Pandora World of Avatar NEW Penny Machine – Animal Kingdom

Back in 2009 a little movie you may have heard of called Avatar was released and became the highest grossing movie of all time with over $2.7 billion at the Box office.  The movie takes place in the mid-22nd century on a habitable moon called Pandora in a far away star system.  The moon was inhabited by a local tribe called the Na’vi that were tall blue creatures.  The moon also had a diverse collection of other creatures both tame and hostile.

With such a popular and highly profitable movie it seemed only a matter of time before more movies would come out.  However before those new movies come out (we are still waiting) Disney announced they were going to develop part of the Animal Kingdom park into Pandora.

Construction began in early 2014 and was going to be a huge expansion.  Then on May 27, 2017 the new land officially opened to the public with two marquee attractions that to this day still have up wards of 2-3 hour wait times to ride.

I was not there on opening day, but did get to first experience Pandora about a month after it opened and was just completely blown away.  As you walk over the bridge into Pandora the sounds of the Animal Kingdom slowly fade and new ambient sounds are heard instead.   I remember just wondering around for a couple of hours taking in all the details of Pandora.

I had a fastpass to ride the slow-moving water attraction called Na’vi River Journey, and eventually was able to experience the highly coveted Flight of Passage which is really amazing and I would do it no justice trying to explain what it is like.  But one thing that caught me a bit by surprise was that there was no pressed penny machine to be found anywhere.  I guess maybe the Na’vi don’t use money so that could be keeping with the theming, but was something many collectors hoped would show up at some point.  Well that day finally showed up almost 2 years after Pandora opened.

I was at work when I heard the news about this new machine.  I did the responsible thing and waited until the work day was over before taking my two daughters with me to Animal Kingdom on the hunt for the new pennies.

The floating mountains are always a sight to see and things keep changing in the land.  Plus the crowds are still as busy as ever.  They even have a cast member in a utility suit (for the science team) come out and walk around giving some history and detail on the world we are visiting.  It’s all done in character but still a lot of fun and helps keep you immersed in this amazing place.

There is only one gift shop in Pandora that is called Windtraders.  If you experience the Flight of Passage ride you actually exit through this gift shop.  But you do not need to go on the ride to check it out.  Inside there is a rookery where you can be matched with your very own Banshee, or be scanned into a computer and have a 3-D Na’vi toy created of yourself.  Plus of course lots of t-shirts, magic bands, and toys.

Then all the way in the back corner that blends in almost too well is the penny press machine.

This is another of those 8-design touch screen machines that supplies the penny sized tokens to press.  There was a line of about 5-6 people in front of me when we found it so this will probably be another very popular set of coins.

The set includes various designs from the two attractions in Pandora and the land itself including the Shaman, Viperwolf and even the Utility suit plus some other things I’m not 100% sure what they are but they look cool which is important.  Each of the coins also say Pandora the World of Avatar.

I’m so glad to see they finally released as set of coins for this area of the park.  Not sure exactly why it took so long, but I’m sure there is all sorts of licensing legalities that need to be ironed out before they can release them.  Hopefully with the new Star Wars Land….sorry Galaxy’s Edge, that we will get some new machines and maybe you will even need a droid to start it up.  We’ve waited long enough for the Star Wars area to open, hopefully they don’t make us wait until 2 years after that for some new pressed pennies.

Replaced Animal Kingdom 20th Anniversary Penny Designs

In 2018 Disney’s Animal Kingdom was celebrating its 20th anniversary and had released some special pressed penny designs.  Well now that it is 2019 the anniversary has come and gone which means those 20th anniversary designs are also no longer available.

At the Outpost Shop located at the entrance to the Animal Kingdom before even the security checkpoints is where the first machine was found.

The machine cabinet has remained the same, only the penny designs inside and the marquee have been changed.

I should rephrase that a bit.  The penny designs are actually still the same but now without the 20th anniversary banner on each.  Now the designs just say Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Disney Conservation Fund.

The pennies have images of Russell, Doug and Kevin from the movie Up!

The second set of pennies that have changed was relocated at the Mombasa Marketplace.

This store has lots of unique African inspired artwork and even some instruments that my two daughters always enjoy creating music with.

Just like the other set, these designs are the same main image as before but the 20th anniversary banner has been removed.

This set is from The Lion King and includes images of Simba, Timon and Pumbaa.

