Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jiko / The Mara / Pumbaa’s Fun & Games

When my wife and I first got married we were in the middle of buying a new house, and having a our first child so we didn’t get to have a honeymoon.  We had always planned on taking a honeymoon at some point but kept pushing it off.  Finally I decided it was time to do something and as if we don’t already get enough Disney fun, we booked a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas.

I’ll get into this a little more in a future post, but we arrived a day early for our cruise to Orlando so we could do some shopping for our new house (Spoiler) that we are having build in Florida.  We had a very early flight from Jersey to Orlando and spent the entire day shopping.  Even though we were pretty exhausted from the day I had booked a dinner reservation at Jiko which is a signature restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This was a place we have wanted to try in the past, and today was the day to go and we weren’t going to miss it.

I’ve said it before but this is really am amazing resort to visit.  We haven’t stayed here yet, but have visited a few times during a down day just to walk around.  It’s really a treat for the senses when you come to visit this resort.

Of course there are the Savannah’s towards the back of the resort that let some of your favorite exotic animals roam around.  Some like the giraffes have feeding times you can go and watch or help with if you are lucky enough.

We were running a little late for our reservation, and the maps for this resort can be a little confusing.  But after heading outside by the pool, then back inside we eventually found Jiko.

Jiko stands for The Cooking Place which is a central location where people would gather to enjoy each others company and community dining.  In the middle of this restaurant is a cool area you can sit at a high bar type table and watch the chefs create the starter courses available on the menu.

We were seated at a table towards the back in a nice quiet area.  The wait staff was very attentive and explained all about Jiko, the decorations and art inside, the cooking styles and always wanted to ensure all our questions were answered.  For a started we decided to try the Taste of Africa.

This was a similar bread and dip sampler to what we had a few months ago a Sanaa also located in the Animal Kingdom.  However this one had fewer options but was still very good.  It included unique “breads” like Pappadum, Sesame Fatir, Flax-Seed Naan, and also came with a variety of African inspired dips.

For my main course I went with the 7 oz oak-grilled filet that I had heard a lot of good things about.  It was service over top of bobotie mac and cheese, asparagus, and a South African red wine sauce.  The spices used on the steak and in the mac and cheese were from a different spice palette than what I’m used to but was a nice change and very unique and tasty.

My wife had a Moroccan Lamb Tagine which was basically a huge lamb shank with parsnip and root spinach.  It was fall apart tender and very juicy but a huge portion which would have been difficult for most to finish in one sitting.  We were offered dessert but were so stuffed by that time that we chose to pass (Yikes!).  Instead of just heading right back out to our card we decided to try to walk off a bit of our dinner by wandering around the resort a bit.  Just outside Jiko towards the main pool we ran into the quick service cafeteria style eatery called The Mara.

As with all the other resorts this place includes various stations with different types of food at each.  Your standard flatbread pizzas, salads, and chicken nuggets are all available here.  We went inside to get a small dessert I had heard about called Zebra Domes.

So what exactly is a zebra dome?  Well the explanation is as follows: An Amarula cream liquor mousse covered with a panna cotta like white chocolate, drizzled with chocolate stripes and chocolate shavings.  These come in a nice to-go package of four so you can snack on them as you walk.  Please note that these do have liquor in them so you may want to avoid letting your little ones try them.  I believe they do offer non-alcoholic versions but didn’t see any when I was there.  Before heading back outside I found two coin press machines just near the main set of doors.

   

The first machine had three penny designs available including Shenzi (Hyena leader from The Lion King), Terk Tantor & Young Tarzan, and Pleakley from Lilo & Stitch.

   

Right next to the penny machine was a second machine that had one quarter design available.  This machine would press an image of Pumbaa and Simba from the Lion King with the Animal Kingdom Lodge logo on it.  We headed back outside and just a short walk away found the next stop.

Pumbaa’s Fun & Games is the resorts arcade.  It has your standard air hockey table, and classic arcade games.  Just outside the door to the arcade was the third coin press machine at this resort.

