PizzeRizzo’s Restaurant – Hollywood Studios, FL

I’ve mentioned in the past that I used to live in New Jersey, and was about an hour away from New York City.  We had some of the best pizza places around, and yet after moving down to Florida finding good pizza can be a little challenging.  Then thrown in Disney Theme park pizza and it’s really not very good.  Of course there are a few shining places like Via Napoli in the Italy Pavilion at Epcot, and I will admit I like the new Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza at Disney Springs.

I remember a few years ago visiting Hollywood Studios and was looking for some penny machines that were located near the Muppet Courtyard in a quick service restaurant called Pizza Planet.  This was an homage to the restaurant and specifically delivery truck found in most Pixar movies as an easter egg.  I grabbed a small personal pizza as a snack and don’t think I ate more than a slice, it was just you not very good.  I’m not really a pizza snob and have eaten and enjoyed a lot of crappy pizza, but this just didn’t do it for me.  Fast forward a few years and I hear the rumors that Pizza Planet is closing for a Muppet’s Themed restaurant and I get intrigued…until I hear that it’s another pizza place.

The quick service restaurant was named PizzeRizzo after the Rat from the Muppets.  As you can probably guess I was just got in any rush to try this pizza, so I have avoided it since it had opened.  However that all recently changed when I saw online that two new penny machines were placed inside this restaurant so I figured I may as well check it out.

There are two floors with a lot of tables and seating throughout.  It’s decor on the main bottom floor looks like it’s straight out of a classic New York Pizzeria.

Just inside the set of doors roughly in the middle of the restaurant is where the first penny machine was found.

The designs included a nice image of the PizzeRizzo Logo with the famous Rat himself, Syndrome from The Incredibles and Anna & Elsa from Frozen.  The last two coins used to be located at another store in Hollywood Studios but had been removed a year or so ago.

The ordering area is pretty spacious to accommodate large crowds which undoubtably pack in here during busy times of the day.

The large stair case leads you upstairs to the second floor which is just more seating.

There was also access to the outdoor balcony area with more tables.  But with the heat in Florida lately you’d have to be crazy to sit out here and enjoy your lunch.

Back inside there is a separate area themed like a gaudy New York wedding ballroom.  The blue seems like it would get annoying after a while and mess up your rods and cones in your eyeballs.

   

Near the doors that take you out on the balcony is where the second penny machine was situated.

This machine seemed a little out-of-place.  The cabinet was nice but the designs just didn’t make sense in this Muppet themed restaurant.  The designs included an old one that has come back The Walt Disney Studios Logo, and two new ones of Tinker Bell, and Stitch playing in the sand.

There were some interesting caricatures on the wall, and even the trash can seemed to have a little New York attitude.

After I had finished walking around the entire restaurant I decided it was time to head out.  But what about the Pizza?  I am sorry to say that I really did plan on eating here, and had heard the pizza was better than its predecessor.  However as you can see from all the pictures above this place was completely deserted and not operational on this day.  I don’t know why, maybe it was in-between lunch and dinner service but this seems like a place that would pretty much be open all day.  I went around 6pm and would have thought that’s prime time dinner service, but it was not serving any food.

A friend of mine had eaten there previously and said it was much better than Pizza Planet but I’m not sure if that’s really an earth shattering review.  Above is a picture of the new pizza and tiny side salad.  I will make sure that I try this at some point in the future, but to be honest the picture isn’t making me rush over there any time soon.

Either way I’m not here as a food critic and you should always be sure to enjoy whatever food you like.  I’ll stick to collecting pressed coins and try to keep you up to date on new machines, and can always snack on Churros and Dole Whip.

Mickey’s Star Traders – Magic Kingdom, FL

In years past when I would hear about new penny press machines becoming available in Disney World I would have mixed emotions.  Mostly excitement that there were not coin designs available, but a little sad knowing that it may be over a year before I could get down there to use the machine in person.  Thankfully I have a great network of fellow collectors that help me acquire these coins to keep my collection up to date, but there is nothing I like better than using the machines myself.  But now that we live down in the Orlando area it actually took me a moment to realize that hey I can just get up and go to the park after work and get these new coins.  It’s kind of been a slow learning curve but makes for some fun little evening adventures.  This past week was one of the first where I was checking my favorite press coins.com website and was surprises to see a new 8-design penny machine in the Magic Kingdom.  It took all my strength not to just bail out on work immediately, but I managed to complete by shift and then head over to the park to get these brand new designs.

After driving over to the ticketing and transportation center, going through security and jumping on the monorail into the Magic Kingdom I started heading down main street.  The castle is always so beautiful in the background even with the ominous clouds gathering overhead.  Now that I can go more often I like the opportunity to take my time getting to places inside the park instead of always having to run to our next fastpass or dining reservation.  It makes for a much more enjoyable visit.  Once over in tomorrowland I walked past Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Stitch’s Great Escape and hung a left past the Merchant of Venus store (click the link to see the penny machine located in this store).  Sort of across from the speedway and beside Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe is a little store called Mickey’s Star Traders.

Inside as always are bottles of soda, candy, plush characters, t-shirts, et al.  This was home to one of the few Quarter Press machines on property and thankfully that machine is still here but it was moved to the entrance closer to Cosmic Ray’s.

Confession on the picture above, I had visited the park about a week before this current trip I’m writing about and took the above machine picture.  This is in the old location, but the machine and designs are still exactly the same.  I know there are some eagle-eyed readers that would have called me out on this being the old spot so I figured I better cop to it immediately.

It’s funny on this machine there is still a sticker that says “All Brand New Designs” but these designs have actually be here for quite a while now.  They include Mickey & Pluto in a Spaceship, Zurg from Toy Story fame, and the Tomorrowland Logo.  Now it’s on to the new machine.

This machine is located where he old machine used to be, and is at the entrance closes to the restroom area.  It’s still inside the store which is nice so you can get a break from the heart in some blasting AC.  The machine is an 8-design touch screen version.  You can get 1 design for $1, or all 8 for $5.  I’m sure you know what I got.

