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.

Homosassa Springs State Park Florida

It was about time for my family to get out of the house for some fresh air.  Being cooped up inside was starting to make everyone a little squirrely.  But instead of heading back to one of the theme parks, we had decided to visit another Florida State Park.  This trip we headed back over towards the Gulf to check out Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

This place kind of took me by surprise as I was thinking it would just be another State Park with nature trails we could explore, but it was so much more than that.

When we first arrived we were greeted by a huge Manatee out front of the visitor center.  Parking was free which was nice.

Inside the visitor center was a little museum with some old photographs and plenty of history about the State Park.

I feel like I’ve seen this Manatee before but wearing a different shirt?  I’ll have to look into this more at some time, or maybe I just need more sleep.

Just outside the restrooms was the first penny press machine I found and had information that there was another one somewhere.

The pennies from this first machine had images of a couple Manatees, an Alligator, a Wolf, and a Florida panther.

After we had enjoyed the visitor center we headed out back to where the Boats and Trams were located to take us further into the Park.

We lucked out and one of the tour boats was about to leave so we jumped on board and had a wonderful little adventure.  The ride took maybe 15 minutes down the river and the tour guide gave us plenty of details about the river and made sure to point out some local wildlife like turtles, cranes, and even a couple gators along the riverbank.

After the board tour docked at the far end of the river we exited near another parking lot along Fishbowl Drive.  We saw people crossing the street towards another building that lead the way towards the Wildlife Walk.

Inside was a little gift shop to one side, and a food counter on the right side called the Wildside Cafe.  We stopped for a light snack and some drinks to cool off.

Just past the Wildside Cafe was the second pressed penny machine, thankfully this time not near the restrooms.

The pennies at this machine rolled a bit short, but most of the designs came through.  The set included images of a Pather, a Manatee, an Eagle, and a Bear.  Hopefully, we wouldn’t be running into any bears or Panthers on this nature walk.

After I used the penny machine there was a desk towards the opposite side of the building where you paid a small admission price to explore the Wildlife Walk.

I was amazed that even at this time of year we were able to see a couple Manatees in the wild.  These really are amazing creatures and I never get tired of seeing them in the wild.

They definitely were proud of their Manatee residents at the park.  It was interesting to read all the information boards they had in this area with details about them.

Now it was time to explore the Wildlife Walk.  It was a nice raised wooden Boardwalk type path that wound through the park.

It was nice a wide so everyone had plenty of space and you could take your time without feeling like you were holding anyone up.

Of course, we are in Florida so there has to be the standard Alligator exhibit with some of the biggest gators I’ve ever seen up close.  Thankfully they looked well fed and were just enjoying the sunny afternoon.

This was not a zoo, so there weren’t any exotic animals on this walk but instead, it was promoting Florida local wildlife.  I found this kind of refreshing as it seemed to fit better in the state park.

Eventually, we made the entire tour around the Wildlife Walk and found ourselves back at the Tram / Boat station.  This time we opted to try the Tram which was just a trailer with seats attached to the back of a pickup truck.  It was a quick drive along the river but no tour guide this time around.  The tram was more all business just getting you back to the visitor center as quickly as possible.  But cutting its way through the tall trees and green surroundings was still a nice way to end our day.

We had a fantastic day and really enjoyed just being outside.  Florida State Parks are really becoming our favorite way to spend some quality family time together, get some exercise and of course, find a few pressed pennies every now and then.

SeaWorld Orlando New Penny Booklet

On June 11th SeaWorld Orlando reopened after being closed for an extended period of time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  When I heard about the reopening date I wanted to go over and check on their new processes and of course, see how those precious pressed penny machines were doing.

Shortly after I got into the park I noticed that many of the penny machines were missing.  It then became apparent after I eventually did come across one of the machines that SeaWorld was converting their machines over to pre-loaded penny versions that cost $1.  We’ve reviewed this change with Disney Parks and now it seems like SeaWorld is the next park to make the conversion.  Prior to the park closure, they had a total of 25 pressed penny machines, but on my first visit back only 10 were available.  Stay tuned as I’ll be going back in a few weeks to check on the rest of the machines when they come back so we can review those new machines.

But all was not lost on this trip.  In one of the gift shops I wandered into just to see the special reopening merch, I actually came across a new pressed penny booklet.

Since I don’t use these booklets for my own collection I often forget to look for them at different attractions or parks.  However, I do still purchase them as a separate collection and have way too many of these in large totes I keep in my office.  This one just ended up catching my eye as I walked by the display and after referring to my booklet collection I confirmed it was at least new to me.  I don’t know exactly how “new” this is, but it can’t be much more than a year old at the most since the last Seaworld booklet I purchased was in 2018.

The booklet also had a nice pressed penny design on the front cover.  It is similar to other designs throughout the park but is unique for the booklet.

