The Shades of Green resort is a fairly exclusive place to stay at WDW. You can’t get a reservation there unless you are an active or retired member of the United States Armed Forces or a member of a few other very specific government agencies. Many people are not aware or barely aware of it for that reason, but it is an incredible treasure to those eligible to stay there. My father-in-law was a retired Army officer, so he was able to reserve rooms for all of us on our big family vacation.
Since few people get to see it, let me take you past the security gate and give you a little peek.
It is hard to beat its location. Shades of Green, with the Palm and Magnolia golf courses, is located across the street from the Polynesian Village Resort. You can admire the Poly and the Grand Floridian as you walk down the driveway. The hotel is on slightly higher elevation than those two resorts, so you can see some of the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the front entrance of the hotel. After a full day at the parks, the fireworks were a nice way to say goodnight.
The lobby is well-lit and comfortable for taking a break or meeting up with family and friends. There’s a coffee and ice cream counter right off the lobby which almost always has a line. Just like at Disney resorts, there’s an area to keep children entertained with little chairs and a TV playing animated movies. A Mickey statue stands ready for photo ops on one side of the lobby, but there are no other themed Disney decorations at the hotel. I thought I would miss it, but it didn’t seem to bother me. There’s a gift shop which sells souvenirs as well as convenience items – some groceries, drinks both carbonated and alcoholic, and common items from the pharmacy that you might have forgotten to pack.
I was concerned that I would feel uncomfortable at the hotel since I had no military background, but that didn’t happen. There were some subtle cues that made the stay feel more regimented – times were listed in 24-hour format, and we had to show our ID and room key to get on the bus. There was a military conference in the conference center off the lobby and some attendees wore fatigues while others were in suits. Despite these few items, the hotel felt like any other resort full of people excited to be there and enjoy the parks.
The hotel is huge. It’s a typical size for Disney area resorts, but it can be a surprise if you’ve never been to the parks before. It felt like a serious hike from our room to the restaurant. We were on the main floor of the Palm wing, all the way at the end of the hall, and the restaurant was in the center of the hotel, one floor down. I was amazed when my iPhone health app told me I had already taken over 1,000 steps just going to breakfast and back.
We got the Sunrise package with our rooms, giving us a buffet breakfast each morning. It was a feast of hot and cold items, pastries and eggs. They had a special counter for kids, at a lower height just for them, but many adults (including our group) passed that station and stopped to pick up tater tots or churros for their own plate. They had the usual station making omlettes to order, but there was also a pancake station where kids could get Mickey pancakes with chocolate chips. One of the chefs was talented enough to write the kids’ names backwards with a squeeze bottle.
Bus transportation is not as convenient as Disney resort hotels but it is more predictable. There is a published schedule of daily bus times instead of waiting at the bus stop until the right bus pulls up. To visit the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, you take their bus to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) that runs every 20 minutes. Transportation to the other parks and Downtown Disney leave once an hour. The buses park with the charter buses rather than the rows of Disney resort buses. It was critical to remember the bus schedule and the parking spot number in order to get back to the hotel. When I did forget, I found an information booth in the area, and the cast member looked it up for me. Although we had to walk farther and plan our time wisely, the transportation limitations didn’t bother us that much.
We took advantage of the walking path from Shades of Green to the Poly and on to the TTC, or more often we made the reverse trip. Since we had family members with electric scooters (ECVs), they found it easiest to take the ferry boat from the Magic Kingdom to the TTC and then roll all the way back to the hotel rather than going through the hassle of loading onto a bus. It was perhaps a 15-20 minute walk, but we would chat and decompress during that walk. My family also liked to stop at the Poly and buy a Dole Whip at the counter on their back patio to reinvigorate us for the rest of the walk.
Shades of Green is aware that many people make the trek to and from the Poly. They have the Shady Shuttle, a stretch golf cart which Bell Services uses to give hotel guests a ride to and from the end of the property. One tip we were given but never used was to get the Bell Services phone number. If you’re tired at the end of the day, give them a call and they could have the Shady Shuttle waiting to meet you when you emerged from the foliage of the Poly.
Time spent at WDW can leave a person feeling like they’ve been through a tempest, and I appreciated getting away from the chaos at Shades of Green. One morning we even watched a flock of wild turkeys wander past our balcony. I don’t expect we’ll have the chance to stay here again, but it was a good experience and I’m glad I to share it.