As I’ve mentioned before these are penny like tokens that usually press pretty consistently and are nice and shiny.  I’m still waiting to see how they hold up over time.  The designs in this set are of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Buzz Lightyear, Stitch, and Mr. Incredible all with the Tomorrowland Logo and in some form of spacesuit or space travel.

While using this machine I overheard a couple talking about it and they said something I hadn’t heard of and tested out to make sure I wasn’t wrong.  They said that if you only pick to press 1 design you don’t get to choose the design, but rather the machine randomly picks it for you.  This is NOT true.  I actually pressed a single design just to try it out, and actually let the couple watch while I did it.  If you are either short on extra change (this does accept credit cards or Apple Pay) and you only decide to press 1 coin you do get to pick which one you want.  I wasn’t sure if this was a common misnomer people thought happened with these machines so I figured I would bust that myth immediately.

It was starting to get dark, thankfully the rain had held off and as I headed through the Tomorrowland terrace I got a quick look at the new castle projection and fireworks show “Happily Ever After”.  This took over for the much beloved “Wishes” fireworks show but from what I have seen and hear this is a much needed upgrade and will just blow you away.  I haven’t seen the whole show yet and have it on my to do list to get out there one night just to check it out.  But here is a shot I got as I was heading back to my car.  Until next time keep on collecting!

Disney Cruise 2017 – Port Canaveral, FL

For our 5th wedding anniversary my wife and I decided it was time to take our long overdue honeymoon.  When we first got married we had a lot going on in our lives and just figured we would take our honeymoon when things slowed down and before we knew it 5 years had passed.  So this was the year we were going to change that and decided to take a cruise to the Bahamas.  Of course being the Disney fans that we are the Disney Cruise Line seemed right up our alley, except we were leaving our girls behind to stay with grandparents (gasp!).  We missed our girls every day, but the quite and slow pace of our long weekend trip was just what we needed to relax and just recharge.

We were scheduled to check-in at 10:30 am so we got up early and headed over to Port Canaveral in plenty of time.  This was our first cruise so we weren’t sure exactly what we were doing but Disney made it very simple.  We parked in the garage right across from the terminal and as we walked over towards the security area our ship was in the distance waiting for us.

After checking in and getting our boarding group number we sat in the waiting area of the terminal.  Over to the far side of the check-in desks was something I kind of thought I may never actually get to see or use in person.  They have two pressed penny machines here with Disney Cruise Line designs on them.  However, these machines can only be accessed by passengers on the ship.  If you are just passing through there is no way you can get to these machines.  I first found out about these machines months ago and have been scouring online sources trying to acquire a set but to no avail.  But now I was going to be able to use them in person and add some hard to get coins to my collection.

   

The first machine situated on the left side had designs of the Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Cruise Line with Mickey.  Our cruise ship for the weekend was the Disney Dream so it was cool that they have coin designs specifically for each ship in the fleet.

   

The machine on the right side also had three designs including the other two ships: the Disney Wonder, Disney Magic, and Disney’s Castaway Cay (pronounced Key) which is Disney’s private island in the Bahamas.

Each of the pressed pennies have a backstamp on them of the Disney Cruise Lines logo.  This was a nice touch as most of the pressed coins in Florida don’t have backstamps which are almost the norm out in California.  With these special pennies pressed and safely stored away our boarding group was called shortly after.

You get to walk through this cool “hidden mickey” although it’s not really all that hidden.  Next you get your picture taken, before the staff on board ask for your family name and announce you onto to the ship.

Above is a picture of the main atrium that you walk into, I took this from one of the higher decks to get a better shot of the chandelier and entry way.  Your cabin’s aren’t ready until later in the afternoon and there is a fun Sail Away party up on the main deck where all your favorite Disney characters help celebrate the beginning of the cruise.

There are constantly things to do on board, and the food is pretty much always available.  We spent the first evening exploring the ship and my wife took full advantage of the Spa.

We had a stateroom on the seventh deck with a balcony that made for some really amazing mornings.  Watching the sun rise and even peek through the clouds like the above picture were very magical.  It was really nice to sit out an enjoy the crashing waves, with a coffee in hand and sea air all around you.  If you look closely in the distance you can even see another cruise ship.  On Saturday morning we decided to check out the Enchanted Garden restaurant for breakfast.

The Disney cruise lines have what they call rotational dining so your evening dinner location changes each night.  The rotation is listed on your room card, and we were scheduled to eat here for dinner but opted for a different kind of buy-up option that I’ll go over in a bit.  So we figured since we would miss this place for dinner why not go inside for breakfast.

Inside it’s themed like an English Garden which also kind of reminded me of the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom theme park.  For breakfast they had a huge buffet with all types of your usual offerings, including fresh fruit, pastries, breads, meats, and of course eggs, bacon, etc.  Since most people seemed to be leaving early to explore our first port of call this place was pretty calm and very little lines for the food which was nice.

Our first port of call was Nassau in the Bahama’s.  We eventually headed off the ship for a bit to walk around.  I didn’t have an excursion planned so instead we just walked around and did a bit of shopping.

The locals were very nice, but can be a bit over bearing.  You are constantly being called after to come and buy things they are selling or trying to get you into their cab for a tour of the island.  It was never overly aggressive but can get a little uncomfortable if you aren’t used to that.  We go through the main area by the dock and headed a few blocks inland towards the main street and there were a lot of standard tourist shops to check out.  After a couple of hours we decided to get back on the ship and lay out in the sun for a bit.  This was a vacation after all we couldn’t come back from the Bahama’s without a tan.

The ship does have two adults only restaurants that you can make reservations for.  I booked the reservations a few months ago to ensure we could get a table, but it did seem like you could still make late minute reservations on board if needed.  As I mentioned these restaurants are not completely covered by your usual cruise cost.  There is an up charge but is pretty reasonable for what you get.  One of the restaurants is called Remy’s which is based on the Pixar movie Ratatouille and is obviously French inspired.  We decided to try the other restaurant called Palo which is an Italian inspired dining experience.