Even though I don’t store pennies in these booklets I still couldn’t resist picking this up and added it to my collection.  I will be interested to come back in a few weeks and hope all the machines eventually return.  In the Disney parks, none of the designs were changed after their conversion but I’m hoping that SeaWorld decides to release some new designs.  They haven’t really had anything new in quite a while, and I’m also kind of surprised they never released one of the larger 8-design touch screen machines somewhere.  But I’ll be sure to check back and share whatever changes take place.

Universal Orlando Theme Parks Reopening Preview

It’s been a few months since the last time we walked through the Universal Orlando Theme Parks, but that has all started to change.  On June 5th, 2020 the Universal Parks was reopening with some new procedures and guidelines.  However, I was able to get a preview the day before to check out the parks and see if anything has changed.  Plus I wanted to visit all the pressed penny machines.

For this preview, I had to go online about a week before and try to secure a reservation and then had to choose a specific entry time into the parks.  I believe this was their way of trying to spread out the guest entry so everyone wasn’t there all at once.  My entry time was 10am, and once I had parked by in the garage around 9:00am there was no wait to have my temperature checked, and little to no line through the security checkpoint.  Before I knew it I was back in CityWalk and decided to visit Islands of Adventure first.

Unfortunately, the weather throughout the day was pretty crappy.  It rained most of the day, and the humidity was pretty high.  But being back in the park I wasn’t going to let mother nature ruin my adventure.

First up I do want to say that I was able to visit almost all of the pressed penny machines in both parks.  There were a couple that was in areas no open on this day.  I’m not going to review all the machines here since most of them have not changed and you can check out my previous post on the parks here if you are interested.

Crowd levels were pretty light on this day so I used the opportunity to hop on some attractions I don’t always get to experience.  One of my favorites is the Adventures of Spider-Man ride and I literally walked right on with no wait in the queue.  There was a team member at the end of the queue dispensing hand sanitizer to everyone before you get into the ride vehicle.  I was the only guest in the vehicle and had a nice private experience through the ride.  Afterward, I exited into the gift shop and the two penny machines are still here.

I passed through the rest of Superhero Island and then into Toon Lagoon.  Nothing much going on here.  Most of the machines were still available, but the Betty Boop store was not open for some reason so that machine could not be accessed.

Did I mention low crowds?  As you can see from the above picture there were some areas with absolutely no one around.

The Jurassic Park area was a little busier.  The River Adventure attraction was open, but with the rain, I didn’t feel the need to get even more soaked on that ride so I just passed through.

There were a few new additions since my last visit, like the new entrance to the Raptor Encounter which I thought looked like it was right out of the movies.

Also down near the lagoon in the middle of the park was lots of track for the new Raptor Coaster coming later this year…maybe?!?

Over in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was were most of the crowd seemed to be, but this was also far from normal levels.

 I had plenty of room to walk around and really was able to enjoy this area of the park.  Even the Butterbeer carts had small lines.

Nearby in the Lost Continent, they had a nice section called a U-Rest Area.  Each park has 2 of these areas for guests to use.  It allows you somewhere to go and remove your mask for a bit of a breather.  You can sit anywhere you like in the area as long as you are socially distancing from other guests.

The last section of this park was Seuss Landing which I always really enjoy.  Probably from my childhood filled with reading all those famous books.

This area was almost completely deserted as I headed through.  Very few people here, and seemed like most were just passing through as they headed back towards the  Harry Potter area.

On my way out of Islands of Adventure, I did stop through the Trading Company and all the pressed penny machines were unchanged but still available for use.

I cut through CityWalk over to Universal Studios and they had a float vehicle out front for some unique photo ops.

Hollywood Boulevard was really empty.  I think back to this area during Halloween Horror Nights and the comparison is just night and day.

I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to ride the E.T. Adventure attraction.  The posted wait time was 20 minutes which is not too bad.  However, the line extended well out into this courtyard due to everyone standing 6 feet apart.  My wait time was closer to 30 minutes in total but had a great ride on this classic attraction.

Springfield from The Simpsons was a little busier.  It did seem that the Duff Brewery bar was quite a happening place.  I guess people were really having withdrawal of Duff beer and needed a refresher.

Over in Diagon Alley, the crowds were noticeably lighter.  This area would normally be packed shoulder to shoulder with people taking pictures and waiting for the Gringotts Dragon to breathe fire.

The longest line back here was for Butterbeer which of course is a necessity when visiting the parks.  I couldn’t turn one down so I hopped in line and waited about 10 minutes for my frothy drink.

Just outside King’s Cross Station was a nice homage to the Jaws attraction which was removed and replaced with Diagon Alley.  Which is a nice segway…

I usually try to check in with Bruce the Shark when I’m in this area.  I still wish they would make him move periodically as that would be fun to watch unsuspecting guests get a little too close.

