Fantasia Gardens Mini-Golf – WDW, Florida

Some of my fondest vacation memories from my childhood are early evening games of mini-golf with my parents and sister.  None of us were particularly good, but just having fun as a family in the cooler evening hours is something that will stick with me for a long time.  In our original home of Ottawa Canada we had a few min-golf courses around town but they were really low quality, not even consisting of the common windmill obstacle.  The ones I really remember were in Florida, we would spot them as we drove in from the airport.  My dad would somehow make a mental note of where they were and we would try a new one almost every night.  The theming of these courses was just so beyond what we were used to it just added to the enjoyment of the experience.

On those days back when my sister and I were kids we never stayed on Disney Property but instead would be at a Howard Johnson in Kissimmee.  Due to this once we were done with the parks for the day we usually headed back to the hotel to do something near there.  I don’t know exactly when the Disney Mini-Golf courses first opened, but I first tried these courses out in 1997 when I took a trip after high school graduation.

Fantasia Gardens is located near the Swan and Dolphin Resort.  Unfortunately there is no directly transportation to the mini-golf course so you have to get creative if you don’t have a car.  Once you get to the area there are actually two separate courses here, Fantasia and the Fairway.  Fantasia as you can probably guess since we are at Disney has each hole designed around the Fantasia movie.

Each hole throughout the course slowly gets a little more difficult, but nothing too crazy.  They are all very reasonable for even the most casual of player of almost all ages.

Some of the holes have simple obstacles in the middle of a curing green, where others have some very interesting water hazards like the below.

Towards the end of the course you do get to finally see the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

But be careful as you walk beneath the broomsticks with their buckets, if you don’t walk quick enough you may get a little shower of water.

The second course as I mentioned above is called the Fairway.  This is the more difficult of the two  courses.

Each hole is set up to imitate a regular golf course.  As you can see from the pictures above there are no rails along the side of the course, there are sands traps, and other water hazards.  But just take your time and have fun.

After you finish playing your course and turn in your golf club there is an arcade available near the entrance/exit.  There are sometimes long waits to play these courses.  I’ve gone a few times and been told that wait is over an hour to start.  The arcade is a great way to pass the time, but it’s not a big place and only has a few games inside.  As you can see there is also a penny machine crammed into one of the corners.

There are three designs here which have moved all around the property.  The images include Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey, Cinderella’s Step Mother and Sisters, and the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

I have played these courses a few times  and they can be challenging, but still fun to play.  Some younger children may find the Fairway course a little too hard, but as my mom always said it’s not weather you win or lose but how you play the game.  It’s all about having fun and making memories!

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Gone Hollywood Gifts (Marvel & Star Wars Sets) – California Adventure, CA

Back over on the west coast in Disney California Adventure there are two new pressed quarter machines.  In the Gone Hollywood Gift shop there was originally one machine that had a fairly new set of Star Wars designs which you can read about here.  I thought they may replace that initial machine, but these two are in additional to it making this quite the hot spot.

The first set is of a few popular Marvel Characters.  The images on these coins include Spiderman, Captain American and Black Widow.

The backstamp on these coins has the California Adventure logo, and the slogan Summer of Heroes.

The second set of new designs are a collection of Star Wars silhouettes.  The images include Yoda, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker & Dark Vader.

This one image of Luke and Vader is really cool and has one of the most iconic phrases in all of cinematic history.  “I am your Father”.

The backstamp on these coins is o the Star Wars logo with stars all around it, which is similar to the other Star Wars coins here.

Another fantastic addition to your collection and I like the addition of some Marvels designs.  There has been a bit of a lull in new coins coming to the California parks but I’m hoping this is the calm before the storm.  I always find new coins come in batches out here.  Keep checking back for more updates.

Changes to Once Upon a Toy Store – Disney Springs

The big toy store in Disney Springs known as Once Upon a Toy Store has been a haven in the past for penny press machines and at one point had 3 different machines.  However this store is currently going under some renovations and about two-thirds of the store is closed off.  Due to this two of the machines have moved from this location.

The first machine to move was an 8-Design Star Wars machine.  the designs are still the same but this machine is now located over at Epcot in the Mouse Gears store near the Star Wars merchandise.

The second 8-Design machine shown below was the second machine relocated just down the walkway still in Disney Springs in the World of Disney mega store.

With those two machines gone there was only one last machine still in the Once Upon a Toy store and had the same designs it’s had for quite a while.  Until just recently when these designs were changed out.

This is a 4 design hand crank machine located just inside the main entrance doors.

The images pressed on these coins included Mickey Mouse, Dory & Nemo, Buzz Lightyear, and a Little Green Man Alien.

This store has definitely been a starting point for some new pressed coins machines and I’m curious to see what happens once the entire store if reopened.  Will it get new machines or just have the other ones moved back.  Only time will tell, but I’m crossing my fingers for even more machines.

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on these new designs.

Space Mountain / Tomorrowland Light & Power Gift Shop – Magic Kingdom, FL

As a child my family took a couple of trips down to Florida and a couple to California to visit the various Disney parks.  Usually the vacations flip-flopped between a Disney vacation and what my sister and I affectionately called “Educational” vacations like the Grand Canyon, or a tiny town in upper Ontario Canada called Moosonee (check it out it does actually exist).  My sister has always loved thrill rides and I’ve mentioned in the past that they just weren’t my thing.  I already preferred It’s a Small World, or the Haunted Mansion as the most thrilling rides I could handle.  Every so often she would get me on Splash Mountain, but one ride that I always held out on was Space Mountain.

Photo credit: Disney Parks

This was for a few reasons, first was it’s a roller coaster and second it was in the dark.  As the years went on my sister kept trying to get me on, and this even continued up until a vacation together about two years ago as adults.  I still held out.

Just a few days ago a new penny machines was released in the Magic Kingdom, through Tomorrowland and right near Space Mountain.  It’s actually located in the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. building which is the gift shop you exit through after riding Space Mountain.  Now if you are like me you do not need to ride this attraction in order to access the machine.  You just walk in to the gift shop and it’s towards the back of the store.  However on this trip I decided to do something I pledged I would never do, and try to ride Space Mountain.

The new machine is a touch screen 8-design model which are definitely becoming more popular within the parks of late.

As with similar machines the designs are pressed on penny sized token blanks.  This set was all themed around the coaster just next door.  Images on these coins include: Space Mountain Logo, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Mickey/Donald/Goofy in Space Mountain Ride Car, Mike & Sully in Ride Car, Mickey & Minnie in Ride Car, Mickey in Spacesuit, and Space Mountain Chip & Dale.

This is a really cute set and I always like when they incorporate an attraction at the parks.  This machine does replace the 3 design quarter press machine that used to be in this store.  The other two machines (4 Design Penny Press, and 4 Design Dime Press) are still here for now.  After pressing these coins I decided to head back home.  Oh you wanted to know if I made it on the ride?

That’s me in the middle seat.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought and was actually pretty fun.  I don’t know if I would want to ride it by myself again (the other guys with me were single riders as well) but next time my sister is in town I’ve got a big surprise for her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity 5 & 10 – Hollywood Studios, FL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Orlando Eye – Orlando, FL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skeletons Museum – Orlando, FL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sea Life Aquarium – Orlando, FL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Nickel Set – Trolley Treats California Adventure, CA

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

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

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