As you can see these are not major changes, and the casual pressed penny collector probably wouldn’t notice.  But for some any one interested in trying to acquire all Disney pennies the 20th anniversary set may be a little hard to find now.  Hopefully you were able to pick up a set before they were retired.

2019 Dated Walt Disney World Pressed Coins Set

Here we are in 2019 and as we all knew was going to happen, the new dated pressed coins have made their appearance all over Walt Disney World property.  But first let me go over how I first found out the new designs were being released.  My daughter and I were over at Epcot just enjoying a day at the park and we decided to head over to The Land pavilion where Soarin’ is, however my daughter prefers the Living with the Land boat ride through the greenhouse.  As we walked inside and back towards the Garden Grill restaurant I noticed the penny/quarter double machine was pulled out from the wall and being worked on.

My daughter was anxious to ride the boat attraction but I asked her to hold tight for a bit.  I knew the 2019 designs were going to be released at any moment, but was amazed that I may have walked upon this actually happening first hand.  Once the machine was put back together and moved against the wall I leaned in and sure enough saw the new quarter design.  The woman who was changing out the design was very nice and spoke with me for a bit about the machines she had already changed out.  She mentioned that more would be out over the next few days.

And so it had begun and I made it my project over the next week to visit all the machines and document the new designs.

   

That first design at The Land near the Garden Grill was in the same location as last year.  The design has Chip and Dale on it and as I mentioned above is on a pressed quarter.

   

I didn’t forget to take my daughter on the Living with the land ride so we did enjoy that, but I was antsy the entire time just thinking about all the new designs around property that I couldn’t wait to find.  With the ride over we quickly headed to the other side of Future World and into the Mouse Gear Shop where we found the first new pressed penny with Spaceship Earth on it.

Something I’m not sure I ever noticed in previous years is that near all these new pressed coin machines was a large selection of 2019 merchandise like photo albums, cups, mugs, t-shirts and more.  I usually stay away from the dated t-shirts, but the one pictures above is calling my name.  I really like the colors this year and may just have to pick one up.

   

We then headed into the World Showcase to the Disney Traders gift shop and found the next penny machine.  The image is of the year 2019 and Mickey is jumping out of the Zero.  (Note: there was a new penny machine over at the Mexico pavilion we found but I’ll review that in an upcoming post.  Stay tuned!)

Those were all the 2019 coins available at Epcot.  Using the intel I had received from the penny machine attendant earlier we headed back to our car and drove over to Hollywood Studios.

   

Once in the park we headed right now Sunset Boulevard towards the Rockin’ Roller Coaster, and went in to the Rock Around the Shop to find the above machine.  The penny design was of the Fantasmic Dragon.

   

Just across the courtyard underneath the Hollywood Tower Hotel is the Tower Hotel Gift shop.  Towards the back of the store where the Tower of Terror exits is where the next machine was found.  This was a nice design with the Hollywood Tower Hotel pressed on a quarter.  Unfortunately that was all we had time for on Saturday and had to head home which worked out well anyways as I was running low on spare coins I always bring “just in case”.  Sunday we got up early and headed to our first stop.

   

The All-Star Sports resort has a whole wall of pressed coin machines just outside the Game Point Arcade.  The first machine had the new 2019 design of Goofy pressed on a quarter.

   

Just a short drive away we headed into the All-Star Music resort for the next pressed quarter with Minnie Mouse.  This machine can be found just outside the Note’Able Arcade.

   

The third resort is the All-Star Movies and the machines are all in the World Premier Food Court.  This resort had another pressed quarter design, but this time with Donald and a box of popcorn.  I will admit that I screwed up at this resort.  I just pressed the quarter design and left for our next stop.  After I got home I found out online that there was also a new 2019 penny design here.  So I had to go back the next night after work to get it.

   

Here is that pressed penny of Plus that I completely overlooked.  This should have planted a seed in my mind that maybe this year some of the locations would change (some in fact did) but I wouldn’t realize that until a few days later.

   

Next we drive over to the Animal Kingdom park (it’s not a zoo) and found the new penny in the same spot as last year at Chester and Hester’s Dino Treasures store.  The design is of the Tree of Life.

   

We then walked almost to the far opposite side of the park into Africa near the Harambe Railroad Station.  Currently the train is not operational as they are renovating Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and the pathway back to the train station is now where you can find a handful of Wilderness Explorer tables to earn badges (a free activity you can do in the park).  The cast will question why you are heading back to the train station that isn’t working, but just let them know you are using the penny press machines and they will let you by without any issue.  Thankfully the machine is now outside the station so it can be easily used.  The design is of Pluto on a pressed quarter.