   

The cabinet design on this machine was really fun and reminded me of the machines they have over at the Animal Kingdom theme park.  This machine also had three designs which included Safari Mickey, Safari Minnie, and Mike from Monsters, Inc.

By this time our long day had finally caught up to us and we were ready to head back for some sleep before our cruise started the next day.  The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a bit out of the way, and if you don’t have a rental car may be tough to get too on the Disney bus system.  But it is doable (I’ve done it in the past) and is well worth the trip over to experience it in person.  Don’t forget to get the pennies located here, and with the layout of the resort can be like a treasure hunt to find them.  Happy hunting!

Islands of Adventure – Orlando, FL

Fresh off my trip on the Hogwarts Express I exited right in the middle of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  This place is awesome but extremely busy.  On a previous trip my wife and I rode the attraction that is inside the Hogwarts school.  It’s definitely a great ride, but on this trip the line was way too long.  I headed over to the Butter beer cart to grab one to go and quickly headed out of this area to less crowded areas.

Just outside the Harry Potter area you will find a store called the Treasures of Poseidon this is also the area where Sinbad is located.

   

In the middle of the store is a jewelry counter that takes up a lot of space.  The penny machine is off to the side of this near one of the doors, but if there are a lot of people looking at the jewelry this can be a tight fit to use the machine.  Next up was a nice walk over a bridge into the Jurassic Park area.

Up the hill on the left is the Dinostore.  It’s not very big but is attached to the Discovery center which has some fun interactive things for kids (and adults) to learn about dinosaurs.

   

As you walk into the Dinostore if you turn left and go straight back the machine will be in the corner.  It’s a four die hand crank model with different dinosaur designs on each coin.  Almost straight across the walkway is another dino themed souvenir store called Jurassic Outfitters.

This store is much bigger, but always seems to have lots of people inside.  There are three penny machines located throughout the store.

   

The first machine is located outside just to the right of the entrance to the store.  Another hand crank model which can be tough to use as this is a common area for people to stand around while their family member shop inside.

   

Machine number two actually had its designs changed since the last time I had visited this park.  I also like the design of the machine cabinet making it looks like rock which fits right in with the theme.

   

The last machine in here continues the dino theme of the pressed penny sets.  The original Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies and I really like that one of these coins has that logo on it.  There were no more machines in the Jurassic Park land, so I grabbed a churro and a coke to enjoy my stroll over to Toon Lagoon.

   

One of the first places I stopped to check out was call Toon Extra and specialized in old school cartoon merchandise.  The penny machine in here had designs of Popeye, Betty Boop and Spongebob.  Not sure why Spongebob is considered a classic cartoon.  Right next door was a similar store called the Betty Boop store which had everything Betty inside.

   

When I had used this machine on my last visit it only pressed two of the three designs.  The images haven’t changed since then so I made sure to get an extra set.  There is a little area nearby called Gasoline Alley which has bathrooms and lockers primarily for people going on the Dudley Do Right water ride.  It’s so busy here that it seems like the perfect place for a penny machine.

   

With the classic comics behind us we were heading into Marvel territory by entering Super Hero Island.  The buildings and streets here really make you feel like you have jumped into the pages of a comic book.

Anyone recognize the above building?  Nelson & Murdock Attorneys at Law (ahem Daredevil check it out on Netflix).

   

Of course we can’t be in Super Hero island and not run into a comic book store.  They do actually sell comics books, and collectibles of all your favorite Marvel superheros.

A unique ride when it first made its debut, still is a fan favorite and many other rides have copied its format.

   

Inside the gift shop at the exit to this ride are supposed to be three machines.  Above is the first with four Spiderman designs.

   

The second machine offers three designs pressed on quarters which is the only non-penny machine in all of the Universal Studios parks in Florida.  The third machine however was MIA, which was disappointing as it was another of the 8-design touch screen models.  Hopefully it will be available again soon.  The next store in this area was a little strange to me and was called the Marvel Alterniverse Store.  I’m sure some comic book fans would know what that means, but it just looked like another superhero gift shop.

   

Both machines inside this store were on opposite sides of the entrance doors.  The first one had 3 images of X-men characters and the last was of Spiderman.

