SeaWorld Part 2 – Orlando, FL

A couple of weeks after my first visit to SeaWorld I finally got some free time to go back and pick up where I left off.  There were still quite a few penny machines here somewhere and I was determined to find them.

I headed back towards the Mako roller coaster but turned in towards the Shark Underwater Grill & Bar.  This is a restaurant that is similar to the Coral Reef in Epcot if you have ever visit it.  Basically you get to eat a table service meal in front of a large aquarium tank.  This one as the name would imply has quite a few sharks keeping their eyes on you while you eat.

Just outside the Shark restaurant is an area that you can feed sharks at certain designated times during the day.  Now I will admit you won’t be feeding great white sharks, instead they are much smaller and friendlier.

Located in this area are two penny machines.  One at each end of the feeding tank.

   

During feeding times this area can get a little crowded, and it was hard to use these machines as people were completely surrounding them.  But if you go during a non-feeding time they are pretty easily accessible.

   

Just down a short walk away is the other big roller coaster this park is home to called Manta.  This is a coaster that has you flying kind of like superman underneath a Manta Ray ride vehicle.  It looks really cool, but would be way out of my league.

Just outside the entrance / exit to Manta is a small little gift shop, and directly across the walk way is where I found the next penny machine.

   

There is a second penny machine just down the pathway towards the Flamingo exhibit.

   

It was getting a little late in the afternoon and I was supposed to meet my father over at the Orlando Convention Center to check out the Auto Show.  So unfortunately I only had time for a couple more machines.  There was one place I remember having a few machines years ago and thought I would stop by.

The Sting Ray lagoon and Feeding area is one big touch tank, and they do have staff nearby willing to answer questions and give presentations about the rays.

   

This first machine is located right in front of the lagoon as you walk up towards it.  The machine seemed like it needed a new dose of grease in the gears as it was really squeaky.  The hand crank was pretty tough to turn, and as you can see by the coins above they were rolling short.  I actually tried using this machine a few times over a couple other trips and the set pictured was the best of each coin.  Hopefully they will get someone out there to do some service on it.

There are quite a lot of rays available in this tank.  If you reference the times guide for the park you can find out when the feedings take place and for a small fee can help feed them.

At the back of the lagoon are some sinks so you can wash your hands after feeding or touching the sting rays.  This is also the area where you can buy the food during feeding times.  Back here is also where you can find the second penny machine.

   

This machine was working much better than the one out front.  With this second batch of pennies pressed my second visit was about over.  I headed back out of the park and eventually made it over to the convention center for the auto show.  Unfortunately there were not penny machines there (what were they thinking!).

SeaWorld was definitely growing on me and I couldn’t wait to get back.  There was another whole area I hadn’t checked out yet, more sea creatures to visit and of course a few more penny machines to find.

SeaWorld Part 1 – Orlando, FL

My youngest daughter has really gotten bit by the theme park bug.  It has become almost a weekly tradition now where we get up Sunday morning and she immediately says “Animal Park”.  This is her signal that she wants to visit a park and who am I to deprive her of that but this time I thought I would actually try to let her see some animals.  It has been probably over 10 years since the last time I visited SeaWorld so I thought it was about time to go back.

Now the park has been receiving some bad press lately, and it seemed to show in the crowd level.  It was pretty light on the day we visited, and they also had some great deals on tickets.

   

As soon as you enter the park you way by the one of the main gift shops that I believe is call Shamu’s Emporium.  It’s and indoor and outdoor shop which a lot of merchandise.  This store was a nice welcome to the park with six penny machines right off the bat.

   

Usually I go over what designs are on each penny, but to be honest a lot of these designs are of the animals.  Not duplicate designs, but I figured you may get tired of me saying Manatee or Turtle too many times.  Plus to be honest sometimes I’m just not sure exactly what creature is on the coin.  The pictures will give you a good look at the designs available at each machine.

   

This second machine was literally just a few steps to the left of the first one, and also had a nice change machine built in should you not heed my advice and always come prepared for penny pressing.

   

At the corner of the building is the next machine and you can also see the fourth machine right beside it.

