Zoo Miami – Miami, FL

The next day of our Miami Vacation we wanted to be a little more laid back.  We tried not to get up too early, and didn’t rush down for breakfast.  But eventually we did make it out the door of our hotel, into our car and over to our adventure for the day.

Zoo Miami was a bit of a drive from where our hotel was in South Beach, but since we were visiting during the week traffic wasn’t too bad.  I had visited this zoo back in the 80s when I was a kid but didn’t remember much.  We had some old home videos I watched but other than the monorail (yes they have a monorail here) not much else seemed to look familiar so I’m sure there had been extensive renovations since then.

After we got through the main entrance we were greeted by a flock of Flamingos in all their pink glory.  Our two daughters love pink and by association love Flamingos.  We kept to the main path and eventually came to a bike rental stand but we skipped right by it.  They offer pretty big tandem bikes that your entire family can ride thought the zoo.  When we first saw them we kind of laughed, but I will admit by the end of our trip we kind of wished we had rented one as it was a LOT of walking.

This zoo was really nicely designed, and the exhibits were really beautiful.  They had all the standard animals that most zoos have.

We will eventually get to some penny machines, but we did come across a whole bunch of these Mold-A-Matic machines.  I remember these from when I was a kid.  You put in a couple of dollars (or swipe your credit card now a days) and two halves of the metal mold move together, are injected with wax, and then after a minute or so the wax mold drops into the collection bin.

Just for fun we created one of these souvenirs and our kids loved them.  I have them pretty well-trained to help spot penny press machines, but they now had a new mission and would holler out as soon as they found another wax machine.  By the end of the day I think we had accumulated about 7 or 8 of these figures.

The zoo also had a very nice aviary.  Usually I’m not a huge fan of these as the birds always flying over my head is a little unnerving.  But this one was pretty nice and peaceful.  They were quite a few birds but they were mostly in the trees eating and the little pools of water were filled with all sorts of fish and turtles which was fun.

The sun was blazing down by this time of day so it seemed like a good time to take a break and get have a bit of a rest with some drinks.  We found the Critter Connection area that is like their kids section.  When you first walk in there are a set of restrooms, a snack bar, and a playground out back with a carousel.

Also in this area just outside the restrooms was the first penny machine.  The cabinet was nicely decorated for the zoo.  I’m not a huge fan of these type of manual crank machines as always find they don’t press very well.  Either the designs don’t line up, or they roll long or short.  It’s kind of hit or miss.  Also a strange thing with this machine was if you zoom in on the above picture only 3 designs were shows on the cabinet.

But you know me I’m always going to try and see if that 4th design is still available.  Sure enough I was able to press 4 designs in total and as you can see above they all came our really nicely.  The camel one was a little long but much better than most of my experiences with this type of machine.  The set included images of the Zoo Miami Logo, A tree front with a peace sign, a Giraffe, and a Camel.

After we rested in the shade for a bit with some bottles of water and a couple soft pretzels our daughters raced off towards the carousel.  We took a few trips around since there was no line the attendant just let us stay on a couple of times.  Eventually we dragged our girls off as they kicked and screamed about wanting to keep going.  The zoo path we were following wound back and forth in a slalom pattern between exhibits.  There weren’t too many people at the zoo this day, but the path just seemed to be endless.  Eventually we found the elephants which is always just one of those animals we have to see every time.  The trainers were out feeding them and had them put on a bit of a show.  This wasn’t a circus type show, but instead they were trying to show off some of the things they would do in the wild.  At one point they had them “speak” which was just them blowing air out of their trunks machine the well-known honking sound.  I tried to think whether I had ever heard an elephant do this in person, and it was really interesting to witness first hand.

With the elephants fed we headed off to the next place which had giraffes.  They were also being fed at this time of day which kept them a little further away from where we were standing to watch.  They just seem like they should tilt forward with those long necks, but are so graceful when they move.  Really amazing to see in a large open area.

Our youngest daughter had been calling our for the Gorillas all day, and we thankfully found them.  They weren’t doing much other than just sitting on the grass and enjoying the Florida sun.  If you look real close in the picture above there was a really big iguana just in front of the tree stump to the left of the Gorilla.  I’m not really sure how he got in there, but the gorilla didn’t seem fazed by it.  Just another fun odd couple at the zoo.

