Epcot Machines Converting to $1 per Penny Design

I think we all knew this was inevitable.  First, we saw the new penny machine in Toy Story Land released at $1 per penny, then all the 4-design machines in the Magic Kingdom were converted to $1.  Now I’ve seen it with my own eyes, Epcot has been changed as well.

I’ll try not to keep harping on this but Epcot basically is a big construction site right now. So many changes are coming and I’m sure that it will be beautiful once all done.  It makes getting around this park now a bit of a pain with all the construction walls and buildings being torn down but I was on a mission to find all these converted machines.

Just beyond Spaceship Earth (the big golf ball) is Pin Central.  Basically, just a stand where you can buy a ton of different Disney Pins, or trade with cast members and other guests.  On the left and right sides of this stand were two penny machines.

   

In the pictures above the machine on the left is the “before” and the machine on the right is the “after”.  You can see the cabinet has been changed slightly.  It has some new graphics, no longer has the coin slider since the machine supplies the pennies now, and also has been given a credit card component.  The 4 penny designs have not changed: Phineas & Ferb playing guitars, Spaceship Earth with a Goofy Hat, Agent P, and Duffy the Disney Bear.

   

If you walk to the opposite side of the Pin Stand you can find the second machine available here.  Left is before and the right picture is after the conversion.  As with all these machines, the images have not changed.

   

Next, I headed over to the Land Pavilion in Future World (soon to be part of World Nature after Epcot’s renovations).  Inside the Land Pavilion is where you would find the main attraction Soarin’, as well as the Living with the Land attraction where you take a boat ride through a greenhouse.  Once inside the pavilion on the lower level is the Sunshine Season’s food court area and is where you can find the above penny machine.

I included a close up of the new usage details that are located on the front of the machine.  Due to the machine supplying the penny after payment is made there is a slightly different method of use.  Not much has changed, but you do need to “take your take” and don’t just start cranking the handle after you insert payment.  You do need to give it a few extra seconds to load the penny in place or your end result will be a mis-rolled coin.

   

We will be back to finish off Future World in a little bit, but for now, I headed into the World Showcase and my first stop was the Japan Pavilion.  The first machine here has been moved towards the back of the pavilion after it’s conversion.  This makes it easy to find and is now right next to the second machine.

   

It was nice to see that these unique cabinets have been kept the same other than the new instructions and payment methods.  I always like the way these looked and they fit into the pavilion nicely.

   

After the Japan pavilion, we had a bit of a trek through a few other Countries until we eventually found the African Outpost.  This is not a full pavilion but has a unique store and also a tent with a very talented woodcarver working on various pieces for purchase.  I’ve spent lots of time just watching him work as it’s really fascinating.  It was nice to see this cabinet get a bit of an update, there is now a marquee on the top with large images of the designs available in the machine that was not there previously.

   

We were almost done with the World Showcase but had one Pavilion left to check out. I headed into the China Pavilion and found the first machine about halfway towards the back near an outdoor stand that was selling puppets.

   

The second machine is all the way in the back of the Pavilion.  It’s near the exit to the movie theater where you can see the Reflections of China video.  The cabinets are fun designs for these machines as well and look to have received a fresh coat of paint.

Initially, these were all the machines that had been converted to $1, but strangely there was still one other 4-design machine in the park that had remained unchanged.

It was located back in Future World at the Seas with Nemo and Friends attraction in the gift shop.  Above is a picture of the machine.  After some conversations with other collectors we figured it would be changed eventually but due to it being a combination cabinet that housed not just the penny machine, but also a quarter press and a change machine all in one.  This was probably a bit of a complex machine to upgrade.  I held off on writing this post for weeks hoping that the machine would be changed and I could put the completed stamp on this park but it seemed like months were passing by and it still hadn’t changed.  So I started to detail out all the other machines, and of course just as I was about to publish the post I visited the park one random evening and witnessed them putting the machine out and getting it setup.

As you can see the machine was split out from that massive combo design.  It now has a new stand-alone design, but the images are still the same.  I chatted with the wonderful tech that was working on the machine as I’ve met her a few times in the past.  She mentioned the quarter press has been removed completely along with the change machine.  This is a bit sad since I really like the pressed quarter machines since the coins are larger they have nicer final images pressed and the details are always more pronounced.  Thankfully there are still a few quarter press machines around the property so I just hope they don’t decide to start removing them.

