Frontierland Railroad Station NEWish Pressed Pennies – Magic Kingdom

Fresh off a couple new penny machines over at Epcot, it now was time to head back over to the Magic Kingdom for a NEW-ish machine.  What do I mean by that…well we will get to that in a little bit.

I was able to get a park reservation for a Sunday and above is a picture of the entrance to the park.  It was pretty quiet on this visit.

We headed back towards Frontierland only stopping once for a Dole Whip (I’m so weak), then back to Splash Mountain.

As you stand in front of the entrance to Splash Mountain, if you look up you will see the Frontierland Railroad Station.  Unfortunately due to the Tron Coaster construction currently underway the railroad is not running.

But that’s okay since the place we are actually heading is not up to the railroad platform.  Instead, you walk just to the right of Splash Mountain underneath the train station.

If you decide that you would rather take a trip down the Briar Patch by riding Splash Mountain first that’s no problem.  Once you exit the ride you will have to walk underneath the train station as well to get back to the park.  Which is perfect since this is where you will find the new penny machine.

Previously this location had a 3-design electronic penny machine that was removed fairly recently.  Then with the latest news that Splash Mountain will be rethemed to Princess and the Frog, I assumed this machine may not return until after that retheming.  But I was wrong.

As you can see from the image above the machine has returned but is noticeably different.  For one it is now a 4 design manual press machine.  It has also been updated to the new $1 per penny price point, and the machine supplies a shiny new zinc penny.

Here is a look at the new set of pressed pennies from this machine.  Now if you have been collecting Walt Disney World pressed pennies you may be like me and at a glad recognized these designs.  After I had pressed this set I was pretty sure these were previously retired designs that were just brought back.  But once I got home I took a closer look to compare these with the older designs I remembered.

 

First, we will look at the Br’er Vulture design.  It was originally at this very same location under the Frontierland Railroad Station.  However, when I put the two pennies together (New is on the Left, and Old is on the Right) you can see there are some differences.  There is now a notch at the top of the design that splits the dot border, and the Magic Kingdom banner is in a different location.

 

The second penny with Br’er Rabbit was also at the old machine in this same location.  The notch on the left is now splitting the dot border, Br’er Rabbit looks to be a little smaller, the Magic Kingdom banner is larger and the (c) Disney is now on the left of the design.

 

The third penny design that has Mickey and Minnie splashing in some water is STILL available at the Splashdown Photo Preview area.  This is located at the exit of Splash Mountain where there is a wall of video screens showing the ride photos.  In this same area is a sort of hidden penny machine.  That notch is splitting the border again on the new design, the Splash Mountain logo looks a little different, and Mickey & Minnie are more spread apart.

 

The last penny design used to be inside the Country Bear Jamboree waiting area but was recently removed and replaced with an 8-design touch screen machine.  That notch is again splitting the border, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad appears to be a new font, the Train and tracks look a bit more detailed, and the Magic Kingdom banner has been raised a bit and isn’t as wide.

As you can see these are technically new penny designs, but upon closer look, they are very similar to other designs just with some slight variances.  I obviously still picked up a set for my collection and many other collectors enjoy finding variant designs so I’m sure these will be popular.  However, if you remember I did mention above that Splash Mountain is going to be rethemed shortly so I do find it a bit odd that they kept some of the Splash Mountain designs.  You may want to get a set of these before this machine inevitably changed for some new Princess and the Frog designs.

Happy Collecting!!

The American Adventure NEW Pressed Pennies – EPCOT

On a recent trip to Epcot, I was primarily looking for the new Mission Space penny machine.  If you haven’t read about that trip you can check it out here.  After finding that machine the rest of our day was set aside to try some of the Food and Wine Festival food booths, and we also did a Ratatouille Scavenger Hunt.

As we made our way around the World Showcase the crowd level was higher than I had anticipated and many of the food booths had very long lines.  That mixed with the hot Florida sun made waiting in those lines seem very unappealing.

We did periodically come across a booth with either a short or no line and we took advantage of those.  Above was from the Africa booth and was the Piri Piri Skewered Shrimp with Citrus-scented Couscous.  This was really good, the shrimp were a little overcooked but the flavors were great with just a little spice to them.

A little further along our travels, we visited the Spain booth and tried a couple items.  First, we tried the Charcuterie which was a selection of imported Spanish Meats, Cheeses, and Olives with an Herb Vinaigrette.  My wife absolutely loved this one.  I did try a bit of it and the meats and cheeses were really flavorful, but olives are just not my thing.  The second item we got was the Spanish-style Paella with Chorizo and Shrimp.  This was probably my favorite so far of the festival with lots of flavors.

By this time we were getting a bit tired and in need of a break.  The American Adventure pavilion just nearby so we headed in that direction for some downtime in the shade.

While we sat under the shaded pavilion rehydrating with some much-needed water, I spied something across the patio.

I quickly headed over to investigate and sure enough, it was a brand new penny machine.

