Tower of Terror 8-Design Machine – Hollywood Studios, FL

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Tower of Terror scares me and I get uncomfortable even going near it.  I’m a fan of the original Twilight Zone TV show, but the thought of being sat inside an elevator car and being dropped numerous times down the elevators shaft is not my idea of fun.  Walking anywhere near that area of Hollywood Studios I can just hear the screams coming from the ride and just shake my head.  But I know that this has a huge following, and there are a lot of people who truly enjoy that experience.

Usually I just try to stay away from this area of the park but one day I received a note that a new 8-Design penny (sized token) machine was place in the gift shop of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.  I psyched myself up and headed over to the park.  Now I will say right up front I did not ride the Tower of Terror, thankfully you can access the coin machines without having to ride.

If you are like me and would prefer to avoid the ride then you can just walk past the queue line entrance and you will eventually see the gift shop exit/entrance.  They do have some cool Tower of Terror themed merchandise in here, and there is a lot of Stitch stuff too for some reason.  Towards the back of the gift shop near where the photo preview area where riders can see their terrified faces as they drop down the elevator shaft.

I apologize for the dark photo above of the machine, this area is really dark inside and with the bright light of the marquee makes taking pictures here pretty difficult.  This was the best of the bunch I tried to take.  As I mentioned earlier this is another 8-Design penny sized token machine.  One design is $1 or all eight for $5.

These are all themed around the Hollywood Tower Hotel and includes designs of: Bellhop Goofy, Bellhop Mickey, THE Bellhop, Bellhops Chip & Dale, Hollywood Tower Hotel Key, Est 1917, Bellhop Stitch, and Bellhop Donald.

As I used the machine to press my sets I could hear groups of people checking out their pictures behind me laughing and truly having a good time.  As much as that ride terrifies me there are people who can’t wait to experience it.  My niece is 5 years old and loves this ride, I’m worried she will try to drag me on the next time she comes for a visit.  If Disney decides to move a new penny machine into the queue of the ride may be the only way I attempt going on this attraction.  But for now I’m glad the penny machines are available to all visitors regardless of how much of a chicken they are.

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on this new machine.

Celebrity 5 & 10 – Hollywood Studios, FL

As I’m sure everyone is already aware of, majority of Hollywood Studios is under construction.  Within a few years this place will be completely transformed with Toy Story Land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (Disney confirmed name).  But for now there are quite a few attractions still available, but construction scrim are all over the place.

A few weeks ago I visited this park with my family for a quick afternoon visit and hit up a few rides, checked out a few penny existing penny machines and headed back home.  The very next day I received a note that a new machine was just released.  What terrible timing since I had just been there.  While at work I quickly checked the Disney app on my phone and was able to get a Toy Story Midway Mania Fastpass.  This was the bribery I used with my daughter to have her accompany me back to the park for a very quick trip.

I barely got the words out of my mouth before my daughter was putting on her sneakers and heading out to the car.  We drove over to the park, rode her original favorite ride the Tram to and from the parking lot.  After getting into the park we went right back to the Toy Story ride and had a great time on it.  My daughter is still trying to master the cannon style thing you use to interact with the midway games.  We haven’t broken any point records yet, but it’s still fun to see how excite she gets when we are waiting in the queue and then while on the ride.  I was really trying to keep this as a quick trip since Hanna had school the next day and I had work (boo).  So we headed back towards the front of the park but still had one quick stop to make.

Located right on Hollywood Boulevard towards the entrance/exit to the park is a store called Celebrity 5 & 10.

Inside is your standard Disney souvenir shop.  Mugs, Candy, T-Shirts, etc fill this entire place.  Quick tip for the hot Florida summer days, this place (and all other gift shops) offer Free Air Conditioning.  I always see people walking around the parks that look like they are about to pass out due to the heat.  Make sure to take some time throughout your trip and just walk through the gift shops to cool off.  I know the fancy things inside can be tempting, but make sure you keep cool.  It will make your trip that much more enjoyable.