There was a dress code for this restaurant.  It wasn’t too outrageous in requiring a tuxedo or anything.  But there was no swim wear and for men they requested either a suite, or dress pants and shirt.  For the ladies a dress or pant suit was acceptable.  The inside was beautiful and we were informed by our hostess that the interior was actually designed as if you were in Venice Italy.  I’ve never been to Venice so I’ll take their word for it, but it was really an exceptional place to have a meal.

During the initial booking of the cruise I mentioned that we were celebrating our wedding anniversary which definitely worked out in our favor.  The hostess seated us at a nice private table away from the other tables with a beautiful view of the ocean as the ship made its way to our next port.  When the menu came it was explained to us that the Palo experience can take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  We were in no rush so this was fine with us.  They do offer a chef selection menu where you get five courses picked by the chef and matched with accompanying wines.  Or you can do the a la carte menu which is what we opted for.  Your first course is an antipasto which is created table side from a huge cart with a wide assortment of cured meats, cheese, roasted veggies and olive oils.  Next was our appetizers which my wife selected a potato gnocchi, and I went for the fried calamari and shrimp were was all really fresh, tender and fantastic.  There was then an intermezzo of lime sorbet to help cleanse our palette before our main entrees arrived.

My wife got the filet over puree cauliflower with two sauces a red wine reduction, and a Gorgonzola white sauce.

I opted for the Lobster pappardelle pasta.  Both were beautifully plated and tasted fantastic.  However we were getting pretty close to our bursting point, and there was still desert on the way.

As our last course our server recommended the souffles which Palo is known for.  They initially only had a chocolate version, but recently have added an amaretto version.  So we ordered one of each and they were both fantastic.  The chef even came out at the end to ensure everything had been satisfactory which was a really nice touch.  With our stomachs bursting we slowly walked back to our cabin to relax for a bit before the fireworks show later that night as part of the pirate party.

The next morning we arrived at Disney’s private island in the Bahama’s Castaway Cay.  It was another gorgeous day in the low nineties, but the sun was blazing.

As we exited the boat we decided just to walk to the beach instead of taking the tram.  It wasn’t too bad of a walk and was just nice to work off those extra calories we had ingested at Palo the night before.

The picture above is of the famous Mount Rustmore on the island.  You eventually come to an area with various souvenir shops with t-shirts, coffee mugs, pins, and of course beach supplies if needed.

We eventually did need to hop on a separate tram to get over to Serenity Bay which is an adults only area.

My wife and I had a couples massage scheduled in a cabana over in this area right on the beach which was an interesting experience.  The massage was about an hour, but seemed to go by way to fast.  We were very relaxed after that and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the beach, sun and water.  Before we knew it we had to head back to the ship before it left to take us back to Florida.

For dinner that night we were scheduled at the Royal Palace.  This was another French inspired restaurant that loosely reminded me of Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom.

The food here was nice, not Palo quality but still very good.  My wife and I both started with the french onion soup which is a guilty pleasure of ours.  My wife had a horseradish crusted salmon which she really enjoyed, and I had a sliced sirloin.

With dinner complete we wanted to try to enjoy the ship for a few more hours and wandered around on the top deck.  Eventually we headed to bed and when we woke up the next morning we were back in Port Canaveral.  We had a nice quick breakfast back at the Royal Palace and then were able to disembark the ship.

Overall it has been a fantastic little trip and the much needed sleep and relaxation make for a great vacation.  I would highly recommend the Disney Cruise Line, and we are hoping to go again in the near future maybe when our girls are a little older.  If you do take a Disney cruise don’t forget to bring some change so you can press those elusive pennies as they will be a great addition to your collection and are highly sought after by collectors.  Happy cruising!

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jiko / The Mara / Pumbaa’s Fun & Games

When my wife and I first got married we were in the middle of buying a new house, and having a our first child so we didn’t get to have a honeymoon.  We had always planned on taking a honeymoon at some point but kept pushing it off.  Finally I decided it was time to do something and as if we don’t already get enough Disney fun, we booked a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas.

I’ll get into this a little more in a future post, but we arrived a day early for our cruise to Orlando so we could do some shopping for our new house (Spoiler) that we are having build in Florida.  We had a very early flight from Jersey to Orlando and spent the entire day shopping.  Even though we were pretty exhausted from the day I had booked a dinner reservation at Jiko which is a signature restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This was a place we have wanted to try in the past, and today was the day to go and we weren’t going to miss it.

I’ve said it before but this is really am amazing resort to visit.  We haven’t stayed here yet, but have visited a few times during a down day just to walk around.  It’s really a treat for the senses when you come to visit this resort.

Of course there are the Savannah’s towards the back of the resort that let some of your favorite exotic animals roam around.  Some like the giraffes have feeding times you can go and watch or help with if you are lucky enough.

We were running a little late for our reservation, and the maps for this resort can be a little confusing.  But after heading outside by the pool, then back inside we eventually found Jiko.

Jiko stands for The Cooking Place which is a central location where people would gather to enjoy each others company and community dining.  In the middle of this restaurant is a cool area you can sit at a high bar type table and watch the chefs create the starter courses available on the menu.

We were seated at a table towards the back in a nice quiet area.  The wait staff was very attentive and explained all about Jiko, the decorations and art inside, the cooking styles and always wanted to ensure all our questions were answered.  For a started we decided to try the Taste of Africa.

This was a similar bread and dip sampler to what we had a few months ago a Sanaa also located in the Animal Kingdom.  However this one had fewer options but was still very good.  It included unique “breads” like Pappadum, Sesame Fatir, Flax-Seed Naan, and also came with a variety of African inspired dips.

For my main course I went with the 7 oz oak-grilled filet that I had heard a lot of good things about.  It was service over top of bobotie mac and cheese, asparagus, and a South African red wine sauce.  The spices used on the steak and in the mac and cheese were from a different spice palette than what I’m used to but was a nice change and very unique and tasty.

My wife had a Moroccan Lamb Tagine which was basically a huge lamb shank with parsnip and root spinach.  It was fall apart tender and very juicy but a huge portion which would have been difficult for most to finish in one sitting.  We were offered dessert but were so stuffed by that time that we chose to pass (Yikes!).  Instead of just heading right back out to our card we decided to try to walk off a bit of our dinner by wandering around the resort a bit.  Just outside Jiko towards the main pool we ran into the quick service cafeteria style eatery called The Mara.