It is a newer version of the 4-design hand-crank machine.  Each design costs $1 and you can use either cash, credit card, or digital payment like ApplePay.  The machine supplies the penny to be pressed so you are not able to use your own preferred pennies, unfortunately.

Here they are the pressed penny set.  I really think this is a cute set and love the design of the Mickey-American Flag, but they are all great new designs.  I did walk around the rest of the pavilion just to check on the old machine but it was nowhere to be found and I’m going to assume it’s been retired.

We eventually finished our visit to Epcot and had a great time.  I did check the other Pavilion penny machines but didn’t see any other new ones so far.  This is an interesting change since it’s one of the first times we have seen a 3-design ($0.50 per penny) machine completely replaced by these new 4-design ($1.00 per penny) machines.  Fellow collectors have been anticipating this change and it may be finally coming to fruition.  This would be a huge overhaul of machines since most of Disney property has those older 3-design machines.  This change over could take years and I’ll be very interested to see if we get all new designs or if they will just install the old designs back into the new cabinets.  Only time will tell but I’ll be sure to document them as quickly as I can.  Keep on Pressing!!

Mission Space NEW Pressed Pennies – Epcot

It’s been almost a month since my last visit to a Disney Theme Park.  This was partly due to my own feelings of safety and looking to ensure I kept my exposure limited whenever possible.  But another factor has also been playing a part in this decision and that is the Disney Park Reservation system.  Basically, if you want to visit one of the parks you need to make a reservation in advance.  With the parks having the limited guest capacity (currently, it’s around 30%), and that is also divided between On-site Resort Guests, Day Guests (not staying at a resort), and Annual Passholders.  Unfortunately, Annual Passholders book up these reservations pretty quickly and it’s been a bit difficult to get one.

Photo Credit: Disney

Prior to all this, whenever I heard about a new pressed penny machine or design I would just head into the park that evening or the following weekend at the latest to document the new coins.  But with this new reservation system, it makes spontaneous trips almost impossible.  I took that as a sign to just take a break from the parks.

Eventually, I was able to secure a reservation for Epcot and as my luck would have it, there was a new penny machine released.  It was very nice to be back in the parks, but since it was Labor Day weekend the crowds were definitely larger than I had anticipated.  Plus Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival was in full gear and weekends are a busy time for these Festivals.

My family was anxious to get back into the World Showcase for some rides and more importantly Festival Food booths.  But first I needed to stop by my arch-nemesis Mission Space.  Here’s a quick story.  Years ago when I still lived in New Jersey I had visited Walt Disney World for vacation and had a reservation for my favorite restaurant on property ‘Ohana at the Polynesian Resort.  That day I had decided to visit Epcot to kill time before my dinner, and my friend wanted to try Mission Space.  I’m always a bit nervous about new attractions but decided to go on with him.  Basically, it’s a centrifuge where it simulates you blasting off from Earth into Space.  Because it’s a centrifuge you are in these little capsules that spin around really fast to simulate the g-forces you would encounter on this type of trip.  Our flight was a bit delayed due to someone getting sick as they exited the ride.  That should have been my notice to skip this one but I didn’t and afterward, my stomach was upset and I was so out of it I had to just go back to our resort.  The thought of food would make me nauseous so I had to make the difficult decision to skip my ‘Ohana reservation.  It’s such a popular restaurant that I was unable to reschedule for any other time during our visit.  So my hatred of this attraction all stems back to that trip and how it made me miss dinner at my favorite restaurant.

Years have past and that scar still runs deep.  I haven’t been on this attraction since, and they even now have a “less intense” version but I’m still not ready to experience it again.  However, even though the penny press machine is located in the gift shop you do NOT need to experience the attraction if you don’t want to.   When facing the front of the building just walk over to the left and you will find the gift shop.  I always liked the above picture which is in the shop just behind the checkout desk.

Just inside the doors to the gift shop is where the penny machine could be found.  Not too long ago there was a 3-design machine here that had Mission Space theme designs.  But that was recently removed and had a Star Wars machine here instead.  I always thought that was a bit of a stretch to have Star Wars with Mission Space but hey what do I know.

I was glad to see the new designs were all inspired by Mission Space.  Above is the marquee from the machine and the price has remained the same for now.  $1 per penny or you can get the entire set of 8 for $5.

The large plexiglass window on the front allows for a fun view of the inner workings of this machine which I always enjoyed watching.  They also have pressed pennies from the machine on display so you can see what the final results will be.

This is a nice set and I’m glad we were able to get over to Epcot for them.  Eventually, I’ll bury the hatchet with this attraction and go on again but I’ll be sure to not have any special dining reservations afterward.  We enjoyed the rest of our day at Epcot and did come across another new penny machine but you’ll just have to stay tuned to read all about that one shortly.  Happy Pressing!!

Bass Pro Shop – Gainesville, FL

Recently we took a trip up to Gainesville Florida on the hunt for some pressed penny machines.  Earlier on our first day, we had visited the Florida Museum of Natural History, then on our way back to our hotel, I found our second stop.

Right off of I-75 was the Celebration Pointe shopping and dining area, which is where the Bass Pro Shop was located.