In past posts, I’ve reviewed the Pressed Penny machine that is near Bruce the Shark.  I’ve even shown how it made a guest appearance in the movie Sharknado 3.  The machine has been untouched for quite a while, but on this visit, I noticed that two of the designs had changed.

Do you notice the two new designs on the marquee pictured above?

If you are a Hello Kitty fan you may notice one right away.  In the Hello Kitty store in the park, I’ve seen this design on some t-shirts and posters, and each time I’ve got to work on my willpower to not buy it.  But it’s so darn cute.  Thankfully now I have a cool pressed penny with the image instead and it only cost me 50 cents.  The second design is also a fun one with Amity Island Jaws listed on it.

In my review of the CityWalk reopening, I mentioned that none of the machines had hand sanitizer dispensers nearby.  But worry not, Universal has you covered if you need by selling little bottles for $3.  I picked one up just to make sure I always had some available and promptly used it after finishing up with the penny machine.

At this time of day all of a sudden the skies opened up and the rain really made itself known.  I got stuck under the cover at Mel’s Drive-In which I then used as an opportunity to get some lunch.  Unfortunately due to the limited capacity inside I had to wait about 45 minutes for a table which then required you to use their Mobile App to place my order which was eventually brought out to my table.

Eventually, the rain held off for a little while so I could try and make my way back towards the entrance/exit of the park.

Before heading out I did stop in at the Universal Studio Store and confirmed all the penny machines were still here.  I quickly cut through the store and headed out the exit, through CityWalk and to my car just before more rain decided to come down.  Well, that’s Florida for you!

Let me go over a few things after this trip.  I did notice the above Stickers were on almost all of the pressed penny machines throughout both parks.  It reviews the Treatment that is being used in the parks and even the machine vendor had a sticker about Health & Saftey precautions.  I was glad to see these show-up and at least acknowledge that the penny machines are high use items that need to be cleaned frequently.

Unlike my visit to CityWalk a couple weeks prior, on this day I did notice on numerous accounts Team Members cleaning the penny machines.  They did not do this after each person used them, but I was happy to see that they were being cleaned at all.  In the past on all my visits to the parks, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a machine being cleaned so this is definitely a plus.  I’m happy with how my visit went and the low crowds were a definite perk.  How long this will go on for I just don’t know but I think Universal has done a great job so far and just hope they continue to keep it up.

Universal’s Citywalk Reopens during Covid-19

It’s been about two months since we last visited a Theme Park.  The self-quarantine we have been experiencing has gone as well as can be expected, but we do miss our weekend excursions to the parks.  Recently Florida did start Phase 1 of it’s reopening allowing certain restaurants and merchants to open.  Then a surprise announcement was made from Universal Studios that they were going to have a limited opening for Citywalk starting on May 14th.  I was a bit anxious to go and check it out but decided to wait a few days just for them to try and iron out the process before I ventured over there.  This past Saturday I strapped on my mask and headed over to see how they had everything set up and to check on the pressed penny machines.

Currently, Citywalk is only opened from 4pm to 10pm and I headed out around 4 to try and avoid that initial rush of guests entering.  This was probably the only time I was able to go north on I-4 without any traffic and made it to Universal in record time.  Once I got off the highway and towards the parking plaza I noticed that only a few of the lanes were open but no Team Members were there due to Universal stating that parking would be free during this limited opening.

Once inside the parking garage, Team Members were helping to guide you where to park.  Every second parking spot was blocked by a traffic cone to make sure everyone was keeping to the required social distancing guidelines.

There were plenty of signs making sure everyone was aware that the Theme Parks were still closed and only Citywalk was available.

They also had lots of signs around displaying the requirements to enter Citywalk which included having a facial covering on at all times (except when eating or drinking).

Before leaving the parking garage we had to enter a queue for a required temperature screening.  Any guests with a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher were not allowed to enter.  It was a simple process, you just waited on the social distancing markers on the group until your turn to be screened and then a Security Team member had a non-invasive temperature scanner that they aimed at your forehead for a few seconds and then allowed you to pass if your temperature was okay.

After that, we were allowed to head down to the Parking Hub for the security screening.  Before I jumped into that line I wanted to visit the pressed penny machines in this area.  This first set of two machines were in the same location with no changes.

The second set of machines in the Hub is just outside the restrooms in between the souvenir stand and express food stand.  No changes to these machines either.

Security was similar to the process before the initial closure.  They have the x-ray machines that will scan your bags and possessions while you walk through a metal detector.  The only difference was the number of Team Members around trying to ensure everyone was keeping 6ft between parties.  After security, I headed down the last part of the walkway towards Citywalk but opted not to use the moving sidewalks as I was sure my hands would automatically try to touch the handrails which I wanted to avoid.

