ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on this destination
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Growing up in Canada we are pretty much born with a hockey stick in hand.  I’ve always loved pretty much any kind of sports, but always had a special place in my heart for Hockey.  But in Canada we do have a few weeks of warm weather from time to time and during that warm time I did play quite a bit of baseball.  During middle school and high school I played basketball, volleyball and even some Rugby for a very brief time.  I think it was partly due to the competition I loved, but also the camaraderie with my team mates and the satisfaction with improving your playing skills.  When I was young the facilities we played at were pretty limited, but they did the trick and we enjoyed playing wherever we could.

Flash forward years later and now that we are living down in Florida hockey is around but not like it was in the Great White North.  So what is a sports fan to do.  Of course with the internet and TV I can still watch all my favorite teams, but there is still something about amateur sports.  During a conversation with my parents about Spring Training Baseball they mentioned the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney.

I’ve mentioned in the past that for the last few years they started coming down to Florida to see their beloved New York Mets over in Port St. Lucie.  Usually they would try to visit other teams in central Florida and a few times came to the ESPN complex to watch some games.  I looked up the complex online and was amazed at how big this place was, and it isn’t just baseball/softball fields.

There are fields for Soccer, Track and Field, Tennis, and indoor arenas for Basketball and Volleyball, plus I’m sure a lot more I didn’t even notice.

After parking in the lot you walk up to a central hub with the complex logo in the middle.  This is a big photo-op for the athletes, their family and all fans looking to document their trip here.

Just up a little walkway from the hub is the main entrance that takes you to the different fields and restaurant inside.  Tickets are required to get into this area, but for most of the events the prices are pretty inexpensive.

Back down by the hub is the ESPN Clubhouse which is like the souvenir shop for the complex.  No admission is needed to access this store.

As with all the other gift shops on Disney property there is a lot of character merchandise, but also a lot of ESPN stuff as well from t-shirts to shots glasses.

In the back of the store near a Cast Members only door/backroom area in among some sweatshirts was the main reason for my visit this morning.

This machine has had the same designs for a few years now.  I remember visiting this machine years on a previous trip and it was located at the front of the store near the cash registers.  When visiting keep and eye out for it as they seem to move it around from time to time.

The machine is a three design electric model.  The images on each of the pennies included the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Logo, Minnie & Daisy, and Team Mickey.

Also during some special events there is an additional penny machine located in the J Center Arena.  I went during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend to use this machine.  You can read out it here.

This is a cute little set of pressed coins.  Getting to the complex without a car can be a little difficult, but there are Disney buses from time to time taking guests over there or of course you can take a cab or uber.  You can check the complex website to see a schedule of games that are going on year round.  Be sure to buy some tickets and support the young athletes (and some professionals) as their teams play here.  This is kind of a hidden gem but a really nice place to take in a great morning or afternoon of sports.  The competition is great, the complex is fun and there is even a penny machine for a quick souvenir of your visit.

2018 Dated Walt Disney World Pressed Coins Set

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

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

   

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

   

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

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

   

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

   

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

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

   

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

   

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

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

   

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

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

   

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

   

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

   

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

   

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

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

   

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

   

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

These are 14 of the 15 pressed coins available so far.  Below is info on the last machine we are currently waiting on.  The image below is straight from the CTM Group website which is the company that designs and maintains the machines.  I’ll update this post with pictures of the actual coin as I acquire it.

The last machine is located at Hollywood Studios.  This may be the most delayed of all the new 2018 coins.  It’s of Mickey leaning against the 2018, but is located in the Muppet’s Stage 1 Company store.  The issue is that part of this store is currently behind a “temporary” construction wall and is also where this press machine is located.  For some reason they aren’t moving the machine out at this time.  According to the cast members the machine will remain unavailable until the renovations have been completed.  Hopefully this will only be a few weeks.

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

Incredible Hulk Coaster – Islands of Adventure Orlando

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on this destination
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2018 is off to a great start so far.  Only one day in and a lot of new pressed pennies have started to appear.  First up I took a trip over to the Islands of Adventure (Universal) park.

The crowd wasn’t too bad, but I also visited first thing in the morning when I’m sure most were still in bed recovering from their New Years festivities.  I had news that a new penny machine was released near the Incredible Hulk Coaster.

As I walked closer to the area I actually found myself sitting there just watching people ride this coaster.  There are a lot of twists, turns and loops but people seemed to really enjoy it.