Over the years I’ve visited a lot of these stores as they almost always have a pressed penny machine inside.  Plus I’m completely obsessed with these stores, they are just amazing to me.

The stores are huge and have such a wide array of products.  I could spend an entire afternoon just walking around inside.

I’m not much of a fisherman but holy cow this place would be where I went if I needed to stock up on fishing poles or lures.

It’s almost like a museum combined with a store with all the taxidermied animals around, plus numerous fish tanks and did you notice the trees in the above picture.

Even though this store has thousands of items, my favorite area is the BBQ section.  With all the different smokers, grills, and accessories it’s a grill masters paradise.

My grilling skills are not so great but this is where I picked up a few things to try and help myself out.  They have a huge selection of rubs, spices, and sauces available for pretty much any palate preference.

They also always seem to have a wide selection of Moonshine products.  On one of my first visits to a Bass Pro Shop in New York State, I found Moonshine Hot Sauce which was really good.  Each location seems to have something different, and this was no exception.  Moonshine Peanut Brittle, how could I resist.  Quick product review, I did buy the brittle and tried it when we eventually got back home.  It was good but didn’t have a moonshine taste so I think I may have been deceived.

After wandering around the entire store I did find the pressed penny machine towards the back near the large fish tank and waterfall.  Unfortunately, when I found it they were just getting ready to put on a Grilling class and the machine was blocked.  I took this as a sign to sit and watch the class which was not too long and had some interesting information that I will need to try.

 Eventually, they did move all the things out of the way and I was able to use the machine.

One thing I thought was really great was this little business card holder that was located on the machine.  It was filled with a handful of pennies that were free to SMASH!  Over the years I’ve visited hundreds of pressed penny machines and this is the first time I’ve ever seen this and I think it was fantastic!  I had a few extra pennies on me so I made sure to add some for other collectors.

The designs on the pennies came out pretty nicely.  Each Bass Pro Shop does have similar designs which are almost always a group of animals that would be indigenous to the area where the store is located.  The other nice thing about these pennies is that they always list the store location allowing me to distinguish among the different Bass Pro Shop locations.

This was another fantastic trip to my guilty pleasure store, and the pressed pennies will be a nice addition to my collection.  We left the store and headed out to get some dinner before retiring for the night at our hotel.  Tomorrow we had one last stop to make before we would be heading back home.  Stay tuned beacuse the next place is really unique and one of a kind.  Keep on Pressing!

Florida Museum of Natural History – Gainesville, FL

On my continuing exploration of Florida on the hunt for Pressed Penny Machines, I’ve exhausted the locations around the Orlando area and now was going to head north a bit to the next city on my list which was Gainesville.  Online I’ve seen that there are three reported locations with penny machines and so throughout a weekend I made it my mission to find them all.  Our first stop was over at the University of Florida.

The Florida Museum of Natural History is located on the University campus and did offer free parking.  This area of the campus was very nice and pretty expansive with a couple large outdoor sculptures that I always enjoy.

Inside the Museum you are greeted with a short queue area and a gift shop on the right side but we will revisit that on our way out.  The Museum is Free of charge to visit the main exhibits but donations are welcome and I would encourage that if you are visiting.  They do offer some special exhibits throughout the year that does have an admission fee.

The first large area just beyond the front desk was like the main hub.  There were different hallways in all directions taking you to the various exhibits in the Museum.  This area also had a large Mammoth fossil along one wall, and there was also a table with an Alligator Skeleton that the kids seemed to really be intrigued by.

The next area I visited was the Discovery Zone which is kind of a kid’s area with plenty of interactive things to do and learn.

It kind of looked like we had been shrunk down to the size of a bug with the large trees looming over us from the ceiling.

There was also a large bug collection on display and plenty of dinosaur fossils that you could actually touch and examine.

My youngest daughter loved this area and I did have to drag her out of here eventually so we could continue our tour.  The next hallway we encountered led us to the South Florida People and Environments exhibit.

This was another interesting area that was set up like you were walking along a boardwalk with trees and wildlife on either side of you.  Just beyond this area is a large exhibit showcasing Florida’s Indian tribes the Seminole and Miccosukee who lived in South Florida.  There were displays of their beautiful ceremonial clothing, woodwork, and artifacts from early Seminole sites.

We did then run into an interesting hallway that was called The Hall of Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land.  As you can see from the above picture one of the walls was filled with some pretty intimidating teeth.

At the back of the Museum was the West Gallery with visible collections and labs.

Most of the labs back in this area did have people working mostly on paperwork during our visit.  But I found this really cool that you could see into their labs while they worked on their research.

One of these areas along the West Gallery was their Butterfly collection and I was completely blown away by this.  The above room had plenty to see but there was so much more around the corner.

This entire hallway was set up for their Butterfly exhibits.  The glass cases on the walls extended from just about floor level all the way up to the ceiling.  Some of the butterflies were small, and others were huge.

The total number of butterflies they had on display was just amazing, and the range of colors was so beautiful.  This area was worth the trip in itself, and I’ve never seen anything like this before.