As I walked up to this main entrance area of Citywalk it was immediately apparent that the crowds were very light.  Universal was limiting the overall capacity to Citywalk and later on, during my visit, there were more people around but was still way less than usual.

Just outside the Movie Theater was the next penny machine.  No changes were made to the machine itself or the designs.

Across from the Movie Theater is the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant and was one of the few places open to eat inside.  Due to the restaurants having to keep capacity of around 25% that doesn’t allow for many guests to be eating at once.  I had read later on that wait times to get a table exceeded 2 hours.

To visit the pressed penny machine inside the restaurant I was asked to enter through their gift shop which had a separate entrance.  There were no changes to this machine.

I continued walking through Citywalk and you can see the sparse crowd above and people were pretty good at keeping themselves distance from each other.

Nearby was the Universal Store and I was interested to see how the distancing would work inside.  There was a queue set up outside in anticipation of the crowds that would try to get inside.  Since this is a smaller store they did need to pulse people inside.

The pressed penny machine was just inside the doors and was the only machine with a hand sanitizer nearby.  Although to be honest I assume this was not solely for the penny machine for all guests exiting the store.

Everyone was doing a good job with following the rules and all seemed to be keeping their masks on.  I only witness one guest with their mask dangling from one ear and not covering his face but he was quickly approved by Security and asked to put it back on properly.

It was nice to have plenty of space around you as everyone kept their distance.  I headed down towards Margaritaville to see how things were going there.

This restaurant had decided to keep the indoor area closed, and were only seating guests at their outdoor patio or across the walkway at the Lone Palm bar.

I headed inside the gift shop just for a quick visit to check on the 8-design touch screen penny machine and it was still available for use.

Toothsome Chocolate Factory was open for business, but the Hard Rock Cafe was not. Due to this, the crowd levels on that side of the waterway was pretty quiet.

It was nice to see that Universal kept the bridges open towards the theme parks for us gluttons that wanted just a quick glimpse of the parks.  Plus I guess it was needed to access the Toothsome restaurant.  But I just couldn’t help myself and wanted a closer look at the parks.

You could walk right up to the main entrance areas for the Islands of Adventure.  I also noticed that the ground was covered with the social distancing stickers.  At least this area of the park looks like it’s ready for business but I’m sure they still have a lot of work to do inside before they will open again.

It was a beautiful day when I visited but it was obvious that our situations had changed and that visiting these places would be very different moving forward.

Down towards Universal Studios, it was a good time to try and get your picture with the Globe.  Usually, this is a heavy traffic area, and getting a nice photo can be a bit of a challenge but not on this day.

Here was the main entrance arch for Universal Studios.  Again this is another area that is usually crowded with people.  But seeing it with no one around and even catching a glimpse inside the park was a little disheartening.

By this time I was getting a little hungry but didn’t want to wait a long time for a table at one of the restaurants.  Instead, I was hit with a craving for a Voodoo donut and thought it would help take the edge off until I got back home.

Plenty more distancing markers were in the queue for Voodoo.  This line as with most of them I sure, seemed long but moved pretty quickly.

The line did go from the front of the building, pass the NBC Grill, and then back into the hallway near the back exit to the Movie Theater and restrooms.  This is where the next two pressed penny machines were found.  Previously these machines were on the opposite wall, but now that the Voodoo Donut line was set up along that wall they had to move the machines.

Once inside you waited in another small queue before heading to the cashier to place your donut order and pay.  They did prefer you paid with a touchless method like a credit card or ApplePay, but I did see them accepting cash from a few people.

Here was my box of donuts.  Unfortunately, they were not all for me, but I did get quite a selection to bring home to my family.

To the right of the Voodoo Donut shop is a series of ramps and stairs that take you up to the second level food court.  None of these tables were blocked off to encourage the distancing and I suppose they were just leaving it up to the guests to stay at a safe distance if eating up here.

I did grab a table for just a few minutes so I could eat my donut.  In the short period I was up here I don’t believe I saw another person so it’s a pretty deserted area even though a few of the food locations here were open.  This is also where the last penny machine was located, hidden in the back near the Sushi stand.

After my donut was finished I walked across the bridge and down past all the clubs and bars.  None of these were open, and due to the limited operating hours of Citywalk (4pm – 10pm) they are all not currently open at all but I’m sure that will change with as we work our way through the additional Phase openings in the next few weeks.

