Discovery Cove – Orlando, FL

My wife was having a special milestone birthday this year and I wanted to try and find something special to do for her.  She likes the theme parks but doesn’t want to be the center of attention so doing something big at one of the parks just wasn’t going to work.  Instead, I focused on something maybe a little more laid back, relaxing but hopefully still special all at the same time.  Then something came to me that I thought might be the perfect solution.

I remember hearing about Discovery Cove years ago when I was visiting with friends and one of them was a big dolphin fan.  She was going to University to be a Marine Biologist and dolphins were going to be her specialty.  Discovery Cove is operated by SeaWorld and is basically known for allowing you the opportunity to swim with dolphins.  Way back when with my friends this place was next to impossible to get a reservation for as they needed to be booked years in advance.  Now however the property has expanded and there are more guest spots available each day.  It can book up quickly but with a little pre-planning, I was able to book our day.

Since our two daughters are still on the younger side I decided to have their grandparents keep them entertained that day.  This way we could really take our time to explore this new place and make a judgment call for future visits with the girls.  Check-in available pretty early in the morning, so we headed over around 8am.

Inside the check-in area, there was lots of dolphin art all over the place.  They had plenty of staff helping you to check in.  Part of the process was getting your day scheduled for you.  Your standard admission cost will give you access to the lazy river, bird aviary, pools, snorkeling pool, and the food and drinks.  Then they do have some additional experiences you can pay for to enhance your day.  We decided to splurge a bit and absolutely wanted to swim with the dolphins, and I wanted to get my wife a relaxing massage.

There was plenty of seating all around, but another upcharge we opted for was to have our own covered seating area.  It was located just near the snorkeling lagoon in a bit of a secluded area so we weren’t near the main pathway with a lot of foot traffic.

This is considered an all-inclusive experience so with your day admission price you do receive all your food and drinks at no additional cost.  You can go as many times as you like.  There was breakfast available when we first arrived and they have various stands around the property with snacks and drinks whenever you want them.

Above is a picture of the entire property.  It was much bigger than I had thought, but there was really just one main walkway that would take you to all the different areas.  Plus to be honest you really want to spend most of your time in the water.

The main swimming areas were beautifully designed and landscaped.  With the waterfalls in the background, you would almost think you were on a tropical island instead of the middle of Orlando’s tourist district.

Our dolphin swim was scheduled for about an hour after we arrived.  When you first check in you get a lanyard with your activity schedule on the back.  This way you know exactly when and where to go throughout the day.  We headed to the specific meeting location and went through an introduction and safety class before they lead us into the dolphin area.

This part of the day was really fun.  We were led by a team of dolphin trainers into one area of the pool.  The water was about waist high so not too deep at this point.  They would then go over how they train the dolphins and periodically the dolphins would swim by allowing us to touch “pet” them along their back.  We would give specific hand signals prompting the dolphin to do various things like wave their fins at us, splash us or swim off and jump high into the area.  The entire dolphin experience is about 45 minutes long and ends with each guest having the opportunity to swim out to the deeper part of the pool, hold on to the dolphin’s fins and swim you back inland.  You are not allowed to bring your own camera but as with any good theme park, they have photographers on hand to take pictures and video which they will sell you at the end.

After our dolphin swim, we continued our exploration of the park.  There really is a great tropical feel to it.

Eventually, we came across the lazy river which has a few different entry points.  We have used the ones at Disney which are not very deep and I don’t overly enjoy.  But these had a much higher water level and made floating around in them much more enjoyable.  Instead of big inner tubes, they had pool noodles which made the lazy river much less congested with all the other guests.

There are a few waterfalls that you go through on your trip down the lazy river, plus at one point you actually float through the aviary which was interesting.

Nothing better than just floating along down a calm river, and getting some sun at the same time.  Thankfully we had a great day, with plenty of sunshine and the temperature wasn’t too bad but that can change easily.  Best to just stay in the water.

After enjoying the lazy river for a while we headed over for some lunch.  Did I mention it was all you can eat and no additional cost.  This is a great place.  Okay enough eating, after we had our lunch my wife headed off for her massage, I headed back to our reserved seating to lay out in the sun for a bit.

When she was finished with her massage we got some drinks and just hung out at our lounge area a bit longer.  Then she was ready to try out the Grand Reef.

This is a large artificial reef that has tropical fish, and stingrays swimming around.  But the best part is you can swim with them.  Technically you are snorkeling along the top and they almost don’t even notice you are there.