After spending a lot of time in the butterfly area we found ourselves back near the main entrance of the Museum and headed into the gift shop to see what they had.

We did buy a few things to help support the museum and then walked just outside the gift shop to where the pressed penny machine was.

The machine had a nice sleek looking cabinet.  I do find this style presses pennies a little short sometimes and this was also the case here.

Most of the design did come through but you can see a bit was cut off on the ends.  These museum pennies are also great as they usually showcase specific exhibits from inside that museum making them a little more unique.

Even though this museum would have been quite a drive just from the Orlando area, it was a fun place to explore.  It’s not very big, but we did spend a couple hours inside and wow that butterfly exhibit was really amazing and highly recommended.  This was just our first stop in Gainesville and still has a few more stops to make on this trip.  Be sure to check back for more on this trip.  Keep on Pressing!

Epcot Reopening Preview – NEW Pressed Pennies!!

A week after Disney reopening the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom theme parks, they were ready to open their other parks Hollywood Studios and Epcot.  Not only was Epcot reopening but they were also kicking things off with their Food and Wine Festival that will now be running longer than any previous year.  I was able to snag a Park Reservation to check out Epcot and see how things had changed.

Just like the other parks, there is a required temperature screening before you can enter the park.  It was quick and simple with no line when I had arrived.  Afterward, I headed through the security check and then up to the main entrance.

A really nice thing that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before at the parks is that all of the entry touchpoints were open.  This helped prevent any line from forming while you scan your magic band or park ticket.

As I mentioned above the Food and Wine Festival officially started July 15th and will run through the Fall.  This is also the 25th anniversary of the festival.

Walking back towards the World Showcase you can see the very light crowd level in the park.  The nice thing about Epcot is that it a large property and allows guests quite a bit of room to spread out.

One thing that I thought was interesting is that not all of the Festival food booths were open.  Quite a few of them had signs stating they will open in the “Fall”.  Also, there was next to no Food and Wine merchandise available, instead, they were still trying to sell through the Flower and Garden Festival items from before the parks had closed in March.

I decided to head towards the Mexico Pavilion and start my way around the World Showcase in that direction.

The first open booth I encountered was the Mexico booth and I just had to stop and try something.  The Ribeye Taco was just calling my name.  It was really good but the portion size was really small and at $6.95 seemed overpriced.

I continued my trip around the world by next visiting the Norway Pavilion.  The line for the Frozen Ever After attraction was around 30 minutes which wasn’t too bad compared to normal operating days.  However, I was more interested in visiting the Relaxation Station in this area that is located in the Akershus restaurant.  Previously this was a Character Dining buffet but with all the current restrictions that are not happening.  Instead, you can come inside for a break from the sun for some air conditioning and a chance to remove your mask for awhile.  I have never been to this restaurant but I was really amazed at how beautiful it was.  The decorations and theming were really great and I hope to actually eat here sometime in the future.

Next up was the China food booth with the above menu available.  The offerings do seem limited this time around.  I’m not sure if this will change as the festival continues.

They also have some variation of a Bao Bun at this booth which I’m obsessed with.  This year it was a Mongolian Beef version so I picked it up with a cup of the Happy Peach drink.  This was another winner for me, the beef was flavorful and the bun was soft and pillowy.  Even though the bun was $6.75 I felt it was a much better value than the taco I had earlier.  The peach drink was just okay and at $11.50 due to it containing alcohol was pretty pricey.

As I stood to the side of the China Pavilion enjoying my food, all of a sudden the music ramped up and I was greeted by a Character Cavalcade featuring Elsa and Anna.  I mentioned this in the Magic Kingdom review but I wanted to say again that I really think this is a great way to enjoy the characters.  These impromptu experiences are not scheduled and just happen randomly throughout the day.  They don’t last long unless you follow them around the Showcase.  But within just a few minutes they had passed by where I was standing and then everyone went back to what they were doing.  I hope they keep these up in the future.

I continued around the Showcase and as you can see the crowds continued to be really light and in my opinion very enjoyable.  All too often, I’ve visited the parks with massive crowds and it can take some of the fun out of your day.

Over in the Japan Pavilion with the Matsuriza Traditional Japanese Drummers no longer performing it was really quite.

The Morocco Pavilion was also extremely quiet.  I walked through the marketplace and think I saw only 2 or 3 people.

Next up was the France Pavilion.  My wife loves the Chocolate Croissants available in Les Halles Patisserie and I was going to surprise her with one, but unfortunately when I went inside the Patisserie was closed.  I have seen that a few days after my visit it has reopened with a limited menu.

One completely new experience for me on this trip was the ability to check out this large Pavilion building that I’ve only ever seen from a distance.  It’s located between the United Kingdom and Canadian Pavilions.

Usually, this is reserved for special events, but during the Festival it’s been opened to guests and houses a few different food booths.  This place was huge!  Plenty of space inside, lots of high top tables that were all appropriately spaced out, and live music were playing.  Plus there was plenty of Air Conditioning, always important during summertime in Florida.