   

The second machine was for all your Hulk fans out there.  All four designs were of the Hulk which is fitting since there is a coaster right nearby called The Incredible Hulk.  This area of the park definitely had a lot of machines available, and there was one more place to check out called Kingpin’s Arcade.

   

Right before you walk in the main entrance of the arcade you will find this interesting looking machine.  I’m guessing it’s supposed to look like a skyscraper, but whatever it’s supposed to be all these fun machine cabinets make finding them a lot of fun.

   

The second machine was inside the arcade and all the way in the back.  It took a little while for me to find it as I wasn’t initially sure where it was.  There are obviously a lot of kids in here, it’s dark and very loud.  I didn’t stick around too long but the kids seemed to be enjoying all the arcade games even though they were in a huge theme park with rides, but to each their own.  Finally I was able to leave the comic books behind and head over to the wonderful world of Dr. Seuss.

I will say that over in this area of the park it really does put you right in the pages of your favorite Dr. Seuss story.

   

Of course the most classic of all is The Cat in the Hat.  Inside the gift shop by this attraction is a machine with three designs including two of the Cat in the Hat and another of Thing 1 and Thing 2.

   

Just in front of the entrance for the Cat in the Hat ride is a second machine with four designs of other Seuss favorites: Max (Dog from the Grinch), The Grinch, The Lorax, and Little Cindy Lou Who (also from the Grinch).

Further into Seuss land is the Circus McGurkus cafe with your usual theme park food of burgers, chicken nuggets and pizza.  There is a penny machine here but it’s outside near all the tables and chair to each your McGurkus food.

   

Beside Circus McGurkus is the Snookers & Snookers Sweet Candy Cookers, and across the walkway from that is the Mulberry Street Store with Gizmos, Gadgets, and Goodies galore (sorry couldn’t help myself).

Inside Mulberry Street there were the last two Seuss inspired penny machines.

   

Machine number three has pennies with the Seuss Landing Logo, the Grinch and Horton the Elephant.

   

The second machine has more of the same, designs including The Grinch, Horton, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and the Cat in the Hat.  With all the Seuss rhymes running through my head it was time to head towards the exit before I completely lost it. As I headed towards the park exit there were still a few last stops to make.

   

Every park has to have a huge souvenir store near the entrance/exit to the park.  At Islands of Adventure their store is known as the Trading Company.  Above is the first machine inside with designs from the Spongebob cartoons.

   

The next machine has more Marvel’s characters.  I was a big Punisher fan as a kid so I really enjoyed finding a pressed penny with his logo and signature skull on it.

   

Machine number three included pennies with Popeye, Thing 1 and Thing 2, The Simpson’s Family, and Homer Moe & Barney.  Kind of a strange set of designs to be put together.

   

The fourth and final machine in this store was an 8-design super hero sized machine.  This had a numbered set of designs with the Avenger’s characters on them.  Right across the walkway was another store not quite a big as this one called the Island Market & Export.  This place has the usual souvenirs from the park but also includes a candy store in the middle.

   

Inside there were two machines back to back with each other.  The first one had a random assortment of designs in the set.  Spiderman, Betty Boop and Spongebob.

   

The second machine had pennies with the Cat in the Hat, Betty Boop and the Hulk.  I decided to skip the candy store even though it was calling my name.  Really the last thing I wanted to do in 90 degree Florida weather was eat some sticky candy.  As I left the store I could see the exit to the park but had one last stop to make.

   

There is always one last souvenir stand right by the exit for those absolutely last-minute gifts.  This one was called Port Provisions and of course had the last machine available in the park.  This machine included a four design set of Marvel character’s including two of the Hulk, Spiderman and Daredevil.

It was now time for me to make the slow sad walk back through City Walk and eventually back to my car.  I had actually done all of this in one day (City Walk, Universal Studios, and Islands of Adventure).  With no kids this time that helped speed things up and I did skip a lot of rides I usually like to go on.  But this was still a fantastic little trip and allowed me to get caught up on some missing coins to complete my set.  There were a few machines I couldn’t find so I’ll definitely be back hopefully in the very near future.