I have never been very good a snorkeling but this was the time I was going to figure it out.  The water is pretty cold for this type of fish, but it’s also very salty which helps you float along the top.  There is almost no effort needed to keep yourself afloat.  Once you have the snorkeling technique figured out this was amazing.  It was very calm and relaxing to just float and watch the fish swimming around.  Some areas can get a bit busy with other guests, but with your face in the water and your ears filled with water, you almost don’t hear anything which helps with the relaxation.  This is where we ended up spending the majority of our afternoon.  When we were done snorkeling I think we both were just at a loss for words.  Out of all the activities we had scheduled that day I didn’t think this would be our favorite but it just turned out that way.

Unfortunately, the park is only open until about 5pm, but that worked out okay since a storm was about to start rolling into the area.  We had packed up all our stuff, grabbed a few snacks for the road and headed towards the exit.  But first, we stopped into the Tropical Gifts store for some souvenirs.

I always like to get a t-shirt so I found one I liked, and we also found a few stuff animal toys for our girls.  As we headed towards the check out area I noticed a penny machine in the back corner.

It was one of the newer multi-design machines that we have seen popping up more and more at Disney and other theme parks.  This one, however, had 12 designs available.  You know me, I’m a sucker for pressed pennies and had to get the entire set which cost $10.  For anyone else visiting if you only want one or a few of the pennies, they are $1 each if you don’t want the entire set.  The machine is also preloaded with shiny zinc pennies so you do not need to supply your own.

The designs on the pennies were really nice and had all the different animals and sea creatures you can encounter during your visit.  All of the pennies also have “Discovery Cover Orlando”.  I always like this type of location-specific design.

It was sad to see our day end as we headed back to the car.  But during the entire drive, we just couldn’t stop talking about this place.  I’m upset it took me this long to try it, and I know for a fact we will definitely be back.  I have a milestone birthday coming up so maybe we can go for that.  Or we may just wait a few more years and take our girls as I’m sure they will love it just as much.

 

Celebrating The Lion King Pressed Pennies – Animal Kingdom Mombasa Marketplace

With only a couple weeks left before the new live-action version of The Lion King is released in movie theaters, it appears Disney is starting to Celebrate.  I recently took a trip over to the Animal Kingdom park to see what was going on.

Before I even got near the Tree of Life I noticed banners and signage all over the place about Celebrating the Lion King.

They even had quite a detailed photo op with Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa.  There were some special food items like cupcakes and slush drinks themed around the Lion King but I was on the hunt for pennies.

Back and to the left of the Tree of Life is the African area of the park with lots of great live music, or shows always going on throughout the day.

In that area is an interesting store called Mombasa Marketplace.  On previous trips into this store, I’ve seen African musical instruments for sale or some really fantastic artwork.  But for now, it seems to have been taken over by the Lion King.

There were plush animals, t-shirts, and artwork.

This extended pretty much through the entire store.

There were a few of the musical instruments still around but far less than they usually have in stock.  There were quite a few Hakuna Matata t-shirts available as well.

I will admit I almost had to give in and ask a Cast member where the penny machine was located as I just couldn’t find it.  But eventually, I did spot it all the way in the back corner.

The machine was an 8-design pre-loaded penny machine with a touch screen.  The now standard payment options of cash, credit card or Apple Pay are available.

There cost of these machines has not changed (yet…fingers crossed) and is still $1 each or $5 for the entire set of 8 pennies.

The set includes images from both the original Lion King animated movie and a few from the newer Lion Guard tv series.

This is another great set of pennies and I’m glad to see Disney releasing some new designs from their older movies and even a tv series which is very unusual.  I’m getting used to these new machines and even though I would prefer to have the option to use my own pennies I think we can assume by now that is not going to happen.  Disneyland out on the West Coast is in a bit of a dry spell with new penny machines, so I’m not going to complain too much as we have definitely been getting a lot of new and fun designs at the Walt Disney World parks even if they do press on zinc pennies.

Main Street Train Station NEW $1 Penny Machines – Magic Kingdom, FL

To try and keep up with all the new pressed penny machines I spend a lot of my “spare” time looking at online blogs, websites and reading emails, tweets and blog/vlog comments.  I always make sure to have little baggies of quarters and pennies on the ready should a new machine be posted so I can try to go visit it as soon as possible.  However when I read about these new penny machines that were released at the Magic Kingdom they threw me for a bit of a loop.  A cost increase!

To see what exactly was going on I headed into the park and made my way towards the Main Street Train Station.

First I wanted to go upstairs and check out the Train that is currently just being kept there since the actual track around the park is being relocated.  This is all due to the new Tron roller coaster currently being built over by Space Mountain.