You may have noticed from the above picture of the new penny machine that there appears to be another machine beside it.  I was going to gloss over it and hope you didn’t notice but it was kind of hard to hide it from.  In place of the removed quarter press, they did release a new 8-design penny press machine.  It wasn’t completely working when I visited to get the above pictures so I’ll be going back in the next few days to use the machine and get more details on it.  At that time I’ll write a separate post on the pennies available in that new set.

Where will the next set of machines be converted?  My guess is Hollywood Studios but there are also a few machines at Disney Springs and a couple at the resorts.  I’ll be making some extra trips to these locations over the next few weeks to try and keep everyone up to date on the changes.  Happy collecting!!

Epcot’s International Food and Wine 2019 – Collectible Medallion

It’s that time of year again for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  Well technically it’s been going on for almost 3 months at this point but I was finally able to get over there and visit some food booths plus I was able to find a collectible medallion that was released for the festival.

Before we get into those medallions lets take a tour around the festival.  With all the construction currently going on at Epcot, there is not much at the front of the park.  Usually, there is a topiary or signage after you scan your ticket into the park.  That area has completely been torn down, and one side is behind construction walls.  So they have moved most of that stuff out to the main entrance to the World Showcase.

I was immediately drawn towards the smell of grilling meats and found myself quickly waiting in line at the Flavors from Fire booth.

It was nice to see an actual grill out behind the booth.  Most of the booths have the components of the food items made in a kitchen somewhere else in the park and then transported by cart to the booths to be constructed.  That can make for a less than “fresh” feeling with the food items, but with the grills going strong I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case here.

There were a few items here that I wanted to try, but a few were the same from last year.  We were trying to make a push for some new items this year.  First, we tried the Steakhouse Blended Burger.  It was a blended Beef and Mushroom slider with brie cheese fondue, arugula, and a truffle and blue cheese potato chip on a brioche bun.

The second item we got here was the Charred Chimichurri skirt steak on a smoked corn cake with pickled vegetable slaw and cilantro aioli.  This was definitely our favorite item the entire day, even my 7-year-old daughter loved this one.

Not too far away we headed into a little courtyard that had a few booths all right beside each other.  The one we checked out was Active Eats.

Above is a picture of the Loaded Macaroni & Cheese with Nueske’s pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, and leeks.

Just a few steps away was the Coastal Eats booth which had a menu designed around seafood.

This was an item my daughter (who is trying to be a little more adventurous with her foods) chose to try.  This was the lump crab cake with Napa cabbage slaw and avocado-lemongrass cream.

We then started to head into the main World Showcase loop and just couldn’t pass up the Canada booth.  They have had the same items for the last couple years due to being fan favorites, I do wish they would change it up a bit but it’s hard to argue with the items they do keep bringing back.

Pictured above is their famous Canadian cheddar and bacon soup serviced with a pretzel roll.  This is the exact same soup available inside the Pavilion at Le Cellier steakhouse restaurant just smaller size.  I was able to get a copy of the recipe from the restaurant years ago and make it at home every so often and it really doesn’t disappoint.

This next item is one of the more expensive throughout the entire festival but it’s a classic that is hard to pass up.  Le Cellier wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce.  You can also see a small cup in the background which is one of our favorite ice wines from the Niagara on the Lake region of Canada (near Niagara Falls). It is a Vidal Icewine from the Chateau Des Charmes Vinyard.

With so many food booths it’s easy to start getting filled up before you really get into the heart of the festival.  We decided to skip a few of the booths near the United Kingdom pavilion and France.  I thought our daughter may want to try the Escargot Croissant in France but she said she wasn’t ready to try eating snails yet.  Maybe next year!!  Just beyond France was the Morocco booth with some interesting items.

First was a NY strip steak green shermoula flatbread with fresh radish and tomato salsa.  This was really fantastic, kind of like a steak taco.  The steak was a bit spicy but was definitely on the top of my list this year.

We broke one of our rules and had a sweet treat before finishing up our savory items but when I saw Chocolate Baklava I just had to get it.  This is rolled phyllo dough with toasted almonds and dark chocolate sauce.

The next booth was over in the Japan pavilion and was something I had seen pictures of online, and video reviews where people were really enjoying it.

This was the Frothy Ramen, chilled noodles and dashi broth with a light foam topping.  It looked really good and I’m a sucker for ramen noddles but whoa this was not for me.  The flavor was extremely strong and overpowering for my palette.  I’ve been waiting for someone else to review it online and say they didn’t like it but so far I haven’t seen one so maybe this is just not my thing.