The food booth all the way in the back of the Pavilion was dedicated to Macaroni & Cheese which sounded pretty good to me.

I opted for the Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese which was also really fantastic.  The Buffalo flavor was not very spicy and I would have preferred a little more spice for my taste.  Since Disney wants to make sure as many people can enjoy it their spicy level is usually pretty low.  But in any case, I reall[y did enjoy this and was on quite the roll this trip with Festival foods.

After enjoying a bit of a break in this Pavilion I headed back out to the Showcase and finished my tour.  I headed back towards Future World and visited a few areas like the Imagination Pavilion, The Land, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends.

Nothing new in any of those areas, so I headed to the other side of Spaceship Earth and headed towards one of my favorite attractions Test Track.  Unfortunately, this ride was not working when I got there, but I decided to go around the side to the Simporium (gift shop).

I spoke with a Cast Member who confirmed that the store was open even though the ride was down.  There usually is a 3-design penny machine inside and I wanted to make sure it was still there, but to my surprise, it was gone.

In its place was a new 8-design touch screen pressed penny machine.  First I had to do my usual photoshoot with the machine and then I went up and pressed my set.  The Cast Member told me I was the first guest (other than the tech who installed it) to use the machine.  I felt so honored to be the first!

This was a nice set of designs all themed around Test Track.  There are a few with Mickey and his friends as well as a couple with some unique Test Track logos.  I was so happy to find some new pennies on this visit and it was a great way to end my day.

My plan was only to try a few food items this time around as I really wanted to spend most of my time reviewing the pressed penny machines.  I’m planning on going back maybe in August to do a full Food and Wine Festival tour with my wife and friends which is something we do every year.  As for the penny machines around the World Showcase, they were all pretty much still in their usual locations, only a couple were not open like in Germany and Canada.  Those machines are located in the gift shops which were not open that day.  The machines in Future World were all the same and available other than the new one at Test Track.  It was definitely a great day and so much fun to be back in Epcot.  I’m looking forward to visiting again to really dive into the Food Festival and hopefully, we will see some more new pressed pennies soon.

Magic Kingdom Reopening Preview – NEW Pressed Pennies!!

Back on March 15th, 2020, the Walt Disney World Theme Parks closed due to the COVID Pandemic.  I was there on the last night before it closed and it was a very different experience that I don’t know if I’ll ever see again.  Cast Members were hugging each other in tears, not knowing if or when they may see each other again.  Guests were sitting all along Main Street after the park had officially closed but were just so reluctant to leave not knowing when they may be back in the park.  Eventually, once we had emotionally prepared ourselves to leave we passed by the Main Street Train Station where Mickey and some of his friends were there waving goodbye as we left the park.  I knew we would be back and hoped it would only be a month or so, but soon that closure time extended to two months, then three.

Finally, after about 117 days, Walt Disney World was ready to attempt a reopening with a lot of changes to not just crowd levels but also ride procedures and face coverings.  A few days before the Magic Kingdom was going to reopen to the general public they offered a special preview for Annual Passholders and I made sure to snag one of those limited spots.  Here is a review of my first trip back to the Magic Kingdom.

The park was scheduled to open that day at 9am, but I was wake by 6 in the morning and was just too anxious to get there.  Obviously from the above picture, I was not the only one and there was quite a line at the parking plaza to get into the lots.  To try and help keep everyone spaced out they were pulsing groups of cars through the plaza.  This caused the line to move a bit as a few cars to pass through, then you would sit at a standstill for a while waiting for that previous group to make their way into the parking lot.

It didn’t take too long to get parked but it was a bit of a process.  After we were guided into a spot the trams were not operating so we had to walk from the parking lot to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC).  Then it was time for our temperature screening.  This was a simple process, you just keep your distance from other guests until it’s your turn and then an Advent Healthcare worker used a non-invasive thermometer to scan your forehead and give you the go-ahead to proceed inside.  After that was the security screening and then on to the first choice of the day…Monorail or Ferry boat.

The line wasn’t too bad for the Monorail so I opted to check that out first.  The number of guests in each car was limited and in my case, I had the entire car to myself.  You can see in the above picture that they have installed a divider over that center bench to try and keep the two parts of the car separated a bit.  But you can see there is a gap around the edge so this is not a full-proof solution.

My ride in the Monorail was pretty quick and before I knew it I was back in the Magic Kingdom with the Train Station looming over the Main Entrance.  The fingerprint scanners have been covered over and not required at this time.  You just touch your Magic Band to the touchpoint and walk on in.

I walked under the train station and onto Main Street feeling like I had never left.  It was a wonderful feeling to be back inside the park, but you did have the sense that things were different.  Up high on the Train Station platform was Mickey and a group of his Friends all welcoming us back which was wonderful.

Main Street USA was fairly empty especially compared to what I’ve been used to over the past few years but was a nice change and I wish it could be like this all the time.

My first stop was over to Adventureland and I was looking forward to getting on Pirates of the Caribbean.  You can see in the above picture that the extended queue is set up with the social distancing markers.  Due to the current low capacity the park is allowing, there was no wait and I walked right on the ride.