This does make for a fun little attraction where you can get up and personal with the steam engine.

I don’t think many people realize that you can still come up here to check out the train.  You can’t get into the engine, but there are engineers around that will answer your questions.

You can look inside the engine, and they also have the pull cord for the steam whistle dangling out the window for kids (of all ages) to pull periodically.

After we finished visiting with the train, we headed inside and down the stairs to the first level.

Located just behind the staircases on the first floor is where the two new penny machines were found.  Previously in this spot were two 3-design machines, one was a penny press and the other was a quarter press.  Now both machines are 4-design penny press manual machines.

The first machine we checked out was on the left side.  As you can see in the above picture shows the new price at $1 per penny.  I will review at the bottom how to use the machine and the different payment options.

 

This first set of pennies had some cute designs with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  One did say “Main Street” on it, and another design had Mickey in a Stream Engine.

The second machine on the right side also $1 per design and supplied the pennies.

 

This set has four more 2019 designs with images of Captain Hooks Pirate Ship, Cinderella’s Castle, Space Mountain, and Dumbo.  I always like these dated designs as they make for a fun souvenir each year.  But this is going to make for quite the project in 2020 to replace all these designs plus the other 2019 coins all over the property.

After pressing all these new coins I decided to walk around the park and see if any more of these new $1 penny machines had shown up and I’ll post separately around that so stay tuned.

Now before we finish up let me review how payment on these new machines works.  I did talk with someone that works on these machines and there have been a lot of issues with them already.  Apparently, people are not reading the instructions correction since the process it a bit different so just make sure to follow those on machine instructions.

The machine supplies the penny so you can no longer use your own preferred pennies.  If you are using cash, you turn the handle until the arrow lines up with the design you want to press.  Then insert your $1 bill, wait a few seconds until you hear the penny drop in place and then start turning the handle as per usual process.  The machine will not accept larger than a $1 bill as it doesn’t give change.  If you want to get the entire set you would need to repeat the above 4 times.  The machine does also accept credit cards or mobile payment like ApplePay.  If you use this method to pay it only allows you to pay for the entire set and charges your card $4.  Just make sure you line up the arrow to one of the designs, then swipe your card and wait for it to be approved.  Then you will hear the first penny drop in place and you just keep turning the handle and all 4 designs will press one after the other.

I witnessed someone swipe their debit card and then only roll one penny and walk away.  As I mentioned above the machine still charges you the full $4 so make sure you press all 4 of your designs.  I called the family back over and explained it to them so they could press the other 3 pennies.  I believe that some new instructions will be placed on these machines in the future to try and help make sure they are working properly and being used correctly.

Typhoon Lagoon Water Park – WDW Florida

Our annual Disney passes were coming up for renewal and I asked our daughters if they enjoyed the water parks last year.  They almost popped my eardrums as they screamed yes they wanted water parks again this year.  Once our passes were renewed we decided to celebrate by heading over to one of those water parks.

We had visited Typhoon Lagoon last year but it had rained for most of the day and we didn’t get to enjoy the full park.  So this time we made sure the weather was going to be in our favor and headed in for some fun in the sun…and water.

As we walked in we were greeted by Lagoona Gator.  This is always a popular photo spot but a little hint if you visit this later in the day it will be less crowded.  Everyone seems to want this picture first thing in the morning.

Here is a bit of an overview of the water park.  It’s really beautiful and has plenty of areas with shade or out in the sun if you are looking to work on your tan.

We always prefer a shaded area and were able to find some lounge chairs run under a bunch of large palm trees giving us plenty of cover.  Then after we loaded up on sunscreen it was time to check out the wave pool first.  The story of this park is that a typhoon wreaked havoc on a pristine tropical paradise.  Ships, surfboards and all sorts of other items were all thrown about as the storm hit.  All the way in the back of the wave pool is the centerpiece known as Miss Tilly.  This was a shrimp boat launched during the storm and impaled atop Mount Mayday.

After spending some time in the wave pool my youngest wanted to check out the kid’s area known as Ketchakiddee Creek.  There are plenty of little slides, and water spraying from all different areas.

Eventually, we decided to walk around more of the park and just do some exploring.  We found this bridge that takes you back closer towards the Miss Tilly.  You also get a bird’s eye view of the lazy river.

This pathway also takes you behind the wave pool giving an interesting perspective of it.  As you can see we definitely lucked out with a beautiful day to visit.

Of course, there are also a few places to get food as well as a couple bars.  This was my favorite bar and thought the theming of it was really well done.