Our kids were pretty stuffed by this thing and my wife was getting close to her limit as well.  But of course, I wanted to keep going so we skipped a few more booths and stopped in Italy.  You just can’t go wrong with some pasta.

Pictured above were the Ravioli carbonara, parmesan, and pecorino ravioli, egg yolk, cream, and bacon.  The presentation we got in the little paper boat was a bit of a mess, but the flavor was really good and helped cleans the Frothy ramen taste off my tongue.

After that pretty heavy pasta dish, I was ready to call it a day and wasn’t sure how I would be able to comfortably get back to our car.  As we finished the last bit of the showcase we decided to head into the Port of Entry store to see what kind of Festival merchandise was available.

As my family looked around picking out t-shirts, Christmas tree ornaments and maybe a bottle of wine or two, I was drawn to an area on the opposite side of the store.  Earlier this year during the Flower and Garden festival they had released specially designed coins that you can read out here.  Fellow collectors had been wondering since then if Disney would continue this with other festivals and sure enough, here it was for the Food and Wine.

The cost for these coins was the same as before (thankfully!) at $5 for one coin or $10 for three.  So if you want all four that will run you $15.  Yes, it’s a bit pricey but these designs are just so fun it’s hard to say no.

There are quite a few coins on display in the center second of the machine.  Other machines around Disney have coins in here spinning on little risers but this machine didn’t have that and instead was just laying flat.

Here is a close up of the entire set.  They have designs of Chef Mickey, Chef Remy, Chef Minnie, and Chef Figment.

On the back of each coin is the same design regardless of the front image you select.  It’s the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2019 logo which I really like.

With my $15 souvenirs packed away, I headed over to my family that had picked out quite a bit more in other merchandise but that’s okay.  It’s a fun festival to enjoy each fall, and we always like trying new food items we wouldn’t normally try.  The Festival runs from August 29, 2019 through November 23, 2019 so you still have a few weeks left to visit.  Then we get into the Festival of the Holidays and I wonder if we can count on another new set of collectible medallions?

Pirates of the Caribbean Collectible Medallions – Magic Kingdom WDW

Throughout 2019 we have noticed that the 4-design pressed penny machines around Walt Disney World property have been slowly converted to have a higher cost per penny…now at a whopping $1.  This is up from the standard $0.50 which seems to be the norm for most of the penny presses around the United States.  You can read about some of the recent changes here.   While thoughts on this increase among collectors various with some not happy about the increase, others upset that they can no longer use their own pennies, to others agreeing this was inevitable with the assumed rising cost to maintain the machines.  However, you fell about this change about increased cost I have started to notice something else start popping up around property that is even more expensive…collectible medallions.

Initially, when a set of these came out I had convinced myself I wouldn’t get them and wanted to stay focused on the pressed pennies.  Then they released a special medallion for the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot (something I’ve always wanted with pressed pennies), and I finally broke.  Thankfully at the time, there were only a couple machines but it seems like more and more of these are making appearances.  Just a few weeks ago I received a message on Facebook about a new set of medallions but this time in the Magic Kingdom for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.

The first chance I got I headed over to the park and visited one of my favorite rides.  I was able to get a last-minute fastness so I enjoyed the ride first and then headed towards the gift shop in search of the machine.

The store is actually called the Plaza del Sol Caribe Bazaar but most people just say the gift shop at the end of the Pirates ride.

It didn’t take long to find the machine since it’s located pretty much in the dead center of the store.  This is good and bad, easy to find but in a very busy spot.  There are people both exiting the attraction that pass right by it, and also people shopping all around.  I stood here about a good 5 minutes just to try and get a clear picture of the machine and the above is about the best I could do.

The cabinet for the medallions is pretty cool looking.  The distressed wood makes it look like it came straight off a pirate ship or was made of old treasure chests.

I find these machines a bit interesting as to how they are setup.  In the middle of the machine are large glass pieces where you can see inside where the coins are stored.  But these never move so they are not actually the ones you get after you pay for them.  I guess this is where the “extras” are stored until needed, but wouldn’t it look strange when the inside is empty due to the coins all being loaded for dispensing?  To be honest I’ve never seen one of these medallion machines without any coins in this middle display section but you would think eventually they would want to sell off those coins as well.  If I ever find someone doing some maintenance on these machines I’ll have to try and ask how it works.