   

As I’ve mentioned before these are not really my type of ride so I was hoping the penny machine wouldn’t be in the actual queue.  I walk around a bit trying to find the machine but couldn’t find it.  Eventually I found a team member and asked about it, but the only confirmation I received was that it wasn’t in the queue (Phew!).  This ride didn’t have a gift shop which is surprising and usually a guaranteed place for a penny machine.  Instead I did find that if you walked towards the exit of the ride there is a photo preview area where you can see yourself on the ride (if you dared go on).

Bingo, the new penny machine was located right near the photo counter.  This can be a bit of a busy area with groups of people exiting the ride and trying to see their picture.

As you can see from the picture above this is another of the 8-Design touch screen machines.  Same price as the others where you can get one design for $1 or all eight for $5.

This is a numbered set and all say Islands of Adventure.  The designs include four different images of The Incredible Hulk, plus designs of Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and Nick Fury.

There is definitely no shortage of Super Hero pressed pennies at this park, but they do seem to use the same characters a lot which I’m sure if due to the licensing with Marvel.  In any event I’m happy to have new coins on the first day of 2018 and hope this will be another great year of collecting.

Happy New Year!

Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground – Lake Buena Vista, FL

I mentioned in a previous post about a last-minute trip to Disney my wife.  One downfall with a last-minute vacation especially at Disney is you don’t have the 180 day window to book dining reservations or 60 days out to book fast passes for rides.  You end up just winging it which has the potential to be disastrous.  But thankfully for us we managed to try out some new dining locations that are kind of hidden gems and are much easier to get a table at without calling ahead.  One of these places we still talk about is the Trail’s End Restaurant located in the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

First off I’ll say this place is huge.  It’s so expansive that there is an internal bus system with various routes taking you throughout the campgrounds and cabins.  On this more recent afternoon trip back I did manage to make a reservation for lunch, but before heading all the way to the marina I had a few stops along the way.

After parking in the guest lot I headed into the Reception Outpost (Registration Lobby).  All of the buildings here look like log cabins and tend to be a little dark inside but I enjoy this place immensely.  It’s just fun to be here.

Up against the back wall of this registration area is the first pressed penny machine.

The set of pennies here are all from the Pixar movie Monsters, Inc: Waternoose, Celia, and Boo in her Monster Costume.  With these pennies in my pocket I walked back outside and across the parking lot to the bus stop.  There are three different routes trough the campground, but they all end up near Pioneer Hall.  But note that if you want to get all the pennies available here you do need to take the Orange bus as it’s the only one that stops at the Meadow Trading Post.

This is kind of like a general store for a certain area campsites, and is where you can get all your snacks, food and souvenir needs.

There are some cool things in here like S’mores kits and popcorn which always seem to taste better over a campfire.

At the back of the settlement post near the check out register was the second penny machine.

This second set of pennies has designs of Pioneer Mickey with a Musket, Chip & Dale, and Western Goofy all tied up.  I headed back outside to the Bus Stop and hopped on the next bus that came by.  After a short ride I hopped off on the final stop which was up at Pioneer Hall.

There are a lot of things going on up here, including Tri-Circle-D Ranch, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, and Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue.

This is also where the Marina is located where you can take a nice boat ride over to the Wilderness Lodge Resort, Contemporary Resort and/or the Magic Kingdom.  There is also another shop called the Settlement Trading Post.

Inside this place is very similar to the Meadow Trading Post, and sells pretty much the same stuff.

The third penny machine is located just outside the main set of doors to this Trading Post.

This machine has a classic set of designs including Mickey, Minnie and Goofy.  By this time it was getting pretty close to my lunch reservation and thankfully I didn’t have far to go.

The Trail’s End Restaurant was still as good as I remember and really hit the spot.  It’s a buffet with a fairly unique set of options, and I still recommend this place highly.  After a busy morning of collecting pressed coins the filling lunch was a nice end to my visit at the campgrounds.

Universal Studios / Islands of Adventure Updated 2017

Earlier this year during a quick trip down to Florida before our move I had a whirlwind tour of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  I was short on time so I tried to visit both parks in one day (really just part of the day) and document all the pressed penny machines.  It had been awhile since my previous visit so there were a lot of machines to find, and it gave me a chance to replace some old pennies with some new ones.  You can read all about that visit here.

But during that trip there were a couple of machines that were either not working or not available during that trip.  This past weekend I decided to revisit those parks and see if those missing machines were now available.  First up I headed to Universal Studios and just inside the main gate was the flagship gift shop.

