This is a question that is often asked by the military community and it can get contentious!
Shades of Green has die hard fans who are totally convinced that Shades of Green is cheaper and better than staying with Disney.
But is this true?
Of course everyone’s perspective and experiences are different. So, in this post I’ll attempt to lay it all out as dispassionately as possible so that you can decide for yourself.
I’ll be discussing Price, Rooms, Resort Equivalency, Disney Amenities, Other Amenities, Rooms, Dining Transportation, Shopping and Tickets, Ambiance, and some other tidbits.
Keep in mind that there is no “right answer” that fits everyone!
This very question was posed on Facebook recently and here was an answer from one Shades of Green Fan:
Is There Any Reason to Choose a Disney Hotel over Shades of Green?
“Nope. Not one I can think of. We get deluxe accommodation for value resort price. Great transportation. ON MK property.”
Shades of Green is on Disney World property, But is it truly the same as a Disney Deluxe, and is it the same price as a Disney Value Resort?
Let’s dissect this to see if it holds up.
There are numerous Disney price seasons throughout the year. The more popular a time period is, the more expensive it is! To get a feel for the various price seasons here are some of them: New Years, Value, Marathon, Martin Luther, Spring, Peak, President’s Day, Spring 2, Regular, Easter, Regular 2, Summer Holiday, Summer, Special, Value 2, Labor Day, Fall, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and Holiday.
Value is the cheapest rate followed by Value 2 and Holiday is the most expensive, some rates are used at several times of the year, some for only one weekend. Pretty complex isn’t it?
During most weeks the year Friday and Saturday nights are the most expensive, Thursday and Sunday are mid priced, and Monday through Wednesday are cheapest within each price period. During the rest of the year Friday and Saturday nights are the most expensive and Sunday through Thursday are cheapest.
Note that you’ll pay state and local resort taxes at Disney’s resorts. The rates are 13.5% at the All-Stars and 12.5% at all other Disney Resorts. The difference in rate is due to the county in which the resorts are located.
Disney offers the Disney Armed Forces Salute Room Discounts, that vary from 0 to 30% at Value Resorts, 0 to 35% at Moderates, and 0 to 40% at Deluxe Resorts. See this post to see why they vary and go to zero at times.
Disney also offers numerous general public seasonal discounts of 10-35%.
Shades of Green Pricing
Shades of Green charges the same rate every night of the year depending on your Price Category. Shades of Green has 3 price categories based on your rank.
Category #1 – E-1 thru E-6 and Cadets (E-1 thru E-6 and Cadet sponsored rooms will receive the rate that applies to Category #2.).
Category #2 – E-7 thru E-9, O-1 thru O-3, WO-1 to CW-3, Widows, Medal of Honor Recipients, 100% Disabled Veterans and Category #1 sponsored guests, Category #2 sponsored guests.
Category #3 – O-4 thru O-10, CW-4, CW-5, Active and Retired DoD Civilians, Category #3 sponsored guests, Foreign Military assigned to a U.S. Military installation only, DoD Contractors assigned to a U.S. Military installation only. Veterans who are Purple Heart recipients, Veterans who are former prisoners of war, All Veterans with service-connected disabilities, Individuals approved and designated as the Primary Family Caregivers of eligible Veterans under the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
Usually, there is a price increase on 1 October every year at the start of the new fiscal year.
At Shades of Green there is no state and local resort tax. Many people point to this when saying Shades of Green is cheaper.
Since 2010 Shades of Green has offered discounts at various low attendance periods. These discounts were awesome years ago, often 30-40% off but in recent years have shrunk to 10-15% off for very limited periods. Sadly starting in 2014 and on these have been offered much less often (the second half of 2023 has had no discounts).
2024 Comparison Charts
Here are charts that I’ve been using for years to show the price difference between Disney and Shades of Green.
These charts show the price to stay a week (a typical timeframe) at Shades of Green, A Disney Value (All-Star Music), and a Disney Moderate (Caribbean Beach) including state and local resort taxes.
The comparison is complex due to the 3 different rates that you could fall into at Shades of Green and the extremely variable price periods at Disney.
But one thing is obvious in the charts, “Shades of Green is cheaper than Disney” is not always correct, and it definitely is not the same price as a Disney Value Resort. What is left to the potential guest is deciding on how the price relates the other variables and what matters to themselves.
This first chart shows the non-discounted prices to stay 1 week at each location in 2024:
You can clearly see that Shades of Green is more expensive than the Value Resort for everyone except for Category 1 for 5 weeks of the year and at Christmas. Also that the Moderate is fairly comparable to Category 2 and 3.