   

As you keep walking past the store to the far side you will come across the last two machines found here.

I remember years ago when I was here there were a few electric penny presses, but on this trip I can confirm they are all gone and you will need to bring some elbow grease.  If you are planning on pressing all the coins in one day your arm is going to be soar.  It actually took me a couple visits to get all of these.

   

The second machine here is right beside the other.

   

I had been in the park for probably less than 15 minutes and only walked about 100 feed but already I had 24 pennies pressed and my elbow was starting to throb.  But I wasn’t complaining as my day was just beginning.

Just past Shamu’s emporium the path splits and you can go either left or right.  But as you can see in the picture above straight ahead was the SeaWorld Rescue store and a penny machine right outside.

   

After pressing this next set of pennies I opted to head towards the right path.  This took me past some small snack stands, the dolphin nursery, a quick service tex-mex restaurant and more souvenir stores.

   

Somehow I ended up on a boardwalk style path that extended out over a big area of water.  During the holiday season they had Christmas trees out in the water as part of a  light show and some were still up during our visit.  At the far side we found the famous Shamu Stadium and the inside looked very familiar.  Some of it had been updated but I remember that large tail fin shaped screen.  Sadly no shows were going on while we were there but it was nice to see the stadium again.

We said goodbye for now to Shamu’s stadium and walked over to a place called the Wild Arctic.  This is kind of a ride, but not really.  There is a motion simulator that you can take which makes it seem like you are making the trek up to the Arctic via helicopter I believe.  But since I had my youngest daughter with me we opted to skip the ride and just walk to the Arctic.  It’s all inside a building as you can see from the above picture.  The A/C is blasting inside to make it a little colder but not uncomfortable.  This is where you can see the beluga whales and polar bears.

Once you exit the Wild Arctic and make your way outside you will find the next penny machine just off the path next to a bench so you can take a quick break.

   

We headed back over towards the stadium and walked around to Shamu’s Happy Harbor which is like a kids play area and water park.  They do have some small rides and carnival style games, but to my surprise no penny machines were here.  Eventually we walked up to the parks newest roller coaster (for now) called Mako.

If you zoom in on the picture above you can see the penny machine off in the distance.

   

This first visit to the park I found this machine but the coin slider was jammed and I couldn’t use it.  We made it back a few weeks later and I was able to press the coins, but they did roll a little short.  With the sounds of roller coaster riders screaming over our heads we headed on our way.

I think this is a good place to stop for now.  Trust me there were a lot more penny machines to find.  As I mentioned it did take me a few trips back to get all of these pennies and check out the rest of the park.  Be sure to check back so we can find the rest of the machine.  Happy collecting.

Manatee Viewing – Blue Spring State Park, FL

My family is coming up on almost a year since our big move down to Florida.  It’s taken time to get used to new stores, restaurants and of course roadways and traffic patterns.  As more time goes by we have started to feel a little more like locals and less like being on a long vacation.  Recently we were talking with some neighbors and they told us about something that tourists obviously like to do, but it definitely a locals thing to check out.

About an hour away from our house we headed up to Blue Spring State Park.  This is an area of central Florida where during few months out of the year manatees head towards the warmer waters.

We have seen manatees in captivity before at aquariums and zoos but the usually was only one or two in an exhibit.  As you can see from the sign we came across this day there were 308 spotted in the waters.  This was really going to be interesting.

There was a small fee of $6 for our car load to get into the park.  Just like any state park there were nice wide open areas, and some hiking paths.

This park however also had some special viewing areas along the main pathway giving you various views of the manatees.

Seeing them in the wild was really unique.  Plus the large number of them all in one place was also amazing.

The day was a little chilly when we visited, but we really took our time and enjoyed this special opportunity.  At the end of the main pathway was a small gift shop and snack bar with some things like hot dogs, coffee, and hot chocolate.  We eventually started to head back towards where our card was and came across the Thursby House.

As the sign says this house was built by Louis Thursday in 1872.

This house is set up like a small little museum.  There is no cost to go inside and walk around but the upper floors are off-limits.  Not sure if that’s all the time or just certain times of the year.