Just inside the door that would be closes to the entrance/exit of the park is where the new penny-sized token machine was located.  This is another 8-design touch screen model.  I’ve mentioned in the past that they do accept, cash, credit cards, and mobile payments like Apple Pay or Google Wallet.  You do not get to supply your own coins, but instead the machine will press the designs on tokens.

As you can see from the above the tokens come out very similar to a penny sized pressing.  They are also very shiny, but much like my stainless steel microwave, collects fingerprints very easily.  The designs available at this machine include: Mickey & Pluto, Goofy, Apprentice Mickey with Fantasia Dragon, Donald with a Parrot, Pluto, Minnie with a long Boa, Chip with a Movie Clapboard, and Movie Director Mickey.

This was a nice unique set of designs that goes back to the initial theming of the Hollywood Studios park.  Being a Star Wars fan I love the new coins that have been coming out, but between that and Frozen there are a lot of coins out there that seem very similar to each other.  These were nice new designs that make a nice additional to the collection.  It’s nice to see new machines still making their way over to Hollywood Studios.  I probably wouldn’t spend as much time here if it weren’t for the machines.  But that will all change when these new lands start opening up.

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on this new machine.

The Orlando Eye – Orlando, FL

Just off of International Drive in Orlando I had come across an attraction building known as I-Drive 360.  This area can be found but just looking for the huge Ferris Wheel like structure seen in the sky from almost anywhere around Orlando.  Inside the main building are various other attractions like Madame Tussauds Wax Museum or the Sea Life Aquarium which I have written about earlier.  But now it was finally time to take the ride up into the sky.

I’m sure at different times of the day or certain days of the week this place is backed with visitors.  Thankfully the day I visited it was pretty early in the morning so the crowd was pretty light.  I paid for my ride ticket and headed to my pod.

The above is a picture I had taken from the parking lot showing the capsules you ride around in.  They are pretty big and can hold quite few people, but on my trip I was the only person which gave me a nice quite ride up to the top which is about 400 feet in the air.

The system they use on this is remarkably smooth and not meant to be a thrill ride.  It gives you an amazing view of the Orlando area.

Inside each capsule there is also a touch screen tablet that lets you zoom in on the surrounding area and buildings where you inside the capsule.

Before I knew it the complete trip around was over and I was exiting the capsule.  The entire ride takes about 25 minutes.  As you leave you are sent through a souvenir shop where you can get a commemorative photo, shot glass or any other typical item.

I almost walked right passed a penny machine but quickly made a u-turn to add more coins to my collection.  You can never have to many no matter what anyone tells you.

This was a new 8-Design touch screen machine.  It accepts either bills or you can use my preferred method of payment, Apple pay.  My coins quickly tumbled out and I examined each to make sure they pressed properly.

I’ve mentioned this in the past but these are actually token blanks that are in the same and color of pennies, but are not actually pennies.  The designs were all themed around the I-Drive 360 attractions and included: An Experience To Share, Viewing Orlando FL, Orlando Eye Capsule, Madame Tussauds, The Orlando Eye, Champagne Experience, The Orlando Eye Ferris Wheel, and the Sea Life Aquarium.

I had spent about half a day at I-Drive 360 and could have actually spent more time but it was time to leave and I really enjoyed this place.  There was a lot to do all in one area which was nice.  The admission to each attraction was pretty reasonable and I think there is a discount if you pre-pay for all attractions in advance, check out their website for more details if you’re interested.  I had managed to collect 5 pennies machines in all on this trip and only one would have actually required paid admission.  So even if you are in the area but just want to press some coins this would be an easy place to come and get some nice additions to your collection.

Skeletons Museum – Orlando, FL

Maybe this was something I should have held off on until we got closer to Halloween, but It was just too interesting not to review.  At the I-Drive 360 site I had left the main building and headed out back to a courtyard with various store fronts for your usual chains like Walgreen’s, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.  I had barely walked a few feet outside when one of the signs caught my eye.