And here is the same chart except that it shows the maximum Disney Armed Forces Salute Discount at the Disney Resorts:
Now the Disney Value and Moderate are way cheaper for Shades Cat 2 & 3, the Moderate is comparable to Cat 1, with the Value way cheaper.
So, which is cheaper? It depends…
Which is cheaper depends on your Shades of Green Category, the Disney Resort category you are comparing to, and what discounts you can get on the Disney Resort.
Shades of Green Resort Equivalency
So I’ve laid out the price part of the equation.
Shades of Green is rarely cheaper than a Disney Value for Category 1 guests. And equivalent or more expensive for Category 2 & 3 depending on the Disney discount available.
You’ll note that I did not show a Disney Deluxe Resort as these are always more expensive!!! And that’s the rub, when talking about price people compare Shades of Green’s price to a Disney Deluxe. But are they equivalent?
Spoiler, I don’t think so… (but you might).
So, in the next sections we’ll discuss: Is Shades of Green equivalent to a Disney Deluxe?
In my opinion Shades of Green is equivalent to a Moderate Disney Resort, or maybe a Moderate Plus.
Disney World has a bunch of amenities that they offer to their guests. They also extend some of these amenities to other on property hotels, such as Shades of Green and the Disney Swan and Dolphin.
Here is a chart showing these benefits:
|Basic Disney Amenities||Shades of Green||Disney Resorts|
|Extended Evening Hours||Yes*||Deluxe Only|
|Disney Genie at 7 a.m.||Yes||Yes|
|Advance Dining Reservations for the entire trip||Yes||Yes|
|Free Resort Parking||No||Yes|
|Free Theme Park Parking||No||Yes|
|Disney Dining Plan Participation||No||Yes|
|Property Wide Room Charging||No||Yes|
* There are often issues (more below).
Early Entry and Extra Evening Hours
Disney World offers Early Entry to all on property guests including Shades of Green. Early entry allows those staying on property who have linked their hotel reservation (with all guests included) to their My Disney Experience (MDE) account, to enter all theme parks 30 minutes before off property guests.
Extended Evening Hours is a benefit extended only to Disney Deluxe Resort guests and certain other on property hotels including Shades of Green.
As noted just above Shades of Green guests can experience issues trying to use these benefits for the first time on a trip. Disney’s system requires that you have all members of your party linked to the room reservation in MDE. This is how they look up if you are eligible for these programs. Shades of Green only puts the sponsor’s name on the room, not the rest of the party. When you link your Shades of Green room reservation to MDE, it does not know who the others in your party are! You need to go in and add your people yourself, just follow my directions. Do Not Trust Shades of Green to do it, they don’t even if they say they did!
Another issue is that Shades of Green room reservations often get dropped from MDE! If you are going to do Early Entry, check the night before to ensure the reservation is still in MDE and all your folks are there!!!
If something goes awry, you’ll spend that whole 30 minutes of Early Entry (or more) fixing the issue with Disney…
Disney Genie at 7 a.m.
Disney allows on property guests, including Shades of Green to begin using Disney Genie and Disney Genie+ at 7 a.m. each day, whereas others can’t make Plus reservations or purchase Individual Lightning Lane Reservations until they enter a theme park.
Advance Dining Reservations
Like Disney guests, Shades of Green and Disney guests can make Advance Dining Reservations for their entire trip (up to the first 10 days of the trip) 60 days prior to check in. All others can only make reservations day-by-day, 60 days prior to the desired date. This gives you an advantage when trying to get some of the harder to get dining locations!
You need to have your Shades of Green room reservation linked in MDE in order to do this.
Disney Dining Plan
The Disney Dining Plan is actually a part of your Disney Room package. You add it to your room. It can’t be purchased any other way.
Shades of Green is not a Disney resort, so there is no way to add it to your room.
Property Wide Charging to Your Room
Disney Resort guests have the ability to make charges to their room property wide. Dining, merchandise, and other charges can conveniently be added to your bill using your Key to the World (Room Key) or Magic Band.
Shades of Green guests can only do room charges within the hotel. Most of your charges will be outside of Shades of Green!
Let’s take a look at another table.