We did hop in the lazy river a few times.  But unfortunately, when the park is busy this can be anything but lazy or relaxing.  Sometimes it takes a while to find an available tube to use, and some of the areas get quite bottlenecked with all the tubes crashing into each other.

Our girls were a little too small for the water coasters Crush n’ Gusher but I headed on them and they definitely take water slides to the next level.  In most water slides you are just slowly making your way downhill, but in these water coasters, there are jets that actually propelled you uphill a bit before you start coming back down.  They really are a lot of fun and hopefully, I can get my girls on them at some point in the future when they are a little bigger.

The main gift shop is called Singapore Sals.  It’s located near the entrance/exit to the park and has beach towels, swimming goggles, and even bathing suits if you forgot one.  Plus lots of souvenirs and sunscreen if needed.

Towards the left side of the store when you are walking inside is where the penny machine was located.

I was happy to see that the designs were themed for the water park which makes them a little more unique.

Years ago this was a machine I needed to complete my WDW Pressed penny set and I remember trying to write a letter asking if a cast member would be able to press my coins that I had included in the envelope.  It took a couple weeks but sure enough, I got the pennies back in the mail with a very nice letter from the staff.  They really do go above and beyond for their guests even when you aren’t there visiting.  The designs haven’t changed since then, but I went ahead and pressed a new set anyways.

By the late afternoon, we had a full day of swimming, sliding and just enjoying the bright Florida sunshine.  Everyone was starting to get a bit tired and cranky so we knew it was time to head home.  We did really enjoy this park, and now that we have our newly renewed annual passes we will be back again soon.

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing – Ocala, Fl

Ever since I was small I’ve always loved cars.  Playing with my matchbox cars as a very young kid I always enjoyed the orange track you could snap together and have the cars race into the craziest double loop track design I could come up with.  Then after I got my license and my first car I remember visiting some race tracks with my friends as they would race their cards down the 1/4 mile stretch.  To be honest, racing was never really my thing, I enjoyed watching other people do it back then but never wanted to try it for myself.  Now years later Nascar and drag racing seem to be more popular than ever.

Shortly after we moved down to Florida a neighbor mentioned a museum that was about an hour away and was a Drag Racing fans heaven.  I was not what you would call a big fan, and don’t know much about who even still races, but the one name I did recognize was Don Garlits.  So I eventually found some time to head up and check it out.

Don was born on January 14, 1932, in Tampa Florida.  He is considered the father of Drag Racing.  Not just a race car driver but also an automotive innovator.  He perfected the rear engine design putting the fuel and other mechanical components behind the driver which helped protect the driver better.

After many years of racing Don opened a museum on his property in Ocala, Florida in 1976.

This sign greeted me as I pulled in off the highway.  Not sure if it applies to Don or to just visitors of his museum.

The museum is split up between two buildings, and houses just under 300 vehicles, and thousands are artifacts.

I headed inside and was just completely blown away.

This truly is a museum about all Drag racing.  Sure there is a lot of history and items about Don Garlits career, but there is also plenty of other items from many different drivers and racing teams.

They have over 90 drag racing cars alone, and each is surrounded with magazine covers, newspaper articles and trophies all pertaining to each vehicle.

When I had first checked in and paid my admission fee they said it usually takes about 2-3 hours to tour the museum.  But just being the casual fan that I am, I think that you could easily spend much more time than that with all the history and amazing stories being told with each exhibit.

There is even a separate area called the Engine room and that is exactly what you will find inside.  Each of these mammoth engines is enclosed in plexiglass to keep them preserved but it still allows you a 360-degree view of them.

Hiding just inside the door of the Engine room was the first penny machine (did you think I came here just for the cars).

The penny machine only has one design available.  You slide your two quarters and one penny inside and it comes alive to automatically press your penny.  There is a large sign on the front of the machine letting you know to wait until it has finished before trying to press another penny.  I think due to the machine only having 1 design it takes a little longer for the machine die to reset each time.

The penny design was pretty cool.  It had one of Don’s famous drag racing cars and the name of the museum and location.  I always really enjoy these types of designs as they make for great mementos of the places we visit.

I continued through the first main building and just couldn’t believe how big this collection was.  They even had a simulator where you could test your speed off the line by sitting in a driver’s seat and watching the lights change to green before you pressed the accelerator.  Apparently, I made a good choice not going into drag racing since my reaction time was appalling.

Eventually, I finished with the first building and headed just a short walk to the second building.