I posted the above picture in my review of Universal Studios but wanted to include it again here.  This was a label on pretty much all the machines through the parks at Universal and shows a link to www.ctmgroupinc.com/universal.  This link has maps of each park and where all the penny machines are located as well as pictures of the coins at each stop.  I saved this link on my phone for future use as it’s a great way to either weed out coins you don’t want, or if you are like me, make sure you don’t miss any.  Have fun collecting!!

2017 Nickel Set – Main Street Opera House Disneyland, CA

Has it been a year already?  Where has the time gone.

It’s been a little while since a new set of press coins was released in the Disneyland park.  But with the new Guardians of the Galaxy released in California Adventure a couple of weeks ago I’m hoping this is the beginning of a bunch of new sets.  These new coins are a nice surprise as they are pressed on Nickels which don’t happen to often, and are also the dates designs for 2017.

The location of this machine is the same as it’s been all year.  Located at the exit to the Main Street Opera House where you can see Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.  Technically you can get in the exit (naughty naughty) and just use the machine, but if you have the time it’s always great to see one of the original attractions that started it all for Disneyland.

For 2017 this new set of coins has images of all our Main Street favorite snacks.  The Little Red Wagon Corn Dogs, Gibson Girl Ice Cream, and Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe.

The backstamp features a nice nostalgic Disneyland Main Street U.S.A. Logo.  This is really a feature I wish the Florida parks would get into as the backstamps really make the finished product stand out.

Since these are the latest dates coins I’m pretty sure you have about 12 months to collect it but you never know.  I wouldn’t delay as you never know what may happen or when these machines will go down and not come back.  These dates coins are really becoming popular and are always exciting to see what designs are released each year.

Universal Studios – Orlando, FL

After walking through the large crowds in City Walk I had my first dilemma as to which of the two theme parks I should explore first.  I’m not a huge thrill ride fan so the crazy roller coasters weren’t a deciding factor.  Eventually I decided to check out Universal Studios which I have very fond memories of visiting as a child.

I know a lot of it has changed over the past few years.  Jaws was always a favorite of mine but is sadly no more.  If anything good could come out of that area it’s the new Harry Potter Diagon Alley which was really amazing.  There was a bit of a line to get into the park, but eventually I was in and started looking for my first stop.

Just inside the main entrance on the left side was the Universal Studios Store.  It was a little early for me to get any souvenirs (didn’t want to carry them around) but they had quite a few machines available inside.

   

The first machine inside was a three design electric model.  It had images of some classic Universal movies and attractions.

   

The second machine was only a few feet away and was another three design electric model.  The images on these coins included Kong, Thing 1 and Thing 2 and Gru from Despicable Me.

   

When I came across the next machine I was a little surprised to see that they also had these new 8-design touch screen versions.  The machine supplies the coin which is technically not a penny but a blank token.  The finished coins came out nice and shiny and were all themed around Despicable Me and the Minions.

   

The last machine in this store had three designs all of Spongebob and his friend Patrick Star.  There was supposed to be a fifth machine with four designs available but I searched every inch of that store and couldn’t find it.  Guess I’ll have to make another trip back soon to look again.

After leaving the store I headed over towards the exit to the park to an area called It’s a Wrap.

   

Over near the restrooms and locker area was the first machine.  This had four designs including the Universal Orlando Logo, Hulk, Spiderman and Woody Woodpecker.  A short walk over to the actual It’s a Wrap store is where I found the second machine.

   

Another four design hand crank model had images of Spongebob & Patrick, Homer Simpson, and two Marvel Character.  Now it was time to start heading further into the park.  Just up the main street I stopped in at the Silver Screen collectibles.

   

These coin designs were the same as when I visited last, but the machine had received a face lift with new signage.  The images on these coins were from I Love Lucy, and Betty Boop.  Back out on the street I saw a very interesting looking building that was from the Despicable Me movies.