Here are the buttons that you would press to pick the medallions you want after paying for them.  The cost is $5 each, or 3 of them for $10.  So if you want all 4 that will run you $15.  The machine does accept cash or credit card, but be aware if paying with a credit card it will only allow the $10 option (for three coins).

As per usual I just couldn’t resist the entire set.  The coins are made of different materials, although I would actually assume the core of them is the same but with a different coating/finish on the outside.  The designs are Pirate Mickey, Pirate Minnie, Pluto and the Skeleton steering the ship from the ride.

The back of all the medallions has the same design for the Pirates of the Caribbean with the skull and crossbones.  These coins aren’t dated like some of the other ones released this year so I would think this set may be sticking around for a while but you just never know with Disney.

Now back to my original conversation on the increased cost to the pressed pennies.  Am I happy about an increase in cost, of course not!  I wish they could stay at $0.50 forever especially with my obsessive need to collect all of them that would help keep my expense budget down.  But I do really enjoy this hobby and even at $1 per penny, it’s still a pretty good steak for a collectible and souvenir from Disney.  It would be nice to be able to use my own penny but the machines now do seem to be supplying uncirculated pennies that come out nice and shiny and hopefully will hold up over the years if properly stored, only time will tell.  Then we come to these new medallions and at $5 a coin they are now starting to push their luck.  The coins are hefty and solid, not cheaply made and I enjoy the unique designs on them.  I don’t know if I would pay much more than the current cost for these medallions so hopefully, they stay this cost for now and limit the total number of medallions available to help keep these all affordable for collectibles and casual fans alike.  If the costs rise too much more and my budget allows for only medallions or pressed pennies, the pennies will win out every time.  Although even that has a limit of how much we would be willing to pay for our beloved pressed pennies.

New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge Pressed Penny Set

I remember watching a movie when I was a kid called Pete’s Dragon and one of the tense scenes towards the end took place at an old Lighthouse during a storm.  Among everything that happens in the movie from bandits to a magical dragon the one thing that stuck with me most was that lighthouse.  I think it was a few things, first the architecture of a lighthouse is always very unique and interesting, plus the more practical reason to serve as a navigational aid for boats and ship.  There is something fun and mysterious about them.

I lived in New Jersey for just over 20 years and had visited a few lighthouses as I visited different areas of the state.  Whenever possible, even though I’m afraid of heights, I would walk up those winding staircases to get the bird’s eye view from the top.  Regardless of my fear, it was always worth it to get those breathtaking landscape views which are sometimes hard to get in New Jersey.  But something I never knew existing was the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge.

A couple months ago a fellow pressed penny collector wrote a quick post on Facebook about this challenge due to a pressed penny available (more on this shortly).  Apparently in 2019 is the 20th anniversary of this challenge.  What exactly is this?  It takes place annually over a weekend in October, for 2019 the dates are October 19th-20th, and encourages participants to visit as many of lighthouse locations throughout New Jersey.  This not only allows you to experience the lighthouses but helps to raise funds for their preservation.  In total there are 15 locations to visit and are spread out mostly up the east coast but there are some on the west side of the state along the Delaware River.  The map above is something I put together just to help illustrate where all the locations are.  Some lighthouses have a small fee to visit but most just accept a donation.

 

As I mentioned above there were already some pressed pennies at a couple of the lighthouses available year-round.  However new for this year’s challenge was a special designed pressed penny at all of the 15 locations.

They also released a special booklet to store all the pennies you collect along the way.  Above is a close up of the challenge penny that is located on the front of the booklet.  Of course, now that I live in Florida, it just didn’t fit into my schedule to fly up and try to complete the challenge in person.  I was able to cheat a little bit and buy the full set and booklet from the pennycollector.com online store.

 

Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City.  At 171 feet tall this is New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse and is also one of the oldest in the country.

 

Barnegat Lighthouse is located on the northern tip of Long Beach Island and has fantastic views of the Barnegat Bay and eastern coastline.

Museum at Barnegat is located nearby the Barneget Lighthouse and houses the original Lighthouse 1,025 prism lens, along with photographs and artifacts of the lighthouse and surrounding area history.

 

Cape May Lighthouse was built in 1859 and is located in the Cape May State Park.  You can climb the 199 steps to the top for some amazing ocean views.