In this one I compare Shades of Green to all 3 categories of Disney Resorts to show the differences and different levels of service.
|Resort Feature||Disney Deluxe||Disney Moderate||Disney Value||Shades of Green|
|Room Size||344 – 440 Sq Ft||300 – 314 Sq Ft||260 – 277 Sq Ft||480 Sq Ft|
|Number of Guests||2 – 5||3 – 5||4||5|
|Beds||2 Queens, or a King,
& maybe a Sofa Bed
|2 Queens, or a King,
& maybe a Sofa Bed
|2 Queens||2 Queens, Small Sofa Bed|
|Location||Near 1 or 2 Theme Parks||Varies||Varies||Isolated|
|Table Service Dining||Yes||All but 1||No||Yes|
|Quick Service Dining||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Grab and Go/Coffee Shop||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|On Site Spa||Some||No||No||Yes|
|Pools with lifeguard||2+||2+||2+||2|
|Pool Bar/Snack Bar||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Organized Pool Activities||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Movies Under the Stars||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Nightly S’mores Campfire||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
Shades of Green hands down offers the largest guest rooms on property when compared to all Disney’s Resorts! Shades of Green’s regular and Poolside rooms (not suites) all sleep 5 people with 2 Queen beds and a very small pull down couch bed. The back of the couch folds down between the armrests on each side. It is a very short, narrow bed not suited for average or taller adults.
As Shades of Green is situated between 2 golf courses the views from most every room are spectacular. Views throughout the resort are unique and interesting. The lush tropical landscaping provides an incredible backdrop. All rooms are off of interior hallways and have a sliding door to a patio or balcony with two chairs and a table. These rooms are comparable to a Holiday Inn or Hilton in look, furnishings, and quality and you would not now that you are at Disney when in them.
Disney’s rooms of course vary by Resort Category.
Disney Value Resorts are the smallest and only sleep 4 with 2 Queen beds, 1 often is a Murphy bed that converts from the room’s table. Views vary from parking lot, to greenery and interior resort/pool views. All rooms have exterior doors. These rooms are basic with, beds, a table and 2 chairs. Rooms have some Disney theming.
Disney Moderate Resorts are larger than the Values, but smaller than Shades of Green’s rooms. These resorts sleep 3, 4, or 5 with a single King and fold down single, 2 Queens, or 2 Queens and a fold down single. These fold downs are also rather small. Views vary from parking lot, to greenery and interior resort/pool views. All rooms have exterior doors except the Coronado Springs Resort Tower rooms. These Moderate rooms are slightly upgraded and some have couches, but for the most part they are still beds, a table, and 2 chairs
Disney Deluxe Resorts are still slightly smaller than Shades of Green’s rooms. These resorts sleep 2, 4, or 5 with a single King, 2 Queens, or 2 Queens and a fold out couch. Views vary from parking lot, greenery and interior resort/pool, and even theme park views. All rooms are off of interior hallways and some have a sliding door to a patio or balcony with two chairs and a table.
See this overview page for Disney World’s Resorts that has links to each one.
At Shades of Green there is a grab-and-go counter service location with Starbucks, a quick-service restaurant, a poolside sports bar, a Disney operated snack bar near the other pool, a buffet restaurant, and a table service restaurant. Some folks love these restaurants, I’ve always found them to be well below Disney’s in food quality/taste and service. Your mileage may vary…
Disney’s Value Resorts and the Moderate Port Orleans – French Quarter all have one, multiple station, food court type quick-service restaurant. All have poolside bars.
The remaining Moderates up their game adding one or more table service restaurants, bars and poolside bars to the above.
The Disney Deluxes have multiple dining options including 1 or more table service restaurants some of which are fine dining restaurants, food courts, coffee shops, quick-service and grab-and-go options. Food in these resorts is fantastic!
Disney’s guests have the option to add the Disney Dining Plan to their room reservations as a package.
Shades of Green does at times offer a percentage off buffet dining when you pre-purchase meals, but you have to go back to the resort to use this discount, versus staying in the park for lunch and dinner.
Recreation & Activities
Here Disney wins out. You may or may not be interested in this area however. You might just want to do theme parks all day, sleep, then repeat.
Shades of Green has 2 very nice pools. Each is heated and has lifeguards on duty. There is a big slide and kids splash area at one and a hot tub at the other. Both have nearby food and drink options that you can bring back to the pool. Shades of Green’s pools have handicap assist lifts.
Disney’s resorts also each have from 2 to many pools with lifeguards, hot tubs, and kids splash areas, depending on the size of the resort. Disney’s main pools are fantastic with big slides and heavy theming. Pool bars are co-located with at least one pool at each resort. Some of Disney’s pools are another level above Shades of Green, for instance Stormalong Bay, which is shared by the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts has a sandy bottom, multiple swimming areas/alcoves, beaches, a lazy river, and a huge slide from a pirate ship.
