Photo from Shades of Green
I am sure that many of the guests that visit Walt Disney World every year have no idea that they have a military hotel right on Disney property - Shades of Green! Shades of Green was originally opened in 1973 as a Disney-owned resort known as the Golf Resort, the resort expanded in 1986 and was renamed The Disney Inn. The resort is also located in-between two championship golf courses, the Palm and the Magnolia, which is why the resort was built to begin with, as a place for golfers to stay. The resort was really only used by golfers, and not that popular with Disney theme park guests to stay at, part of the issue was the location of the resort, it is out of the monorail loop, around a quarter mile away from the nearest monorail station at The Polynesian.
In the early 1990's Army officials decided it was time to build a resort in the continental United States, Orlando was the top choice in a survey of soldiers. On February 1, 1994 the US Department of Defense leased the resort and the land it sits on with a 100 year lease to use as a MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation). The resort was renamed Shades of Green and in 1996 the resort was purchased outright, due to the high success of the resort, although Disney still owns the land on which the resort sits.
Photo from Shades of Green
Shades of Green has a full service family restaurant The Garden Gallery, which has buffets along with food you can order off a menu. The Java Cafe, which is a small cart that offers Starbucks coffee and assorted pastry items in the morning. An Ice Cream Parlor that has the feel of a 1950’s ice cream shop including a Wurlitzer jukebox. Mangino's, which is an Italian restaurant, we held a 75th surprise birthday party there for my mom and they could not have been more accommodating and helpful due to the fact that I was doing most of the planning from Chicago. We did a family style meal and they had a price for adults and half price for children 3 to 12, which came in handy as my parents have 21 grandchildren from the ages of 32 to 1 year old. They even handled the cake for us, which was delicious. They have a fitness center, two tennis courts and three pools, one is even shaped like Mickey Mouse! Off the main pool area there is a bar/snack shop that also has an arcade area that keeps the kids busy for a little while, we sat and had a drink and some appetizers there and talked for a sometime enjoying each other’s company. They also have AAFS (Army and Air Force Exchange Service) Store , which has just about everything you could need in it from liquor to laundry soap, but you need to have a military ID to shop there.
You can only stay at Shades of Green if you are active-duty or a retired member of the Uniformed Services, current reserve and National Guard members and civilian employees of the Department of Defense. The room rates are based on your rank and/or pay grade, as such the prices increase with the rank and pay grade. As such it is cheaper for our younger son to stay at the resort then our older son who is a higher rank. As an example a room with two queen beds and a sofa sleeper, in October for a rank of E1 to E5 would be $95.00 a night. For the same room for our older son it would be $123.00 a night for a rank of E6 to E9. They can also book additional rooms for family at their rate. The only thing you cannot do is get a Disney Dining Package and use the Disney buses to get to the resort, but Shades of Green does have its own bus service, which will take you to Disney's Ticket and Transportation center and they also will take you by golf cart to the front of the resort so that you can walk over to the Poly to catch the monorail. While staying at the Shades of Green you can take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours Benefit, just like the other Disney resorts, all you need is your ticket and Shades of Green resort ID.
We have stayed at Shades of Green many times with both our sons and their wife’s. We have also stayed with my parents, my youngest sister and her youngest three kids and our youngest son and his wife, it was a mini family reunion, but staying there enable us to all go as a family as my sister is a single parent and my parents are retired (my father is a retired Marine as such he can also stay at Shades of Green), this saved us quite a bit of money. We also were able to use the Military tickets for everyone (but us as we have Annual Passes) which is another savings for military personal. Disney offers right now a Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Ticket with Park Hopper Option for $138.00 each and can only be purchased by "Eligible Service Members" or their spouses (but not both) and up to six tickets can be purchased for family members and friends traveling with the Service Member (these tickets need to be activated at the any Disney Ticket Office with the Service Member). These tickets have been available since October 25, 2010 and are good through September 27, 2012. There is “talk” that the Military Tickets might be extended, hopefully there will be an update soon and will be posting any updates on Disney Gal's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/DisneyGals
My dream it to re-new our vows there some year soon as they have beautiful grounds including small lakes and bridges and a large waterfall in the entrance where I have seen them taking wedding and family photos.