 

Delaware Bay Lighthouse is a white conical metal tower topped by a black lantern at a height of 76 feet.  The structure rests on a black trumpet-shaped iron caisson built into the breakwater.

 

East Point Lighthouse was built in 1849 is located in Heislerville is situated at the mouth of the Maurice River and overlooks the Delaware Bay.

 

Finns Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1877.  The historic iron tower is in the Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is 115 feet tall.

 

Twin Lights of Navesink Lighthouse is located in Highlands New Jersey.  This unique lighthouse was constructed from local brownstone in 1862 and features two non-identical towers and dual lights.  One fixed and one flashing.

 

Sandy Hook Lighthouse is part of the Gateway National Recreation area.  The lighthouse overlooks the Sandy Hook Bay and is walking distance from nature trails and nearby historic sites.  There are 95 steps to the top and then a nine-rung ladder to the lens room at the top.

 

Sea Girt Lighthouse is in a red brick building that first started operating in 1896 and was the last live-in lighthouse built on the Atlantic coast.  This means the tower was integrated into the keeper’s living quarters.

Sqwuan Beach Life Saving Station #9 is located in Manasquan New Jersey.  It was constructed in 1903 and was in service until 1936.

 

Tatham Life Saving Station is located in Stone Harbor New Jersey.  The oldest existing building in Stone Harbor was built in 1895 and has a tower to observe the Atlantic Ocean, Hereford Inlet, and back bays.

 

Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse is located along the shores of the Delaware River in Paulsboro New Jersey.  This 1880s lighthouse features a steel skeletal structure that reaches 85 feet tall.  There are 112 steps to the top which houses the lantern room, watch room and keeper’s dwelling.

 

Tucker’s Island Lighthouse is located in Tuckerton New Jersey.  This is a reproduction of the original lighthouse which infamously fell into the ocean in 1927.

 

U.S. Life Saving Station 30 can be found in Ocean City New Jersey.  This 1880s structure features a gabled roof, lookout tower, boat bay, and a wrap-around porch.

Here is a look at the entire penny set in the booklet.  It’s nice that there are specific labels for each of the coins, and the plastic sleeves are oriented differently depending on if the penny has a vertical or horizontal design.

That really is a great set of pennies and the challenge seems like it would be a lot of driving and make for a long weekend.  But I will admit I wish I was able to participate this year.  You can visit the website for the challenge here, and I’ll be keeping an eye on the 2020 dates to see if maybe I can try and do this new year.  Hopefully, the pressed pennies are a big hit this year so they continue it in years to come.

2019 Nickel Set – Trolley Treats California Adventure, CA

What has been going on over in California with the Disneyland pressed coins this year?

It has just seemed like month after month pass by with no new coins being released.  Then all of a sudden I get word that the 2019 Nickel set in the California Adventure park was released.

2019??…but it’s October and there are only a few months left before 2020.  Are these going to be removed shortly for the Holiday set?  So many questions that unfortunately I just don’t have answers for.

This new set of pressed nickels can be found in the Jolly Trolley Treats store in Disney California Adventure park.  They replace the 2018 versions that you can read about here.

What I would recommend is getting this set as soon as possible.  Their release schedule of coins seems to be all over the place so who knows how long this set will be available. Now we just need to see if / when the 2019 Disneyland set will be released.  At this rate, they may almost be better off skipping 2019 and just go directly for 2020 to get ahead of the game.

D23 Expo 2019 Pressed Pennies

Shortly after I had moved to Florida my Sister gave me a gift membership into D23 (The official Disney Fan Club) which was an amazing gift for a Disney fan like myself.  To be honest, when I first got the membership I wasn’t sure exactly what it was all about or what perks I potentially could get, so I did some research.  The name itself is interesting as the D stands for “Disney, and the 23 is for 1923 the year Walt Disney founded the company.  You do get a very nice magazine each quarter that basically just advertises all the new movies, or theme park attractions soon to be released.  They also have a schedule of events that only members can sign up for, most of them have an additional cost to participate.  One of these events that my wife and I went to last year was a special screening of the animated classic Robin Hood which was celebrating its 45th anniversary.  Not only did we get to watch the movie on the big screen but there was a Q&A with one of the animators Burny Mattinson which was fantastic.  He spoke about his career with Disney and even went through some of the scenes in Robin Hood that he animated.