As with all the other resorts this place includes various stations with different types of food at each.  Your standard flatbread pizzas, salads, and chicken nuggets are all available here.  We went inside to get a small dessert I had heard about called Zebra Domes.

So what exactly is a zebra dome?  Well the explanation is as follows: An Amarula cream liquor mousse covered with a panna cotta like white chocolate, drizzled with chocolate stripes and chocolate shavings.  These come in a nice to-go package of four so you can snack on them as you walk.  Please note that these do have liquor in them so you may want to avoid letting your little ones try them.  I believe they do offer non-alcoholic versions but didn’t see any when I was there.  Before heading back outside I found two coin press machines just near the main set of doors.

   

The first machine had three penny designs available including Shenzi (Hyena leader from The Lion King), Terk Tantor & Young Tarzan, and Pleakley from Lilo & Stitch.

   

Right next to the penny machine was a second machine that had one quarter design available.  This machine would press an image of Pumbaa and Simba from the Lion King with the Animal Kingdom Lodge logo on it.  We headed back outside and just a short walk away found the next stop.

Pumbaa’s Fun & Games is the resorts arcade.  It has your standard air hockey table, and classic arcade games.  Just outside the door to the arcade was the third coin press machine at this resort.

   

The cabinet design on this machine was really fun and reminded me of the machines they have over at the Animal Kingdom theme park.  This machine also had three designs which included Safari Mickey, Safari Minnie, and Mike from Monsters, Inc.

By this time our long day had finally caught up to us and we were ready to head back for some sleep before our cruise started the next day.  The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a bit out of the way, and if you don’t have a rental car may be tough to get too on the Disney bus system.  But it is doable (I’ve done it in the past) and is well worth the trip over to experience it in person.  Don’t forget to get the pennies located here, and with the layout of the resort can be like a treasure hunt to find them.  Happy hunting!

Islands of Adventure – Orlando, FL

Fresh off my trip on the Hogwarts Express I exited right in the middle of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  This place is awesome but extremely busy.  On a previous trip my wife and I rode the attraction that is inside the Hogwarts school.  It’s definitely a great ride, but on this trip the line was way too long.  I headed over to the Butter beer cart to grab one to go and quickly headed out of this area to less crowded areas.

Just outside the Harry Potter area you will find a store called the Treasures of Poseidon this is also the area where Sinbad is located.

   

In the middle of the store is a jewelry counter that takes up a lot of space.  The penny machine is off to the side of this near one of the doors, but if there are a lot of people looking at the jewelry this can be a tight fit to use the machine.  Next up was a nice walk over a bridge into the Jurassic Park area.

Up the hill on the left is the Dinostore.  It’s not very big but is attached to the Discovery center which has some fun interactive things for kids (and adults) to learn about dinosaurs.

   

As you walk into the Dinostore if you turn left and go straight back the machine will be in the corner.  It’s a four die hand crank model with different dinosaur designs on each coin.  Almost straight across the walkway is another dino themed souvenir store called Jurassic Outfitters.

This store is much bigger, but always seems to have lots of people inside.  There are three penny machines located throughout the store.

   

The first machine is located outside just to the right of the entrance to the store.  Another hand crank model which can be tough to use as this is a common area for people to stand around while their family member shop inside.

   

Machine number two actually had its designs changed since the last time I had visited this park.  I also like the design of the machine cabinet making it looks like rock which fits right in with the theme.

   

The last machine in here continues the dino theme of the pressed penny sets.  The original Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies and I really like that one of these coins has that logo on it.  There were no more machines in the Jurassic Park land, so I grabbed a churro and a coke to enjoy my stroll over to Toon Lagoon.

   

One of the first places I stopped to check out was call Toon Extra and specialized in old school cartoon merchandise.  The penny machine in here had designs of Popeye, Betty Boop and Spongebob.  Not sure why Spongebob is considered a classic cartoon.  Right next door was a similar store called the Betty Boop store which had everything Betty inside.

   

When I had used this machine on my last visit it only pressed two of the three designs.  The images haven’t changed since then so I made sure to get an extra set.  There is a little area nearby called Gasoline Alley which has bathrooms and lockers primarily for people going on the Dudley Do Right water ride.  It’s so busy here that it seems like the perfect place for a penny machine.

   

With the classic comics behind us we were heading into Marvel territory by entering Super Hero Island.  The buildings and streets here really make you feel like you have jumped into the pages of a comic book.

Anyone recognize the above building?  Nelson & Murdock Attorneys at Law (ahem Daredevil check it out on Netflix).

   

Of course we can’t be in Super Hero island and not run into a comic book store.  They do actually sell comics books, and collectibles of all your favorite Marvel superheros.

A unique ride when it first made its debut, still is a fan favorite and many other rides have copied its format.

   

Inside the gift shop at the exit to this ride are supposed to be three machines.  Above is the first with four Spiderman designs.

   

The second machine offers three designs pressed on quarters which is the only non-penny machine in all of the Universal Studios parks in Florida.  The third machine however was MIA, which was disappointing as it was another of the 8-design touch screen models.  Hopefully it will be available again soon.  The next store in this area was a little strange to me and was called the Marvel Alterniverse Store.  I’m sure some comic book fans would know what that means, but it just looked like another superhero gift shop.

   

Both machines inside this store were on opposite sides of the entrance doors.  The first one had 3 images of X-men characters and the last was of Spiderman.

   

The second machine was for all your Hulk fans out there.  All four designs were of the Hulk which is fitting since there is a coaster right nearby called The Incredible Hulk.  This area of the park definitely had a lot of machines available, and there was one more place to check out called Kingpin’s Arcade.

   

Right before you walk in the main entrance of the arcade you will find this interesting looking machine.  I’m guessing it’s supposed to look like a skyscraper, but whatever it’s supposed to be all these fun machine cabinets make finding them a lot of fun.