After I had completed my Caribbean tour with my favorite pirates I needed a Dole Whip.  Not just because it had been months since my last taste, but also it was extremely hot and humid as we have all come to know Florida for.  That first taste of Dole Whip was heavenly and I savored every moment before continuing on.

Now that I had cooled off a bit, I headed into Frontierland and did make it on Splash Mountain.  I’m sure by now you have heard that Disney announced Splash Mountain will be rethemed to Princess and the Frog.  No time frame has been released yet, but this was definitely the most popular ride in the park with many fans trying to make sure they got in one last ride just in case the ride closes sooner than later.  Then I headed over towards the Country Bear Jamboree and found some of the bears on the second-floor balcony waiving and interactive with guests passing by below them.

With the Country Bears having fun outside I couldn’t pass up a visit to their Jamboree and also figured I would enjoy some Air Conditioning at the same time.

Inside the waiting area for the show previously there had been a 3 design pressed penny machine.  But on this visit, I noticed that machine was gone and was replaced with a new 8-design machine.

The pressed penny designs included images of all the different Country Bears from the show including Big Al, Liver Lips, Brother Ted, Teddi Barra, and more.  With the new pennies stored in my pocket, I headed into the show and enjoyed another great Jamboree performance.

Crowd levels were amazingly low.  Once I left the Country Bears I wondered through Liberty Square, took a quick ride inside the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan, and then over towards New Fantasyland.  The above picture is of the Stroller Parking near the Carousel.  For anyone that has experienced this area on a normal day, the above picture at least for me was shocking.

The pathway in front of the Little Mermaid attraction was completely deserted.

This continued over into Storybook Circus and Tomorrowland as shown above.

Space Mountain was another attraction that had a posted wait time of around 15 minutes for most of the day but was just a walk-on.  I think the 15 minutes was just the length of time it took to walk through that long queue line.

In the Tomorrowland Terrace was one of the Relaxation Stations.  This is a place just like Universal offered where they have tables separated from each other allowing you a place to remove your mask for a bit of a break.

This is a nice place to sit and relax since it’s open allowing for a nice amount of airflow, but you are also covered from the sun or rain.

By this time I had made almost a complete tour of the park, but wanted to head back down Main Street to visit the Emporium.

But once I got down in that area I was just taken back by how empty it was.  I was almost speechless but wanted to enjoy it for as long as I could.

Not too long after as I was just sitting along Main Street one of the random Character Cavalcades was headed my way.  One of the recent changes Disney made was doing away with the scheduled afternoon parade.  Instead, they have these small Cavalcades which is usually just a single float with a few characters on it.  These are released into the park sporadically to avoid people standing around in groups.  It’s actually a great way to do it without the large crowds.

Getting into the Main Street Emporium is a little different.  This store has a LOT of different doors, but only the set about halfway up Main Street is available to actually enter the store.  All the other doors are marked as Exit Only and have Cast Members there to prevent you from entering the wrong way.  This is to ensure they can manage the number of guests inside the store.  As you enter, a Cast Member has a Tablet that they “Add” you as a guest in the store.  It’s connected to the Cast Members near the exits that are “Removing” guests as they leave.  If there are too many people inside the store they will set up a queue where you need to wait before being allowed inside.

I walked around not really looking to buy any merchandise (I’ve already got plenty and need to try and cut back).  But as I entered the main section of the Emporium I noticed a new Pressed Penny machine.  In this area previously were two machines, a 3-design Quarter Press and a 3-design Penny Press.

But after searching around I can confirm those machines have been removed and replaced with this new 8-design model.

More of a surprise was the addition of more 2020 dated designs.  With 2020 about half over it seems kind of strange to release these now.  Plus I’m curious to see what happens in 2021, will only the dated designs be replaced or will we get a whole new set of 8-designs.  This set has designs of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Princess Aurora, and a few other familiar characters.

After I finished using that new machine I kept walked around just seeing what was new, and towards one of the exits, I saw another new penny machine.

These 8-design machines are certainly becoming a popular choice at Walt Disney World.  In this location, there used to be a 3-design penny press which has also been retired and replaced with this second new machine.

More 2020 designs are available in this set along with images of Tinker Bell, Snow White, Mickey, and more of his Friends.

This was a really great day.  I was a little apprehensive about heading back into the parks especially since Florida has been having some high numbers of confirmed COVID cases lately.  But with all the precautions Disney has taken, I did feel quite safe and was always trying to ensure I didn’t touch too many things and tried to keep myself distanced from others as much as possible.  There is nothing like visiting a Disney Park to brighten your spirits, and finding three new pressed penny machines was just the icing on the cake.

De Leon Springs State Park Florida

This trip actually took place much earlier this year and I kind of forgot all about it until recently.  We continued our exploration of different Florida State Parks and this one I was really looking forward too because of a unique restaurant located there.  Plus there is a certain fountain that I wanted to see, but we will get into that a little later.

De Leon Springs State Park is about an hour and a half from our house north of Orlando.

