totaling someone's car. Also, know that if you choose to drive to the parks, you will have to pay the parking fee there as well, unless you are an annual passholder.

There is, however, one other way to get around the World that makes Shades of Green a great place to stay — Disney's Polynesian Resort, also one of the very first resorts on property, is a hop, skip, and a jump away. (Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning, anyone?). No, really — it's about a half mile walk and only ever took us about 10 minutes, and it's worth it; the Polynesian is on the monorail loop (as are the Contemporary and Grand Floridian), so you can hop a monorail to any of those resorts and the Magic Kingdom. If you want to get to Epcot, that's easy. All you have to do is get off at Magic Kingdom and transfer to the Transportation & Ticket Center/Epcot monorail loop. Once you're on board, just sit back and enjoy the bird's-eye views. It's not every day you get to see the World like that. And the icing on the cake? If for whatever reason you're not able to make the walk over there, SoG has golf cart shuttles that will gladly give you a ride.

Aside from transportation, having the Polynesian so close is great for a number of other reasons, the main one being 'Ohana, which means pork dumplings and coconut races are near. You can also grab a bite at Kona Cafe and Captain Cook's, browse the gift shops, or if you're crazy like I am, just drop in and say "aloha" to some Disney cast members. They won't think you're weird if you just start up a conversation about Disney. Since the cast members are definitely one of my favorite parts of staying at a Disney resort, I love being able to get to the Polynesian so quickly and easily from SoG.

SoG offers a variety of dining options, like the Garden Gallery Breakfast Buffet and lunch at served at Mangino's Bistro. Snacks and light lunches are available at Evergreen's and the Express Cafe. These are definitely worth a try, although some people think the food is not up to Disney standards, and they prefer to eat in the parks or Disney resorts throughout their stay. My favorite part about the SoG dining experience is the ice cream bar off the main lobby — homemade and delicious! Anyone can eat at the SoG restaurants — the problem, however, is you need to have a pass or a military ID to get on property.

Guests all have individual priorities when they arrive at Walt Disney World, and Stacey's "Must Do Disney" might just happen to be one of them. Watching Stacey may or may not be my first order of business upon entering any Disney resort room, and I may or may not be able to quote her whole spiel. Yes, finding out whether or not SoG showed Stacey's show was of utmost importance to me. When I first arrived at SoG, I flipped through every single channel and was devastated to find that Stacey was in fact not playing on the SoG TVs. But I was wrong! We later discovered that she indeed is on SoG television, she just shares a channel in a loop along with other little shows about Orlando tourist spots. So, rest easy at night. You CAN watch "Must Do Disney" at Shades of Green.

If you are an avid Disney tourist, you know that each of the four parks have Extra Magic Hours, some in the morning and some in the evening, during which only Disney resort guests have park access. These are great to knock out those headliner rides that have waits that can work their way up into the triple digits. (You listening, Soarin'?) Shades guests also receive this perk, and all you have to do is have your park ticket and resort ID on hand. Bus schedules are extended to fit the Extra Magic Hours schedules as well, so don't worry about not being able to get back to your room after a long day on your feet. Disney makes sure that won't happen.

So, for me, the difference between Shades of Green and other hotels on Walt Disney Property is the level of Disney Magic. If you and your family like that complete and total immersion in the Disney bubble, you probably won't get that at Shades of Green, simply because it is not a Disney-owned resort. Personally, I prefer Disney-owned resorts simply because you do feel the magic there. There is a statue of Mickey Mouse in the main lobby at SoG and one of the pools is Mickey Mouse-themed, but other than that, don't expect little Hidden Mickeys in the bedding and on the lampshades and furniture. However, it is on Disney property, so you won't have to be driving in and out constantly, and you still have access to most Disney resort perks.

If it doesn't matter to you where you turn in for the night, hang your clothes, and take showers, you will find that you don't miss the Hidden Mickeys and cast members telling you to "Have a magical day!" as much as you thought you would. Shades of Green is considered to be a "Deluxe" resort, the surrounding grounds are beautiful, and the rooms are of great quality. My favorite thing about staying at SoG would have to be the interactions with the other guests staying there, all of whom have served our country, whether directly or indirectly through a family member. As long as you don't go into it expecting it to feel like a Disney resort, you will have a great time because, of course, you're in the Most Magical Place on Earth.

Abigail Hartlein = = = = = = = = = = = = =

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Shades of Green Fact Sheet:

Shades of Green Dining:

Shades of Green Official Website:

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Abigail Hartlein, 16, has been immersed in Disney since before she was born. With 19 trips to Walt Disney World and four sailings on the Disney Cruise Line in her touring repertoire, she loves to learn about the history, details and magic that are Disney. When she's not in the World, watching the classics, or surfing through AllEars® archives, she loves dance and photography.


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.