Inside is where you can experience Minion Mayhem which is an interesting attraction, but if you suffer from motion sickness may want to either up your Dramamine dose or skip it.  When you exit the ride as all great theme parks do you need to pass through a related gift shop.  This store is called Super Silly Stuff.

   

Big surprise here as the machine is Minion themed and has another set of Minion coins.  They have certainly taken over.  A short walk across the street brings you to the Shrek 4-D attraction.  I’ve gone on this in the past and am not a big fan.  It’s another attraction with a large movie screen and your chair moves along with the movie and you get splashed in the face with water (Yay!).  The chair mechanisms were never very good so I skipped it this time, but still wandered around to visit the store here.

   

This machine will have designs of Donkey, Shrek & Donkey, Fiona, and Shrek & Fiona.  There used to be a second Shrek machine just outside but I couldn’t find it so I’m not sure if it’s gone completely or just out being fixed (maybe updated, wink wink Universal).  As I mentioned in the past I’m not a thrill ride fan so something like Rip Ride Rocket is not something I would ever go on, but I did walk back through the exit to access the penny machine located there.  They have staff members that will try to hold you up from going the “wrong way” but if you ask nicely about the penny machine they will let you go use it.

   

The cabinet of this machine was pretty cool and very colorful.  The coin images were themed around the ride and of course Rock n’ Roll.  Heading back out I thanked the staff member again and headed back towards the New York area of the park.  The new Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show Ride wasn’t open yet when I was there, but since has opened to mixed reviews.  I’ll have to try it out next time I’m there.  Just a short walk around the bend of the street and I came the Revenge of the Mummy coaster.  I was interested to try this one but the wait time was way too long so I just wondered into the gift shop known as Sahara Traders.

   

This was another unique design for the penny machine.  Due to the top part of the machine it was a little hard to turn the hand crank properly.  Also this machine is located in a terrible area along the only pathway exiting the ride through the middle of the store.  So as you try to use the machine there are large herds of people exiting constantly with not much room on either side to let them by.  With the coins in hand I exited and saw something that brought me right back to childhood.

I was a huge Transformers fan as a kid, watching the cartoon and having every toy I could get my hands on.  Seeing Optimus Prime standing on the building just drew me over.  The ride is pretty awesome, and is in 3-D while you are driven through a battle of Autobots and Decepticons.  When you leave of course you are ushered through the Supply Vault.

   

At first I was worried this would be the same set that I got out at the Parking HUB, but the designs were different and amazingly detailed for how small they are.  I had kind of my way into the middle of the park and lost my initial path.  When hunting for penny machines I always try to walk in a way that ensures I access every possible nook and cranny without having to double back to often.  There was a little pathway that got me back over towards the I Love Lucy store which is right where I needed to be.

Another one of my favorite movies is Terminator 2.  This ride has been in the park for years and remember going on this with my parents many times.  It’s part 3-D movie, and theater performance where the actors come right out into the audience.  After watching the show you visit the Cyber Image souvenir store.

   

This machine used to only have one design available of the Terminator 2 3-D attraction logo, but that has been retired.  Now you can get three different pennies, one with a new T2 3D image, but then there are also two Marvel’s designs with Thor and Iron Man on them.  There was a little bit of a walk to get into the next area that had penny machines, it’s unofficially the kids zone but has some fun things to do.

First up was bikini bottom and the Spongebob Storepants (Ha) shop.  Really nice design to the outside of this building.  Inside you can visit with Spongebob or use the penny machine like I was.  Note that the machine is located right behind the cash register so there isn’t a whole lot of room back there.

   

Just behind the Storepants is where you find the E.T. ride.  Another guilty pleasure of mine which I have no issue standing in line for.  I only had to wait about 15 minutes to get on my bike and travel with E.T. back to his planet to help save it.  Be sure to pick up your souvenir pennies by the doors to the gift shop on your way out.

   

There was one last stop over in this kids area, and that was to visit with Barney.  I don’t even know if he’s still on TV anymore, but he was definitely wandering around looking for kids to interactive with but there weren’t too many takers.