   

A few days passed before I heard about the next machine which was at a new location, the Art of Animation Resort.  This resort has a pretty good food court so I headed over after work for some dinner and to check out the machine.  It’s located right as you walk into the Landscape of Flavor food court.  This is also a bit of a unique dated design.  Not only does it have the year 2019 with Daisy Duck but it also has the Art of Animation resort logo on it.  Guess this one won’t be relocated any time this year.

   

The next pressed penny was also at a  new location this year the Polynesian Village Resort.  On the second floor of the Grand Ceremonial House just outside the Moana Mercantile store.  The penny has an image of Minnie Mouse.

   

As you can probably guess the last three designs were in the Magic Kingdom.  First was in the Main Street Emporium the same place as last year.  The image on this penny is of Chip and Dale.

   

The second machine is about halfway through the Main Street emporium which is another new location for a 2019 design.  This is a pressed  quarter machine and the image is of Mickey in the Zero of 2019 just like the penny design in Epcot at Disney Traders.

   

This last penny machine was found in Fantasyland behind Cinderella’s Castle at the Sir Mickey’s gift shop (same as last year).  However this machine proved to be quite a pain for me to acquire.  The first time I visited it was jammed, so I went back a couple of days later and it was out-of-order again.  I waited a few more days and finally on my third visit I was relieved to find it quite operational.  The pressed penny has Mickey Mouse strutting his stuff over the year 2019.

So that makes for a total of 7 pressed quarter designs.

and 9 pressed penny designs.  For you math wizards out there that is a total of 16 press coins for 2019 which is one more than last year.  I’m not going to lie, I was actually hoping they may release 19 designs for 2019 but I’m happy with what we did get.  Plus with a few of the designs at different locations this made finding them a bit more challenging that I actually enjoyed.

Here is a picture of all 16 of the pressed coins for 2019.  There are a few designs that are the same on a penny and quarter, but I think it’s still a really nice set for this year.  At the time of this posting all the 2018 designs have been removed and retired so if you were missing any you will most likely have to check out eBay.  I say this every year with these dated sets, but make sure you get them before they are gone.

We have almost a full year but you never know what could happen.  Plus 2019 is going to bring us Star Wars Land (Galaxy’s Edge) and I’m hoping maybe I can use the force or a light saber to press some new coins but we will find out later this year when that new land opens.  Last year was a record number of new pressed coins released in WDW and I’m hoping 2019 will be even bigger.  Stick around and I’ll be sure to share news of all new pressed penny machines through the year and of course we will go on some other adventures along the way.

Riverside Depot – Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Just this past weekend we have news of a new penny machine.  I was surprised by this as I figured Disney was preparing to release the new 2019 dates sets which usually happens around this time of yer.  But instead we were given an early Christmas gift with a new machine.

The machine was released over at the Animal Kingdom park.  There are some holiday decorations up but the other parks are definitely more decked out.

The huge tree is just past the security check at the front of the park, but before the ticket windows.  There are quite a few photo pass photographers around the tree offering to take your picture.

If only they had a way to get some lights up in the Tree of Life that would be really cool.  They do have a projection show on the trunk of the tree at night, but from what I remember it’s not holiday themed this time of year.

When you enter the park and cross over the bridge to see the big Tree of Life in front of you, there is a store on your right hand side called the Riverside Depot.  This is connected to the Discovery Trading Co. store which already has three penny machines.

Discovery Trading Co is more t-shirts, sweaters and other apparel you can wear.  The Riverside Depot however is where you can get some plush characters, holiday ornaments, candy, pins for pin trading, and a wide selection of items.

Towards the back of the store is the new and only penny machine in the Riverside Depot.  As you can see from the above picture it a 8-design multi machine.

This is the first machine of this style located in the Animal Kingdom, but I’m sure it won’t be the last.

A nice feature of this machine is that a portion of the purchase amount goes towards the Disney Conservation Fund.

This set has some of your favorite Disney animal characters from  various movies.  The designs include Abu from Aladdin, Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, Squirt from Finding Nemo/Dory, Terk from Tarzan, Rhino Guard from Robin Hood, Hathi Jr from The Jungle Book, Bruce from Finding Nemo, and Heimlich from A Bug’s Life.