   

The second machine was inside the arcade and all the way in the back.  It took a little while for me to find it as I wasn’t initially sure where it was.  There are obviously a lot of kids in here, it’s dark and very loud.  I didn’t stick around too long but the kids seemed to be enjoying all the arcade games even though they were in a huge theme park with rides, but to each their own.  Finally I was able to leave the comic books behind and head over to the wonderful world of Dr. Seuss.

I will say that over in this area of the park it really does put you right in the pages of your favorite Dr. Seuss story.

   

Of course the most classic of all is The Cat in the Hat.  Inside the gift shop by this attraction is a machine with three designs including two of the Cat in the Hat and another of Thing 1 and Thing 2.

   

Just in front of the entrance for the Cat in the Hat ride is a second machine with four designs of other Seuss favorites: Max (Dog from the Grinch), The Grinch, The Lorax, and Little Cindy Lou Who (also from the Grinch).

Further into Seuss land is the Circus McGurkus cafe with your usual theme park food of burgers, chicken nuggets and pizza.  There is a penny machine here but it’s outside near all the tables and chair to each your McGurkus food.

   

Beside Circus McGurkus is the Snookers & Snookers Sweet Candy Cookers, and across the walkway from that is the Mulberry Street Store with Gizmos, Gadgets, and Goodies galore (sorry couldn’t help myself).

Inside Mulberry Street there were the last two Seuss inspired penny machines.

   

Machine number three has pennies with the Seuss Landing Logo, the Grinch and Horton the Elephant.

   

The second machine has more of the same, designs including The Grinch, Horton, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and the Cat in the Hat.  With all the Seuss rhymes running through my head it was time to head towards the exit before I completely lost it. As I headed towards the park exit there were still a few last stops to make.

   

Every park has to have a huge souvenir store near the entrance/exit to the park.  At Islands of Adventure their store is known as the Trading Company.  Above is the first machine inside with designs from the Spongebob cartoons.

   

The next machine has more Marvel’s characters.  I was a big Punisher fan as a kid so I really enjoyed finding a pressed penny with his logo and signature skull on it.

   

Machine number three included pennies with Popeye, Thing 1 and Thing 2, The Simpson’s Family, and Homer Moe & Barney.  Kind of a strange set of designs to be put together.

   

The fourth and final machine in this store was an 8-design super hero sized machine.  This had a numbered set of designs with the Avenger’s characters on them.  Right across the walkway was another store not quite a big as this one called the Island Market & Export.  This place has the usual souvenirs from the park but also includes a candy store in the middle.

   

Inside there were two machines back to back with each other.  The first one had a random assortment of designs in the set.  Spiderman, Betty Boop and Spongebob.

   

The second machine had pennies with the Cat in the Hat, Betty Boop and the Hulk.  I decided to skip the candy store even though it was calling my name.  Really the last thing I wanted to do in 90 degree Florida weather was eat some sticky candy.  As I left the store I could see the exit to the park but had one last stop to make.

   

There is always one last souvenir stand right by the exit for those absolutely last-minute gifts.  This one was called Port Provisions and of course had the last machine available in the park.  This machine included a four design set of Marvel character’s including two of the Hulk, Spiderman and Daredevil.

It was now time for me to make the slow sad walk back through City Walk and eventually back to my car.  I had actually done all of this in one day (City Walk, Universal Studios, and Islands of Adventure).  With no kids this time that helped speed things up and I did skip a lot of rides I usually like to go on.  But this was still a fantastic little trip and allowed me to get caught up on some missing coins to complete my set.  There were a few machines I couldn’t find so I’ll definitely be back hopefully in the very near future.

I posted the above picture in my review of Universal Studios but wanted to include it again here.  This was a label on pretty much all the machines through the parks at Universal and shows a link to www.ctmgroupinc.com/universal.  This link has maps of each park and where all the penny machines are located as well as pictures of the coins at each stop.  I saved this link on my phone for future use as it’s a great way to either weed out coins you don’t want, or if you are like me, make sure you don’t miss any.  Have fun collecting!!

Universal Studios – Orlando, FL

After walking through the large crowds in City Walk I had my first dilemma as to which of the two theme parks I should explore first.  I’m not a huge thrill ride fan so the crazy roller coasters weren’t a deciding factor.  Eventually I decided to check out Universal Studios which I have very fond memories of visiting as a child.

I know a lot of it has changed over the past few years.  Jaws was always a favorite of mine but is sadly no more.  If anything good could come out of that area it’s the new Harry Potter Diagon Alley which was really amazing.  There was a bit of a line to get into the park, but eventually I was in and started looking for my first stop.

Just inside the main entrance on the left side was the Universal Studios Store.  It was a little early for me to get any souvenirs (didn’t want to carry them around) but they had quite a few machines available inside.

   

The first machine inside was a three design electric model.  It had images of some classic Universal movies and attractions.

   

The second machine was only a few feet away and was another three design electric model.  The images on these coins included Kong, Thing 1 and Thing 2 and Gru from Despicable Me.

   

When I came across the next machine I was a little surprised to see that they also had these new 8-design touch screen versions.  The machine supplies the coin which is technically not a penny but a blank token.  The finished coins came out nice and shiny and were all themed around Despicable Me and the Minions.

   

The last machine in this store had three designs all of Spongebob and his friend Patrick Star.  There was supposed to be a fifth machine with four designs available but I searched every inch of that store and couldn’t find it.  Guess I’ll have to make another trip back soon to look again.

After leaving the store I headed over towards the exit to the park to an area called It’s a Wrap.

   

Over near the restrooms and locker area was the first machine.  This had four designs including the Universal Orlando Logo, Hulk, Spiderman and Woody Woodpecker.  A short walk over to the actual It’s a Wrap store is where I found the second machine.

   

Another four design hand crank model had images of Spongebob & Patrick, Homer Simpson, and two Marvel Character.  Now it was time to start heading further into the park.  Just up the main street I stopped in at the Silver Screen collectibles.

   

These coin designs were the same as when I visited last, but the machine had received a face lift with new signage.  The images on these coins were from I Love Lucy, and Betty Boop.  Back out on the street I saw a very interesting looking building that was from the Despicable Me movies.