You do need to show your admission ticket to get inside this second building and there was an attendant behind the counter checking.  Just past that counter was a second penny machine.

This machine also only had one design.

The design on the penny was of a nice looking classic car.  It also said Don Garlits Classic Cars and Ocala, Florida.

If you like antique cars or even some American muscle cars this was the building for you.  The entire building was just jammed packed with them.  Each had a placard listing all the details about the car, the engine and the history of the car.

Once I had finished looking at all the cars and taking a bunch of pictures and video I think I had been there for almost 4 hours.  That may be a bit extreme but this really was an amazing place and I’m glad I made the trip up to see it.  As I mentioned at the beginning I’m not a huge drag racing fan but I really don’t think you need to be.  If you are ever in the area be sure to set some time aside and visit this museum, it was a lot of fun and of course, you can pick up a few pressed pennies as well.  Please note that paid admission is required to access both penny machines, but it’s well worth the nominal fee and a few hours of your time.

Retired Pennies at Universal Studios Florida – Coming Soon

Just last week was Easter weekend and I knew from previous years that the Walt Disney World parks are usually really busy.  So this year I decided to visit Universal Studios in hopes the crowd levels may be a little less over the Holiday weekend.  Well unfortunately that was not the case.

Those parks were just as busy, but my plan on this trip was just to enjoy a nice day wandering around the park, and not worrying too much about trying to get on any of the rides.  I was also going to use this as an opportunity to see if any of the penny machines had moved, or if there were any new designs.  Universal doesn’t change their pressed penny machines as often as Disney so there usually isn’t much to update.  After we walked into Universal Studios we headed towards Hollywood Boulevard and checked out the first penny couple machines in the Silver Screen Collectibles and Hello Kitty stores but they were the same, no changes.  This was the same for the next few machines as well over near the E.T. ride, Barney, Springfield and the Men In Black (M.I.B.) store.  Then I came to the San Francisco Candy Company and found that the machine had been moved to a different area of the store.

I was taking some new pictures of the machine when I noticed something.  There was a sticker in the corner of the glass window where you can watch the penny being pressed.

The sticker was announcing that the engravings (designs) would be retired in the Summer 2019.  It also showed pictures of the designs that were going to be retired and in this machine it would be all 3.  Now I had a new objective for this trip, are there more of these notices in the parks?  Then I started to second guess myself about the other machines I quickly had looked at already so I backtracked to make sure.  None of those machines had any stickers about retired designs.  Then I headed back to where I had initially left off and check the machines in the Transformers Ride, the Mummy, Shrek and Minions attractions but those were all staying the same.  The last machines to review in this park were at big Studio Store near the entrance / exit to the park.

This store has 4 machines inside and most of them are staying the same but one did have one of those stickers on it.

This machine will only have 2 of the 3 designs retired.

This one seems a little strange as the Thing 1 & 2 and Gru designs are retiring but the Kong design is staying.  Kong doesn’t have an attraction in Universal Studios anymore and instead has a new ride over in Islands of Adventure so I’m not sure why it would be staying in this location.  Next I headed over to Islands of Adventure to continue the search.

We didn’t go too far inside the park when we visited the Island Market Export store and found the first machine with some soon to be retired designs.

This machine was towards the back of the store pass the big candy counter.

There are two machines located back to back of each other.  The front facing machine has the retired sticker and apparently will have all 3 designs removed.

Next we headed into the Cats, Hats and Things store which is where you exit from the Cat in the Hat ride.

This machine will only have 1 design retired.

I would assume a new Cat in the Hat design will be coming to this machine, but it would seem strange to have something else here.

A little further down the path was the Gertrude McFuzz store.

The Grinch has a meet and greet in this store, and is right near where the penny machine is located so it can be a little tight when the line is long.

Two of the three designs here will be retired.

We then left Seuss Landing and headed into the Lost Continent.  There was only one penny machine in this area of the park at the Treasures of Poseidon store.

This machine has been in this store for a long time and the designs have been unchanged, but that apparently is changing.

According to the sticker all 3 of the designs will be retired.  Not sure if this means the entire machine is going away, or if just new designs will be replaced.  After that we cut through The Wizarding World of Harry Potty which still has no pressed pennies, and then we found ourselves in Jurassic Park.

Near the River Adventure ride (the big water drop ride) is the Jurassic Outfitters store.  All the way in the back where you get your pictures from the water ride was the next machine.

These are some nice classic designs with he Jurassic Park logo, and the Islands of Adventure logo.