Skeletons Museum of Osteology.  With a strange morbid curiosity I walked inside and found myself in a gift shop.  Just inside one of the doors I found a penny machine.

This style of machine I find more often than not, rolls most designs short, but these actually came out pretty nicely.

The images on these coins were as strange as this place.  They included as you can probably guess skeletons of a Giraffe, a Wallaby, a Sea Otter, and a Piranha.  I will admit the gift shop was interesting with some models, puzzles and t-shirts all with various skeletons on them but I wanted to know what was inside the museum.  Curiosity just got the best of me so I paid for a ticket and headed in the back.

When I was a kid we had a history museum in our city that we would visit quite a few times during a year.  Mostly because I was obsessed with Dinosaurs, and that was the closest place that I could spend hours looking at Dino Fossils.  The Skeleton Museum had that same type of feel to it just with skeletons of any animal you could imagine.

As you can see in the above picture there were exhibits with Cheetah’s, Horses and people.

All different types of large cats of every different shape and size.  I’m not a snake fan, but there were some really cool skeletons of a King Cobra and a Boa Constrictors.  They were interesting but creeped me out at the same time and I had to quickly skip past before it came to life.

All the way in the back was some very large animals including a Giraffe, Elephant and Hippo.  The museum would around these different exhibits with similar groupings of creatures.  Eventually I made my way back towards the exit and just near the restrooms was a second penny machine.

I didn’t ask at the front desk as the employee was pretty busy with customers, but my guess is that you can only access this machine with a paid ticket.  But the one out from in the gift shop can be accessed during operating hours free of charge.

This second set of pennies had skeleton designs of a Pelican, a Cheetah, a Killer Whale and a Sea Horse.

I forgot to mention that all of the coins from both machines had a backstamp on them with the Skeleton Museum’s logo.

After I had my fill of flesh-eating beetles and skeletons I headed out of the museum.  It was definitely a unique place to visit, but if skeleton’s are not your thing this is probably something to skip.  There wasn’t anything stomach turning inside, but sometimes skeletons are just creepy.  The museum had a huge selection of skeletons and lots of information about them and how they are collected, and displayed.  If you are looking for something different while your on I-Drive make sure to check this place out.

Sea Life Aquarium – Orlando, FL

Continuing my day at the I-Drive 360 area I had just finished up with Madame Tussauds and had a few other places I could check out.  There was a small kiosk that would let me experience a 7-D attraction.  I have no real idea what that means, but the people seemed on the ride as I went by seemed to be screaming pretty loudly so I decided to keep moving.  All the way on the other side of the lobby was something more my speed.

The Sea Life Aquarium was tucked into the back corner of the building but don’t let the little store front deceive you this place was pretty big inside and had a lot of exhibits.

A nice little feature they had was tank just outside by the ticket window.  This way the kids had something to look at while you wait in line to buy the tickets.  The entrance fee was very reasonable and I always like to think most of it is going to help feed and take care of the sea creatures.

The exhibits throughout range from Amazon fish, to local creatures found just off the Florida shores.

The tanks appeared to be all well-kept and clean, plus the fish were of all shades of colors which are just beautiful to look at.  There is something mesmerizing about watching fish swim lazily around a tank.

There were also some larger tanks for bigger sea creatures include sharks, rays and sea turtles.

Another unique part of this aquarium is a large tunnel you walk through with the fish swimming all around you.  This can be found in many other aquariums but this one is different in that the floor below your feet is also clear, making is appear like you are actually in the tank surrounded by marine life.

Another cool thing was a touch tank with some star fish, and other small sea animals that you can gently touch.  There is a staff member always nearby to help ensure the animals aren’t harmed, and I must say that is a constant battle as some of the children do get kind of rough with the poor creatures.

