You may think you know every piece of Disney Park history, but this hotel’s story may surprise you.
There is one hotel at the Lake Buena Vista Resort that many cannot access – Shades of Green Resort. This hotel on Disney property charges Guests based on their pay grade and offers those in the United States Armed Forces a cheaper option for staying at the Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida.
This hotel is located in the Magic Kingdom Resort area, close to the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and has nearly 600 rooms. Shades of Green has two heated pools located in the original Magnolia Wing of the Disney Resort: the zero-entry Magnolia Pool and the Mickey-shaped Mill Pond Pool.
The military hotel is owned and operated by the Department of Defense, and has some of the largest standard Guest rooms at Walt Disney World – over 480 square feet! It is one of five Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) Resorts and a part of the military’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation program (MWR).
Shades of Green’s history, though, is interesting, and for many Disney World trivia buffs out there – this Disney history might not be on your radar.
The resort that we know today as Shades of Green was originally Disney-owned and called The Golf Resort back in December 1973. Shades of Green is not owned by Disney now, so this is one less hotel on Walt Disney World’s list.
This Golf Resort was constructed of wood and volcanic rock and located close to the Polynesian Village Resort. Styled to look like a country club, it only had 151 Guest rooms at the time, which were added two years after the clubhouse first opened in 1971. Disney wanted to add more Guest room capacity to the Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort, and Fort Wilderness Campground.
Many Guests chose other Disney properties over this hotel as it was not located on the Monorail loop, and thus offered a less desirable location. According to reports, The Golf Resort only had an occupancy rate of 60% to 75% most of the year while the Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts had an occupancy rate of almost 100%.
Then, in February 1986, the resort was renamed The Disney Inn in an attempt to attract a wider audience than just golfers. You may never have heard of “The Disney Inn”, but the hotel was expanded with an additional 150 rooms and had a new Snow White theme. The Disney Inn had 301 rooms and had “the rustic charm of a quiet country inn,” with bright and airy rooms.
The Disney Inn is certainly less of a whimsical name than many of the Disney Resorts we know and love today, but the hotel did not last very long.
In the early 1990s, Army officials decided they wanted an Armed Forces Recreation Center in the United States. Orlando, of course, was the top choice in a survey of soldiers with its magical theme park destination!
In 1992, an advertisement was placed in the Orlando Sentinel inquiring if any local businesses would be interested in leasing a resort property to the Army. The Walt Disney World Company offered to lease The Disney Inn and the rest is history!
Deciding the name of the hotel proved one of the longest processes. Both Disney and the military had to approve the hotel’s name, and so it was decided to call the resort Shades of Green in honor of the different shades of green in service uniforms.
The Shades of Green opened on 1 February 1994 after the Department of Defense leased the resort and the land it sits on with a wild 100-year lease. The resort became immediately popular with military families and so the Military Morale, Welfare, and Recreation department went on to purchase the hotel fully in 1996 for a whopping $43 million.
Disney, though, still owns the land on which the resort sits as it is within Walt Disney World property. Shades of Green is actually a self-sustaining resort – no outside taxpayer funds are used in its operation. Due to overwhelming demand, the hotel closed in 2002 for a $110 million remodel and expansion.
Guests at Shades of Green can access Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme parks as part of Walt Disney World’s Early Entry and Extended Evening Hours programs. This matches the benefits enjoyed by Guests staying at Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts at Walt Disney World.
Its price structure is unique – Shades has just three room rate categories, which are based on pay grade. The more junior military members (E1 to E-6) pay significantly less per night (starting from $154 based on room type), while more senior members pay more (around $184-$194) (FY21 Rates).
Shades of Green’s hotel rates are constant year-round, with members of the United States Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army, and other military units all getting to enjoy fair prices based on their income.
A Walt Disney World Resort vacation is a welcome break from deployments, training, and hardships for military families. Disney Parks offers its Military Salute Tickets, providing amazing savings for eligible active duty and retired U.S. military personnel. These military members can also enjoy special discounts for Disney Resort Hotel stays, including exclusive rates at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels for stays most nights through December 16, 2022.
Valid Military I.D. must be presented, of course, upon check-in and the military member or their spouse must stay in the hotel room. This offer does exclude The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.
2023 Military Salute Ticket pricing is expected soon. Historically, Disney’s Armed Forces Salute discounts have been announced in late September for the upcoming year. We are expecting next year’s ticket discounts to be announced in the fall of 2022. This is not a guarantee, however, as every year is a little different and can be revealed any time between late September through November.
So, did you know this more obscure part of Walt Disney World’s history? The Disney Inn was a Snow White-themed hotel that was purchased by the military to establish a recreational destination for Armed Forces families in Central Florida.
And now, military families can enjoy the Shades of Green Resort!