Margaritaville – Universal CityWalk Orlando

This week I made a trip back over to Universal Studios to see if anything had changed.  They don’t seem to switch out machines or designs as often as Disney does, but It was a nice excuse to visit the park.  After checking out both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure everything was still the same.  On my way out of the park I was walking through CityWalk and decided to stop in at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville for lunch.

I’ve been in here a few times over the years and always enjoy the food, and the margaritas are also pretty good.

Once out inside it’s designed to make you feel like you are on the beach.

There is even an airplane hanging from the ceiling and other items that are referenced from all your favorite Jimmy Buffett songs.  Cheeseburgers in Paradise anyone?  After grabbing some lunch I took a quick exit through the gift shop called the Smuggler’s Hold to see what they had.

There is an entrance to the store from the outside in case you weren’t eating at the restaurant.  Inside there is a lot of fun Buffett style  merchandise.

As you can guess there were a lot of shot glasses, t-shirts and beach signs reminding you it was 5 o’clock somewhere.

This place was pretty big inside.  As I wandered around I found something new, an 8-Design touch screen penny press.

After I got home I did some searching online and found that this machine had just recently been released.  If I didn’t know any better I would think my subconscious somehow knew.

The set of penny sized tokens pressed pretty well.  I did make a couple sets but some designs did roll a little short.  The images are also themed around Jimmy Buffett and Margaritaville.  There is a Parrot Head, Beach Patrol, Having Fun at Margaritaville, Margaritaville Orlando, No Shirt No Shoes No Problem, Livin for the Weekend, It’s 5 O’Clock somewhere, and Cheeseburger in Paradise.

After finishing up with the machine and taking my pictures and videos it was time to head home.  CityWalk wasn’t too busy at this time of day but always gets a little more popular as the sun goes down.  This was a fun set of pennies to find, and I’m thankful for stumbling across it on this trip.  I’ll be keeping my eye out over here in the future, and may have to spend some more time going through all the shops and restaurants to see if any more surprises show up.

Niagara Falls Canada

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I went to my cousin’s wedding near Niagara Falls Canada.  We had visited Niagara Falls a few times but always during the warmer time of year.  This was the first time we were going to adventure there in the middle of January.  I’m originally from Canada but have been located in the states long enough to have forgotten how brutal winters can get up there.

When we left Orlando it was about 60 degree, but we were headed to Buffalo Airport which ended up being around 4 degrees and quite a bit of snow.  We got our rental car and headed towards the border.

The temperature seemed to get colder as we got further into Canada.  The roads weren’t too bad, but the wind just cut right through whatever clothing you had on.  After about an hour and a half we were near St. Catharine’s Ontario which is where the wedding was going to be.  On the first day we were invited to the rehearsal dinner which wasn’t until later on in the day.  So I took the opportunity to try and find a penny machine.

Just on the out skirts of Niagara Falls I found a place called Souvenir City.  This is basically the biggest gift shop I’ve seen with all stuff Canada and of course the Falls.

If you like maple syrup they have a whole wall of it and things made from it.  There is also a lot of Ice Wine products (yum!), T-shirts, sweaters, stuff animals and more.

In the middle of the store right near the check out area is a “Penny Crusher” machine.  This was a little unique as it had a bright road light running inside the machine flashing different colors while you use the machine.  It was a little distracting up close, but from a distance looked kind of cool.

Now please note, that this machine cost $1 Canadian which if you are not familiar is a coin called  Looney (there is a Loon design on the coin), and you then supply your own penny.  However you are NOT to use a Canadian penny as it’s against the law.  Also on a side note Canada has stopped created pennies so most stores don’t even have them to give out.  So make sure to bring some of your own American pennies for pressing.

The designs at this machine are of attractions all around the Falls.  The White Water Walk, the Butterfly Conservatory, Maid of the Mist, and a Good Luck Center with horseshoe and maple leaf.  By the time we were done picking up some gifts we headed back to our hotel and had a great time at the rehearsal dinner catching up with our family.  The next day we got up early, had a quick breakfast and decided to try and check out Niagara Falls before the wedding later that afternoon.

