The Florida Aquarium – Tampa, FL

Over the last few months as we have continued to get used to our new surroundings in Central Florida but we haven’t wondered too far from home.  Most of this is due to us still getting used to our immediate area near home, and to be honest this still seems like an extended vacation.  But we have started to feel settled in our new life and this past weekend decided to go for a bit of a drive.

Living near Orlando there are a lot of tourist which causes big crowds at theme parks, and traffic on all the roads.  Shortly after we moved to Florida we had asked some neighbors where locals went to get break from the vacationers and we were told “Its Florida there are tourists everywhere”.  Knowing that pretty much wherever we went would probably be busy we decided to head about an hour south to Tampa.

As we cruised into town on the highway we were pleasantly surprised to see not much going on.  There was very little traffic and even a lack of people just walking around.  We weren’t complaining but it did seem kind of like we had ended up in a Zombie world where the city had been left behind.  I think we just lucked out by picking a Sunday with no football game going on plus we made sure to head out pretty early in the morning in case there was any traffic.

There were a few attractions we were thinking about trying, but our daughters had final say and wanted to visit the Florida Aquarium.

The aquarium is located right along the bay which gives a nice backdrop to the building.   We have finished a lot of aquariums over the years, but I’m always amazed how each one has some unique exhibits we haven’t seen before.  One area has us walking among some overhanging trees making you feel like you were in the wetlands looking into a pond at some local fish and other aquatic life.

Some of the exhibits are the same everywhere you go, like a Stingray viewing area, and of course a touch tank for the kids.

There are sections where the aquarium completely surrounds you as you walk by, and of course there has to be a shark tank.  When you first enter the aquarium you head upstairs to start your tour, and wind around through the second floor and eventually end up back on the first floor. This makes sure you don’t miss any of the exhibits which is always nice.  We had an aquarium in New Jersey that was all over the place and each time we left felt like we had missed some area.

Back one the main floor there is a food court and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating to have your lunch.  Outside towards the bay is a playground with some fun little water attractions for the kids to play in.  No additional cost is charged for this area, but usually ends up where you have to drag your kids away kicking and screaming.

Back inside the aquarium near the escalators to the second floor is  where the restrooms are located.  Across from those for some popular reason is where the penny machine is located.  Before visiting here I saw seen online that there were supposed to be four separate machines, but those all seemed to have been removed and replaced with just this one.

All eight of the designs from this machine have the Aquarium logo on them, and have images of different animals you can find during your visit.  One thing to note about this machine is that it supplies the pennies.  Now that is not unique with these machines, but lately they have been supplying penny sized tokens.  This machine actually supplied pennies, but of course this can be an issue for collectors that like to use specific coins for their pressings.  As you can see from the picture above there is a wide range of pennies I was given.  Some cleaner than others, some pre-1982 and others not.  The selection is completely random so make sure you cross your fingers for a good set.

The aquarium was a nice little trip, but I found it much smaller than I had thought.  It took maybe about an hour and a half to go through everything and that was make sure to take our time at each exhibit.  There are some other places in Tampa to check out like the zoo, children’s museum and science center.  I’m sure we will be making another trip back before too long and I’m sure there will be some more penny presses along the way.

Adventure Aquarium NEW 2016 – Camden, NJ

My daughter must have some really vivid dreams at night.  She wakes up most mornings asking to do or visit some place or thing that is completely out of left field and apparently a result of her nighttime adventures (Narnia?).  In the past I’ve helped her out of bed with a rest for Elephants, or the M&M ride (cable cars at Six Flags).  But just the other day she woke up asking to go and pet some Sting Rays.  Well being the softy that I am and having a day off from work the only place nearby I knew that had this exact exhibit was the Adventure Aquarium down in Camden, NJ.

Adv Aquarium 2016 01

I had bought our tickets online to avoid the line but as you can see in the above picture this Wednesday morning there were very few people visiting which was great for us.  After heading inside we always head to the furthest location which just so happens to be the KidZone which is a favorite of Hanna’s.

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If you look very closely in the above picture just inside to the right was the first new penny machine.  Thankfully I checked this out online before we left as these new machines now required a $1 bill for each design.

Adv Aquarium Machine 01

I still reference these as penny machines but no penny is needed just your dollar bills.  The machine automatically loads a blank and after the pressing creates a very nice shiny finished product.

Adv Aquarium 01 Pennies

The only issue I had was that some of the designs did roll a little short.  The first set of images included the Philly Skyline, the Touch Tank, an Alligator, and a Mermaid.  We spent quite a bit of time in the Kidzone and Hanna loved the touch tank with large starfish and a horseshoe crab she reluctantly touched and squealed the entire time.  The next big area we came to was the Diver Tank and we arrived just in time to see some divers feeding the creatures inside.

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We sat and watched the action for a few minutes before we headed to the next area but at the top of the drive theater was the next penny machine.

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This machine actually had quite a group around it when we first got to it.  The kids were just playing with the machine and not actually using it.  When we walked up they left us through and were fascinated with how it worked and I proudly showed off the coins when they dropped out into the dispenser.

