Glazer Children’s Museum – Tampa, Fl

The day had finally come, our last day of vacation.  My wife and would be heading back to work, and our kids back to school and their daily routine.  We checked out of our hotel in Fort Myers and jumped back on Highway 75 north towards Tampa.  There was no real rush home, and we all had such a good time that we asked the kids if they wanted to visit one last place.  Their options were either the Tampa Zoo or the Glazer Children’s Museum.

To my surprise they picks the Children’s museum, but at this time of year it was probably the best option since it was entirely indoors and air-conditioned.  It’s located right downtown near the bay, not too far from the Florida Aquarium he had visited last year.  There is a big parking garage right beside the museum and it was free when we visited, but this may change depending on the day you visit.

I say this all the time, but I knew this place had a pressed penny machine (actually the zoo had a couple of machines but we will visit that place another day).  To my surprise the penny machine was actually just inside the main doors.  I always enjoy a good hunt for penny machines, but every so often it’s nice to have it served up on a platter and then I can leisurely enjoy the rest of the museum.

This was a standard 4 design hand crank model.  The cabinet was nicely designed for the museum and was in good working condition.  Also there is no admission needed to use this machine.  You may have to pay for parking though as I’m not sure of how that works on weekends.

The sets of pennies from this machine included designs of 1914 Pilot Tony Jannus, R M & V Alphabet blocks, a Veterinarian, and a Fire Truck from the Fire House.  With the pennies pressed and stowed away, we bought our museum tickets and headed in.

The first floor didn’t have much.  Other than the ticket area, there were a set of restrooms, a Subway restaurant, a birthday party room and then the largest area had a big water exhibit.  This thing had a lot of “science” involved but it’s another of those famous things that kids don’t realize they are actually learning.  It was setup like a canal and docks system with toy boats the kids could float around.  There were pulleys and levers, and buoyancy tests and even a weather machine that simulated rain.  All in all this was a nice detailed area for the kids to play (and learn).

Eventually we made our way upstairs which is where things really got fun.  This was setup like a main street and there was a Global Cafe with fake food items from all over the world kids could pretend to cool and serve.  There was also a mock theater that they could dress up, and then put on a play.  This area even had a sound board that could trigger sound effects during the performance.

The middle section of this area had a large Lego wall that you could design things up against the wall.  It seems that each day there is a different challenge posted.  On this day it was to display your name in Lego.  Next was a farmhouse, that had a garden out front with vegetables to be planted and harvested.  Inside the farmhouse the walls were covered in clear plexiglass so you could see the support beams, insulation and wiring that makes up a house.  The second floor also had a hands on exhibit where you could try to wire up a door bell by connecting different pieces of wire together.

Our kids favorite was the grocery store.  This place had little shopping carts or baskets you could use.  They also had different shopping lists to go through the store and collect all the items on the list. Then there was a check out and bagging area.  They also had a deli area where they could take orders for submarine sandwiches unfortunately made out of plastic.

The back area of the second floor had a mock veterinary clinic, a hospital emergency room, a pizza restaurant and a fire house.  The fire house even had a fire pole they could slide down onto a padded mat.

We spend a good part of the day here, actually much longer than we had anticipated.  Our girls had such a good time we actually made a trip back a couple of weeks after this visit.  For anyone that has driving I-4 from Tampa to Orlando you know that if you aren’t on the road early the hour-long drive could take a lot longer. With that in mind we dragged the kids out of the museum as usual, got in the car and made the final leg of our trip back home.  It’s always sad to end your vacation, but I always made sure to take lots of pictures and video so we could watch and remember all the things we did on this years trip.  Plus I have a lot of pennies to catalogue, and document.  I’ll take a few days off before I start trying to figure out what we will do next year for vacation.  For me planning is always part of the fun.

Orlando Science Center – Orlando, FL

I’m sure at some point in the next few years my daughters school would probably have a field trip to the Orlando Science Center.  But when I noticed online that there was a penny machine located here I just couldn’t wait that long.  Even though she is probably a little young to understand most of what we were going to see, I figured she would still have a lot of fun with some of the exhibits.

The Science center is made up of multiple floors that you can access by either a central located elevator, or by a spiral staircase that winds around a big tree.  I have been an avid visitor of science and history museums all my life and can say with certainty this was a first.

Starting on the bottom floor has another interesting exhibit which was an indoor nature trail.

The walkway was even formed like a mud trail you would find out in the woods.  It was solid and safe to walk on obviously but was uneven in areas if you weren’t paying attention.

There was an area with some small alligators, turtles and fish all commingling nicely.  As we kept walking there was an alcove to one side with some snakes and reptiles.  Just beyond that was a large fish tank with some coastal sea creatures swimming about.  Did I mention snakes?  There seemed to be quite a few different snakes on display that were all displayed as being native to Florida and “non-venomous” which was only a little reassuring.

Eventually we came to the turtle area which was a little more my speed.  I will also say these exhibits all had a lot of great information on pollution and there were a lot of staff around trying to engage with the kids and explain how to keep things clean and safe for our wildlife friends.

With the first floor done we headed upstairs to the next floor and the first area was called the KinecticZone.  This was classic science museum and I always loved this stuff as a kid.  There were tons of things to touch and my daughter even though she is only a few years old had a great time playing and not realizing she was actually learning.

What kid doesn’t have fun playing with static electricity?  My daughter had a great time zapping me and seeing my reaction.  How could I get mad when I’m pretty sure I did the same thing when I was young.