Not many people were out on this cold morning which made visiting the falls kind of enjoyable.  We parked near the side of the street and just ran over to see the falls partially frozen.

Seeing the river frozen, and the ice forming along the sides of the falls was really unique and something we had never seen in person before.  After we were pretty frozen through we got back in the car and had time for one quick stop.

Near the falls is a Great Wolf Lodge resort.  A few years ago I had visited one of these near the Poconos in Pennsylvania and was blown away at how cool it was.  This location was no different and fully themed.

There are animatronic characters all over the place, and of course these resorts are known for their indoor water parks.  Even thought it was freezing outside the water park did look pretty enticing.

Just outside the gift shop in the main lobby of the resort was a penny machine.  This one also took $1 Canadian coins, and right beside it was a change machine if you needed help getting Canadian money for the machine.

These pennies were designed around the Lodge and the falls.  The images included a Wolf dressed like a Mountie, a Barrel going over the falls, a Paw Print, and Violet one of the Lodge characters.  This happens a lot when I’m on a roll (ha) pressed coins, and was running out of time.  We quickly (but carefully on the ice) got back to our hotel, changed and made it to the wedding ceremony with just a few minutes to spare.

The wedding was wonderful and the reception was a lot of fun.  By the end of the day we were pretty tired and had to get an early start the next day.  Up early we said goodbye to our family staying in the same hotel, and made our way back to the US Boarder.

Eventually we were back in Buffalo and got to the airport in plenty of time for our flight.  But this is where our adventure home really got crazy.  Because of the bad weather in Buffalo our flight was canceled and another wasn’t available for 3 days.  We decided to drive to New Jersey and stay with my sister until we could get a different flight out of Philadelphia the following day.  It took a little longer than anticipated but we finally got back home to Florida and were happy to see the sun and warmer weather.

Our trip was definitely a unique adventure but it was nice to see the falls in the winter, collect some new pressed pennies and of course visit with family.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on this destination
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Growing up in Canada we are pretty much born with a hockey stick in hand.  I’ve always loved pretty much any kind of sports, but always had a special place in my heart for Hockey.  But in Canada we do have a few weeks of warm weather from time to time and during that warm time I did play quite a bit of baseball.  During middle school and high school I played basketball, volleyball and even some Rugby for a very brief time.  I think it was partly due to the competition I loved, but also the camaraderie with my team mates and the satisfaction with improving your playing skills.  When I was young the facilities we played at were pretty limited, but they did the trick and we enjoyed playing wherever we could.

Flash forward years later and now that we are living down in Florida hockey is around but not like it was in the Great White North.  So what is a sports fan to do.  Of course with the internet and TV I can still watch all my favorite teams, but there is still something about amateur sports.  During a conversation with my parents about Spring Training Baseball they mentioned the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney.

I’ve mentioned in the past that for the last few years they started coming down to Florida to see their beloved New York Mets over in Port St. Lucie.  Usually they would try to visit other teams in central Florida and a few times came to the ESPN complex to watch some games.  I looked up the complex online and was amazed at how big this place was, and it isn’t just baseball/softball fields.

There are fields for Soccer, Track and Field, Tennis, and indoor arenas for Basketball and Volleyball, plus I’m sure a lot more I didn’t even notice.

After parking in the lot you walk up to a central hub with the complex logo in the middle.  This is a big photo-op for the athletes, their family and all fans looking to document their trip here.

Just up a little walkway from the hub is the main entrance that takes you to the different fields and restaurant inside.  Tickets are required to get into this area, but for most of the events the prices are pretty inexpensive.

Back down by the hub is the ESPN Clubhouse which is like the souvenir shop for the complex.  No admission is needed to access this store.

As with all the other gift shops on Disney property there is a lot of character merchandise, but also a lot of ESPN stuff as well from t-shirts to shots glasses.

In the back of the store near a Cast Members only door/backroom area in among some sweatshirts was the main reason for my visit this morning.

This machine has had the same designs for a few years now.  I remember visiting this machine years on a previous trip and it was located at the front of the store near the cash registers.  When visiting keep and eye out for it as they seem to move it around from time to time.

The machine is a three design electric model.  The images on each of the pennies included the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Logo, Minnie & Daisy, and Team Mickey.