The name may sound familiar.  Juan Ponce de Leon was a Spanish explorer known for leading the first official European exploration of Florida.

Inside the park is a Pancake House called the Old Spanish Sugarmill.  But not your average restaurant.  This is a popular place and wait times can stretch past 2 hours so be sure to put your name on the list as soon as you arrive.

After we paid our small carload admission to the park, we found a parking spot and started exploring.  The day was beautiful and being outside in the sun is always a plus.

There is a portion of Spring Garden Lake that do see Manatees during the colder months of the year.  Unfortunately, during our visit, there were not around but we will be back to see them again in the future.  The park also does offer guided boat tours that I am interested in trying sometime.

Before heading behind the Old Spanish Mill I went up to put our names on the list for breakfast.  Remember how I said wait times can be pretty crazy, well I was told it could take about 1 and a half hours for our table to be available.  We were in no rush so it was time to head out back and check out some historic items that were on display.

Here lies The Fountain of Youth…well sort of.

As you can see there wasn’t much left of it, and there was certainly no youthful water available.  Back in the 1950s, this was a popular Florida roadside attraction where visitors could drink the water.  I guess it just wasn’t meant to be on this trip.

On the other side of the Mill was the Springs and there was a nice path that wound all the way around.

There was plenty of space around for visitors to set up their blankets and chairs before plunging into the Springs.

On one side of the Springs was a fairly large building with restrooms, changing areas, and a small Visitor Center.

Inside was a little museum with information on the Springs and surrounding areas.

I’m not really one to just sit down for too long and found myself walking around and just taking it all in.

Eventually, our name was called out over the loudspeakers in the park, notifying us that our table was ready.

It was perfect timing because by now we were all starving.  We headed up to the Old Spanish Mill and walked inside.

Once inside we were greeted by our server who walked us over to our table and explained how things worked.  Do you notice anything different about the tables?

They are known for their All you can eat pancakes but do have some other items if you prefer.  But I can attest that the pancakes are really good and are what we opted for.  You can also order toppings for your pancakes like chocolate chips, banana slices, blueberries, and a bunch of other things.

Not too long after we ordered our server brought over to pitchers of pancake batter.  One was their Early American style batter with unbleached white flour.  The second (is that a hidden mickey on the pitcher?) was their own house mixture with 5 fresh stoneground flours.

Now here is where things get a bit interesting.  Located right in the middle of your table is an electric griddle.  This is to ensure they are piping hot and made just as you like them.  You can make little ones, or one huge one, whatever your heart desires.  We even tried to make a Mickey-shaped one that kind of settled into more of a blob shape.

We tried both batters and they were really good, but I did prefer the Early American style the best.  With plenty of butter and maple syrup I was in heaven.  We tried to take our time and just enjoy our breakfast, and once done we had eaten probably a few too many pancakes but it was worth it.

After I paid our bill my family headed into the little gift shop they had near the check out area.  But I had something else in mind.  Back near the main entrance of the restaurant was a pressed penny machine.

I had seen it the first time we walked in but there was quite the crowd around the door so as much as it pained me I decided to wait until it cleared out.

One thing I want to point out about this machine is that the cost is a little higher than usual.  It was $0.75 per design to press plus your penny.  Thankfully I always bring extra quarters just in case.

The pennies rolled a little short but I find that is pretty common for this style of machine.  The set was nice and I enjoyed the images of the De Leon Springs State Park seal and the Old Spanish Suger Mill building.  Of course, being located in Florida there has to be designs of an Alligator and Manatee.

After our visit, we had told friends and family about this place and many of them questioned why we would want to go to a restaurant that makes us cook our own food. But that didn’t even really cross my mind, it was a unique experience and my entire family just had a really fun and memorable time.  The price of the pancakes was less than $6 a person which I think was a steal, and to this day my two daughters keep asking when we can go back.  They are definitely anxious to get a little older so they can try to work the griddle and make their own creations.

Homosassa Springs State Park Florida

It was about time for my family to get out of the house for some fresh air.  Being cooped up inside was starting to make everyone a little squirrely.  But instead of heading back to one of the theme parks, we had decided to visit another Florida State Park.  This trip we headed back over towards the Gulf to check out Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

This place kind of took me by surprise as I was thinking it would just be another State Park with nature trails we could explore, but it was so much more than that.

When we first arrived we were greeted by a huge Manatee out front of the visitor center.  Parking was free which was nice.

Inside the visitor center was a little museum with some old photographs and plenty of history about the State Park.

I feel like I’ve seen this Manatee before but wearing a different shirt?  I’ll have to look into this more at some time, or maybe I just need more sleep.

Just outside the restrooms was the first penny press machine I found and had information that there was another one somewhere.

The pennies from this first machine had images of a couple Manatees, an Alligator, a Wolf, and a Florida panther.

After we had enjoyed the visitor center we headed out back to where the Boats and Trams were located to take us further into the Park.