Another great set of designs.  I especially like the Rhino Guard from Robin Hood.  That is one of my all-time favorite Disney movies as it’s one of the few videos we had on tape that my sister and I would watch endlessly.  If only they would release some of the other characters like Robin, Little John, Maid Marian, the Sheriff.  Oh I could go on, that would be a great set but maybe someday my wish will come true.  Stay tuned for next week as I have something a little unique setup for Christmas.  For anyone traveling this coming week please stay safe.

Animal Kingdom 20th Anniversary – WDW Florida

Update at the bottom (4/18/18)
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In just over a week it will be April 22, 2018 also known as Earth Day and my birthday.  However around here in Florida this is also known as the day Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates it birthday.  Back on April 22, 1998 the park first opened and as the cast members say “It’s not a zoo it a jungle out there.”

Now for anyone that can do some simple math next Sunday will mark the 20th anniversary of Animal Kingdom.  As Disney is known to do they are celebrating this big achievement in style.

A lot of the gift shops have all sorts of 20th anniversary merchandise including pins, t-shirts, mugs, magic bands and lots more.

Plus a nice special treat for us pressed penny collectors, six new special penny designs.  Now these are spread out in three different machines in the park.  The first one is located back in Rafiki’s Planet Watch at the Conservation Station.

To get here you need to take the Harambe Railroad on a short trip, and then a long walk back to the conservation station.  Please note that this place is not open the same hours as the park.  On my recent trip I was just able to get on the last train which left the station at 4:30pm and it was closing at 5pm.  Make sure you check the hours before trying to collect these coins as it may not be open if you are visiting later in the day.

Inside the conservation station you can meet Doc McStuffins, and sometimes Rafiki himself.  Towards the back of the building in the corner is where the penny machine is located.

This machine has been here for a year or so with other designs which have now been replaced.  In this machine all three of the designs have been changed and are of Simba, Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King.  All designs say “Disney’s Animal Kingdom 20th Anniversary.”

After taking the train back to Harambe Station in Africa you can head towards the icon of the park The Tree of Life.

Sorry I really like this tree and the details of it when you get up close are really amazing.  If you stay late enough once it gets dark there is also a new projection show on the tree where the animals all come to life.  The next set of pennies is actually located outside the park at The Outpost Shop.

This shop is right near the tram loading area just before the security check at the entrance to the park.

As with the other stores inside the park you can also get some 20th Anniversary merchandise.

This store has two penny machines inside.  The first machine has three images but only two of them have been changed.

For you Up! fans out there you can get new designs of Doug and Russell both with “Disney’s Animal Kingdom 20th Anniversary” included in the image.

On the other side of the store is the second machine, but this has only one design that was changed.

Keeping with the Up! designs this machine has a new image of Kevin also with the “20th Anniversary” as part of the design.  Kind of a strange way to disperse six new designs over three machines but who am I to complain.  I love these special sets and hope they do more.  I was at Epcot’s 35th anniversary last year and was sad to see now special coins were available.  Hopefully if this is a success they will continue to offer more like these.  When I pressed these coins earlier today they were definitely popular and lots of people were waiting in line to press their own.

Here is a shot of the complete set of six designs that are currently available.  I’m not sure if these will be permanent or only available for a limited time.  If you get a chance to press these make sure you do just in case they don’t stick around and it’s a really great set of pennies.
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Updated 04/18/2018:
I’m not sure if this was an unintentional mistake but the set of pressed pennies listed above from the Pixar movie Up! were just recently combined into one machine.  Initially as I had listed above two of the designs were in one machine and the third was in a separate machine both located in The Outpost Shop.

As you can see from the marquee picture below the designs have not changed they were just combined into one machine.

This does seem to make a little more than having the set split up among two machines, but both machines were in the same store so you didn’t really have far to go to find them initially.  In any case for now if you are interested in this 20th Anniversary set you just have to find the one machine.

2018 Dated Walt Disney World Pressed Coins Set (Completed)

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

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

   

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

   

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

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

   

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

   

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

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

   

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

   

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

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

   

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

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

   

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

   

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

   

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

   

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

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

   

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

   

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

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

 

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

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

and the seven pressed quarter designs.