Inside is where you can experience Minion Mayhem which is an interesting attraction, but if you suffer from motion sickness may want to either up your Dramamine dose or skip it.  When you exit the ride as all great theme parks do you need to pass through a related gift shop.  This store is called Super Silly Stuff.

   

Big surprise here as the machine is Minion themed and has another set of Minion coins.  They have certainly taken over.  A short walk across the street brings you to the Shrek 4-D attraction.  I’ve gone on this in the past and am not a big fan.  It’s another attraction with a large movie screen and your chair moves along with the movie and you get splashed in the face with water (Yay!).  The chair mechanisms were never very good so I skipped it this time, but still wandered around to visit the store here.

   

This machine will have designs of Donkey, Shrek & Donkey, Fiona, and Shrek & Fiona.  There used to be a second Shrek machine just outside but I couldn’t find it so I’m not sure if it’s gone completely or just out being fixed (maybe updated, wink wink Universal).  As I mentioned in the past I’m not a thrill ride fan so something like Rip Ride Rocket is not something I would ever go on, but I did walk back through the exit to access the penny machine located there.  They have staff members that will try to hold you up from going the “wrong way” but if you ask nicely about the penny machine they will let you go use it.

   

The cabinet of this machine was pretty cool and very colorful.  The coin images were themed around the ride and of course Rock n’ Roll.  Heading back out I thanked the staff member again and headed back towards the New York area of the park.  The new Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show Ride wasn’t open yet when I was there, but since has opened to mixed reviews.  I’ll have to try it out next time I’m there.  Just a short walk around the bend of the street and I came the Revenge of the Mummy coaster.  I was interested to try this one but the wait time was way too long so I just wondered into the gift shop known as Sahara Traders.

   

This was another unique design for the penny machine.  Due to the top part of the machine it was a little hard to turn the hand crank properly.  Also this machine is located in a terrible area along the only pathway exiting the ride through the middle of the store.  So as you try to use the machine there are large herds of people exiting constantly with not much room on either side to let them by.  With the coins in hand I exited and saw something that brought me right back to childhood.

I was a huge Transformers fan as a kid, watching the cartoon and having every toy I could get my hands on.  Seeing Optimus Prime standing on the building just drew me over.  The ride is pretty awesome, and is in 3-D while you are driven through a battle of Autobots and Decepticons.  When you leave of course you are ushered through the Supply Vault.

   

At first I was worried this would be the same set that I got out at the Parking HUB, but the designs were different and amazingly detailed for how small they are.  I had kind of my way into the middle of the park and lost my initial path.  When hunting for penny machines I always try to walk in a way that ensures I access every possible nook and cranny without having to double back to often.  There was a little pathway that got me back over towards the I Love Lucy store which is right where I needed to be.

Another one of my favorite movies is Terminator 2.  This ride has been in the park for years and remember going on this with my parents many times.  It’s part 3-D movie, and theater performance where the actors come right out into the audience.  After watching the show you visit the Cyber Image souvenir store.

   

This machine used to only have one design available of the Terminator 2 3-D attraction logo, but that has been retired.  Now you can get three different pennies, one with a new T2 3D image, but then there are also two Marvel’s designs with Thor and Iron Man on them.  There was a little bit of a walk to get into the next area that had penny machines, it’s unofficially the kids zone but has some fun things to do.

First up was bikini bottom and the Spongebob Storepants (Ha) shop.  Really nice design to the outside of this building.  Inside you can visit with Spongebob or use the penny machine like I was.  Note that the machine is located right behind the cash register so there isn’t a whole lot of room back there.

   

Just behind the Storepants is where you find the E.T. ride.  Another guilty pleasure of mine which I have no issue standing in line for.  I only had to wait about 15 minutes to get on my bike and travel with E.T. back to his planet to help save it.  Be sure to pick up your souvenir pennies by the doors to the gift shop on your way out.

   

There was one last stop over in this kids area, and that was to visit with Barney.  I don’t even know if he’s still on TV anymore, but he was definitely wandering around looking for kids to interactive with but there weren’t too many takers.

   

I was about to check out the Animal Actors show but was too late for the current performance so I kept on walking.  The next area of the park is really fantastic if you are a Simpson’s fan, and lets you walk right through Springfield.

You can go into Moe’s Tavern and get a Duff Beer or a Flaming Moe.  There’s a Krusty Burger for Lunch, or Lard Lad Donut for a sweet treat.  They even have the Kwik-E Mart with all kinds of Simpson merchandise.

   

Right outside the main door to the Kwik-E Mart is a four deign hand crank machine with all Simpson designs.

   

Inside they have a second machine with three designs in an electric machine.  Also with all Simpson inspired designs.  After grabbing a Duff Beer (actually really good) I was sad to say goodbye to Springfield but had a lot more places to go.

 The Men In Black (MIB) ride is another classic for me.  It’s kind of like laser tag, but you’re in a ride vehicle shooting aliens and completing against the other people in your vehicle.  After obliterating a bunch of aliens I ended up in yet another gift shop looking for a penny machine.

   

The next area after the MIB ride was part of the Harry Potter world but I wasn’t yet ready to check that out.  So I covered by eyes and walked past it quickly so I could get the last couple machines available in this park.

Who doesn’t like candy when they are walking around on a hot day in a theme park.  Over at the San Francisco Candy Factory you can get all things sugar related.  It was too hot for me to get anything but I did find the machine towards the back of the store.

   

Almost done I promise, there was just one more machine in this area and was just outside the candy store towards the water.  This is where you can get your picture taken in front of a huge shark (Jaws) hanging by his tail.  I’m always convinced it’s going to move when I go near it so I always just look from a distance.

   

With all the machines in Universal Studios collected and photographed I headed to the one area I was keeping until the end.  Over in the back corner where the Jaws ride used to be is the newest addition to the Harry Potter world Diagon Alley.  This is really really amazing.  The details they put in are stunning, and honestly could have spent the entire afternoon wandering around just looking at all the buildings and store fronts.  I had some pictures but really didn’t want to spoil this for anyone that hasn’t seen it in person.  So I’m leaving this up to you go head out to the park and see it up close and personal.  I will share one picture which doesn’t give away much.