   

I was about to check out the Animal Actors show but was too late for the current performance so I kept on walking.  The next area of the park is really fantastic if you are a Simpson’s fan, and lets you walk right through Springfield.

You can go into Moe’s Tavern and get a Duff Beer or a Flaming Moe.  There’s a Krusty Burger for Lunch, or Lard Lad Donut for a sweet treat.  They even have the Kwik-E Mart with all kinds of Simpson merchandise.

   

Right outside the main door to the Kwik-E Mart is a four deign hand crank machine with all Simpson designs.

   

Inside they have a second machine with three designs in an electric machine.  Also with all Simpson inspired designs.  After grabbing a Duff Beer (actually really good) I was sad to say goodbye to Springfield but had a lot more places to go.

 The Men In Black (MIB) ride is another classic for me.  It’s kind of like laser tag, but you’re in a ride vehicle shooting aliens and completing against the other people in your vehicle.  After obliterating a bunch of aliens I ended up in yet another gift shop looking for a penny machine.

   

The next area after the MIB ride was part of the Harry Potter world but I wasn’t yet ready to check that out.  So I covered by eyes and walked past it quickly so I could get the last couple machines available in this park.

Who doesn’t like candy when they are walking around on a hot day in a theme park.  Over at the San Francisco Candy Factory you can get all things sugar related.  It was too hot for me to get anything but I did find the machine towards the back of the store.

   

Almost done I promise, there was just one more machine in this area and was just outside the candy store towards the water.  This is where you can get your picture taken in front of a huge shark (Jaws) hanging by his tail.  I’m always convinced it’s going to move when I go near it so I always just look from a distance.

   

With all the machines in Universal Studios collected and photographed I headed to the one area I was keeping until the end.  Over in the back corner where the Jaws ride used to be is the newest addition to the Harry Potter world Diagon Alley.  This is really really amazing.  The details they put in are stunning, and honestly could have spent the entire afternoon wandering around just looking at all the buildings and store fronts.  I had some pictures but really didn’t want to spoil this for anyone that hasn’t seen it in person.  So I’m leaving this up to you go head out to the park and see it up close and personal.  I will share one picture which doesn’t give away much.

In this area of the park there is a recreation of King’s Crossing Train Station, and yes you do get to walk through the hidden 9 3/4 platform wall.  This was a picture I took while waiting for the Hogwarts Express which is another really neat little ride over to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal’s Island of Adventure.

Are you tired?  I’m tired and I did this trip like 2 months ago and I still have one more park to review.  But who am I kidding I loved every moment of it as the pressed penny obsession continues.  There was one cool little piece of info I wanted to share with you that I found while at Universal.  CTM Group which is the company that created the penny machines and the designs has created a special link online that you can use to keep up to date on all the machines located at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and City Walk.

This little sticker was on most of the machines throughout the park.  I snapped a picture so I wouldn’t forget about it.  In case it’s too hard to read the website address is: www.ctmgroupinc.com/universal Once back at my hotel I checked it out and was pleasantly surprised to see it was up to date and accurate for what I had found that date in the park.  This is similar to the maps they also have online for Walt Disney World and is a nice tool to have when trying to collect these coins.  I saved the link on my cell phone so I could access it on future visits inside the park.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout – California Adventure, CA

With Disney’s acquisition of Marvel they have been pumping out blockbuster after blockbuster racking in mega bucks for the company, and entertaining a few fans along the way.  Some characters have started to appear in the theme parks, but due to some licensing issues with Universal Studios (Pre-Disney Marvel) the theme parks in Florida have some restraints on which characters they can have in the parks.  However this is not the case in sunny California, and just recently they have completely revamped a beloved ride you may have heard of called the Tower of Terror.  The new them is based on a very popular set of movies called the Guardians of the Galaxy and the ride is now known as Mission Breakout.

Being on the east coast I haven’t actually seen this attraction in person yet, and to be honest I’ve never actually ridden the original drop attraction.  Falling through an elevator shaft just wasn’t my type of entertainment.  But from some pictures and videos I’ve seen online Disney has really out done themselves with this new attraction. I would almost be willing to risk the multiple falls just to experience this Guardians of the Galaxy story that unfolds during the ride.  Of course once you are done with the ride you always exit through a gift shop.  This gift shop has also been re-themed and is now known as The Collector’s Warehouse.  Inside is a brand new penny machine with some of your favorite Guardian characters.