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

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jiko / The Mara / Pumbaa’s Fun & Games

When my wife and I first got married we were in the middle of buying a new house, and having a our first child so we didn’t get to have a honeymoon.  We had always planned on taking a honeymoon at some point but kept pushing it off.  Finally I decided it was time to do something and as if we don’t already get enough Disney fun, we booked a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas.

I’ll get into this a little more in a future post, but we arrived a day early for our cruise to Orlando so we could do some shopping for our new house (Spoiler) that we are having build in Florida.  We had a very early flight from Jersey to Orlando and spent the entire day shopping.  Even though we were pretty exhausted from the day I had booked a dinner reservation at Jiko which is a signature restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This was a place we have wanted to try in the past, and today was the day to go and we weren’t going to miss it.

I’ve said it before but this is really am amazing resort to visit.  We haven’t stayed here yet, but have visited a few times during a down day just to walk around.  It’s really a treat for the senses when you come to visit this resort.

Of course there are the Savannah’s towards the back of the resort that let some of your favorite exotic animals roam around.  Some like the giraffes have feeding times you can go and watch or help with if you are lucky enough.

We were running a little late for our reservation, and the maps for this resort can be a little confusing.  But after heading outside by the pool, then back inside we eventually found Jiko.

Jiko stands for The Cooking Place which is a central location where people would gather to enjoy each others company and community dining.  In the middle of this restaurant is a cool area you can sit at a high bar type table and watch the chefs create the starter courses available on the menu.

We were seated at a table towards the back in a nice quiet area.  The wait staff was very attentive and explained all about Jiko, the decorations and art inside, the cooking styles and always wanted to ensure all our questions were answered.  For a started we decided to try the Taste of Africa.

This was a similar bread and dip sampler to what we had a few months ago a Sanaa also located in the Animal Kingdom.  However this one had fewer options but was still very good.  It included unique “breads” like Pappadum, Sesame Fatir, Flax-Seed Naan, and also came with a variety of African inspired dips.

For my main course I went with the 7 oz oak-grilled filet that I had heard a lot of good things about.  It was service over top of bobotie mac and cheese, asparagus, and a South African red wine sauce.  The spices used on the steak and in the mac and cheese were from a different spice palette than what I’m used to but was a nice change and very unique and tasty.

My wife had a Moroccan Lamb Tagine which was basically a huge lamb shank with parsnip and root spinach.  It was fall apart tender and very juicy but a huge portion which would have been difficult for most to finish in one sitting.  We were offered dessert but were so stuffed by that time that we chose to pass (Yikes!).  Instead of just heading right back out to our card we decided to try to walk off a bit of our dinner by wandering around the resort a bit.  Just outside Jiko towards the main pool we ran into the quick service cafeteria style eatery called The Mara.

As with all the other resorts this place includes various stations with different types of food at each.  Your standard flatbread pizzas, salads, and chicken nuggets are all available here.  We went inside to get a small dessert I had heard about called Zebra Domes.

So what exactly is a zebra dome?  Well the explanation is as follows: An Amarula cream liquor mousse covered with a panna cotta like white chocolate, drizzled with chocolate stripes and chocolate shavings.  These come in a nice to-go package of four so you can snack on them as you walk.  Please note that these do have liquor in them so you may want to avoid letting your little ones try them.  I believe they do offer non-alcoholic versions but didn’t see any when I was there.  Before heading back outside I found two coin press machines just near the main set of doors.

   

The first machine had three penny designs available including Shenzi (Hyena leader from The Lion King), Terk Tantor & Young Tarzan, and Pleakley from Lilo & Stitch.

   

Right next to the penny machine was a second machine that had one quarter design available.  This machine would press an image of Pumbaa and Simba from the Lion King with the Animal Kingdom Lodge logo on it.  We headed back outside and just a short walk away found the next stop.

Pumbaa’s Fun & Games is the resorts arcade.  It has your standard air hockey table, and classic arcade games.  Just outside the door to the arcade was the third coin press machine at this resort.

   

The cabinet design on this machine was really fun and reminded me of the machines they have over at the Animal Kingdom theme park.  This machine also had three designs which included Safari Mickey, Safari Minnie, and Mike from Monsters, Inc.

By this time our long day had finally caught up to us and we were ready to head back for some sleep before our cruise started the next day.  The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a bit out of the way, and if you don’t have a rental car may be tough to get too on the Disney bus system.  But it is doable (I’ve done it in the past) and is well worth the trip over to experience it in person.  Don’t forget to get the pennies located here, and with the layout of the resort can be like a treasure hunt to find them.  Happy hunting!

