Aladdin NEW Pressed Penny Set – Magic Kingdom

Earlier this week I made a quick trip over to the Magic Kingdom so I could press some pennies for a friend of mine.  Other than getting these pennies I didn’t have much of an agenda which was supposed to make for a nice leisurely trip to the park.  All too often I’m rushing around the park, and you kind of forget about what a magical place you are in.  It is nice to every so often take your time and enjoy where you are.

On Main Street USA I stopped into the Starbucks for a coffee and then headed towards Adventureland.  I’m not sure why this is my preferred path, but I do find this is the direction I head more often than not.

There are quite a few great attractions in Adventureland, but one that holds a bit of sentimental value for me is The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.  This was the first ride we had taken our oldest daughter Hanna on when we first took her to the parks when she was small.  We don’t go on it very often anymore but I always look fondly on this ride every time I pass by.

Even though I was taking it easy on this visit, I still find myself visiting each penny machine just to make sure they are still there, or if any changes have been made.  In between the Swiss Family Tree House and the Magic Carpet ride is a machine that can be easily missed due to its location at the Island Supply Breezeway (restroom area).

This is a high traffic area most of the time since there are restrooms here and it’s a shortcut from Adventureland over to the Liberty Square area of the park.  But about halfway through this breezeway is where the penny machine is located.  When I walked into this area I immediately noticed the machine had been changed.  Previously this was a 3-design electronic machine with a change machine attached all in one cabinet.  That is no longer here (even the change machine is gone) and now a new 8-design machine is available.

The machine cabinet is just plain white and nothing overly special about the design or theme.  It is the newer touch screen versions we have come to know so well and are definitely becoming the new normal in the parks.

The designs on the pennies are all themed around one of my favorite animated movies Aladdin.  The images include Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, Genie, Iago, Abu, and more.  This is a really great set and I’m so glad it was released.  I think this will be a very popular machine.

After pressing the pennies I made the executive decision to jump in line and take a spin on a magic carpet.  It would have been more fun if my daughter was with me, but that’s okay it was still fun and I’ll be sure to take her on the next time we are in the parks.  Happy Collecting and Keep on Pressing!

Island Market & Export NEW Pressed Pennies – Universal’s Islands of Adventure

October over at Universal Studios Florida is full of spooky decorations and amazing haunted mazes with plenty of scare zones.  Unfortunately in 2020 with everything going on their usual Halloween Horror Nights events were not happening as usual.  But as a nice surprise, they did open two of the Mazes to regular day guests without a separate ticket required.

Throughout the month of October, I headed over to visit these mazes as often as I could and really enjoyed them.  Even though there were only two houses, no scare zones, and took place during the day.  But they still had plenty of amazing design work and scares throughout.  The first house was Revenge of the Tooth Fairy.

The second maze was The Bride of Frankenstein Lives.  One perk from this year was that the wait times were never more than 10 minutes when I visited mid-week and I was able to basically walk right into the mazes throughout the day and I loved it.

During one of these trips, I took a break from the Halloween fun and headed over to the Islands of Adventure park just to see what was going on.

After scanning my ticket and heading into the park I always cut through the Island Market & Export store just to get some cool air plus they have a couple pressed penny machines inside.  But on this trip, something about one of the machines caught my eye.

Last year you may remember I wrote about a whole bunch of machines that had stickers places on the advertising that certain penny designs were going to be retired.  Then over the next few months, the machines were updated with new designs.  One of these machines was in this store, but the strange thing was that it originally got one of those stickers.  Then after all the other machines were changed, this machine was kept the same and the retired sticker was removed.

That has finally changed.  When I walked by the machine the designs immediately stuck out to me and I was shocked to see they were new.  The cabinet of the machine is the same, and unlike the Disney machines, it still costs just 50 cents plus you can use your own penny (collectors rejoice).

Thankfully I always carry around extra pennies and quarters for just this situation.  You never know when you may come across a new machine and need to press a new set.  The designs at this machine include Kong, E.T., and a cute Hello Kitty.

I’m surprised it took this long to update, and assume that it was scheduled to change last year but maybe there was a licensing issue that delayed these from being released.  But whatever the situation was it’s done and we have a fun new set of pennies.  After collecting this set I did check on all the other machines in this park to verify if there were any other new penny designs, and it appeared this was the only new set for now.  Hopefully, we will see some more new ones in the future, but for now, it seems that Universal is done swapping out their penny designs.  Happy Collecting!

