Shades of Green – Orlando, Florida. Photo courtesy of RJ Crawford.
Shades of Green is a special place for military families. You can feel it when you step into the lobby. Young active duty families preparing for that special day in the theme park with their children. The military retiree with their grandchildren taking off for an exciting time of fun and adventure.
I interviewed General Manager Arnie Cole and Sales Manager Annette Zeno and discovered there have been many improvements to make your stay even better. Shades of Green has been renovating guest rooms at a fast clip as they continue to offer the largest rooms, around 450 square feet, on Disney properties. If you have anyone with mobility issues in your group, Shades has been increasing the number of handicapped rooms as well. I’m happy to say that the MWR staff is truly caring about military families, which is something unique to this property over any other Disney travel option.
When travelers are considering vacationing at Walt Disney World, there is one major decision they have to make, which affects the quality of the whole trip: Am I going to stay on Disney grounds or outside the gate? I have personally done both and there is no contest, regardless of what you will be saving each day by staying outside the gate. Here are my reasons.
First, there is a Shades of Green shuttle that comes right to the front entrance, available to take you to the various Disney Theme Parks and Disney Springs. You can even get a shuttle to Universal Studios. If you stay off Disney property, you will have to drive to a specific location and pay to park.
Second, every day one of the four Disney Theme Parks opens up to an hour early or stays open up to an extra two hours after regular closing, this allows Shades of Green and other select resort guests to spend extra time in the parks. This amazing feature allows you to enjoy the day at a more relaxed pace, and take advantage of shorter lines at the most popular attractions. This advantage gives at least an extra four hours at the theme park over a four day period. This makes a huge difference when your children are trying to get on their favorite rides without a long wait. Shuttles to theme parks are scheduled so that Shades of Green guests can use this benefit to the fullest. To participate, you will need to have a photo I.D. and your Shades of Green Resort I.D.
My advice is to plan your vacation with the knowledge that you will most likely be walking multiple miles each day. On my last vacation to Walt Disney World, I wore a pedometer. My family and I walked an average of eight miles per day. Every family is different but if you have a large group, plan out a few things in advance.
For example, pre-plan the location where everyone will meet for lunch and what time everyone will meet to go back to the hotel. Check the weather report and bring a rain slicker for the liquid sunshine.
Back to why the Shades of Green is better than ever. The new executive chef, Randall Varney, has received outstanding ratings on the quality and variety of the cuisine. Special dinner nights are superb and include Asian Stir-fry Night, Pizza Night, Carnival Night and All You Can Eat Shrimp Night. Dining options are available throughout the resort.
Java Cafe inside Shades of Green Resort. Photo courtesy of RJ Crawford.
Relaxed, affordable family meals are available in the Garden Gallery Restaurant. Enjoy a refreshing beverage and light snack at Evergreens. Express Cafe gets you ready for a day of fun with “breakfast on the run” including breakfast sandwiches, fresh bagels, pastries, snacks, coffee, tea, cappuccino and espresso. Java Cafe features Starbucks coffee and a wide selection of pastries, fruit, and beverages.
Other than your lodging accommodations at Shades of Green, you may need to do some additional activity planning. This is where the Shades of Green Ticket Sales, C-407-824-1403, is of great benefit to you. A couple of things to keep in mind, as in Vegas, some popular shows sell out. If you have a couple of months worth of planning time, call the ticket office and see which shows you can pre-purchase tickets for. After you get those tickets, you can plan other activities around those dates.
Obviously, a few factors may affect your planning. Such as the ages of your children and how many days you have to spend at Disney. There are many good guides to Disney. A couple to consider are:
● Birnbaum’s 2016 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide ● The Easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit 2016 ● The Independent Guide to Walt Disney World 2016
Lastly, ENJOY your family and your vacation! Don’t let yourself get trapped by plans or expectations. Just have a basic game plan, relax and have fun!
To make reservations call C-888-593-2242, C-407-824-3600 or visit http://www.shadesofgreen.org/
Article By: RJ Crawford. RJ@militaryliving.com
Reprint from March–April 2016 • Volume 46, No. 2