Photo Credit: D23.com

But the main event that most D23 members wait for is the biennial expo.  For 2019 the event was held on August 23rd – 25th in Anaheim at the Anaheim Convention Center.  I wish this was something that I could have attended in person, but flying to California for a weekend just wasn’t meant to be this year, however, I’ll be trying my best to make it to the next one.

This huge event has all sorts of things going on for any type of Disney fan.  There is special merchandise available, meet and greets, induction of new Disney Legends, and the most popular are the different panels that go over things like new Movies, or Theme Park Attractions.  This year with Disney acquiring fox they even had a Simpsons panel (whoever would have thought that would happen).

While I sat at home that weekend refreshing the online blogs for all the latest details being released I saw a picture from the official Disney Blog that caught my eye.

Photo Credit: D23.com

There was a special penny press available in the D23 Gold member lounge.  It was free to use but you did need to supply your own penny.  I was almost in a panic trying to figure out how in the world I would be able to get a set of this.  First I tried posting on Facebook in the different pressed penny groups I’m a part of, hoping someone was attending the convention and could get a set.  There was plenty of interest and other collectors jumped on board hoping to get a set for themselves, but unfortunately, it appeared like no one was close enough to try and get them.  Then I took to Instagram and Twitter hoping some friends would be able to get them, but that too didn’t pan out. With the convention only going on for a few days it seemed like it just wasn’t meant to be.

Suddenly I had an idea of one last potential opportunity.  I have an acquaintance in the industry that over the past couple of years I have become friends with and we communicate numerous times via email throughout the year about pressed pennies.  I really went back and forth on whether I should even ask about this set as I never want to take our relationship for granted.  I appreciate everything he shares with me and wouldn’t want to risk that because I was trying to get just a simple set of pennies.  However, his kind nature always gave me the impression that he enjoys helping and sharing info whenever he can so I thought I would simply ask if there was any way he had access to a set of the coins and if so I would be more than happy to pay for them.  I heard back pretty quickly and he was more than happy to see if there was any way to obtain a set.

A few weeks went by and the most magical package arrived at my house with a set of these amazing pennies.

The first design is the D23 logo with the 10 year anniversary added to it for 2019.

Of course, what would a Disney expo be without the famous Mouse himself.

Probably my favorite of the three is the above with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.  I remember reading the details of how Walt Disney originally created Oswald and then lost him due to a contract technicality, and then in 2006 Disney traded NFL Play-by-play announcer Al Michaels for the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.  It’s an unbelievable story and if you are interested to be sure and check it out online.

This really was a great set of pressed pennies from an event that had pretty limited availability.  I had barely got these coins out of the package before I was sending my friend a thank you email and trying to portray how appreciative I was of his efforts to get this set for my collection.  I’m hoping someday in the future he may need my help for something and I will be jumping at the opportunity to return the favor.

Halloween Horror Nights 2019 Token – Universal Studios Florida

Are two years in a row considered a trend?  Well if not I sure hope this continues.  Back in 2018 I visited Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios for the first time as a Florida resident and had an amazing time.  One of the fun finds during the event was a souvenir token I found and you can read about it here.

 

Well here we are one year later and Universal has done it again.  The theme this year is a retro 80’s style.  You can see from the pictures above the one on the left is during the daytime and on the right is after the sun goes down.  They project a Tetris like pattern on the entrance arches.

With our annual passes, we were allowed into the park a little early to wait in designated areas called “Stay and Scream”.  It helps you avoid the massive crowd that will gather in front of the park before the event starts.  It is nice to get a bit of a jump start on the houses/mazes but as you can see from the above they aren’t quite as scary when the sun is still up.  That picture was taken out front of the house themed around the cult classic “House of 1000 Corpses”.

Crowds can get pretty crazy and the wait times for the different houses can fluctuate throughout the night.  They do offer a smartphone app that you can use to monitor the wait times and is a priceless tool when trying to experience as many houses as possible.  They also have screens with the current wait times out in front of each house.  Above was for an original concept house called “Nightingales Blood Pit”.

Some of the scenes inside the houses can get pretty gruesome, but it’s not recommended for younger visitors.  I took the above picture which is about the only picture I had that wasn’t too gory.  This is the exterior of the Nightingales house.  Unfortunately, no photography or videography is allowed inside the houses.

Back in the New York area of the park is an Arcade that is available here year-round.  However this year during Halloween Horror Nights they have converted it into the Palace Arcade which you may recognize if you are a Stranger Things fan (a show on Netflix).