My overall impression after my visit was optimistic.  I think this was a good starting point, but they do have a ways to go before the parks will open.  On a few occasions, I did find myself defaulting back to my Theme Park ways and not realizing I was inadvertently walking too close to someone, or when browsing in the gift shop there was just so little room in there it was hard to keep a proper distance from other guests. The biggest thing I was surprised with was the actual penny machines.  I would have assumed that hand sanitizer would have been attached to each machine or located right nearby so you could clean your hands before and after using the machine.  But this wasn’t the case.  I did ask a Team Member about the penny machines and was told that they were being cleaned on a more frequent schedule.  However, I was at Citywalk this day for about 2-3 hours and didn’t see a single machine get cleaned.  I have sent an inquiry to Universal about this and am awaiting a response which I’ll post if I hear back from them.  Other than that I took this as a nice sign that things are slowly starting to reopen and can’t wait for the day we can visit the parks again, but only if I feel they will be safe enough to enjoy.  With Citywalk opening in this limited capacity for a while, I’m hoping that Universal will continue to tweak their process and have no doubt they will do everything they can to keep their guests safe.

Updated 05/21/2020: Below is the response to the inquiry I had sent Universal’s Guest Services about their process of keeping the Pressed Penny Machines safe to use.


Hello David,

Thank you for contacting Universal Orlando Resort. I apologize for the delay in response, as we are working diligently to assist every Guest reaching out to us.

We do indeed still have penny press machines. Currently, there is one (1) located in our hub security check area prior to entering CityWalk. While I cannot confirm this surface is wiped down after every single touch, it is wiped down with increased frequency by our Park Services team stationed in the area. There are also hand sanitizer stations located within the area and a restroom to wash hands a few feet away. I hope this has answered your questions. If you have any additional questions or concerns, feel free to reach back out. We look forward to seeing you and your family.

Best Regards,
Guest Communication
Universal Orlando Resort

Disney Springs / WDW Resort Machines Converting to $1 per Penny Design

The below was all documented prior to the closing of the theme parks.  With the recent announcement that Disney Springs will have a limited reopening on May 20th only time will tell if the machines are still available or if using them will change due to new health concerns.  When I feel it’s safe to revisit I’ll go back and post an update.  Enjoy!
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With all the Disney Theme parks changed over the conversion finally made it’s way to Disney Springs and the Disney Resorts.  This did seem to be a much longer transition for some reason, but I was keeping a close eye on them and was able to document the last few machines before all the park closures.

Let’s start this tour over at Disney Springs which is really one of my favorite places to visit on property.  Mostly because I love food and there are so many great restaurants there, but they do also have plenty of penny machines.

I parked my car in the Orange Parking garage since it’s closest to the Westside of Disney Springs near the AMC Movie Theater.  Not too far from the parking garage is the Food Truck Pavilion where the first machine was located.

 

I usually mention this at some point in each of the conversion blogs but wanted to make sure I didn’t forget to mention that all these machines were converted to $1 per design.  The machine supplies a shiny zinc penny, however, the designs have not changed and are the same as they were before the change.

Next, I headed towards the Town Center area which is where you can find Planet Hollywood, the Coca-cola Store, Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy, and one of my favorites Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill.

 

In between the Coke store and Wolfgang Puck is the Fire House Restrooms and a Pressed Penny Machine is just outside.

I had a bit of a walk to the next machine which is outside the big World of Disney store at the Marketplace Stage.

 

Not much changed with the machine other than maybe a fresh coat of paint, and new signage for how to use the machine and the updated payment system.

Continuing through Disney Springs I miraculously passed by the Ghiradelli’s store without buying any ice cream, pass the Dockside Margarita stand, and instead over to the Once Upon a Toy store.  Wow, I have very interesting priorities!

 

This was a machine I thought would need more work to have converted just due to its different shape and design.  But the vendor somehow figured out a way to do it while keeping the overall look of the machine pretty similar.

After leaving the toy store I cut through the Pin Trader store, and then through the Star Wars Trading Post.  It does surprise me this store doesn’t have a penny machine, but exiting out this store I could see the next machine up against the outside wall of Goofy’s Candy Co near a Winnie the Pooh photo spot.

 

These machines do accept cash and credit cards or digital payments like Apple Pay.  Please note that if you are only looking to press one coin the only option is to use cash.  If you opt for a credit card or Apple Pay you are automatically charged $4 and get the entire set.  This does cause confusion for some people and I’ve seen them leave after only pressing one penny and I always call them back to try and help ensure they get their full set.

Right around the corner is the main entrance for Goofy’s Candy Co.  I try to avoid this place whenever possible as it’s just too tempting when you walk inside.

 

But on this trip, I needed to face my candy enemy and head inside to check on the penny machine and maybe buy a piece of Cookies and Cream fudge..or maybe two pieces I can’t help myself.

That finishes up all the machines at Disney Springs, but next, I wanted to check out the machines at the Resorts.  Thankfully there are only two 4-design machines on property.  Since my car was all the way on the other side of Disney Springs I decided to grab a Bus over to the first resort.