The Studio store has a total of five penny machines inside.  I was able to get four of them on my last trip but missed a four design manual machine.  I’m not sure if it was actually off stage or if I just somehow walked past it.  There is an area of this store that is like a candy shop and this machine is found just beside it.

I found the machine almost immediately after walking inside the store.  It was working perfectly and pressed the designs nicely.

Minions definitely seem to be the favored characters as they are everywhere including quite a few of their penny machines.  This is a another cute set of these mumbling yellow sidekicks.

This was the only machine I had missed at Universal Studios, but as I checked around to make sure none of the other machines had changed I found a Hello Kitty 8-Design machine in the Betty Boob Silver Screen Collectibles store.  I wrote about this new machine previously and you can check it out here.  After I checked out the rest of the park all the other machines were still in the same place with the same designs.  So if was only a quick Hogwarts Express Train Ride over to Islands of Adventure.

As with the Studios I had done a pretty good job on my first go around and didn’t miss many machines.  There was really only one I knew about and it was by the Amazing Spider-Man attraction.

The reason I missed this the last time was I was told the machine was located in the queue for the attraction.  The wait time for this ride was pretty crazy and with my tight schedule I just couldn’t spend the time inline.  However, on this most recent trip the machine was now located inside the Spider-Man gift shop.

This was an 8-Design penny machine with a really colorful cabinet with Spider-Man all over it.  It’s right near the exit to the gift shop so you can’t miss it.

This set includes four different designs of Spider-Man in various poses.  The other four designs include Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Venom and Power Man.  With this new set packed away and I headed across the walkway to the Marvel Alterniverse store.  Previously this store had two penny machines one was themed around the Hulk, and the other around the X-Men.  The Hulk machine was moved out to the North Parking Garage, but the X-Men machine was gone at this time.  In their place at the Alterniverse store was another 8-Design penny machine.

This machine had a pretty plain cabinet with the marquee just having a standard Universal Orlando logo on it.

Of course since this was located in a Marvel gift shop it was a pretty safe bet that these coins would have superheroes all over them.  This was a numbered set that included each of the Avengers: Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, Vision, and Black Widow.

I took my time finishing my review of the machines in Islands of Adventure and confirmed that the rest of the machines were all in the same locations with the same designs.  It seems that the machines here don’t change as frequently as in the Disney parks, but they do seem to change more often than I had assumed.  I upgraded my ticket to an annual pass for this year so I can try to visit more often as these are great parks that I just don’t usually get around to visiting as often.  I’m going to keep checking back on them to see if anything changes and will be sure to share the news.

WonderWorks – Orlando, FL

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on this destination
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When visiting the Orlando area and you have had your fill of the Theme Parks there is another stretch of road you can check out.  International Drive runs pretty much parallel to the insanely busy I-4 Highway (avoid at all costs), but is packed with all different types of attractions all vacationers may be interested in.  On trips past I always remember driving down International Drive and it was almost like Florida’s version of the Vegas Strip.  Neon lights everywhere, interesting characters wandering the streets,  all sorts of restaurants  and entertainment.

One of the unique buildings I remember seeing along the roadside was an upside down building.  My parents were never interested in checking out these hackney attractions but as I got older I found some of them actually quite interesting.  This past weekend I decided it was time to see if this upside down building was still there and go inside to see what it was all about.  Sure enough it was there and is called WonderWorks.

From the outside I guess  I assumed it would be like a Ripley’s Believe it or Not with strange exhibits found all over the world, but instead it’s more like a science museum.

There is an area where you can experience a simulated hurricane, or dance on a large piano like Ton Hanks in the movie Big.

Some areas have arcade like games which actually mask a learning experience and kids seem none the wiser.

It also includes a 4-D theatre, Rope Coarse and Laser Tag but I didn’t check those out on this trip.  Maybe when my daughters are a little older I can convince them to come and try them.  The “museum” is spread out over two floors and winds through various rooms each designed around a certain theme.  Eventually you head back downstairs to a very small little snack bar area which seems to usually be filled with birthday parties.  As you slowly make your way past the party tables you end up in the gift shop.

There is the usual candy, t-shirts, coffee mugs and shot glasses here as well as some other interesting keepsakes.

Just as you exit the gift shop area but before heading back into the main entrance there is a four design hand crank penny press machine.

