Did you know that there is an Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) located in Orlando, Florida? Yes — you can visit the House of Mouse and stay in a hotel specifically for military and Department of Defense (DoD) employees and their families. It is aptly called Shades of Green (SOG) — representing the shades of green (or blue or gray) uniforms that active-duty service members wear. Shades of Green also refers to the PGA golf courses on site, so if anyone is a golfer in your military family, this is sure to be a hit!
Shades of Green reservations are open to:
- Active-duty service members and their families
- Cadets of the armed forces academies
- Armed forces retirees
- Honorably discharged veterans with 100 percent disability and their families
- Foreign military members attached to U.S. military installations and their families
- Current and retired DoD and Coast Guard employees and their families
There are a few other eligible groups not mentioned above; the whole list is available in an organized chart on the newly updated Shades of Green website.
7 Reasons Military Families Should Stay at Shades of Green
1. The Perks
You can’t beat the location. Shades of Green is within walking distance of both the Polynesian Hotel and the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and has its own SOG bus line to the TTC, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the water parks. From the Polynesian, you can easily get to the parks via the monorail, the Disney train system connecting hotels to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, without ever getting on a bus. From the TTC, you can take a boat or monorail to the Magic Kingdom, a monorail to Epcot, and it’s where you purchase the discounted Memory Maker.
The Walt Disney World Resort recently added Shades of Green to the list of hotels allowed to make FastPass Plus reservations on the app 60-days in advance of travel dates, making it easier for military families to see all the attractions they want.
The exchange at SOG is packed full of Mickey swag so you can buy before going in the parks, and it is all tax-free just like your base exchange! There is also a bevy of snacks, swim gear, and rain ponchos in case you didn’t pack them or they got lost along your journey. It’s not a full exchange, though, so don’t plan to buy a stroller there.
Shades of Green has its own military ticket center, much like the Information, Tickets and Travel (ITT) at most military bases, that provides military discounted tickets for local attractions ranging from Walt Disney World to Legoland to Universal Studios. If you purchase Walt Disney World tickets ahead of time through SOG, they will pre-activate, meaning you can add them to your app and make FastPass reservations 60 days in advance.
If you are eligible to stay at SOG, but are not staying on property, you can still use the ticket center to buy tickets on the property or have them ship your tickets to you for a flat rate of $10.
3. The Rooms
Of all of the available accommodations on the Walt Disney World Resort property, Shades of Green, by far, has the largest rooms for the price. Standard and poolside rooms are the same size and very comfortably sleep five with two queen beds and a full sleeper sofa. They are spacious enough to include a table and chairs for meals in the room. You should still have plenty of room to roll your double stroller into the room at the end of the day and a spot for the pack and play and all the stuff babies bring.
With the recent updates, there are now five suites. These suites range from sleeping four to 10, making it easier for larger families to visit Disney World. The Palm Suite sleeps up to 10 and has two master bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full-size fridge, microwave, and large dining table. It’s a great fit for those who want to prepare meals and eat in their suite with ease. It is worth noting that there is not a cooktop in these rooms.
There are two pools on the SOG property. The Magnolia pool is handicap-accessible and has a hot tub nearby, making it ideal for adults on the trip looking to escape and relax. The Mill Pond has a huge slide (for big kids and adults alike) with a separate, gated splash pad for littles, making it easy to relax while the kids run off some energy. Aside from the pools, you’ll also find:
- Arcade games near Mill Pond
- A fitness center
- Two tennis courts (and you can borrow balls and rackets from the front desk for free)
- Two PGA golf courses — tee times and golf carts can be reserved at the front desk
- Foot Golf, where you kick a soccer ball into soccer-ball-sized holes
The Magnolia Spa on the property has a complete salon and spa. There are even kids’ packages for ages 4-12, ranging from first massage and first manicure to pirate and princess makeovers. To be fair, any member of your group can have a pirate makeover, not just the kids.
Recently, free yoga classes were added. The Green Yoga Studio has a certified yoga instructor who teaches class four days a week currently and has all the equipment you could possibly need for your session. This would be an amazing way to start your day or have an afternoon relaxation pick me up!
6. Special Offers
There are often package deals. Check the page about a year ahead of your travel dates, and chances are there will be a seasonal special that month. There are breakfast or dinner packages with room deals offered annually. A stay at SOG is already a deal, and getting a discount on top of that is even sweeter!
7. The Food
Speaking of the breakfast buffet, this is a real treat. The breakfast buffet is better than the standard hotel fare that most military families are accustomed to on their PCS travels. You can expect fresh fruit, customized Mickey pancakes, omelet stations, baked goods, and the prepared eggs and bacon that you might expect.
Like any resort hotel, Shades of Green offers plenty of on-property entertainment, allowing for a relaxing retreat away from the business of vacation while also allowing you to easily partake in the fun of Disney World. For military families, this is a perk that you just have to check out if you are planning a trip to the Florida House of Mouse.
Hungry for more military travel deals? See America’s national parks for free with a Military Park Pass from the National Park Service.
Photo Credits: Heather Walsh