Shades of Green is short on activities when compared to Disney. Here you will find a kid’s play set, an arcade, and 2 lighted tennis courts (left over from when Shades of Green was the Disney Golf Resort). There is also a fitness center and Spa which is operated by a third party.
All Disney resorts offer: Movies under the stars, campfires with s’mores, kid’s play sets, and arcades. And at all Disney pools there are guided games and fun activities for kids. All resorts have marked running trails.
At the Disney Moderate Resorts (depending on resort) you’ll find:
- Fitness Center 2 Fitness Centers at the Coronado Springs, none at other moderates
- Boat Rentals*
- Bike Rentals*
- Horseback Riding*
- Horse Drawn Wagon Rides*
- Horse Drawn Carriage Rides*
- A Petting and Feeding Zoo
At the Disney Deluxe Resorts (depending on resort) you’ll find:
- Fitness Center
- Boat Rentals*
- Bike Rentals*
- Surry Bike Rentals*
- Horseback Riding*
- Free Resort Tours
- Live Music
- Animal Lectures and Tours
- Animal Feeding
- A NVG Safari*
*Note some of these Disney activities are paid, not free.
Let’s compare all things transportation at Shades of Green and the Disney Resorts. This is an area where there is also lots of contention, some people love Shades of Green’s transportation, while others think it is limited and sub standard when compared to Disney’s.
Shades of Green offers free Bus Service to limited locations on Disney property with a small fleet of buses (4 buses in operation at a time).
For those wanting to go to the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT a bus line runs to the Transportation and Ticket Center. This bus departs Shades of Green every 20 minutes. Once at the TTC, guests have to take another form of transportation to each of the parks. Monorail or boat to the Magic Kingdom and Monorail to EPCOT. This adds at least an additional half hour to your travel time.
Buses depart every 30 minutes for Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Disney Springs. These buses drop off and pick up at less convenient locations (further away) when compared to Disney at these destinations. In year’s past these routes used to be 60 minutes between buses!
Shades of Green’s bus stops at the parks have no queue lines as Disney’s do, making bus loading a madhouse, especially late in the evening when everyone is trying to leave. Several times I’ve seen a mass of people who just walked up, swarm the front door of the bus, cutting in front of people who have been waiting for 20 or 30 minutes.
Disney also offers free transportation for their guests to all locations on property. Disney has a fleet of 350 buses, around 36 watercraft, 12 Monorails trains, and a gondola system to transport guests from their accommodations to all guest areas.
Disney’s buses drop guests at very close, convenient locations right at your destination. Theme park and Disney Springs stops have queues to control loading. Disney buses depart roughly every 20 minutes or quicker during peak periods. Magic Kingdom and EPCOT buses go right to the parks!
Some Disney Resorts have alternate transportation methods instead of bus service to some locations. These are typically to the park the resort in question is associated with or nearest to. For example the Monorail or watercraft service for the Magic Kingdom Resorts, watercraft service to Disney Springs from the close area Resorts, watercraft service to EPCOT from its resorts, or the Disney Skyliner for resorts on its route.
There are some Disney Resorts where you are able to walk to specific destinations. I have a whole series of posts on this subject, both an overview and individual posts on specific walks.
It used to be possible to walk from Shades of Green to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to bypass the Transportation and Ticket Center for those going to the Magic Kingdom. But in early 2023 this path was closed by Disney.
While Disney guests do not pay to park anywhere on property, Shades of Green guests do!
If you will be driving your vehicle or a rental to Disney World for your vacation, it will cost you extra if your are staying at Shades of Green.
During its first decade of operation, Shades of Green had no parking fees. There were 2 parking lots on either side of the resort where guests parked for free. In 2002 Shades of Green closed for renovation for almost 2 years. When the resort reopened in March 2004 it had a brand new parking garage. Starting at that time guests parking their cars in the garage were charged $5.00 per night.
In the intervening years, that rate has risen to 17 dollars per night!
Disney recently experimented with charging their guests to park at their resorts (for 3 years), but dropped this in 2023, I think due to the negative guest experience.
Shades of Green guests also have to pay for daily parking at the theme parks. As of late 2023, that rate is 30 dollars per day.
So, when you compare the nightly cost at Shades of Green to Disney, you’ll need to add in any parking fees that you might incur.