In this area of the park there is a recreation of King’s Crossing Train Station, and yes you do get to walk through the hidden 9 3/4 platform wall.  This was a picture I took while waiting for the Hogwarts Express which is another really neat little ride over to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal’s Island of Adventure.

Are you tired?  I’m tired and I did this trip like 2 months ago and I still have one more park to review.  But who am I kidding I loved every moment of it as the pressed penny obsession continues.  There was one cool little piece of info I wanted to share with you that I found while at Universal.  CTM Group which is the company that created the penny machines and the designs has created a special link online that you can use to keep up to date on all the machines located at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and City Walk.

This little sticker was on most of the machines throughout the park.  I snapped a picture so I wouldn’t forget about it.  In case it’s too hard to read the website address is: www.ctmgroupinc.com/universal Once back at my hotel I checked it out and was pleasantly surprised to see it was up to date and accurate for what I had found that date in the park.  This is similar to the maps they also have online for Walt Disney World and is a nice tool to have when trying to collect these coins.  I saved the link on my cell phone so I could access it on future visits inside the park.

Parking HUB and City Walk – Universal Studios Florida

I feel like lately majority of my posts have been about Walt Disney World or Disneyland.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, these are the places my pressed penny collection started and will always hold a special place in my heart.  Plus they are the locations that release the most penny designs throughout the year and I always want to make sure everyone knows what’s released and where to get it.  But the next few posts I’m taking a break and heading to a different part of Orlando.

Just like Disney the Universal Orlando theme parks have a lot of pressed coin machines.  But I find they don’t get updated as often as Disney.  The last time I was at Universal in Orlando was about 5 years ago, and not many of them have changed in that time.  However I was in the area for a trip and had a free day so I figured it was time to go see what’s new and update my collection notes.

After arriving at the property I was directed to their parking structures.  There are two parking areas, the primary one is the South lot with sections designated by “Cat in the Hat”, “E.T.” and “Spiderman”.  There is an additional North lot with section labeled for “Jurassic Park”, “King Kong”, and “Jaws”.  These are just to help you remember where you parked your car.  There are long moving sidewalks that help keep everyone moving towards the parking HUB.  The HUB is kind of like a “Y” with the two arms connecting to the parking lots, and the bottom arm taking you towards City Walk and the Parks.

I tried to put together a map with some notes on it above outlining how it looks.  The reason for this is there are eight pennies machines available in this area.  The South parking area does not have any machines, but if you are coming from that area as soon as you get to the HUB there are four machines before you even hit security.  The other four machines are on the 3rd level of the North Parking lot just at the end of the moving sidewalk.  It would still cost you $20 (for now in 2017) to park here, but you could access all eight of these machines without going into the parks.

   

First up lets take a look at the machines in the HUB.  As soon as I entered the HUB from the South lot I was greeted by this colorful machine that was covered in Minions.  Just to the left of this machine is a little gift shop area, if you cut through this to the other side are the other three machines all lined up together.

   

The second machine was one I had acquired years ago and was still functional with the exact same designs.  This is kind of a greatest hits of Universal with designs of Spiderman, Jurassic Park, The Hulk, and Spongebob.

   

The middle machine was all about Transformers.  This machine was a little finicky.  It pressed 3 of the 4 designs, but the design for Bumblebee just wouldn’t roll at all.  When I got home I searched eBay looking for the missing design and eventually found it to complete this set.

   

The fourth machine was another set of Minions / Despicable Me coins (These are kind of like the Frozen coins at Disney all over the place).  My daughter loves these designs, she can’t get enough of the minions.

So that finishes up the four machines located in HUB.  Before you go through the security scans, if you walk over to the moving sidewalk that takes you to the North parking structure is where the other four machines are at.  These machines are all located on the 3rd level of the parking structure, however if you are coming from the HUB you are already on the right level.  These machines are all located within a 15-20 foot radius of each other, up against various support columns.

   

The first machine has some designs of various attractions in the parks like the Jurassic Park Ride, and the Hulk Coaster.

   

The second machine has images of Spongebob, The Simpsons, Shrek, and the Jaws Ride which is no longer there.  I’m curious how long this image a some other similar ones around the parks will be available.

   

Next up was the third machine which was themed after The Fantastic Four.  The designs included Mister Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch, and The Thing.

   

Finally the last machine out here in parking lot land was a Woody Woodpecker model.  Not sure if kids even know who this is anymore, but I liked it and the designs make for a cool nostalgic set (minus Spongebob).  Images of Woody Woodpecker, Spongebob Squarepants, Scooby-Doo, and Shaggy.

With all the coins I needed jingling in my backpack I headed back towards the HUB, through security and made my towards City Walk which is their shopping and entertainment area (kind of like Disney Springs).

The last time I was here there were a half-dozen penny machines throughout City Walk at some restaurants and shops.  But when I visited there was only one machine available here.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co is a restaurant obviously themed after the movie starring Tom Hanks.  The penny machine here is the same one way back when I visited last.  Unfortunately these themed restaurant machines don’t change very often/ever.

   

Since I already had these coins I just snapped a new picture and headed back out into the sun.  I was on my way over to one of the theme parks with a big bag of change ready to be squished.  Stop back and see where I went next.

Florida Mall – Orlando, FL

While in the Orlando area for a quick weekend trip I found myself with a little free time
(not enough to visit a theme park) so I decided to go check out the Florida Mall.  I had been here years ago and remember it just being really busy.  This visit was no different. I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere near and entrance and seemed like I had to walk across the entire parking lot just to get in.

Truth be told I was here to visit two specific stores, but that didn’t prevent me from just aimless wandering around.  This mall also seems to have gotten much bigger than when I was here last, but that may not actually be true.  The walkways just seem to go on and on, and after you turn a corned they go on and on some more.  Eventually I came to the first place I wanted to visit.

M&M World, a chocolate candy lovers paradise.  We have one of these back up in New York in Times Square which I have visited almost religiously when I’m in the city.  This one isn’t quite as big, but still has a lot of M&M related merchandise, and of course candy.