But according to the sticker on this machine all three designs are going away. There is some construction nearby this area with a rumored new Jurassic Park themed roller coaster so maybe these designs are being replaced with images for that new attraction.    The next area was Toon Lagoon which is themed around many old school comic characters like Betty Boop, Popeye, and Wimpy among many others.

There is one large gift shop that runs along one side of this area called Toon Extra.  Plenty of character merchandise and of course a penny machine.

I always liked the “A Penny for your thoughts” quote on the bottom of this machine.

This is another machine with all three of the designs being retired.  The set included Betty Boop, Popeye and Spongebob Squarepants.

Directly across from Toon Extra is a small store that is all about Betty Boop.

This machine and I are not on good terms.  Years ago I was on a quick trip to Florida and visited Universal trying to press all the pennies they had, but this machine was broken.  Then I spent the next year or so trying to find someone to get the pennies but that didn’t pan out.  Eventually I came back for another work trip and when I went to use this machine it was broken again.  I just couldn’t win.  But since then I was able to eventually press the set, but I will admit I’m a little happy to see it go.  Hopefully the entire machine gets an overhaul.

the posted sticker on the machine shows only two images going away, and one Betty Boop design staying in the machine.  That was it for Toon Lagoon, and no other changes in Super Hero Island so I headed out of Islands of Adventure.  The only other machines still to be checked on where in the parking structures so that’s where I headed next.  There are currently 7 penny machine around the parking hub and 6 of them appear to be staying the same even tough most of those designs are very dated.

The very last machine I checked out was in the North Parking structure just before you get to where all the cars are parked.  This is another machine that’s been around for quite a while, I think I initially presses these designs about 5 or 6 years ago at least.

I guess the latest Fantastic Four reboot movie didn’t do enough to keep fan interested in these coins.

The entire set of 4 designs are marked to be retired.

That was all I found but was excited to know that so many coins are being retired, and hopefully being replaced with new designs.  The possibilities are intriguing with what may show up.  Some of the machines where all the designs are going away, may be replaced with those new 8-design machines.  Obviously the other machines with just one or two images retiring may get pennies for all the new attractions that have been showing up at the parks recently.

In total I found notices that 26 total pennies are to be retired.  As I mentioned above that’s no guarantee that 26 new designs will be back and some may just be gone for good.  Also there is no set date for when these are being changes out, it just says Summer 2019.  I’ll be visiting the parks on a regular basis to try and report back as soon as these start changing out.

Any ideas what you think may be on the way?  Any designs you would like to see show up.  Let me know in the comments below.  Happy Collecting!

Lego Movie World – Legoland, FL

Any time I hear about a new “land” opening up at a theme park somewhere nearby I always get excited that there may be new penny machines.  To be honest unfortunately most of the time this is not the case, like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal … no penny machines.  Pandora in Disney’s Animal Kingdom … not at first but there is one there now.  Toy Story land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios … Nope!  But I heard about the new Lego Movie World opening at Legoland in Winter Haven Florida about 45 minutes from Orlando so I figured why not go see if we get lucky.

After we got inside the park and figured out where the new land was we headed over and I was really surprised with what we found.  First off the crowds were not too bad considering this land just opened about a month ago.  But in fact we were really surprised by how themed this area was.  Going to Disney and Universal theming is a big key word for fanatics about how immersive an area of the park is.  To be honest with Legoland since they acquired the park from another company, most of the attractions were just retrofitted with faux Lego pieces and called a Lego ride.  Not too many brand new attractions built from the ground up.

This really did make you feel like you were in a Lego city.  The buildings were all designs like they were made out of Lego.  There were some great easter eggs from the Lego Movie every where you looked.  I actually came home from the park and watched the movie immediately to see if I recognized anything as I felt like I must have missed some things the first time I watched it.

Some of the theming may have gone a bit too far like the above, but my two girls thought this was hilarious.

I did like the crazy cat lady and her cat.  If you click on the picture above to get the larger version you can even see cat hair on her sweater.  Thankfully this is the kind of pet hair that won’t bother your allergies.

There was also plenty of places for photos with the different characters and objects from the movies.

One of the new attractions was this Masters of Flight ride.  I will admit we did not get to experience this as there was a 90 minute wait pretty much the entire day we were visiting but I’m going to make sure I get back there to try it out.  For anyone familiar with Soarin’ at Epcot it’s a similar idea but I’m sure Legoland doesn’t want me to referencing it like that.  Basically you get into a row of seats that spin around to face a giant movie screen and your seat moves around slightly as you watch the movie giving the feeling of movement when you really aren’t going anywhere.