Shopping and Tickets
At both the Disney Resorts and Shades of Green you will find gift shops that sell souvenirs and sundries. Shades of Green wins out here as the AAFES General Store has better prices and is tax free.
You can buy tickets at Disney and Shades of Green as well.
Shades of Green has an Attraction Ticket Sales Office, just like the one on your local base. They sell tickets for not only Disney World, but many Central Florida attractions, for example Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, Kennedy Space Center and many more. Tickets here are military discounted and tax free.
Disney’s concierge service desks in all the resorts will gladly sell you a full priced ticket to add onto your reservation. But no one in the military community should be using these!
For Disney World, the availability of on site ticket sales is really a non-issue as all military tickets require Theme Park Reservations, which should be made in advance. So you should be buying your tickets at home from your local office or long distance!
Shades of Green is a relatively smaller resort at Disney World, with only 586 rooms. Only Disney’s Bay Lake Tower (295) and Riviera (300) are smaller. The resort sits on beautiful grounds situated between 2 of Disney’s golf courses. there is however no Disney theming (except for the Mickey Statue in the lobby). You could pick Shades of Green up and plop it down anywhere in the country and you wouldn’t know the difference.
Because of its smaller size, things are more low key here than at the big Disney resorts. Pools are generally lightly used and it’s a joy to spend the afternoon lounging by one.
It must also be said that all guests staying at Shades of Green come from our military community, and you’ll find folks much more friendly to each other here.
Disney’s Resorts are generally larger to much larger than Shades of Green. The Contemporary (655) and Yacht Club (635) are about the same size, 6 resorts range from 761 to 910 rooms, 11 resorts are in the 1000 to 2000 room range, and 3 range from 2048 to 2880 rooms!
Grouped another way, Disney’s Values come in at 1604 (All-Star Music) to 2880 (Pop Century), while the Moderates range from 1008 (Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter) to 2385 (Coronado Springs). The Deluxes range from 655 (Contemporary) to 1644 (Animal Kingdom Lodge both the Resort and DVC combined).
Pools and lobbies here can be hectic!
Disney’s Resorts are highly themed based on the concept for the resort. Exterior and common areas get the full Disney touch, you won’t think that you are anywhere in the country or world but Disney!
Disney resort rooms used to also be decorated this way, but in recent years all of the room renovations have toned down this theming making the rooms more generic.
Another Thing to Consider
Daily convenience is another thing to consider.
Magic Bands and other tech – Though Disney has backed off from Magic bands in recent years (no longer providing them for free to their resort guests), Magic Bands, Key to the World (plastic room key), and your smart phone all work to make your visit seamless.
Magic Bands, Key to the World, and Disney Magic Mobile (Smart Phone Wallet) can be used for:
- Charging to Your Room
- Resort Room Entry
- Resort Pool Access
- Resort Parking Lot Access
- Theme Park Entry
- Early Entry
- Extended Evening Hours
- Theme Park Free Parking Entry
- Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane, Virtual Que Entry
- Link Photo Pass/Memory Maker Pics
However your Shades of Green Room Key can only be used to get into your room and get out of the Parking Garage.
For the other items here is what you will need:
- Theme Park Entry – Magic Band or Theme Park Ticket
- Early Entry – Room Key and Resort ID
- Extended Evening Hours – Room Key and Resort ID
- Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane, Virtual Que Entry – Magic Band or Theme Park Ticket
- Link Photo Pass/Memory Maker Pics – Magic Band or Theme Park Ticket
There is no free theme park parking for Shades of Green guests.
You can only use your room key to charge to your room at Shades of Green locations. For Disney locations you’ll need to pull out your credit card or use your smart phone.
So. there you have it, I’ve laid out all of the differences between staying with Disney and Shades of Green.
Keep in mind, that no matter where you stay, you are probably gaining something, and sacrificing something else.
You’ll need to form your own opinion on which option is best for you!
My own opinion is that I’ll stay with Disney! For me there are too many negatives at Shades of Green. You however may come to a different conclusion!
If you would like to see what others in our community think of Shades of Green see: Military Families Rate and Review Shades of Green
So, what is your opinion? Is There Any Reason to Choose a Disney Hotel over Shades of Green?
Let me know in the comments section below!
This MDT Post By: Steve Bell
Steve is the the Military Disney Tips Founder. He a retired U.S. Military Member who's been touring the Disney Parks since 1971! Steve's mission is to help military families with their Disney vacations in every way. Check out Steve's Bio.
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