Typhoon Lagoon Water Park – WDW Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing – Ocala, Fl

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

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

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

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

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

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

I headed inside and was just completely blown away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This machine also only had one design.

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

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

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

Retired Pennies at Universal Studios Florida – Coming Soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This machine will only have 1 design retired.

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

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

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

Two of the three designs here will be retired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lego Movie World – Legoland, FL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They even had some plush dolls of Emmet…

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

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

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

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

Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa – Orlando, Fl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney’s Boardwalk NEW Pressed Penny Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This store is called the Character Carnival gift shop.

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

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

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

Curtain Call Collectibles – Magic Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pandora World of Avatar NEW Penny Machine – Animal Kingdom

Back in 2009 a little movie you may have heard of called Avatar was released and became the highest grossing movie of all time with over $2.7 billion at the Box office.  The movie takes place in the mid-22nd century on a habitable moon called Pandora in a far away star system.  The moon was inhabited by a local tribe called the Na’vi that were tall blue creatures.  The moon also had a diverse collection of other creatures both tame and hostile.

With such a popular and highly profitable movie it seemed only a matter of time before more movies would come out.  However before those new movies come out (we are still waiting) Disney announced they were going to develop part of the Animal Kingdom park into Pandora.

Construction began in early 2014 and was going to be a huge expansion.  Then on May 27, 2017 the new land officially opened to the public with two marquee attractions that to this day still have up wards of 2-3 hour wait times to ride.

I was not there on opening day, but did get to first experience Pandora about a month after it opened and was just completely blown away.  As you walk over the bridge into Pandora the sounds of the Animal Kingdom slowly fade and new ambient sounds are heard instead.   I remember just wondering around for a couple of hours taking in all the details of Pandora.

I had a fastpass to ride the slow-moving water attraction called Na’vi River Journey, and eventually was able to experience the highly coveted Flight of Passage which is really amazing and I would do it no justice trying to explain what it is like.  But one thing that caught me a bit by surprise was that there was no pressed penny machine to be found anywhere.  I guess maybe the Na’vi don’t use money so that could be keeping with the theming, but was something many collectors hoped would show up at some point.  Well that day finally showed up almost 2 years after Pandora opened.

I was at work when I heard the news about this new machine.  I did the responsible thing and waited until the work day was over before taking my two daughters with me to Animal Kingdom on the hunt for the new pennies.

The floating mountains are always a sight to see and things keep changing in the land.  Plus the crowds are still as busy as ever.  They even have a cast member in a utility suit (for the science team) come out and walk around giving some history and detail on the world we are visiting.  It’s all done in character but still a lot of fun and helps keep you immersed in this amazing place.

There is only one gift shop in Pandora that is called Windtraders.  If you experience the Flight of Passage ride you actually exit through this gift shop.  But you do not need to go on the ride to check it out.  Inside there is a rookery where you can be matched with your very own Banshee, or be scanned into a computer and have a 3-D Na’vi toy created of yourself.  Plus of course lots of t-shirts, magic bands, and toys.

Then all the way in the back corner that blends in almost too well is the penny press machine.

This is another of those 8-design touch screen machines that supplies the penny sized tokens to press.  There was a line of about 5-6 people in front of me when we found it so this will probably be another very popular set of coins.

The set includes various designs from the two attractions in Pandora and the land itself including the Shaman, Viperwolf and even the Utility suit plus some other things I’m not 100% sure what they are but they look cool which is important.  Each of the coins also say Pandora the World of Avatar.

I’m so glad to see they finally released as set of coins for this area of the park.  Not sure exactly why it took so long, but I’m sure there is all sorts of licensing legalities that need to be ironed out before they can release them.  Hopefully with the new Star Wars Land….sorry Galaxy’s Edge, that we will get some new machines and maybe you will even need a droid to start it up.  We’ve waited long enough for the Star Wars area to open, hopefully they don’t make us wait until 2 years after that for some new pressed pennies.

Showcase of Citrus – Clermont, FL

Just a short drive away from Walt Disney World property is a town called Clermont.  One of the main highways through Clermont is 27 and is where countless new housing developments have been popping up.  I know this as my family lives near here and we spend a lot of time driving up and down Highway 27.  However one place that we have driven past a hundred times is called Showcase of Citrus.

From a distance this place just looks like a large fruit stand along the highway selling Florida fresh Oranges and other citrus.  But after a friend had visited and raved about a Monster Truck tour through the Citrus grove it was something we had to check out.