After finishing up all the areas of the aquarium I found myself back in another gift shop with the usual plush animals, t-shirts and things I just really don’t have room for anymore.  But in the area over near the cooler filled with soda and bottles of water was something I always have time and space for.

This four design hand crank machine has a nice cabinet decorated with sharks and a pretty blue color of the ocean.  You can kind of see it to the left of the machine but there is a change maker right beside it should you not come prepared with coins to press.

The set of pennies included The Touch Tank, Jelly Fish, an Electric Eel, and a Shark.  These designs are similar to other aquariums but I guess that’s to be expected with the most popular creatures always being available.  To make these a little more unique all the coins do include the Sea Life Aquarium logo.

I’ve definitely been in larger aquariums but this is kind of a greatest hits place.  It’s not too large but not tiny either.  It took about an hour or so to go through the entire thing and really spend some time at each exhibit.  With my pennies pressed I was off to check out another museum of sorts that I had never experienced before.

2017 Nickel Set – Trolley Treats California Adventure, CA

Just this past week the second set of 2017 dated Nickels was made available at Disney California Adventure Park.  I have heard rumors that California will be soon dropped from the name of this park which seems a little strange, but I don’t get paid the big bucks to make those decisions.

Located over at the Trolley Treats Candy store is where you will be able to access this new machine, and while you’re there may as well pick up a candy apple or other sweet treat.

As I mentioned above this machine has 3 nickel designs available for pressing.  California Screamin’, Paradise Pier, and A Bug’s Land.  All of the coins also include 2017 which means these will only be around for a limited time.

Madame Tussauds – Orlando, FL

A year and a half ago I visited my very first Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in New York and was both intrigued by it and creeped out at the same time.  You can read out it here.  After moving down to the Orlando area my family has spent most weekend over at the Disney parks as we just feel like we are on vacation.  But as I truly hate to say this, after a while we wanted to do something else (gasp!).

One weekend I had dropped my mother in law off at the Florida Mall so she could get out of the house and do some shopping.  I had already exhausted that mall and wasn’t interesting in spending more time in there.  Instead I headed over towards International Drive and hit the jackpot.  From a distance I could see this huge ferris wheel type attraction and that just drew me towards it.  It’s known as the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye but more on that in another post as that was the finally to this little side adventure.  This road side attraction area was called the I Drive 360.

After parking in the lot (free parking by the way) I entered the building and came into a huge lobby type area with quite the assortment of things to do.  I first came across Madame Tussauds near the entrance so that’s what I headed into first.

Of course there is an entrance fee but they do have a free wax celebrity outside that you can pose with for free.  I couldn’t resist the draw of this place so I paid for a ticket and headed in.  There are the standard figures of Presidents and historical figures, but this location had a few I didn’t find in New York which I guess is due to their Florida connection.

The lady of honor herself, Madame Tussaud in the process of creating a wax figure.

Stephen Spielberg, I’m guess due to his relationship with Universal Studios?!?!  Sure sounds good to me.

Steve Jobs.  Now this could be due to his popularity with many Apple fans, but I liked to think it was due to his contribution with starting Pixar Animation.

Of course how could they not include Walt Disney.  This was a very busy figure with lots of people crowding around to get a selfie.  It was very cool to see a lot of different celebrities from the one I visited in New York.  As with the other location once I was done with the exhibits I found myself in the gift shop.  I figured I had spent enough money on the entrance ticket that I didn’t need any souvenirs but did spot one that was inexpensive and right up my alley.

Thankfully I always come with a pocket full of change for just these types of situations.  There were four designs available in this hand crank machine.

The pennies pressed nicely and had images of Madame Tussauds Orlando, an Astronaut, Orlando U.S.A., and a Movie Clapperboard.  All the designs did have the Madame Tussauds logo and I always like when these attraction chains have the city on the coins.  It helps make each set of coins a little unique, and fun to collect each location.