This arcade was also given the 80s makeover and I almost felt like a kid again back in my youth spending countless quarters on video games.

They even swapped out some of the modern video games with retro ones like Rampage, Asteroid and Mrs. Pac-Man.

The only way to play any of these games is to get some of their special tokens.  The machines will not accept quarters for some reason.  But for us coin collectors this is a fun alternative.

There are quite a few of these token machines throughout the arcade and the exchange isn’t quite what it was back in the 80s.  You can 2 tokens for $1 or a bit of a discount if you get a larger quantity.

One side of the token has Halloween Horror Nights 2019, and the reverse has a Palace Arcade logo.  I did get a few of these tokens, this way I could keep a few for my collection and still play some retro games before heading back out for more scares.

Halloween Horror Nights is really an amazing event and I just can’t get enough of it.  The scares are all in fun, but as I mentioned above really not for small children.  I will be going back as many times as I can because the houses and scare zones are just so much fun and the scare actors do a great job.

I’m crossing my fingers that next year will continue this trend of fun souvenir tokens.

The Dino Institute NEW Pressed Pennies – Animal Kingdom

One area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom that seems to get overlooked a lot is Dinoland USA.  Most of this area is set up like a carnival with cheap carnival games, face painting, and a Dumbo style knockoff ride with flying Dino’s.

A few years ago there were rumors that this area was going to be changed to an Indiana Jones theme but nothing seems to have come of that.

But recently we did finally get something new in the form of a pressed penny machine.

Situated in the back corner of Dinoland is the Dinosaur attraction.  This is probably the only real reason to come to this area of the park.  However, if you don’t have a Fastpass for this ride you may be waiting in line for quite a while.

This ride is based on the computer-animated Disney movie Dinosaur released in 2000. You are loaded onto a jeep-like vehicle and taken back in time to try and locate a dinosaur.  But you don’t have much time due to a meteor about to hit earth to kickstart the dino extinction.  Thankfully you do manage to make it back and as you exit the ride you are placed inside The Dino Institute gift shop.

Inside is pretty typical with all the standard gift shop items.

The shop is not very wide but pretty long.  Situated about halfway through the store along one of the walls is where I found the penny machine.

As you can see from the nearby wall this place can use a little TLC.  It looks like a new coat of paint would do wonders.

The machine is an 8-design touch screen model.  The cost (for now) is still $1 per penny or $5 for all 8 pennies.  The machine is also pre-loaded with zinc pennies and you cannot use your own coins.

Above is a close up of the internal gears and penny dies.  They also have samples of the entire set on display.

The set at this machine is really cute with some fun designs from the Pixar movie The Good Dinosaur.  I understand the underlying theme here is dinosaurs, but it does seem a little strange to mix movies in this location.  One movie for the ride and a different one in the gift shop.  But I’ll try not to overthink this one as I really do like the designs on these pennies.  I guess since they are sticking with the Dino theme this land is going to stick around for a while.  Hopefully, we can get some updated attractions sometime in the near future or at the very least a new coat of paint in the gift shop!

Newly Renovated Park Stores at Orlando International Airport

Just a few days ago I had to make a trip over to the Orlando International Airport so I could pick up some family.  Their flight was due in around 7pm and never really knowing how traffic will be on I-4 I left a bit early to make sure I had plenty of time to get there.  But as luck would have it traffic wasn’t too bad so I had quite a bit of time to wander around the airport.  Thankfully I remembered that some of the Theme Park stores in the airport had recently gone through some refurbishments.  Years ago they all used to have penny machines but most have disappeared, and the only one that was available was in the Disney Earport store but that is now closed for renovations. Go figure!

First I stopped by the Seaworld store.  I always liked that Seaworld blue color and it was all over the store.  The stuff here is the same as you will find in the theme park but I’m sure probably has an airport premium on the price.

I did notice that there was an abundance of Sesame Street merch in the store which would be thanks to the new Sesame Street land that opened earlier this year in Seaworld.  As I wandered through the store I kept an eye open for a penny machine but there wasn’t one to be found.

Next up I headed to the recently opened Magic of Disney store.  This was one of two Disney stores in the airport which are at opposite ends of the main terminal building from each other.  I always felt a bit claustrophobic in this store as it was just small, and not very open but that has completely changed now.  It looks like most of the walls were removed and it’s very nice and open.