The images include: Flora Colossus Groot, Peter Quill Star Lord, and my favorite Pet Rodent Rocket.

All three coins also have a very cool backstamp with the Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout Logo.  Based on some articles I’ve read of wait times exceeding 6-7 hours just to try to get on this ride I don’t see this going away anytime soon.  With that said you just never know what will happen to the penny machines as some stick around for years while others are only available for a short time.  Makes sure to pick these up as they are a really nicely detailed set.  I am Groot!

Parking HUB and City Walk – Universal Studios Florida

I feel like lately majority of my posts have been about Walt Disney World or Disneyland.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, these are the places my pressed penny collection started and will always hold a special place in my heart.  Plus they are the locations that release the most penny designs throughout the year and I always want to make sure everyone knows what’s released and where to get it.  But the next few posts I’m taking a break and heading to a different part of Orlando.

Just like Disney the Universal Orlando theme parks have a lot of pressed coin machines.  But I find they don’t get updated as often as Disney.  The last time I was at Universal in Orlando was about 5 years ago, and not many of them have changed in that time.  However I was in the area for a trip and had a free day so I figured it was time to go see what’s new and update my collection notes.

After arriving at the property I was directed to their parking structures.  There are two parking areas, the primary one is the South lot with sections designated by “Cat in the Hat”, “E.T.” and “Spiderman”.  There is an additional North lot with section labeled for “Jurassic Park”, “King Kong”, and “Jaws”.  These are just to help you remember where you parked your car.  There are long moving sidewalks that help keep everyone moving towards the parking HUB.  The HUB is kind of like a “Y” with the two arms connecting to the parking lots, and the bottom arm taking you towards City Walk and the Parks.

I tried to put together a map with some notes on it above outlining how it looks.  The reason for this is there are eight pennies machines available in this area.  The South parking area does not have any machines, but if you are coming from that area as soon as you get to the HUB there are four machines before you even hit security.  The other four machines are on the 3rd level of the North Parking lot just at the end of the moving sidewalk.  It would still cost you $20 (for now in 2017) to park here, but you could access all eight of these machines without going into the parks.

   

First up lets take a look at the machines in the HUB.  As soon as I entered the HUB from the South lot I was greeted by this colorful machine that was covered in Minions.  Just to the left of this machine is a little gift shop area, if you cut through this to the other side are the other three machines all lined up together.

   

The second machine was one I had acquired years ago and was still functional with the exact same designs.  This is kind of a greatest hits of Universal with designs of Spiderman, Jurassic Park, The Hulk, and Spongebob.

   

The middle machine was all about Transformers.  This machine was a little finicky.  It pressed 3 of the 4 designs, but the design for Bumblebee just wouldn’t roll at all.  When I got home I searched eBay looking for the missing design and eventually found it to complete this set.

   

The fourth machine was another set of Minions / Despicable Me coins (These are kind of like the Frozen coins at Disney all over the place).  My daughter loves these designs, she can’t get enough of the minions.

So that finishes up the four machines located in HUB.  Before you go through the security scans, if you walk over to the moving sidewalk that takes you to the North parking structure is where the other four machines are at.  These machines are all located on the 3rd level of the parking structure, however if you are coming from the HUB you are already on the right level.  These machines are all located within a 15-20 foot radius of each other, up against various support columns.

   

The first machine has some designs of various attractions in the parks like the Jurassic Park Ride, and the Hulk Coaster.

   

The second machine has images of Spongebob, The Simpsons, Shrek, and the Jaws Ride which is no longer there.  I’m curious how long this image a some other similar ones around the parks will be available.

   

Next up was the third machine which was themed after The Fantastic Four.  The designs included Mister Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch, and The Thing.

