It has been 5 years since our last family trip to Mickey's home is Orlando. Littlehead is a freshly turned 9 year old, and grew quite a bit since that last trip. This thrill seeker was very excited to have the opportunity to ride ALL the attractions this time around. Littlesthead is a very compactly-sized 3 year old who couldn't be more thrilled to meet some of his Disney heroes and see Mickey's house for the first time.
We did a few things different on this year's trip than our previous family trip 5 years ago. We stayed at Shades of Green, a non-Disney owned resort on Disney property that is able to utilize some of the Walt Disney World resort guest benefits. As Shades of Green guests, we were able to make Fast Pass selections 60 days out, dining reservations 180 days out, and take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, just like those staying in one of the 28 Disney-owned properties.
You have to meet particular military eligibility requirements to stay at Shades of Green. We are fortunate enough to be eligible for stays at Shades of Green. To see if you or your family meet the requirements, visit the Shades of Green website.
As you can see, Shades of Green is a pretty expansive place. There are 2 pools, and a very nice Splash Park for the little kiddos. Shades has a few dining options with 3 restaurants:
- Mangino's Bistro Restaurant - an Italian inspired restaurant
- Evergreens Sports Bar - the casual sports bar and restaurant with an arcade and pool tables
- Garden Gallery - a breakfast and dinner buffet which has themed Family Nights each evening
There are two wings: the Magnolia and the Palm. As of this moment (June 2018), the Palm Wing has been refurbished. The Magnolia Wing is in the midst of its refurbishment. We stayed in a standard room in the Palm Wing with a Golf Course view. These rooms are HUGE at 450 square feet! There are 2 queen beds and a sleeper sofa. There is also a nice little dining area with a table and chairs, a mini-fridge, and even a balcony. We had plenty of room with 2 adults, 2 kids and all of our stuff.
One downside of staying at Shades of Green, you cannot utilize the Disney Magical Express. But, there are a few options for transportation from the airport to Shades. We made reservations with Sunstate Transportation. They are the preferred transportation of Shades of Green, and they were very reasonably priced. We were able to book a passenger van for 4 adults and 2 kids, and they provided a car seat for Littlesthead. I received a text confirmation from our driver, who was very helpful and responsive when our flight into MCO was delayed. Our driver at the end of the trip was great as well.
As for getting to and from the parks, Shades of Green does have its own bus system. However, it does have a specific schedule. If you miss the pick-up time, you are waiting probably another hour for the bus again. And if you have pre-park opening dining reservations, the Shades of Green buses will not get you there. BUT... you can utilize the Disney transportation to and from the parks, you just have to make a walk over to the Polynesian resort. Depending on your speed of walking, it can be an 8 - 12 minute walk from the front door of Shades of Green to one of the transportation methods the Polynesian has to provide. Bonus, Disney buses, monorails and ferries run very frequently. Some days we were fine using the Shades buses. Other days, like the day of our 8:20am reservation at Hollywood & Vine, we hoofed it over to the Poly and used their bus. Easy peasy.
We had a great experience at Shades of Green, and are fortunate to be eligible to stay there. If you and your family are eligible, Shades is a great option. It is practically a deluxe resort at value resort prices depending on the level you qualify for. It felt like home, especially after a long (or even short) day at the parks for this crazy bunch.