Main Street Emporium NEW 2020 Medallions – Magic Kingdom

I know a few years ago when Disney first released a collectible Medallion machine that I was at first intrigued enough to get a set but tried to convince myself I wouldn’t keep getting them.  But as time has gone on, and more and more of these machines are released I have found my medallion collection growing a bit out of control.  The Festival medallions over at Epcot are probably my favorite and I have been keeping an eye on that machine, but then out of the blue, we got a report about a new set not too far away at the Magic Kingdom.

After work, I took a quick trip over to the park to try and find these new medallions.  I always enjoy walking under the Railroad station and having Main Street USA just reveals itself.  In my mind, it’s always a fun way to be welcomed into the park.

I continued up Main Street towards the Emporium.  Just a quick note on this store, with the current situation in the park they are trying to keep everyone moving in one direction so many of the doorways here are listed as “Exit Only”.  To get into the store you do need to head about halfway up Main Street and enter near the Disney Clothiers store.

Brace yourself when you enter this store as it can be quite chaotic.  It gets worse later on when the park is closing down for the night, with people trying to get their last-minute souvenirs.  The medallion machine is tucked away near the area of the store that has a big selection of Plush toys (sorry it’s hard to be more specific).  Just around the side of one of the checkout counters.

The machine is in a pretty plain cabinet but does actually blend in well with the aesthetics of the Emporium.

The cost is the same as the other machines around the property.  $5 per medallion or you can get all 4 for $15.  This is a slight change from before, where if you were paying with a credit card it would only allow you to get 3 of the coins for $10, and then you had to come up with cash for the 4th design which was pretty inconvenient.  Now they let you get all 4 at once which is much nicer.

The designs on each medallion include Mickey & Minnie holding hands, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy.  On the front of the coin with each character are the words Magic Kingdom, and Walt Disney World.  On the back of each coin is the 2020 Cinderella Castle logo they have been using this year.

This is another great set of medallions, but wow they get expensive.  Especially since pressed pennies are now increasing to $1 each, and medallions at $5 each I may need to get a second job to keep up with my collection.  I did find it a little strange that it’s October and they are releasing another set of dated 2020 medallions but figured these were probably already in the pipeline to be released earlier this summer but got delayed due to all the shutdowns.  Guess in a few months we can look forward to seeing what 2021 designs we get.

Happy Collecting!

The Jungle Book NEW Pressed Penny Set – Animal Kingdom

It’s been a little while since we were over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park, so we had scheduled a reservation to visit this past weekend.  It seems that it was just meant to be as I was informed on the drive over to the park that there were reports of a new pressed penny machine sighting.

We did have a whole day planned at the park, but it didn’t take too long for us to find the new machine.  Just over the bridge when you first see the Tree of Life there is a pretty large gift shop on the left called the Island Mercantile.

I usually cut through these stores just for some quick Air Conditioning, but this time we were on the hunt.

The inside of the store is really beautiful with all sorts of theming and unique carvings on the walls and up in the ceiling.  Plus there is a ton of merch, but we will revisit this shortly.

After wandering around the entire inside of the store more than a couple times I headed outside, and sure enough, there was the machine.

The cabinet of this new machine was gorgeous, with some cool wood carved creatures on the front and both sides.  Plus I really liked the blue color.

I pressed a set of the new pennies and was a bit surprised to notice that they were all themed around the Disney classic animated movie The Jungle Book.  There are designs of Mowgli, Baloo, Shere Khan, Kaa, Bagheera, and more.

Now just a quick note, after getting these pennies I headed back into the store and was just curious to see what type of merchandise they would have for The Jungle Book.  I checked every shelf and display I could and the only items I found were a couple collectible pins.  It is a bit sad to know that this movie doesn’t have much available, but at least we have a nice new pressed penny set.  Keep on Pressing!

Frontierland Railroad Station NEWish Pressed Pennies – Magic Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Happy Collecting!!

Bass Pro Shop – Gainesville, FL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Museum of Natural History – Gainesville, FL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epcot Reopening Preview – NEW Pressed Pennies!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magic Kingdom Reopening Preview – NEW Pressed Pennies!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

De Leon Springs State Park Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here lies The Fountain of Youth…well sort of.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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