Adv Aquarium 02 Pennies

The coins had images of an Octopus, Sting Ray, Sharks Teeth, and a Porcupine.  The kids  all immediately scattered towards their parents and I could hear the requests for dollar bills.  Hanna and I headed to the next exhibit before their parents could get their hands on us.

Due to the strange layout of this aquarium we had to back track a bit to get to the next area which included two large and strangely cute Hippos.  There is a viewing area at the top (above water level) of their tank, and a lower viewing area to see them underwater.  Right beside the lower viewing area was the third penny machine.


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I couldn’t pull Hanna away from the Hippos so she kept an eye on them while I pressed the coins.

Adv Aquarium 03 Pennies

This next batch of coin designs included images of a Hammer-head Shark, a Giant Squid, two Penguins, and a Jelly Fish.  With coins we continued on our way to the Shark area.

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If only all sharks were as cute as the one above.  I will say I’m completely in awe of sharks and love watching them from a distance, but in truth they scare the daylights out of me.  As with most aquariums now this one has a shark tunnel that lets you walk among the sharks only protected by a 4-inch piece of glass.

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This does give a very interesting perspective of the sharks and it’s a little creepy when they swim right over top of you.

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After the tunnel however we came across something I have not seen before and this is apparently brand new attraction.  It’s called the Shark Bridge.

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There is a very narrow bridge that is suspended across the top of the shark tank.  Yes the exact tank we just walked through we will now be walking over top of.  As all sorts of reasons popped into my head as to why we shouldn’t do this, Hanna was running ahead excited to “walk on the sharks”.

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As you can see above the bridge (small narrow beam) is really quite sturdy and you are surrounded by strong netting on all sides.  The downside to this is that the netting makes it a little hard to see the sharks swimming below you, but it’s still a really cool experience.  After we finished walking across the Shark Bridge we headed into the last part of the aquarium and according to Hanna the most important, the gift shop.

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While Hanna searched through bins and shelves of stuffed toys and novelties I went over by the check out area to use the final penny machine.

Adv Aquarium 04 Pennies

This final set of coins included designs of some Penguins, a Great White Shark, a Hippopotamus, and a large Sea Turtle.  I packed all the coins away and walked over to where Hanna had picked out a multi colored rainbow Sting Ray plush toy.  We checked out and headed toward the exit for our ride home.

Now for those of you paying attention you be saying “What happened to Hanna’s morning request to pet some Sting Rays”.  We did head to that area, but when we were there they were closing it down temporarily to let the Rays have a break from the feeding and petting.  No big deal this just means we will have to come back soon for another try.

Jenkinson’s Aquarium – Point Pleasant, NJ

One weekend back in February my daughter Hanna woke up a little earlier than usually, and when I went to get her she immediately asked to see some fish at the aquarium.  I was taken back a bit as this was the first she had asked for this and also it was very random to be asking for this at 6 o’clock in the morning.  But being the sucker I am for her I said we would go once everyone else was awake.  We decided against going to the large Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ we have gone to in the past.  It’s a little further away, and I found it was almost too big for Hanna to keep her interest.  Instead we took a shorter trip to Point Pleasant Beach.  Yes you read that right we headed to the beach in February, but just check out how beautiful the sandy/snowy beach looked.


The water even looked cold, and the wind coming off the Atlantic ocean made it feel even colder.  This was the emptiest I had ever seen a boardwalk in New Jersey and it was kind of eery.  From where we parked we only had a short walk over to the Jenkinson’s Aquarium.

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We paid the small reasonable admission fee and headed inside.  Hanna was really excited to see all the sea creatures and of course the other kids that were visiting as well.

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The aquarium is not very big which is probably due to people wanting to get back on to the beach during the warmer season, but they still pack a lot of things inside.  The tanks contain all the usual creatures, and there is also a second floor with a touch tank.  Below is a picture of Hanna trying to get up the nerve to touch a small ray.

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We eventually walked back down to the main floor and near the penguin exhibit I saw two magical pieces of machinery.

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Years ago I had visited this aquarium and came across the 3 design electric penny machine, but it hadn’t been previously listed on the penny website.  I scrambled to get spare change at the time to press the designs, and once I was hope I took great pride in adding this new location to their website for other collectors.  Right before this trip I did check the website and it was listed that this original machine had been retired and replace with a new 4 design hand crank model.  Always being prepared I had brought enough change for the new machine and some extra just incase another machine was found.  Good thing I did.  As you can see in the above picture both machines were there.

Jenkinsons Aquarium Machine 01

The original machine was in working order but did have the same designs I had collected 6 years prior.  I figured since I was here I would press a new set.

Jenkinsons Aquarium Pennies 01

For the most part these pennies pressed pretty well, and only one rolled a little short.  The designs included a Seal, two Penguins, and a Sea Turtle.

Jenkinsons Aquarium Machine 02

The second and brand new machine had some very nice cabinet art work and was in perfect working order.  Hanna had a great time trying to help me press the pennies.

Jenkinsons Aquarium Pennies 02

Each of these designs said Jenkinson’s Aquarium and had images of a Clown Fish, Penguin, Seahorse and a Shark.  With the two sets of pennies in my pocket we finished our visit to the Aquarium which was just the right size for Hanna.  He had a great time and it seemed to keep her entertained right up until we had to leave.