2016 WDW Trip Day 5 – Animal Kingdom Lodge / Art of Animation Resort

After an eventful morning at the Animal Kingdom park we left shortly after noon to try to make our lunch reservation at a new place we had never been to before.  We left the parking lot and just a short drive away we drove up to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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The security guard at the gat was very nice in explaining where we needed to go.  After parking the car we headed inside and were just blown away with this resort.  The details they included here are really amazing, and towards the back of the lobby were huge windows giving you a fantastic view of the Savanna the resort surrounds.

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We took the staircase down one level and found the restaurant lunch Sanaa which I have been wanting to try for a while and have heard nothing but great things about.

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After a few minutes wait while they got our table ready we were given a tour of the restaurant on our way to the table.

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There were some tables right up near the large windows to look out at the Savanna, but unfortunately our group was too large and weren’t able to get one of these tables.

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But regardless there are fantastic views from pretty much every table inside.  Throughout our meal we were able to see various animals, and birds come right passed the windows which makes this a unique dining experience.  The food is definitely not what we are used to eating but was still excellent.

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The Indian-style bread service appetizer was the most talked about.  We opted for the full tasting option which included 5 different naan breads, and 9 different sauces/accompaniments.  This was our chance to try something outside our comfort zone but not be too crazy and this was really a great find and experience.  Weeks after our vacation was over this was the one place we all kept talking about.  It’s not necessarily the easiest place to get to if you aren’t staying at this resort, but that’s what makes this a hidden gem and well worth the extra time to get there.

After lunch we did spend a little time wandering around the resort and came to a conclusion that we were going to try to stay here on an upcoming trip.  I can only imagine how cool the rooms are, especially if you get one that looks out over the savanna.  Eventually we got back to our car, but didn’t want to got back to our resort right away.  I mentioned checking our another resort The Art of Animation which is a value resort but with really nice theming.  Last year I made a trip myself over to this resort to check it out and wrote about it here.  This time I wanted the rest of my family to check it out and Hanna really got a kick out of the Cars characters.

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When we were don’t walking around the resort we went back into the main building and got some drinks and snacks from their food court for the ride back.  While we were inside I took the opportunity to update my pressed coins from this resort.

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Both these machines have some really detailed designs.  This first machine has pennies with images of Nemo, Lightning McQueen, and The Art of Animation Resort Logo.

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The second machine has pennies with designs of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Simba from The Lion King, and Mater from Pixar’s Cars.  By this time we were about ready for an afternoon nap.  We headed back to our resort and took the rest of the afternoon off just to rest and recharge.  Our dinner reservation was later that evening but thankfully it was just over in the Yacht Club Resort which was just a short walk away.

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The Yachtsman Steakhouse was another fantastic meal.  Coming from Jersey we have visited some really great Steakhouses in New York City, but this was really a nice find.  Upon entering the restaurant we passed by their meat aging room, which is also where they hand cut the different steaks.

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They do have an open kitchen so you can see everything going on, and the staff is very friendly and greeted us as we passed by.  Our table was a little further back but our wait staff were fantastic.

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The food was also really top-notch, but please note that the price definitely reflects this.  But we were so impressed with everything that we felt the cost was definitely justified.

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I started with a French Onion Soup which I have any time it’s on the menu.  My main course was a 10 oz Black Angus Filet Mignon with mashed potatoes and a Cabernet wine sauce which is pictured above.

When we were done it was a good thing our resort was a quick walk away.  We were completely stuffed but the nice walk along the water helped our digestion.  This has been a fun day filled with new adventures and new food favorites we would absolutely be trying again.  Tomorrow was the Wedding Day so we made it an early night.

2016 WDW Trip Day 5 – Animal Kingdom

This day’s schedule had us visiting the Animal Kingdom in the morning, but I had booked us a lunch reservation at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This was causing me some indigestion to try to figure out the best way for us to enjoy the park but still be able to make it over for lunch.  We decided to get to the park as early as possible so we had more than enough time to do everything we wanted.

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Just after the security check point but before the actual entrance to the park is one of the multiple locations of the Rainforest Cafe that are available on property.

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They serve breakfast at this location which I think is the only one that does so, but I just wanted to use the machines inside.