As you can assume these pennies all have designs themed around the exhibits.  The images include WonderWorks Let your imagination run wild!, the Upside Down Building, Albert Einstein, and I Survived Hurricane!

All in all I was pretty surprised by this place.  The interactive exhibits were fun and educational without seeming like a stuffy science museum.  It was busy and there were lots of kids running around, and I’m sure this gets worse on weekends when there are plenty of birthday parts.  But you could easily spend a few hours here having fun inside some Air conditioning, and press some more pennies on the way out.

Port Orleans French Quarter & Riverside Resorts – Lake Buena Vista, FL

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on these machines
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Years ago my wife and I had decided to take a last-minute trip to the most Magical Place on Earth.  This was out of the ordinary for me as I’m always much more of a detailed pre-planner.  We only had a few resorts available to us at the time, but we wanted to stay somewhere we hadn’t been before.  Port Orleans French Quarter was the one we decided to book and to this day we will talk about how much we loved that resort.

All this time later I wanted to make another trip back and just walk around the resort and see what has changed.  Plus I figured I can also go check out the related sister resort Riverside.  The French Quarter resort opened in May of 1991 as is themed like New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

After I parked my car I headed inside the French Quarter resort first and wandered past the registration area.  Nearby is the Jackson Square Gift shop.

As with pretty much every other resort gift shop it has the same merchandise with not too much variance.

Towards the back of the store near where the coolers are with soda and other refrigerated snacks is where I came across the first penny machine.

The penny set available here included images of Mickey playing the Trumpet, Donald with a Trombone, and Jester Goofy.  We were going to finish up our visit back at this resort, but decided to head over to the Riverside part of the resort for quick visit.

The more scenic way over to the resort would be to walk but this is a quite a long hike, and with our younger daughter with us we opted for the air-conditioned car.

The Riverside resort is themed after the American South along the Mississippi River.  It opened less than a year after the French Quarter in February 1992.

The large lobby and registration area really transform you into the deep south.  The staff has that wonderful southern charm as well and as the Disney saying goes welcomes you home.  Located in the registration area are the next two penny machines we came across.

The first machine has three designs with images of the Prince from Snow White, Princess Jasmine, and Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse.

Only a few steps away on the opposite side of the large window was the second machine.  Unfortunately when we visited this machine was out-of-order, but thankfully for my collection I already acquired these coins on my previous stay here.

The set of pennies from this machine (when working) have designs of Grumpy Dwarf, Spaceman Mickey, and the Wicked Queen from Snow White.

Just across from the registration area is this resorts gift shop known as Fulton’s General Store.

As you walk into the gift shop you will find the next penny machine.

The penny set available at this machine are all about your friends from the Hundred Acre Wood.  Tigger, Winnie the Pooh, and Eeyore.

At the back of the General Store is the fifth and final machine currently available at the Port Orleans resorts.

The last set of pennies has designs of Classic Mickey Mouse, Sleepy Dwarf, and Goofy with a Swimming Tube.  With all the coins pressed we headed back outside to take a look around.

This resort has a few different dining options and one of them is the Riverside Mill Food court, and the above picture is of the outside of that building.  The raised boardwalk pathway around the resort is a fun way to take in the entire atmosphere of the south.  After aimlessly walking around we went back to our car for a quick stop back at the French Quarter resort for a special treat.

In the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory is the main food court for the resort.  They have items known in New Orleans like Po’ boys, Gumbo, and Jambalaya.  For dessert there is my daughters favorite straight from Tiana’s Place in The Princess and the Frog, beignets.  Fried squares of dough covered with powdered sugar just can’t be beat and was a nice ending to our staycation.  My daughter’s reaction below explains just how we felt about those beignets.  Happy collecting.

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – Lake Buena Vista, FL

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on these machines
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Over these last few weeks as I’ve been checking out the different resorts and pretending I was staying for a short vacation there was one resort on the list I was really looking forward to.  I’ve stayed at a lot of the different resorts but one has always been on my bucket list but with my usual vacation budget could probably only stay there for a night or two.

My previous trips to the Grand Floridian usually amount to a quick scan as the monorail rooms passed on our way to the Magic Kingdom.  To be honest I hadn’t actually planned to visit this resort this soon but my wife’s birthday was quickly approaching and I decided to splurge for her to get a morning spa treatment.  There are a few different locations on Disney property with a Spa but I could think of no better place to go all out than the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  Plus this would give me a chance to wander around and see what they had to offer.