We lucked out and one of the tour boats was about to leave so we jumped on board and had a wonderful little adventure.  The ride took maybe 15 minutes down the river and the tour guide gave us plenty of details about the river and made sure to point out some local wildlife like turtles, cranes, and even a couple gators along the riverbank.

After the board tour docked at the far end of the river we exited near another parking lot along Fishbowl Drive.  We saw people crossing the street towards another building that lead the way towards the Wildlife Walk.

Inside was a little gift shop to one side, and a food counter on the right side called the Wildside Cafe.  We stopped for a light snack and some drinks to cool off.

Just past the Wildside Cafe was the second pressed penny machine, thankfully this time not near the restrooms.

The pennies at this machine rolled a bit short, but most of the designs came through.  The set included images of a Pather, a Manatee, an Eagle, and a Bear.  Hopefully, we wouldn’t be running into any bears or Panthers on this nature walk.

After I used the penny machine there was a desk towards the opposite side of the building where you paid a small admission price to explore the Wildlife Walk.

I was amazed that even at this time of year we were able to see a couple Manatees in the wild.  These really are amazing creatures and I never get tired of seeing them in the wild.

They definitely were proud of their Manatee residents at the park.  It was interesting to read all the information boards they had in this area with details about them.

Now it was time to explore the Wildlife Walk.  It was a nice raised wooden Boardwalk type path that wound through the park.

It was nice a wide so everyone had plenty of space and you could take your time without feeling like you were holding anyone up.

Of course, we are in Florida so there has to be the standard Alligator exhibit with some of the biggest gators I’ve ever seen up close.  Thankfully they looked well fed and were just enjoying the sunny afternoon.

This was not a zoo, so there weren’t any exotic animals on this walk but instead, it was promoting Florida local wildlife.  I found this kind of refreshing as it seemed to fit better in the state park.

Eventually, we made the entire tour around the Wildlife Walk and found ourselves back at the Tram / Boat station.  This time we opted to try the Tram which was just a trailer with seats attached to the back of a pickup truck.  It was a quick drive along the river but no tour guide this time around.  The tram was more all business just getting you back to the visitor center as quickly as possible.  But cutting its way through the tall trees and green surroundings was still a nice way to end our day.

We had a fantastic day and really enjoyed just being outside.  Florida State Parks are really becoming our favorite way to spend some quality family time together, get some exercise and of course, find a few pressed pennies every now and then.

Pressed Penny Minted Date Comparison

In past posts, I’ve gone over how Pressed Penny Collectors usually prefer to use what are known as Pre-1982 pennies.  This is due to the larger percentage of copper used in those older coins.  Starting in 1982 the United States Mint changed the metals in the penny to 97.5% zinc with only a 2.5% copper coating.

A common complaint among collectors is that when using these new pennies that thin copper coating can stretch and tear while being elongated to reveal streaks of the zinc core.

Years ago after learning more about this from fellow collectors I quickly changed over to pre-1982 pennies and of course had to go back and replace quite a few pennies in my collection.  Recently I was working on a video for Youtube and decided that I wanted to do a massive comparison between pennies with different minted dates.

First I had to figure out which pressed penny machine to use.  I wanted the design to be fairly simple but also needed to ensure that the machine (hopefully) would be around for years to come.  This is because I’m hoping to continue with this in future years to keep the comparison up to date.  Also due to many of the theme parks around Orlando being closed this did limit what machines I would have access to.  After going through my options I decided on a machine in Disney Springs at the Pin Trading store.

The design I chose was of Classic Mickey Mouse.  I don’t see Disney retiring this machine or design any time soon.  Mickey is here to stay for a long time.  Hopefully, I didn’t just jinx things.

A few weeks before my visit I had placed numerous orders with many coin merchants to get as many Brilliant Uncirculated pennies starting with 1950 all the way through 2020.  I had each penny stored in a separate little baggie with the date printed on the outside so that after I pressed each of them I would know which was which.  I think the Cast Members in the store thought I had lost my mind as I pressed the exact same design 71 times.  But they seemed happy just to have guests back in the store, and I actually kind of enjoyed being able to press some pennies again after being cooped up in our house for the last couple of months.

1950 1981 1982 2000 2020

Above is just a sampling of the pennies I pressed for this comparison.  You can click on the images to get a larger image for more detail.  At a glance, they don’t actually look too different.  But when you zoom in is where you start to see some differences.

 

The image above on the Left is a 60x zoom of the 1950 penny, and the image on the Right is the 1988 penny.  That 1988 penny clearly shows those stretch and tear marks on the right side along the dot border.

However, this is not a hard and fast rule.  Above I zoomed in on the 2020 penny and there are none of those tear marks.  The penny machines for the most part have been calibrated to try and press with pressure and die configuration that hopefully will work for a wide range of pennies to try and ensure the final product is as good as can be.  For the most part, I do find the pre-1982 pennies work the best and are what I’m sticking with for now as long as I am able to obtain them.

If you would like to check out the full comparison of all pennies from 1950 to the Present year just scroll up to the top of this page and click on “Penny Comparison” from the menu just under the main banner.  Enjoy and keep on smashing!!