We made the drive down from Clermont along 27 until we arrive at the location and were greeted with a Great White Shark hanging from its tail in the parking lot.  Just to set the record straight I’m sure you can guess that this is not real, but does catch you eye as you drive by which I guess is the point.

Inside the main building we were greeted by an alligator with a bag of oranges.  This place we definitely interesting, but filled with lots of fun things including local honey, hot sauces and of course fresh citrus.  Plus I even saw a sign for gator meat if that is something you are looking for.

However first we were here for the main even which was the 4×4 Monster truck tour.

This thing was huge and they actually have three of them so I’m guessing business has been good.  Thankfully we didn’t need to climb up that ladder leaning against the side of the truck.  Instead there are some ramps at the back that make getting up into the truck much easier.

Our tour guide was fantastic and had a lot of knowledge about the citrus grove.  They actually grow over 40 varieties of citrus in these fiends.  Only a small portion are sold in the roadside store, and the majority is sent to a processing plant near Miami for companies like Tropicana.  The ride on the truck can get a little bumpy but wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.

There are some swampy areas that the tour goes through and if you are lucky there can be some local wildlife around.  On our trip we saw the above gator, and a few turtles but not much else.

One interesting part of the tour was that we headed into a cow pasture that was just filled with lots and lots of cows.  They immediately recognized the truck we were in and came running over.  The reason is that the cows are obsessed with oranges.  The tour guide had a large basked of oranges and he handed them out so that we could toss them over the side of the truck for the cows to eat.  Who would have thought cows liked citrus?

The tour was about 45 minutes or so and was a lot of fun.  Our daughters had a great time on the truck but really liked feeding the cows.  When the tour was over we headed back to the main building.  In the back was a large play area for the kids and a petting zoo with a few animals like a Donkey, and Pig.

We also tried some of their fresh citrus slush that was nice and tart but very refreshing on this sunny Florida afternoon.

Before we left for the day we had to check out the store in a little more detail.  There were lots of old product signs in the rafters, and lots of classic Florida gifts like “grown your own orange tree” or a lucky alligator foot for your key chain.

There was also a wall filled with all sorts of hot sauces, and fresh local honey.  They did offer some samples to try before buying, but be careful some of those sauces were extremely hot.

They also had a wine tasting bar that had a lot of Florida wines for sale.  You could get a free sample of any of the wines and some where very interesting.  We tried a Key Lime wine and a Guava wine which were actually pretty good.

The above Swamp Juice wine was not my favorite but would make for a fun bottle to bring out with dinner for your out-of-state friends.  With a few bottles of wine ready to take home just as we were checking out I noticed something around a nearby corner.

Pappy’s pressed coin machine.  These machines are not very common a least in my travels so far, but I have come across a few and they are definitely unique.  Pappy will talk a bit to try and entice you over to use the machine, and he also talks while he pressed your coins.  If you look closely you can see his hand is on a handle that turns as the penny is pressed.

Each design was $1 and the machine supplied the penny so there was no guarantee of the type of penny that you would get.

The designs on each penny were all about the Showcase of Citrus which is nice.  Sometimes in these type of roadside attractions the penny machines have generic designs like “My lucky penny”.  But these were nice unique designs with the Monster Truck, and the Showcase of Citrus logo.  One rolled a bit short, but the others came out pretty nicely.  You can see in the above image the difference in pennies since I couldn’t supply my own.

With our wine, bag of oranges and some new pressed pennies we were ready to head home.  This was definitely a lot of fun and I’m glad we tried it out.  As I mentioned at the beginning we had driving past it a lot and never stopped in which should teach us a lesson as you never know what you may find.

NEW Pennies Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Courtyard – Hollywood Studios

Only someone with sharp eagle eyes was able to find these new pennies.  Over in Hollywood Studios outside the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is a large courtyard with some snack stands, a pin cart, face painting and two penny machines.

These two machines have been here for quite a while and their designs haven’t changed.

But just recently someone noticed that on one of these machines had two of its designs changed.

One was a completely swamped out, but the second only had slight changes to the design.

The first design is of Pluto blowing a horn.  This has replaced an old design of Goofy singing.  The second design is of the Flaming Guitars with the Roller Coaster logo.  At a quick glance  this design looks to be the same as it was before, but upon closer review the guitar and flames are a slightly different size.

Not a big change, but I’m happy to see some new designs in the four hand crank machines as those don’t change too often.  Now it will make our jobs a little harder knowing that these machines may start having designs replaced throughout the parks as well.  I’ll keep you posted if we find any others.