   

Finally the last machine out here in parking lot land was a Woody Woodpecker model.  Not sure if kids even know who this is anymore, but I liked it and the designs make for a cool nostalgic set (minus Spongebob).  Images of Woody Woodpecker, Spongebob Squarepants, Scooby-Doo, and Shaggy.

With all the coins I needed jingling in my backpack I headed back towards the HUB, through security and made my towards City Walk which is their shopping and entertainment area (kind of like Disney Springs).

The last time I was here there were a half-dozen penny machines throughout City Walk at some restaurants and shops.  But when I visited there was only one machine available here.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co is a restaurant obviously themed after the movie starring Tom Hanks.  The penny machine here is the same one way back when I visited last.  Unfortunately these themed restaurant machines don’t change very often/ever.

   

Since I already had these coins I just snapped a new picture and headed back out into the sun.  I was on my way over to one of the theme parks with a big bag of change ready to be squished.  Stop back and see where I went next.

Florida Mall – Orlando, FL

While in the Orlando area for a quick weekend trip I found myself with a little free time
(not enough to visit a theme park) so I decided to go check out the Florida Mall.  I had been here years ago and remember it just being really busy.  This visit was no different. I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere near and entrance and seemed like I had to walk across the entire parking lot just to get in.

Truth be told I was here to visit two specific stores, but that didn’t prevent me from just aimless wandering around.  This mall also seems to have gotten much bigger than when I was here last, but that may not actually be true.  The walkways just seem to go on and on, and after you turn a corned they go on and on some more.  Eventually I came to the first place I wanted to visit.

M&M World, a chocolate candy lovers paradise.  We have one of these back up in New York in Times Square which I have visited almost religiously when I’m in the city.  This one isn’t quite as big, but still has a lot of M&M related merchandise, and of course candy.

Towards the middle of the store I found the first penny machine.  This was actually an interesting machine as it had part in the middle that would make change for you all in one machine.  I always come prepared so didn’t need to use this feature, but still pretty cool.

The machine pressed four designs with M&M Characters on them and the Racing Team logo.  I only know these characters by their color (Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue) and am not sure if they actually have other names.

The second machine was right around the corner from the first one so it didn’t require much detective work to find it (sometimes that the best part).

This set included the same four M&M Characters but all said “In Candy We Trust” on the designs.  They also included the M&M World Logo.  Once I got home I did notice that these are the exact same designs as the ones that are available in New York City, the only difference is these ones say Orlando instead of New York.  Too bad they were a little more unique, but still a nice addition to my ongoing M&M collection.

Before I left the store I had to pick up a few souvenirs for my daughters and used the opportunity to also buy a new version of the M&M World Pressed Coin Booklet.  They have had a few versions in the past but this seems to be the latest edition.

Just as short walk away was my next stop.  I’m not sure how long this has been at the mall but it was definitely busy and looked like a lot of fun for kinds of all ages.  When you enter from inside the mall you are greeted by the gift shop with everything Crayola.  Crayons, markers, pencils, coloring books, model clay kits, clothing and so much more.  Just inside the main entrance was one of those new 8-design touch screen penny/token machines.

The cost is $1 for 1 design, or $3 for all 8 which just seems like a no brainer.  I placed my order and watched through the window as my tokens were pressed.

The designs as you would guess are all Crayola inspired.  They have various Crayola logos, I Heart Crayola, and Coloring Pencils, Markers and Crayons.  This was another pretty nice set to acquire.  Towards the back of the store is where you can enter the Crayola Experience.  This is where they have some interactive exhibits that allow you to create your own crayon label, or marker, and give some info on how those products are created.  This is not an actual Crayola factor but more of a museum.  There is another one of these in Eaton, PA that we have visited with our kids and they love.  On this trip I didn’t have time to pay the admission fee and go through to get a better look.  I found out afterwards that there was an additional penny machine (4 design only) back in the Experience that can only be accessed with paid admission.  Guess this  means I’ll have to bring the kids back and go get that other set of pennies.

I didn’t do much other shopping and only stopped for a soft pretzel on my way out, but this was a nice way to get some exercise and pick up some new pennies while I was at it.