Also during some special events there is an additional penny machine located in the J Center Arena.  I went during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend to use this machine.  You can read out it here.

This is a cute little set of pressed coins.  Getting to the complex without a car can be a little difficult, but there are Disney buses from time to time taking guests over there or of course you can take a cab or uber.  You can check the complex website to see a schedule of games that are going on year round.  Be sure to buy some tickets and support the young athletes (and some professionals) as their teams play here.  This is kind of a hidden gem but a really nice place to take in a great morning or afternoon of sports.  The competition is great, the complex is fun and there is even a penny machine for a quick souvenir of your visit.

2018 Dated Walt Disney World Pressed Coins Set (Completed)

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on all these coins
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They’re here!!  It’s that time of year again and the 2018 dated pressed coins have started showing up all over property.  I spent the good part of my weekend driving to all the parks and resorts in an attempt to get all these new coins.  But unfortunately not all of them have been made available.  Just like the last few years there will be a total of 15 designs.  I was able to get 11 of them, and will be updating this post as I acquire the last 4.  I’m sure these final few designs will be made available in the next couple weeks at the latest.  So let’s get started.

My trip started early Saturday morning at the Animal Kingdom.  To my surprise the large crowds were there to visit Pandora and not get these brand new coins.  But I guess that works out better for us collectors.

   

Located in Dinoland USA in a store called Chester & Hester’s Dino Treasures.  The penny at this machine has 2018 with the new slogan “The Year to be Here” and a small Tree of Life.

   

The second machine in the Animal Kingdom is at the Harambe Railroad Station platform.  This train will take you to Rafiki’s Planet Watch but is not required to use the machine.  This machine pressed a quarter of Pluto and the year 2018.

After leaving Animal Kingdom my next stop was over at the All-Star Sports resort.  Located just outside the Game Point Arcade is where the machine is found.

   

This machine had 2018 Donald Duck pressed on a quarter.  Thankfully the next machine wasn’t too far away and just down the street in the All-Star Music resort.

   

Spending more time just outside the Note’able Games arcade to use the machine and press a quarter with 2018 Minnie Mouse.  I grabbed a quick snack in the food court and hopped back in my car for the next stop.

I was making pretty good time heading all over Disney property and found myself at Epcot for the next three machines.  First was in the Mouse Gear gift shop.

   

This penny design is similar to the one I collected earlier at the Animal Kingdom except it has Spaceship earth and 2018 The Year to be Here.  Somehow I managed to leave this store without buying anything which almost never happens, but my wallet definitely thanked me.  After leaving the store I headed towards the World Showcase and into the Disney Traders store.

   

Every time I use this machine I think it should do more than just press pennies as it looks pretty fancy.  But alas is just pressed pennies which is still fine with me.  The design from this machine is on a penny and is the main mouse himself Mickey leaning on the 2018.  With the penny safely stored away I checked my Disney Parks app and was able to grab a fastness for Soarin’ which is one of my favorite rides.

Over at the Land pavilion I headed in to use my fastness, but once done I headed upstairs towards the Garden Grill which is a revolving restaurant where you can meet Mickey, Pluto and Chip and Dale.  Right beside the restaurant is also where I found the next machine.

   

Just like in the restaurant this pressed quarter has the dynamic duo of Chip and Dale underneath a Mickey ears hat and 2018.  For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to leave my car in the Epcot parking lot and take the monorail over to the next two stops.  Once back at the Ticketing and Transportation center I switched monorail and decided to check out the Contemporary Resort first.

For anyone that has taken the monorail over to the Contemporary you exit onto a planform and then need to take an escalator down to the fourth floor concourse.  This is where you can find Chef Mickey’s or the Contempo Cafe for something to each.  But this is also where the Game Station arcade.

   

The first machine here had a design of Goofy with 2018 The Year to be Here.

   

A few steps to the left and I was face to face with the second machine offering a 2018 design.  This machine had an image of Minnie Mouse and The Year to Be Here pressed on a quarter.  I left the arcade and headed back up to the monorail platform so I could head into the Magic Kingdom.