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The first three machines are right inside the main entrance.  The machine on the left has pennies  with images of Maya the Jaguar, Cha Cha the Tree Frog, Iggy the Iguana, and Ozzie the Orangutan.  The second machine has designs including Bamba the Gorilla, Cha Cha the Tree Frog, a Mockingbird with Rio the Macaw, and Tuki the Baby Elephant.

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The third machine near the entrance had images of an Alligator, a Mockingbird (Florida State Bird), a Crab, and Two Hot Air Balloons.  The last machine pressed on quarters and had images of an Orangutan, a Frog, a Fish, and a Butterfly all with Rainforest Cafe Orlando, FL included in the designs.  With all these coins collected I ran back outside and met us with my family.  Just as we were about to head into the park I noticed that we were in a perfect spot to catch a glimpse of the Floating Mountains soon to be revealed in the new “Avatar Land”, technically the actual name is Pandora: The World of Avatar.

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Disney has announced that this new area of Animal Kingdom will open the Summer of 2017.  Not exact date has been officially announced and of course there are a ton of rumors.  But I will say I am really excited to check this brand new state of the art area once it’s open.  Next we headed straight back to the Tree of Life, watched the flying birds opening ceremony and immediately headed to DinoLand USA.  Hanna loves the TriceraTop Spin ride which is exactly like Dumbo just with Dinosaurs.  While they waited to get on I headed nearby to Chester & Hester’s Dino Treasures.

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Unfortunately as you can see from the picture on the left above this machine was out-of-order when I visited.  This machine when working had another of the 2016 designs with Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey, an Iguanodon, and a Carnotaurus.  The second machine on the right was located outside the store and was in perfect working condition.  This machine had designs of Paleontologist Mickey, Terk, and Scar from The Lion King.  I got back to the Flying Dino ride just in time to see Hanna and my wife soaring through the sky.  When the ride was over Hanna insisted on going again.  There wasn’t much of a line so they hopped right back on.  This gave me another opportunity to check out a couple other nearby machines.

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The Restaurantosaurus is a quick service location which some interesting menu options.  Right before you enter there is a penny machine on the front porch area.

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This machine has three pennies available with images of Tarzan & Jane, Donald dressed like a Dinosaur, and a Dinosaur Fossil.  At this early in the morning this restaurant is not open, however the doors were unlocked and I knew there was another machine somewhere inside.  Once inside I found myself wondering straight into a staff meeting of cast members.  I apologized for interrupting and asked if they could point me in the direction of the penny machine.  They were more than happy to help and showed me where it was in one of the back dining areas among a bunch of tables.

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This was probably the most convenient time I could have used this machine since no one was in there eating.  But if you go during any other time of the day this area may be packed with people making this a little more difficult to access.  The pennies here included three separate images of Dinosaurs.  To be honest I have no idea what kind of Dino’s these are so I’m not even going to guess.  Here’s a close up of the marquee so you can see the designs.

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My family all met up just outside this area of the DinoLand USA area and I noticed Hanna convinced her Grandparents she needed to have her face painted.

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We then started off to the next area of the park.  Along the way we passed the Everest coaster which I get vertigo just looking at from the ground, but went into the gift shop called the Serka Zong Bazaar.

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The first penny image I have always like since it first became available.  It’s a cute cartoon version of the Yeti you encounter on the Everest ride.  The other two designs are of Mountain Climber Mickey, and the Everest Coaster Logo.

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It was about time for our Fastpass to the Safari jeep ride so we headed over there first.  Hanna actually stayed awake this year and enjoyed helping our guide point out the different animals along the way.  When the safari was over we headed to the Harambe Railway Station.

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There are two machines located in the waiting area for the train.  Just be sure to not delay too long as you may miss the train if you don’t press the coins quick enough.  The machine on the left pressed quarters and had the 2016 Pluto design, Simba & Nala, and Shere Khan.  The second machine has pennies designs including Tarzan, Pumbaa, and Professor Archimedes from Tarzan.  I finished up just in time and jumped right on the train.  This takes you up to the Conservation Station which our kids had a great time at last year and we were anticipating the same.  After we got off the train there is a long walk to the Conservation Station but this is a great place to take a quick bathroom break and enjoy the air conditioning.

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The above machine was new for 2016.  The images on these pennies were of Goofy with a Giraffe, Donald with a Map, and Timon & Pumbaa.  My daughter Hanna helped me press these coins and just as we were done she saw a familiar face make an appearance for a meet and greet so we headed right over and got in line.