Eventually it was time for another pit stop.  But this time we figured it was probably a good idea to get some lunch and sit in the shade before we passed out from the heat.  We found the covered area shown above which was called the Oasis Grill.  They had the usual pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, and basic garden salad.  Pretty standard park food but our kids enjoyed it, and my wife and I were just happy to sit for a little bit.

As we sat at our table eating I noted across on the other side in among a few of the tables was the second penny machine.  Same type of machine as the first one with a similar cabinet design but different animals printed at the bottom.

Again these pennies actually pressed pretty nicely.  The set includes images of another Zoo Miami Logo, an Elephant, a Rhino and a Gorilla.

Once lunch was done and we had rehydrated with plenty of water we headed back out into the sun for the last leg of our zoo trip.  Unfortunately by this time everyone was getting pretty tired and a little cranky.  There was definitely a lot of walking.  I was hoping we could make it back to the front of the park seeing everything from ground level, and then take a round trip tour in the sky on the monorail.  But after visiting with a large tortoise, and some familiar Florida animals in the “local” section of the park everyone was ready to head back to our hotel and just chill.

Something to note on these designs is they all said Miami Metro Zoo along the bottom which was the previous official name of the zoo.  Does this mean the designs will be updated soon?  Probably not, but still makes for a fun set of coins to press.

Miami Seaquarium – Miami, FL

Our first full day in Miami started with an early start.  We always go into vacation saying it won’t be too scheduled with things to do, and let’s sleep in.  But with two young kids they seem to wake up even earlier on vacation.  The afternoon was going to be saved for another trip to the beach, bu that gave us the morning to go do something.  We grabbed some breakfast at a nearby diner and then headed to the Miami Seaquarium.

Located on Key Biscayne out in the Bay, it’s a very unique location and makes for a beautiful background for this indoor/outdoor Seaquarium (aquarium).

The front area was under quite a bit of construction.  We saw some concept art of the future grand new entrance and it does look like it will be impressive when done, but for now it was a lot of construction equipment and torn up concrete.  After we had our tickets scanned there was a bit of a walk to the main building and first gift shop.  Just inside this gift shop I found the first penny machine.

The machine was in pretty good shape and worked well.  As with so many of these machines it was also located just outside the bathroom area which makes them a little awkward to use sometimes due to the high traffic area.

This first set of pennies all said Miami Seaquarium Florida on each coin.  The designs included images of a Sea Turtle, a Manatee, Shark and a couple of Dolphins.

We headed through the gift shop into the next part of the building which surrounded a large tank that housed a couple of their dolphins.

If you head upstairs you eventually end up outside on the top of the building where you can get a bird’s eye view of the dolphins.

You can get right up to the edge of the tank but you are still out of reach of the dolphins.  This is more of a viewing area and they do have feeding shows you can watch periodically through the day.

Back downstairs on the main level there was a little side hallway.  Initially I saw just medallion machine which I have not caught the collecting bug on yet.  As I got closer I noticed the penny machine in the distance.

This was a bit of a unique machine.  I have seen models like it from time to time but I have found them to be unreliable when pressing unfortunately.  On this visit it was no different.  There was no out-of-order sign on the machine but when I tried to press the coins it just ate the change and didn’t press anything.  On my way out later in the day I mentioned it to a manager and they credited back my change.  A couple of weeks after we got home from this trip I wrote a letter to the Seaquarium explaining what happened and included some quarters and pennies asking if they could press them when the machine was fixed.  It did take another few weeks but eventually they showed up in the mail.

The designs all say Miami Seaquarium USA, and had images of a couple Manatees, a Whale, a Dolphin and a Seal.  As you can see from the above picture the seal design still pressed pretty short.  Whomever pressed the coins for me did include a few other copies of the seal coin in an attempt to get a better final outcome which was very nice of them.  The above was the best one of the batch.

Eventually after we checked out the rest of the inside aquarium tanks along the wall and another large tank in the middle behind the dolphin one had a lot of various sea creatures inside.  Then we made our way outside to see some of the other exhibits.  They had the usual aquatic life such as seals and sea turtles.

Of course since we were in Florida there had to be some Manatees which I always find fun and relaxing to watch.

From 1963-67 the TV show Flipper had been filmed at the Seaquarium and they have areas designated with signs and historical info on the show and its famous star.