   

Immediately upon entering the kingdom I headed underneath the Main Street Railroad station.  There are two machines down here but only the quarter machine had a new 2018 Cinderella’s Castle design.  A little further up main street I headed into the Emporium for the last available 2018 design.

   

This one is probably my favorite this year.  It has 2018 with the soon to be famous tag line for this year (I promise not to type it down again).  But the big winner on this penny is the image of Walt and Mickey holding hands.  This is based on the famous Partners statue that is a reminder to all how this all started.

Update 01/09/17:
I made it over for a quick follow-up visit to Disney’s flagship Grand Floridian Resort & spa.  About a week ago I visited here and the design hadn’t been updated, but on this visit the change had finally been made.  It’s on the second floor concourse right near the doors that led out to the monorail platform.  This design is of Chip & Dale under a Mickey Ears hat and the year 2018.

   

Update 01/10/17:
After work I took a quick drive over to Hollywood Studios to try to get the penny that was released in the Rock Around the Shop.  This is the gift store at the exit to Rockin’ Roller Coaster.  However, if you are a chicken like me and don’t want to ride the coaster, you can just walk in the “Exit” and up the ramp into the store.  The design is of Mickey’s face with 2018 and the new slogan.

   

Update 01/13/17:
Since we are just out of the holiday season I don’t want to say this is a slow time at the parks but it is a little less crowded.  Due to this the parks all have much shorter operating hours during the week so it was hard to get into the Magic Kingdom after work.  However I was finally able to get over there today and get the pressed penny at Sir Mickey’s

Updated 01/24/2017:
The last pressed quarter finally showed up today but it wasn’t where we were anticipating it to be.  It was rumored that this coin would be available in the same location as last year which is the Stage 1 Company (Muppets) gift shop in Hollywood Studios.  But due to this location being partially under construction and the machine mysteriously behind a construction wall this design was moved (temporarily?) to the All-Star Movies Resort.  Right alongside the other 3 machines in the World Premier Food Court is where you can find this last design.

 

This design may not be here all year and potentially could move over to the Muppets store in Hollywood Studios once construction is completed, but only time will tell.

Here’s a look at the eight pressed penny designs.

and the seven pressed quarter designs.

These new 2018 pressed coins are really nice again this year.  This has become one of my favorite times of year for collecting pressed coins.  It’s exciting to see the new designs and of course a lot of fun to trek around property collecting them all.  Make sure to grab a set or two for your collection before the year ends.

Incredible Hulk Coaster – Islands of Adventure Orlando

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on this destination
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2018 is off to a great start so far.  Only one day in and a lot of new pressed pennies have started to appear.  First up I took a trip over to the Islands of Adventure (Universal) park.

The crowd wasn’t too bad, but I also visited first thing in the morning when I’m sure most were still in bed recovering from their New Years festivities.  I had news that a new penny machine was released near the Incredible Hulk Coaster.

As I walked closer to the area I actually found myself sitting there just watching people ride this coaster.  There are a lot of twists, turns and loops but people seemed to really enjoy it.

   

As I’ve mentioned before these are not really my type of ride so I was hoping the penny machine wouldn’t be in the actual queue.  I walk around a bit trying to find the machine but couldn’t find it.  Eventually I found a team member and asked about it, but the only confirmation I received was that it wasn’t in the queue (Phew!).  This ride didn’t have a gift shop which is surprising and usually a guaranteed place for a penny machine.  Instead I did find that if you walked towards the exit of the ride there is a photo preview area where you can see yourself on the ride (if you dared go on).

Bingo, the new penny machine was located right near the photo counter.  This can be a bit of a busy area with groups of people exiting the ride and trying to see their picture.

As you can see from the picture above this is another of the 8-Design touch screen machines.  Same price as the others where you can get one design for $1 or all eight for $5.

This is a numbered set and all say Islands of Adventure.  The designs include four different images of The Incredible Hulk, plus designs of Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and Nick Fury.

There is definitely no shortage of Super Hero pressed pennies at this park, but they do seem to use the same characters a lot which I’m sure if due to the licensing with Marvel.  In any event I’m happy to have new coins on the first day of 2018 and hope this will be another great year of collecting.

Happy New Year!