My first stop was at the Port Orleans French Quarter resort.  This is one of my favorite resorts.  My wife and I spent a week here years ago and really enjoyed the resort plus we made sure to pick up beignets each day after visiting the parks so we had a snack in our room.  I’m sure housekeeping wasn’t happy with the excessive amount of powdered sugar we managed to get all over the floor.

 

Inside the main Lobby of the Resort just outside the Scat Cat’s Club near the restrooms is the penny machine I was looking for.  Since my two pieces of fudge at Disney Springs didn’t satisfy my sweet tooth I headed to the food court and picked up an order of beignets for the road.  I waited for the Resort bus to Epcot to arrive and enjoyed my snack on the bus.

Once at Epcot, I cut through the park and over to the International Gateway where I headed towards the Boardwalk Inn.

 

During the day the Boardwalk by the water doesn’t have a lot of entertainment going on, but this is a fun place to be after the sun sets.  There are buskers doing all sorts of shows for passersby.  The penny machine is located near the dock where you get the Friendship boats back to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or a couple of the other resorts along the waterway.

That was the last 4-design machine on property and they have now all been converted to $1 pre-loaded machines.  This was a fun day trip, but I always enjoy checking out the penny machines and just enjoying the resorts and parks. Will they decide to change the 3-design electronic machines I truly don’t know but kind of think it may be inevitable.  It will be very interesting to see what happens with all the machines once the parks open up again after this longer than anticipated closure.

Stay safe and Happy Collecting!

Busch Gardens Tampa – Part 2

Just as a quick recap we were visiting Busch Gardens in Tampa Florida and had made our way about halfway through the park before we needed to stop for some lunch in a nice shaded area.

That Florida sun can really get to you if you aren’t careful.  But after our nice little break and we were ready to explore the rest of the park.

We found ourselves in the Pantopia section of the park which was very colorful and had some interesting looking buildings.  This is actually where we had stopped for some lunch at a food court style restaurant with different stations depending on what you were in the mood for.  They had Italian, American, Asian and Tex-Med which was a nice wide array of options.  But it was extremely busy inside and was hard to find a place to sit once we have our food.  After lunch, we explored this area a bit more, and there are quite a few rides for kids including a Carousel.

After we had walked through Pantopia we headed up some ramps to a higher ground level which was the Congo section.  There was a Train Station here but it was not open for some reason.

Nearby the Train Station was a set of Restrooms with a penny machine nearby.  The most common location for penny machines.

 

This machine has penny designs of a couple Giraffes, a Zebra, SheiKra and Kumba Roller Coasters.

Nearby this area were some interesting attractions like Ubanga-Banga bumper cars, the Congo River Rapids which from what I saw you get completely soaked on, and Kumba a pretty intense looking roller coaster.

The next area of the park is known as Jungala where they have a great area for kids called the Treetop Trails, then you can visit the Tiger exhibit and an area with Orangutans.

When you are visiting the Orangutans there is a building with large glass windows that will give you an up-close view of them.  My personal favorite was the larger platform surrounded by netting where you get a more wide angle of their exhibit.

Under here is also where the two penny press machines are found and are located diagonally from each other under this covered area.

 

The first machine I came across had Pantopia listed on its marquee so I’m guessing these machines tend to move around periodically.  The penny designs for this machine were fun with images of two Gorillas, a Giraffe, the Falcon’s Fury ride, and a couple Elephants.

 

Just on the other side of this platform is the second penny machine.  The designs here are of a Tiger and cub, the Jungle Flyer, an Orangutan, and a Tiger face.  After we said goodbye to the Orangutans there was a nice little pathway with not a lot going on but led us to the Stanleyville section.

This area had quite a bit going on as well, with a Skyride station, the Stanley Falls Flume ride (another one you get quite soaked on), and the SkeiKra coaster.  Be careful around this part of the coaster pictured above as they have some nice benches and shaded areas but you will notice the ground is pretty slick.  This part of the coaster goes through a pond of water and sprays it up into the air behind it as it zooms by.  Of course, your kids will love it, and I did find it a bit humorous to see the adults quickly running for cover when they realized what was about to happen.

Not too far away from the entrance to SheiKra is a gift shop called the Kariba Marketplace.  Part of this store is inside, and part is outside under a covered canopy and that is where you will find another penny machine.

 

This machine seems to be in its proper location as the cabinet is designed for the SheiKra coaster.  The images available at this machine include a family of Tigers, an Iguana, Ring-tailed Lemur and the SheiKra Coaster.

By this time of day, we were definitely starting to drag a little bit.  The hot Florida sun had taken its toll and we were ready to find the exit, but there was one last area to visit before we were back at the entrance/exit.  I’m sure you can guess by the picture above that it’s all about Sesame Street and is called the Safari of Fun.  This is really a great place for young children.  The buildings and rides are all themed around Sesame Street, there are meet and greet areas to visit with your favorite pals like Elmo, Cookie Monster or Grover.