Above is the outside of the main part of the Flight attraction.  Pretty cute!

My daughters favorite by far was Unikitty’s Disco Drop.  This was your standard drop ride.  You sit in a seat, it goes up to the top and then drops you down, takes you back up and drops you again all to some “disco” music.  The kids loved it, and I will admit it was pretty fun.  Not too intense, but if you don’t like that stomach drop feeling I would skip this one.

Inside the Everything is Awesome store was as you would guess plenty of Lego sets, and other toys.  But they definitely were focused on the Lego Movie for most of the items.

They even had some plush dolls of Emmet…

and Wyldstyle which actually looks pretty good.  They were a little stiff but I think that was by design to try and help keep their Lego-like shape.  We spent a good portion of our day in this one area of the park and pretty explored every little corner but unfortunately I had to admit defeat that there was no new penny machine here.

However there was a bit of good news.  My daughter actually found the above new Collectible Coin (penny) album.  At first I almost dismissed it but noticed this was a 3rd edition and did look like a new design.  I checked my online collection and saw that I only had the 2nd edition from a couple of years ago.  Bingo!! A new pressed penny booklet with a pressed penny on the front.  I’ll take it.

Overall this was a fun trip back to Legoland.  My two girls are getting to the age where this is almost too young for this type of park, but we all really enjoyed the new Lego Movie world.  I wish they would have had a new pressed penny machine but I’m okay to come away with the new booklet for now.  We did check out the rest of the park and I noticed that most of the other penny machines were not available.  This seems to be something Legoland does often at this time of year, and I believe is only temporary while they do some maintenance on the machines.  They used a unique machine type that I don’t see too often and seems like may be prone to some mechanical issues.  You can check out my other post about all those machines here.

We have Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opening up soon in Disneyland (West coast) and Hollywood Studios (East coast) so I’m crossing my fingers that those will have plenty of new penny machines on the way.  Happy collecting!

Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa – Orlando, Fl

This was a penny machine I had heard about a few months ago but wasn’t sure I would be able to visit.  The Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa is located in Orlando on Turkey Lake Road not too far from the Universal Studios parks.

Westgate resorts are part of a timeshare company.  I’ve been through a timeshare presentation it was not really something I wanted to go through again.  At first I thought maybe I would just pay full price for a room for a staycation with my wife.  But before shelling out that kind of money I thought I would just head over and see if I could visit without actually staying there.

There is a security area that you check in with.  They were very nice and I said I was just looking to check out the resort.  That was no issue and they gave me some detailed instructions on where to park.

The parking garage had no fee to park during the day.  Not sure if this is different if you are staying at the resort, or if you visit at night.  However the garage was pretty full and we ended up parking almost at the very top.  From up there got a nice overview of the resort and it did look really nice.

Down on ground level there was an arcade, a gift shop / souvenir shop / deli that had pretty much anything you could want on your stay.  There was also a sports bar that wasn’t opened yet when we got there but looked like a lot of fun.

I’m not sure how many pools they have in total, but this one seemed to be the largest we could find.  It was behind a locked gate so you do need to be staying at the resort to access the pool.

After we had walked around most of the property we headed into the main reception building.  There was a larger front area to the building that had valet parking available, but we entered in through the back near the above pool.

Inside was a nice large lobby area with lots of things going on.  People were checking-in, or getting help with park tickets.

Along one side of the lobby was a little gift shop, and a cafe with some grab and go food items.  Just outside this cafe was where we found the penny machine.

The machine only had one design available.  It was the standard $0.50 plus your penny.  As soon as you push your change into the machine it automatically comes to live and pressed your coin.

The image on the penny is the Westgate Resorts logo, and the machine pressed it really nicely.

So after this experience I will say a few things.  Timeshare companies have a bad reputation for those high pressure sales meetings.  I did not sit through one at this resort so I don’t know how it would compare to others, but I was worried that I may get dragged into one while here but that wasn’t the case.  Whenever I visit places looking for pressed pennies with all my cameras and other equipment I’m always very up front with what I’m doing.  This resort was very welcoming, many of the guests and staff were friendly and I didn’t have any security escorting me off property for taking my pictures.  Sometimes when there is someone wandering around taking pictures it raises some concern.  In any event this resort was very accommodating with my quick little visit so don’t be afraid to try and stop by yourself sometime.

I was hoping the penny design would be location specific and actually say Orlando on it which would make for a nice collection when visiting other Westgate Resorts. The coin was still a nice addition to the collection and I may actually try staying at the resort in the future.