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Recently at home Hanna has become a fan of The Lion Guard which is a TV show based on a movie that is a new sequel to Lion King.  Yikes did you get all that?  Anyways my wife had to explain this to me as I couldn’t figure out how Hanna new who Rafiki was, but that explained it.  She really enjoyed meeting Rafiki and he was really great with her not rushing her on and spending quite a bit of time with her.  I’m sure it helped that there were only a few people in line at that time.  Back outside there is a petting zoo which we had to drag Hanna away from last year, but this year she petted a few sheep and goats but was almost dragging the adults out this time around.  Melody seemed to be enjoying herself, but that may be due to us escorting her around like royalty.

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We made our way back to the train and once off were in the Africa area of the park.  We had a fastpass coming up but had time for a quick snack at the Tamu Tamu refreshments stand.  Hanna got an ice cream sundae and I opted for a Dole Whip with Coconut rum.  We ate our snacks as we wandered back over towards the Asia part of the park.

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The Yak & Yeti is a restaurant we have eaten at a few times over the years.  We have always had enjoyable food and great service, but I do know some people who have said otherwise.  We enjoy it so we usually try to go each time we are at this park, but this year we had other lunch plans so I just ran inside to use the penny machine.

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The designs on these pennies include the Himalaya Mountains, a Yak, Two Tibetan Mastiffs, and a Pagoda.  Our fastpass for a character meet and greet had started so we just took a quick trip over the bridge to Discovery Island and scanned our magic bands to enter the greeting area.

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We still had to wait a few minutes in a queue but once we rounded the corner and Hanna saw who we were going to meeting she could hardly contain herself.  Mickey and Minnie in Safari outfits was a cute theme.  We got a lot of pictures and they definitely took their time interacting with both Hanna and Melody.  Hanna didn’t want to let Minnie’s hand go at the end but we promised to come back again another time.  It was getting closer to lunch time and we needed to start heading back to the parking lot so we could try to make it to our reservation.  We didn’t get to hit up all the attractions at the Animal Kingdom we wanted to but did get most of them done.  Thankfully once we were back in our car we didn’t have too far to go.  Check back to see where we went for lunch and if we run into any other penny machines (Hint: Absolutely).

2017 Walt Disney World Pressed Coins – Follow Up

** See below for contest to win a free set of 2017 WDW coins **

For those of you that read my original post with the concept design pictures of the new 2017 pressed coin designs this is a quick follow-up.  Shortly after that post I was contacted by a representative at CTM Group (The Pennymen), and we traded a few messages back and forth.  They were nice enough to offer a copy of the entire set of coins fresh from the machines throughout the resort so I could post pictures of the actual coins.

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Above is a picture of all the coins together.  There are the same number as last year but I think the designs this year have definitely gone up in detail.

2017-pennies

Here I have a picture of all the penny designs together.

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Next are all the quarter designs.

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The picture above shows a close up of a cool little sub-set within the 2017 dates set.  Each theme park had one design with Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey in the middle, and an icon from each park above his head.  For Epcot there is Spaceship Earth, Animal Kingdom has the Tree of Life, Hollywood Studios has The Tower of Terror, and the Magic Kingdom of course has Cinderella’s Castle.  These four designs are a numbered set which is listed directly on each coin.

2017-favorite

All of these designs are really nice this year, but I must say the one listed above is my personal favorite.  When I first saw it I just thought it was fantastic.  This design is located in the Magic Kingdom at the Main Street Railroad Station.  It’s cool that all four of the park iconic symbols are all on one coin along with the 2017 year.  This is really a great way to start off the new year.

Obviously these will be around for the entire year, but do not hesitate to get yourself a set.  These are a great addition to any collection and will be gone before you know it.

**Thank you to the CTM Group team for all their work on these new designs, and for taking the time to reach out.  It was very much appreciated!

CONTEST:
This is a chance for you to get a complete set of the 2017 Coins listed above.  This will include all 15 coins (8 Pennies and 7 Quarters).

All you need to do is post a comment below with any ideas you have for the 2018 annual set that you would like to see for next year.  This can be a set of movies, characters, ride or attractions, food (Mmm…Dole Whip Penny), let your imagination run wild.

Post as many times as you like.  Then at the end of the month (3/31/2017) I’ll randomly select a winner and will contact you for your mailing information.

Good luck!!