As you enter and leave this area you will see a gift shop completely filled with Sesame Street merchandise.  The store is called Abby Cadabby’s Treasure Hunt and was so much fun to explore with my 3-year-old daughter.  Of course, the plush toys are what she headed for with their bright colors and cute designs, but they also had t-shirts, coffee mugs and so much more.

 

This store is also the location for the last available penny machine and had designs of some popular Sesame Street characters like Zoe, Cookie Monster, Abby and Elmo.

We waved goodbye to Elmo and my daughter decided it was time to crash.  She fell asleep shortly after in the stroller as I headed down the last section of the pathway heading towards the entrance.  I passed by a very beautiful area filled with bright Pink Flamingos but didn’t have the heart to wake up my daughter to see them.  We had such a great time that I know we will be back as soon as we can.

I get the impression it’s similar to SeaWorld (same company) in that the penny designs probably don’t get changed out too often.  But they do have some new coasters and attractions opening up soon, so hopefully, some new pennies may appear.  This was a really great park and far exceeded my expectations.

Busch Gardens Tampa – Part 1

I never get tired of visiting the parks we have near out neighborhood like Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld, but every so often it’s fun to explore a new park we haven’t visited before.  Thankfully about an hour away in Tampa is Busch Gardens and gave me the opportunity to try something new.

Before I left on this visit I honestly thought that this would be similar to a Six Flags Theme Park which we had in New Jersey and various other locations around the country.  But after visiting I can say it’s so much more than that.  Sure it has some pretty advanced Roller Coasters and attractions, but they have shows, great food, and animals.  It’s almost like you combined a zoo and theme park together which is right up my alley.

Part of my SeaWorld annual pass granted me access to Busch Gardens as well so that was a nice perk I don’t think I realized when I had initially bought my pass.  You do have to park on one side of the street and then can either walk or take a tram over to the park.  Out front is the guest services buildings to help with your ticket purchases.  But to the left and right of this center walkway I encountered the first set of 4 (yes four) pressed penny machines.

The first two machines on the left side when facing the security area.

  

One thing I immediately noticed about these machines is the designs that were really unique.  The penny designs at this machine include an Alligator, Prairie Dog, Parrot, and Cheetah.

  

Just a couple steps to the right is the second machine.  The penny designs here were of the Sand Serpent logo, a Snake, a couple Apes, and a Toirtous.

If you spin around 180 degrees you find the second set of machines across the walkway.

  

The third machine has penny designs of a couple Elephants, Montu, Busch Gardens Logo, and Falcon’s Fury.

  

Finally the last machine out in this area has designs including Kangaroos, a Hippo, Peacock, and an African Dog.  Since these machines are located outside of the actual park you could access them without an admission ticket.  Although you would need to pay for parking or have someone drop you off while you used them.  Unfortunately, the rest of the machines are inside the park and would require paid admission.

After passing through security and scanning your park ticket you are transported into a Moroccan market.  The theming here was really great, and they also had performers walking around interacting with guests as they passed by.

As I mentioned at the beginning this is kind of like a zoo with a theme park mixed inside.  As we wandered through the Morocco area we came across a big area filled with some huge American Alligators.

We continued our tour through the park and came to the Cheetah area.  This was really interesting as they were doing a demonstration with the big cats and how they do specific exercises with them to encourage their natural hunting instincts.  It was amazing to see the Cheetahs get up to some pretty high running speeds.

Nearby is the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster which is pretty impressive.  A little too advanced for me, but I did sit on a bench and watch it for quite a while.

Inside the gift shop for the coaster was where I found the next penny machine.

  

The penny designs here are all themed around the Cheetah Hunt coaster.  I thought this was a really great set.

As we continued following the pathway we found ourselves in the Egypt section of the park.  This area was filled with a couple different coasters, Cobra’s Curse and Montu.

Across from the entrance to the Cobra’s Curse coaster was a quick service area called Serpent’s Snacks and was where the next penny machine was found.

  

The designs available at this machine were themed around the Cobra’s Curse coaster but did have one design for V.IS.E. (Viper Int’l Survey & Excavation) which is a fictional archeological group as part of the attractions back story.

Above is a picture of some of the track from Cobra’s Curse.  It’s another pretty amazing coaster with an elevator that brings the coaster cars up into the air and then attaches back to the track.  At one point the cars start to spin on the track and there are plenty of screams coming from the riders.

The next area we headed through was where more of the animal attractions started to appear.  Above is a picture of the Serengeti Plains that has quite a few different types of animals.

There is also a train that you can ride through that area for a closer look at the animals.

We were able to see quite a few different animals like Giraffes and Zebras.  They don’t get too close to the train, but it does give you a pretty close up view of them.

The train has a couple different stations around the park so it makes for an easy way to get around the large park.