Disney’s Boardwalk NEW Pressed Penny Machine

I’ve mentioned in the past that I used to live in New Jersey and we had our fair share of Boardwalks at all the different beaches by the Atlantic shores.  During visits to Walt Disney World one of the last places we would have thought to visit was the Disney Boardwalk Inn (Resort) since it’s themed around Atlantic City New Jersey.

But now that we have moved out of New Jersey I find myself visiting the Boardwalk more often as I kind of miss it, and the Disney version is much cleaner and safer.

There are a few ways to visit the Boardwalk if you aren’t staying at the actual resort.  Probably the easiest would be if you are over at Epcot you can use the International gateway between France and the UK pavilions, and is about a 10 minute walk.  Or you can take the Friendship boats from Epcot or Hollywood Studios.  When I heard that a new penny machine was available at the Boardwalk I was over at the Swan and Dolphin resort for lunch and just walked over.

The boardwalk during the day is pretty quite, and most of the restaurants aren’t open yet.  But later in the day this place really picks up.  They have carnival type games along the water, a dueling piano bar called Jellyrolls, and buskers performing all along the boardwalk.

On this visit to the boardwalk it was still a little early in the day before the real fun begins, but I had another mission any ways.  Down near where the Friendship boat dock is located you can find the Screen Door General Store.

This is actually a couple of stores all connected inside.  We started in the Screen door General Store that was just that  and is where you can find bottles of soda, snacks and other miscellaneous food items.  The next store has some t-shirts and your more common Disney souvenirs.

This is was the area that the penny machine was found just inside the middle set of doors.

This store is called the Character Carnival gift shop.

The machine has 8 designs and cost $1 for 1 design, or $5 for all 8.  Pretty standard right now for these new style machines.

The designs on these pennies are off Classic Mickey and his friends including Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale.  I was hoping they would have the Boardwalk logo on then, but that was not the case and just have the Disney logo.

After collecting this new set I was headed back to the Swan and Dolphin for a bit but was definitely happy I had the chance to visit the boardwalk for a bit.  If you haven’t visited here be sure to check it out.  There are some nice places to eat and plenty of entertainment for a relaxing day on vacation.

Curtain Call Collectibles – Magic Kingdom

I got a little behind on posting about this machine that came out a few weeks ago.  So many new machines have been released it getting harder to keep up.  But I shouldn’t be complaining about all these new penny machines as it really is fun to find them and share information on each new set.  On this trip we were headed back into the Magic Kingdom, however before that I needed to make a quit stop over at the Polynesian Village Resort.  A family member had asked me to check on a souvenir they had seen at that resort and regretted not picking it up during their visit so I was stopping by to help out.  With that little task over I headed out back of the resort which is always really beautiful with the lake as a backdrop.

I decided to take the boat over to the Magic Kingdom just to try something new.

The boats are too big but it did make for a nice little trip over to the park.  Once inside the Magic Kingdom we didn’t have too far to go.  The new penny machine was located right on Main Street, but first my daughter wanted to visit with her favorite fairy Tinker Bell.

Just past the main street train station is the Town Square Theater.  This is where you can meet the big guy himself Mickey Mouse, but also Tinker Bell.

This is always a really great meet and greet that my daughter absolutely loves.  Tinker bell always get down on the ground and has a great time with the little ones.  We took a bunch of pictures and then headed towards the exit which as you know always takes you into a gift shop.

This store is called Curtain Call Collectibles, but for those of you that may want to visit this store without seeing Tinker bell you can come in directly from Main Street.

To be honest I don’t think I even realized this was here at first and have walked past it a many times without going inside.

There is a bit of a walk back to the store, but you can see some very pretty gardens along either side.  This area can get busy during parade times.

Once inside you can see it’s a long narrow store that has all the usual items like pins, plush characters, t-shirts, and so much more.  About halfway through the store (regardless of which direction you go) the penny machine is up against the wall opposite the check out area.

The machine was a nice dark blue cabinet that blended in well with the surrounding area.  When I first got there it had been slid out and the back was opened undergoing a bit of maintenance.  Thankfully it was nothing major and the machine was back in working order after about 10 minutes.

This set was primarily themed around Peter Pan with designs of Tinker Bell, Wendy, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Tick Tock Croc.  But also included designs of Mickey, Minnie and Pluto to round out the eight designs.

Another great set of pennies for a movie that hasn’t had a big representation in the pressed pennies across property.  We still had a big day ahead of us at the park, but made sure to visit Peter Pan’s Flight to finish off our visit.

Just takes a little pixie dust to make for a magical day.