I really liked this illuminated Mickey head behind the check out area with the castle silhouette.

Lots of pictures from the theme parks inside and the store was split into areas for all the different Disney properties like Star Wars, Pixar, and classic Disney items.

There was a bit of Halloween merch already in here but that’s not too surprised.  They are already hosting Halloween parties in the Magic Kingdom and it’s only September.  Unfortunately, this store didn’t have a penny machine either which I thought at the very least the Earport machine would have been relocated here temporarily.  But that was not the case.

The last store that was open for me to check out was the Universal Orlando store.

Of course, there was a big section of the store dedicated to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  All the different school houses, more wands that you can imagine and plenty of other fun souvenirs to take home.

The rest of the store was a big mashup of their other theme park icons like The Simpsons, Fast and Furious, and Jurassic Park.

Just like the other stores, there was no pressed penny machine.  But something that did catch my eye is this 2019 Universal Coin.  It was encased in this thin acrylic case with a large cardboard mat around it.  The coin itself just had the Universal Studios globe logo surrounded by reels of film.

The back of the coin has more of the film reels and says “The EPIC Adventures at Universal Studios 2019”.  It’s nice that it was dated so I’m assuming it will only be available through the end of the year.  Although to be honest there were a LOT of these in the store.  Did you see the price tag?  $24.99 for this one coin.  I was really interested in picking one of these up but wow that price was a bit steep and even I couldn’t justify spending that amount.  Maybe if I hold out until the end of the year they will be discounted, fingers crossed.

Located near that big coin I did find a basket with some new Universal Pressed Penny booklets.

The price wasn’t too bad at only $8.00.  Plus you do get one pressed penny embedded on the front cover.

It’s just the classic Universal Studios globe logo but still a fun penny to have in your collection.  I didn’t pick this booklet up at the airport as I’m sure they have them back in the parks so I’ll double-check the next time I’m there.

That was about the closest I got to a new pressed penny at the Orlando International Airport.  As I mentioned at the beginning there is one other Disney store called the Earport that is being renovated right now.  It is due to open again in a few months I believe so I’ll be sure to go back and see if the old machine is back or if maybe we can expect some new designs.  Safe travels!!

Jurassic Park Discovery Center – Islands of Adventure

I have spent a good amount of time this summer visiting Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure keeping an eye out for those new pressed penny designs.  If you read my post about the retired design stickers we found a few months ago, we have been anxiously waiting for those new pennies to show up.  Some have made an appearance and I’ll be posting about all the new replacements once they have all been released.  However, on my most recent visit, I actually came across a brand new machine.

This one caught me by surprise and to be honest I was lucky to even find it.  I had my two daughters with me as we visited Universal Studios first but had no changes, so we then went into Islands of Adventure.  The last few pennies we are waiting on still hadn’t shown up but we made our way around the lagoon just to enjoy the park for a bit.

There has been quite a bit of construction going on near the Jurassic Park area with rumors about a new Roller Coaster.  Nothing official has been released by Universal at this time.

We eventually made our way around to the Jurassic Park area and decided to head inside the Discovery Center for some air conditioning.

While we were inside I tried to think if I had ever noticed there were two floors.  On the main upper level, there is a quick service place for burgers and milkshakes, and a gift shop on the opposite side that has a 4 design hand crank penny machine.  So obviously I’ve been in that store a few times.  My girls ran over to the railing where the big T-Rex was located and noticed all sorts of things going on downstairs so we headed down to check it out.

There were quite a few dinosaur statues around and some interactive exhibits giving interesting facts about the dinos.  There was even a dino nursery with dino eggs just waiting to hatch.  They also had a few “scientists” walking around that were more than happy to answer questions you may have about the dinosaurs.

After we visited the nursery is when I noticed a penny machine stashed beside a planted tree which seemed like a strange place for it.

I started to wonder how long this machine may have been here.  The machine was in a pretty standard cabinet that looked like a wooden crate.

But it does have the NEW! sticker on the glass of the machine which seemed to be a new thing they are utilizing so I’m taking a guess that this machine was put here sometime this summer.

The designs on the pennies were of a Carnotaurus, a Triceratops, and a Raptor possibly Blue from the new movies.  Each design does also have Jurassic World along the bottom.

The latest Jurassic World movie Fallen Kingdom was released in June 2018 but maybe this is all due to that mysterious construction going on behind the Discovery Center building.  Guess we will just have to wait and see.