Now I will let you know that this machine is available just outside the gift shop so you do not need to pay the admission cost to use the machine.  But if you have the time I would recommend it as it’s a unique experience and a fun way to make your friends jealous of the celebrity sightings you had on your vacation.

Last Great Movie Ride & Once Upon a Time Gift Shop – Hollywood Studios

The time is getting closer for a few attractions at Walt Disney World to have their last guest on board.  Over at Hollywood Studios it was announced recently that The Great Movie Ride would be closing down to make way for something brand new (opening in 3-5 years I’m sure).  This was a ride that has been around as long as I can remember, and I know that we went on in numerous times when I was young.  With my parents not being thrill ride people, these were more the family friendly rides we could all enjoy together.  I’ve been trying to figure out a time to go and ride this one last time before it closes for good on August 13th, 2017 and today was the day.

Located right at the end of Hollywood Boulevard the famous Theatre can be seen as you first walk into the park.  Word definitely has gotten around as the wait time for this ride has been over an hour the last week or so.  Disney even listed the blackout dates for some levels of annual pass holders so they can come and experience the ride one (or more) last time before it closes.  Luckily a fastpass is not hard to get, so I was able to walk right on with my wife, daughter Hanna, and my father.  Hanna had never been on this ride before but I really wanted to her experience it at least once.

We walked right through the queue, and were led towards our ride vehicle.  For the first time we were sat in the very front row beside our tour guide.

This is a trackless system which is kind of cool, and the idea is that we are going in side some of the most famous movies ever made.

Of course this being Disney we couldn’t forget one of the most beloved live action movies Marry Poppins.

I always loved seeing these detailed sets that you got to drive through.  Depending on the rotation the experiences can change.  There is always a moment where some action is taking place around the vehicle like a shoot out between gangsters or bank robbers in the old west.  On our tour our tour guide was removed and replaced temporarily with a gangster.  My daughter Hanna was not impressed.

Our trip continued through the jungle scenes from Tarzan and Jane.

Next was one of my father’s all time favorite movies Casablanca and the famous goodbye scene.

One of the last scenes we went through was following the yellow brick road through Oz.  But as you may guess we were stopped by the Wicked Witch.

Before we knew it our final ride was coming to an end.  It’s not the most thrilling ride, but the sets are still really cool to drive through and you can’t beat some of these movies you get to visit.  It will be sad to say goodbye when it finally closes, but at least we got one last trip.  After we headed outside I had one other stop to make.

Walking down Sunset Boulevard as if we were heading towards the Tower of Terror there is quite a row of souvenir shops down this way.  Just down near where the Beauty and the Beast stage show is situation is a gift shop called Once Upon a Time.

Inside this gift shop has the usual t-shirts, sweaters, coffee mugs, and tons of plush toys.  They also have a quite a lot of princess dolls but I’m sure that’s the same in most Disney gift shops.

Just inside one of the doors to the gift shop was the first of two new penny machines just placed on stage today.

Both of these machines are the 8-Design touch screen models that have taken over the parks.  They are growing on me despite the hardcore collector in me really wanting to use my own pennies.

The first set is a new numbers set of eight designs from Disney’s very first animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  The designs as you can probably guess include: Snow White, Grumpy, Dopy, Doc, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, and Bashful.

Across from the first machine is the second 8-Design machine that upon a quick glance looks exactly the same, but does include a different set of designs.

This second set is from Beauty and the Beast which is fitting since the stage show is right next door.  The designs in this set include: Belle & the Beast, The Enchanted Rose, Beast, Belle & her Prince, Lumiere & Cogsworth, Chip, Mrs. Potts, and Gaston.

It was getting a little late, and we were getting some rain and wind from nearby Tropical Storm Emily so we decided to call it a night.  These new machines were my excuse to finally come to the park and kill two birds with one stone.  New pennies and one last tour on The Great Movie Ride.

Click here to see my youtube channel video on this new machine.