Towards the middle of the store I found the first penny machine.  This was actually an interesting machine as it had part in the middle that would make change for you all in one machine.  I always come prepared so didn’t need to use this feature, but still pretty cool.

The machine pressed four designs with M&M Characters on them and the Racing Team logo.  I only know these characters by their color (Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue) and am not sure if they actually have other names.

The second machine was right around the corner from the first one so it didn’t require much detective work to find it (sometimes that the best part).

This set included the same four M&M Characters but all said “In Candy We Trust” on the designs.  They also included the M&M World Logo.  Once I got home I did notice that these are the exact same designs as the ones that are available in New York City, the only difference is these ones say Orlando instead of New York.  Too bad they were a little more unique, but still a nice addition to my ongoing M&M collection.

Before I left the store I had to pick up a few souvenirs for my daughters and used the opportunity to also buy a new version of the M&M World Pressed Coin Booklet.  They have had a few versions in the past but this seems to be the latest edition.

Just as short walk away was my next stop.  I’m not sure how long this has been at the mall but it was definitely busy and looked like a lot of fun for kinds of all ages.  When you enter from inside the mall you are greeted by the gift shop with everything Crayola.  Crayons, markers, pencils, coloring books, model clay kits, clothing and so much more.  Just inside the main entrance was one of those new 8-design touch screen penny/token machines.

The cost is $1 for 1 design, or $3 for all 8 which just seems like a no brainer.  I placed my order and watched through the window as my tokens were pressed.

The designs as you would guess are all Crayola inspired.  They have various Crayola logos, I Heart Crayola, and Coloring Pencils, Markers and Crayons.  This was another pretty nice set to acquire.  Towards the back of the store is where you can enter the Crayola Experience.  This is where they have some interactive exhibits that allow you to create your own crayon label, or marker, and give some info on how those products are created.  This is not an actual Crayola factor but more of a museum.  There is another one of these in Eaton, PA that we have visited with our kids and they love.  On this trip I didn’t have time to pay the admission fee and go through to get a better look.  I found out afterwards that there was an additional penny machine (4 design only) back in the Experience that can only be accessed with paid admission.  Guess this  means I’ll have to bring the kids back and go get that other set of pennies.

I didn’t do much other shopping and only stopped for a soft pretzel on my way out, but this was a nice way to get some exercise and pick up some new pennies while I was at it.

Disney Quest & Emporium – Disney Springs, FL

On a recent very quick trip down to Orlando I made sure to take a stroll down Disney Springs to see the ongoing changes there.  Even just from my last visit in November there had been some new opening like the overhauled Planet Hollywood, and The Edison restaurant is coming along nicely.  But on this trip I was really here to get some pennies.  I was about to say new pennies but these have been around for a while just not in a place that was easily accessible.

Disney Quest is one of the few places on Disney Property I have never actually experienced or even gone inside.  For those of you that don’t know it’s basically a large Arcade with all different types of interactive games, classic arcade style games, Virtual Reality (VR) experiences and supposedly more.  This place never really interested me and with the fairly high entrance cost was always what kept me away.  The downside for my obsessive pressed penny collection is that two machines were placed inside on the third floor a few years ago.  You were only allowed inside if you paid the entrance fee which I just couldn’t justify.  Recently I had heard that these two machines were moved down to their lobby so I could finally get a chance to use them.  However, when I got there and walked in there were no machines.  I couldn’t believe it, my online community had been wrong for once.  After spinning around a few times to make sure I didn’t miss them I decided to walk next door to the Disney Quest Emporium.

Boom, right inside the doors were the two machines I was looking for.  Check these beauties out, as I’m hoping you recognize them from the Wreck-It Ralph movie.  Really cool theming.

Machine number one on the right has images of the Wreck-It Ralph Logo, Fix It Felix Jr, and Sgt. Calhoun.

Machine number two on the left included images of Ralph, Vanellope, and King Candy.  After I walked outside I passed by the ticket window for Disney Quest and saw two more penny machines.

These two machines used to be inside the Disney Quest Emporium but were moved out here when the above Wreck-It Ralph machines were placed inside.  Hope that makes sense.

The machine on the left had designs of the Disney Quest Logo, Aladdin & Jasmine, Reclining Space Goofy, and Space Mickey.

The second machine shown on the right (in blue) had designs of Cyberspace Mountain Logo, Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey, a Pirate Skull, and another Disney Quest Logo.

Now please be aware if you are going to try to get any or all of these coins that you may only have a limited amount of time.  It was announced earlier this year that Disney Quest will be closing for good in July 2017.  The Wreck-It Ralph machines could just get placed somewhere else on property, but the other two machines have Disney Quest designs and I would doubt these will stick around after the closure.  Time is ticking so be sure to get these before they are gone.

Merchant of Venus – Magic Kingdom, FL

Recently it seems like Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom has been getting some much needed new pressed penny machines.  First over at the Speedway, then at Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and now over at a store that you have probably cut through to get a quick Air Conditioning break, Merchant of Venus.

This store is located just beside Stitch’s Great Escape and Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies.  As with most of the other stores in the Magic Kingdom they sell pins, plush toys, and all your usual march.  They do try to specialize in Space themed movies, so there is a lot of Stitch and Tomorrowland stuff here to collect.  Just inside one of the doors is where the latest penny machine is now located.

I should really stop referring to these as penny machines, and rather the new 8-Design touch screen pressed token machines.  I still have come to like these machines (the additional designs helps).  They are easy to use, and the finished coins that drop out of the machine are nice and shiny.  Not sure if they will hold up like that after numerous years but only time will tell.

As you can see from the machine itself this is another set of Star Wars themed coins.  The designs include: Star Wars Logo, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, R2-D2, Stormtrooper, Tie Fighter, Millennium Falcon, and an X-Wing Fighter.  These coins are similar to some of the other Star Wars themed designs available around the Disney property.  I’m hoping they start to come out with more obscure character designs but then maybe casual collectors are less like to press a set.  But with more Star Wars movies on the way each year for the foreseeable future I’m sure there will be many more pressed coin designs on the way.