There is not a whole lot going on inside the house / museum.  There is the kitchen full stocked in the back of the above picture but is behind glass so you can look but not touch.

In the main entry way just behind the stairwell I found a penny pincher machine.  Before we headed on this trip I did check good ol’ pennycollector.com and knew about this machine ahead of time and came prepared.  But as I always say you should keep a few extra sets of quarters and pennies in your car just in case.  You never know when you may find an unexpected penny machine.

Once thing I noticed about this machine is that it had wheels on the bottom.  I’m not sure if those are due to the machine always being moved around inside the house.  But figured I would mention it as the machine may not be in the same location all the time.

This set of pennies pressed pretty well, but I do find these machines have a tendency to roll short.  The designs included with this set are of a Manatee, Alligator, Bear and a Scuba diver.  The last one I didn’t get, but did find out once I got home that during some times of the year you can go scuba diving in the lake but I don’t think it can be done when the manatees are around.

This place can get very busy during the manatee watching season so make sure to go early in the day or the park may be closed for capacity.  This was really a wonderful true Florida experience.  Our kids had a lot of fun and the manatees are really a strange but very special create.  Make sure to bring some pennies to commemorate your visit and help spread the work of keeping manatees safe in the water.

Aquatica Water Park – Orlando, FL

This week I had it scheduled to go check out a water park and of course it ended up being cold here again.  But that wasn’t going to stop me, but I didn’t decide against actually going in the water.  Plus as an added perk due to the cold the park was nice and quite with not a lot of visitors making my tour around a nice leisurely one.

There were quite a few different water parks around Orlando to I could visit, but I decided to check out SeaWorld’s Aquatica.

This park was definitely much larger than I had anticipated.  When you first walk in you cross over a bridge that had part of the lazy river.

There is also a very large water slide that is clear and goes directly through a Dolphin tank which is where I found the first penny press machine.

Just to the right side of the dolphin viewing area is where the penny machine was located.

   

The designs on these pennies were really unique.  They are of very common animals we have all seen at different aquariums and zoos, but the way these were designed was really cool.  This set included designs of a Manta Ray, a Lizard, a Flat-billed bird, and a dolphin.

I started my tour around the park and basically followed the lazy river for most of the trip.  Eventually I did come to an area which was designed for some younger visitors and looks like a lot of fun.  Various buckets drop water on unsuspecting swimmers, and there are water sprinklers all over the place.

In one area of the park is a large sand “beach” covered with lounge chairs for sun tanning or just relaxing.  As you can see due to the colder temperature this day I had the pick of any chair I wanted.

Near the sand “beach” are two large wave pools.  On my visit only one of them was operational but you can see the size of it in the picture above.

Throughout the park there are various water attractions and slides.

As with a lot of parks there is always something new being added.  Aquatica is no different and there was an area with construction walls to hide the magic going on behind them.

In one area near the lazy river there are private cabanas that you can rent for the day.  During busier times of the year it’s recommended to book these ahead of your visit to ensure you can get one as they are very popular.  Since I didn’t have one I could go back into the area, but this was the private bridge heading back to the cabanas which include covered areas, private seating, and concierge to help get you anything you want like food or drinks.

Seeing things like this water fall, and the slides really made me regret I didn’t bring my bathing suit.

After touring around the entire park I headed back to the large gift shop called Kiwi Traders.  This was actually right near the dolphin viewing tank.

Inside the gift shop you can guy beach towels, sun tan lotion, and all store of standard theme park souvenirs.  They also do sell bathing suits which was tempting.  Outside the gift shop was this sculpture / water fountain which looked to have the same type of animal designs I found on the first set of pressed pennies.  Then I noticed behind the fountain was a second penny machine.

   

Just like I found with the rest of the park this penny machine was very colorful.  The set of pennies at this machine had images of a Kiwi Bird, a Puffin, a Woodpecker (maybe), and a Turtle.

My quick (and dry) tour of the park was a lot of fun.  I haven’t really been to a water park since I was a teenager and this made me miss it.  I can’t wait to get back here as soon as the weather warms up a bit.  Plus I must say it again, these coin designs are really cool and not something I’ve seen before and made a nice addition to my collection.