There is also an area that you can walk through (but don’t touch) some parrots and other beautiful birds.  Just be careful as you walk around because there are some large iguanas walking around as well with free roam of the property.

Near the Parrot area is a Sting Ray touch tank which have become a staple exhibit at all aquariums.  My kids love this and we always have to drag them away eventually.

Speaking of kids, towards the very back of the property is a kids area with a playground and other things they can enjoy.  I wished there was more shaded areas for the parents to sit and rest but instead we were out in the blazing Miami sun.

Nearby the kids area was the third penny machine available at the Seaquarium.  It was hiding just around the side of this little covered stand used to house some soda machines.

The machine worked fine, but a note on this as it was located in that sun I was just talking about.  Because of that the handle and cabinet were extremely hot to the touch.

This last set of pennies had images of an Orca Whale, a Penguin, a Ray, and a Seal.  They also had the Miami Seaquarium Florida listed on all the pennies.

The Seaquarium was larger than we had anticipated but were able still able to see everything in a few hours.  Some of the exhibits are a little dated, and all the sea life are common to most aquariums.  The Flipper information was cool, that show was a little before my time but I am well aware of it and plan on re-watching some episodes to see if I can recognize where we visited.  The pressed penny sets were a nice addition to my collection and the first and last machines are obviously newer and work fine.  But that second machine is definitely an older model that probably doesn’t get much regular maintenance.  However if you do run into any issues with the machines don’t hesitate to let someone know.  I’m my experience they are more than happy to help be either refunding your money or sometimes helping to get a set in the future when the machine is fixed.  Never hurts to ask.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co – Miami, FL

After our first and only night at Disney’s Vero Beach we had decided I would take our two daughters down to the beach while my wife had some spa time.  This was a huge hit with our kids and after a good couple hours down there in the sand and surf as is always the case we had to drag them away.  But there were promises of more beach days as our vacation continued that week.  We got cleaned up and checked out of Vero Beach so we could get on road for the second half of our journey.

The highway took us straight down south and eventually over to South Beach Miami to our hotel for the next few days.

The hotel was nice, room was very modern and appeared to be recently renovated.  The only issue we encountered was no bath tub.  Now for my wife and I that’s not a big deal but our two daughters who were 5 and 2 years old made for an interesting bath time each evening.

We had a nice view from our balcony of the harbor and if you looked closely between some of the towering skyline you could see the beach only a block away.  Once we were settled into our room and unpacked it was about time to start thinking about dinner.  I found online a place called the Bayside Marketplace that wasn’t too far away and seemed like it would have a nice selection of places to eat.  We hopped in the car and headed over.

It was starting to get a bit late and we were all pretty hungry so we picked one of the first places we found which was Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

As luck would have it there was a pressed penny machine right near the entrance.  Well full disclosure here, I knew about this machine and had planned to visit here just to use the machine later in our trip, but since we were hungry I figured we may as well drop in and eat as well.  I’m pretty sure my wife knew what I was up to.

The machine was a four design hand crank model.  It was mounted to a platform with wheels so it could be moved around easily.  I would guess it’s just to store it inside when the restaurant is not open, but just be aware its location may change.

The designs were of a Bucket of Shrimp, Forrest playing Ping Pong, Run Forest Run, and Forest on the Bus bench.  All of the designs say Miami, Florida which makes for fun memento of each location you visit.  I do have a few other sets from different locations around the country and they are designed very similarly.

The restaurant is filled with nods to the movie Forest Gump, and lots of memorabilia up on the walls.

Screen worn clothing and props are in all the corners of the restaurant and gift shop.  We spent quite a bit of time after our meal just wandering around looking at the items.

Even the table had some motivational quotes from the movie while you waited for your food.  This restaurant can get loud as the night-time crowd arrives, but the food was good with as you can guess plenty of Shrimp dishes to choose from.  After dinner we did walk around a bit, but I could tell everyone was getting tired.  We headed back towards our hotel but took a quick pit stop over to the beach.

The sun set was beautiful and always seems more special with the crashing waves rolling up onto the beach sand.  After we had enjoyed some fresh ocean air it was time to head back into our hotel for some sleep as we had a big day ahead of us, and plenty more pressed penny machines to find.