We had decided to take the full tour around the park on the train so we had started and ended at the same point which was the Nairobi Station.  Just outside the station near the railroad crossing was a Mold-O-Rama machine that my kids love and we have quite a collection of them.  Right beside that was the next penny machine.

  

This machine had designs of the park Train, a Rhino, an Elephant, and a baby Gorilla for the Animal Care Center.

Not too far away was the Elephant section with quite a few of them.  By this time of day, it was well beyond lunchtime and we needed to find some food and rest for a bit.  We were about halfway through the park, but there was still plenty more to check out.  Stay tuned for Part 2 and the remaining penny machines.  Keep on Pressing!

New Marquee on Spider-Man Penny Machine – Islands of Adventure, Orlando FL

This will be a quick post on something I had meant to write about over a year ago and just kind of forgot about it.  It’s not a new machine, or anything really major but something I thought was kind of interesting.

One of my favorite attractions at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks is The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.  It actually took me years before I finally decided to try it.  It seems that as I’ve gotten older I’m a little more adventurous with rides, and I’m glad I finally tried it because it’s really fantastic.

Once you are done with the ride and just like every other theme park you exit into a gift shop, and if you are a Spider-Man fan this is the place for you.  On a quick side note, if you are not a ride person you can still access the shop from outside, it’s located just to the left of the attraction entrance as seen above.

In this gift shop were two penny machines.  One was a 4-design hand crank model, and the other machine was the newer 8-design digital touch screen version.  When I first used the digital machine was back in 2017.  I had then visited Universal numerous times since then and walked past this machine many times without noticing anything different.  Then in 2018, I was working on a video for our YouTube channel documenting all the machines throughout Universal Orlando and something caught my eye.  The machine cabinet was the same but the marquee at the top was different.

   

The picture above is my attempt at a comparison.  On the left is the picture I took in November 2017, and the one on the right is from July 2018.

The designs were still the same inside the machine, and nothing else really had changed just the marquee.  I know the newer marquee design is how most of the machines are displayed now with all the penny designs right at eye level.  Again this was nothing overly exciting but I thought it was interesting that they had taken the time to change this part of the machine.

The Great American Toilet Paper Shortage 2020 – Pressed Pennies

I’m sure we are all starting to get a little cabin fever from our self quarantining, and this current situation we are all experiencing is definitely something to take seriously for our own health, and others around us.  It is a little hard to spend this much time all cooped up inside and is harder for some of us than others.

I did need to venture out the other day to the grocery store for a few items and the highway near our house was completely deserted.

 

Thankfully our house is nicely stocked with a reasonable quantity of toilet paper and paper towels, but when I got to the store those shelves were completely bare.  The stores even had a queue setup that you could wait in, just in case they did get a shipment that day but there was no guarantee.  I picked up the items we did need and headed back to our home.

With all non-essential stores and attractions closed, for now, it’s hard to get my pressed penny fix.  To try and help I have been scouring eBay for coins to help fill in some of my collection gaps.  But more often I’ve been going through the TEC Facebook page and other Pressed Penny related groups or websites.  Among all the different posts from fellow collectors, I did come across a few that put a smile on my face and wanted to share with everyone.

First was on the TEC (The Elongated Collectors) Facebook page which if you aren’t a part of the group you should check it out.  The Facebook page is free and open to anyone even if you are not an official TEC member.  It’s a great way to experience the club and see what other members are posting about the hobby.  Plus there is a lot of trading and buying/selling of coins.  Some of these designs are pretty unique and would be hard to find anywhere else.

One recent post was from Tyler Tyson who is not just a member of TEC but the current Vice President of the club.  He had been working on a light-hearted penny design commemorating the toilet paper shortage.  There were a few different progressions of this design that he posted over a week or so.  He did make these available in a limited quantity to anyone in the group that was interested in for a small fee.  This is another perk of being in the Facebook group as special designs like this will pop up for sale every so often.

Updated:
Shortly after I had posted about the above penny, Tyler offered to the Facebook group a special set of 4 pressed dimes.  Each dime had the progression of the design through each stage ending with the design on the bottom.  He was offering only a small quantity of this set so they are probably no longer available, but as I’ve mentioned it’s a good reason to be a part of the Facebook page for special items like these.

Another group on Facebook I follow and really enjoy is The Penny Depot.  They also have a website and online store where you can buy many of their pressed penny designs.  I’ve written about some of their other designs in the past and have quite a few of their designs in my collection.  They are really detailed and celebrate some special events that you just don’t penny designs for very often.

In a recent post, they had made available another fun design called “The Great American Toilet Paper Shortage 2020”.  As soon as I saw this design I immediately went to their website and ordered one for my collection.

This wasn’t to try and make like of the situation we are in, but I did think we need to look on the lighter side of things from time to time to keep our sanity.  Please be safe and happy collecting!