This resort is just simply magnificent to look at, and the exudes luxury.  It opened it’s doors in June 1988 and was themed as a Victorian era beach resort.  This is one of the Deluxe hotels on property and has the AAA Five Diamond award-winning restaurant called Victoria & Albert’s.  As I mentioned above this on the monorail loop and makes for a quick trip into the Magic Kingdom.

If you are staying here and want to visit one of the other parks, or Disney Springs there is a bus stop just beyond the main entrance where the registration and lobby are located.

While you wait for your bus to arrive be sure to use the penny machine located in this area.  If there are a lot of people waiting for a ride this can get a little congested.

The designs available in this first set of pennies includes: Mickey in a Tuxedo, Winnie the Pooh & Tigger playing in a Flower Patch, and the Siamese Cats from Lady & the Tramp.  Turning around I headed back inside the registration area and you just can’t help but be overwhelmed this main building.  There is a large lobby area in the middle, and if you are lucky you can enjoy a pianist playing, or maybe even Cinderella making a grand entrance down the stairs.  Near the bell services area are a set of restrooms which also is near the exit to a restaurant called 1900 Park Fare.

This is usually a buffet style character meal with a rotating cast of characters including Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter.

In this side hallway where the exit is located you can find an additional pressed Penny and Quarter machine.

The quarter machine has a cute set of coins that are part of a numbered set called “Friends”.  The designs include Mickey Donald & Goofy, Mulan & Mushu, and Pumbaa Simba & Timon.

The second machine here has three images pressed on pennies that include: Gus & Jaq from Cinderella, Alice, and Prince Charming.  The final machine available at this resort is up on at the second floor lobby.  From the exit of 1900 Park Fare you can either take the elevators or the grand staircase on the opposite side of the lobby.  Once upstairs you get a wonderful view of the main floor, and the beautiful chandeliers.

On the second floor there are a few different type of stores available, and Mizner’s Lounge if you need a stiff drink.  If you are heading out to the monorail station to head over to the Magic Kingdom, beside to check out the penny machine that is located just before the doors leading outside.

One of the dates 2017 pennies is available at this machine along with images of Mickey’s Face, and Pearl from Finding Nemo.  With all the coins visited and collected I wandered a little more around the grounds of the resort and was just really impressed with this resort.  Some day hopefully I can scrounge up enough to stay here for at least one night (but hopefully longer) so I can really enjoy the benefits of this location.

The Florida Aquarium – Tampa, FL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silver Screen Collectibles – Universal Studios Orlando

I’m going to try my best and start keeping everyone informed on new Penny machines that become available throughout the Universe Studios resorts.  I must be a glutton for hard work and long hours.

I’ve always been a Disney Fanboy at heart, it’s my favorite vacation spot and now that we live in Florida I had a Disney annual pass within hours of crossing over into the state.  I would never say I get tired of Disney as it’s a true passion for me, the movies, stories, characters, parks, resorts and pressed coins are all things I’m completely obsessed with.  But Orlando is the Theme park capital of the world so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to spread out a bit and see what others may be interested in as well.

My last trip to Universal had been earlier this year during a quick trip (at that time) down from Jersey to Florida doing some house prep before our move later that summer.  I raced through both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure trying to document all the machines and jump on a few rides in between.   After almost 6 months since my last trip I thought it would a good time to check on if anything had changed.  As luck would have it I found a new machine.  Shortly after you walk into Universal Studios you come across a store called Silver Screen Collectibles which in the past primarily specialized in Betty Boop merchandise.  However more recently an area of this store had changed over to a small little cat.

Hello Kitty seems like a strange choice, but even though the picture above doesn’t show it that place was pretty packed with people later on in the day.  Must be more popular than I thought.

As with a lot of new machines I’ve been coming across lately this store has a new 8 Design penny machine.  Touch screen and just like the other machines it supplies penny sized zinc tokens.

Now as you can tell from my above ignorance of Hello Kitty’s popularity I really have no idea who any of these characters are.  But I’m making an educated guess that they are all part of the Hello Kitty universe.  Each coin does list the name of the character and my daughter thinks they all “look soooo cute”.  So I’ll take that as a stamp of approval on this new set.

With all the Hello Kitty merchandise in that store I don’t see this machine leaving any time soon but you just never know.  I’ll keep checking back at these parks to make sure and document any more new machines.

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Click here to see my YouTube channel video on this machine