After we had tried out all the science experiences with magnets, electricity, centripetal forces and much more (sorry can’t think of any other science-y words) we needed a bit of a break.  Just outside the KineticZone was a hallway with some restrooms and a small snack bar.  Just beside the snack bar hidden in the shadows was the penny press machine.

See I told you it was in the shadows.  The machine worked fine and I had recently used a machine similar to this at Old Town in Kissimmee.

However this machine didn’t accept pennies as you can see from the picture above.  This was a machine that would supply the penny to be pressed for you which we have gone over in the past is not my ideal situation, but that wasn’t going to stop me from using the machine.

When the pennies dropped out of the machine into the collection cup I grabbed them out and took a closer look.  The images included Triceratops, T-Rex, and Brontosaurus dinosaurs and a Trilobite fossil.  Now I will say these seemed strange to be in a science museum as usually in my experience dinosaurs are associated with natural history museums.  But I would soon find out differently.

We finished our little pit stop with a bathroom break and snack from the concession area.  Then headed up to the next floor and found DinoDigs.

This room was huge and very spacious.  I wasn’t sure if maybe this was a temporary exhibit here or not, but the dinosaur fossils they had were amazing as always.

There was also a few areas where fossils were buried in these little sandbox type contains that kids could get in and search for.  Thankfully there wasn’t any sand just shopped up plastic or tires maybe but it made the experience thankfully much cleaner.

After digging up our fair share of bones my daughter was looking like it was about time for a nap.  I figured it was a good opportunity to head back to the car and make our way home and the car ride is always a guaranteed way to ensure she sleeps.  The Orlando Science Center was a great mix of standard science exhibits which in my book never get old, and some fun new stuff not usually found at a science museum.  There were a few sections of the museum we didn’t get to see so I know we will be back to check out the rest.  It doesn’t seem like the penny designs change too often but that’s also another reason to stop by in the future.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! – Orlando, FL

This week I headed back over to International Drive in Orlando to visit another roadside attraction.  I had visited a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! back in New Jersey on the Atlantic City Boardwalk years ago.  All I remember is being more disturbed than anything just due to some of the very strange things Mr. Ripley supposedly found along his world travels.

Since this is located right on I-Drive it has to stick out somehow from all the other tourist attractions so the building was designed to look like it was sinking into the group.  It’s a fun little optical illusion, similar to the upside down building at WonderWorks.

As soon as you walk inside there is a small lobby area where you can buy your admission tickets if you didn’t pre-purchase online.  In this area you can find the penny press machine.  Little disclaimer, I have heard that from time to time this machine moves inside the attraction and paid admission is needed.  But for now the machine is right out front and no ticket needed to use it.

For some reason I always find that these style machines tend to roll short more often than not but this one wasn’t too bad.

The designs included in this set were of the Ripley’s Orlando Building, the Two-headed Calf, a Tiny Car, and a Shrunken Head.  Even though I had the pennies already I figured since I was here may as well head inside and see what they have to offer.

When you first get inside you are shown the original Ripley desk.  There is a spooky hologram they project of Robert Ripley sitting behind the desk giving some anecdotes of his travels.  As I mentioned above there are some distributing things in this museum that deal with animal birth defects, to tribal rituals including pretty graphic piercings and other things I’m just going to skip over.  Some people find it fascinating but wasn’t really my cup of tea.  I skipped ahead to a large artifact room that had some more PG items on display.

Such as this cute Wall-E sculpture.  I stood there for a few minutes hoping it would move or talk but it doesn’t.  Just a nice piece of artwork.

After visited with Wall-E I found myself in the Medieval torture section, and I’m pretty sure you can guess the crazy contraptions they had on display in here.  They aren’t too graphic, but just looking at some of these devices can set your imagination wild.

Since we have been living in Florida for about a year and still getting used to all the thunderstorms I thought the above sign was a fun fact.

Eventually I headed into an area with some fun little interactive exhibits like seeing how flexible you are.

Or try your hand at a giant Operation game but for some reason the infamous funny bone is missing.

There was also a room with a large piece of the Berlin Wall, and also a room with some wax figures of Ripley’s famous human attractions so you can take selfies with.

As a last test for some reason before you exit into the gift shop you get to walk down this hallway that spins around you.  Of course you get dizzy and you have trouble walking straight through.  There is a bypass but this is fun to watch people experience.  Once you pass through this area you exit into the gift shop which is very small and hard to get through if there are even a few people in there.

This is a place that is just a little too weird for me, and I’m usually into that kind of stuff. I’m glad the penny press machine is outside so you don’t necessarily have to go through the museum if you are a little squeamish or just not interesting in this type of museum.  I probably won’t be back any time soon unless someone from out-of-town really want to check it out.  There is a lot of stuff inside and you could spend a few hours if you take your time but I would recommend checking out their website first to sample what’s there before you venture inside.

Dinosaur World – Plant City, FL

A few months ago we had taken a day trip down to Tampa and checked out the Florida Aquarium.  To get there we had traveled straight down the dreaded I-4 highway but I remember seeing a few roadside attractions along the way and made a mental note to look into them.  This past weekend I decided it was time to check out one of those places.

Dinosaur World is located just off of I-4 about 15 minutes outside of Tampa.  As we pulled up we were welcomed by this stone wall covered with dinosaurs that seemed a little cheesy but intriguing at the same time.

After we found a parking spot in the busy lot we headed towards the main building.  This is a combination gift shop and entry ticket area.  I was actually caught a little off guard as I entered this building.

As I’m sure you would expect nothing less of me I did research online before the visit to see if there were any penny machines here and thankfully there was.  However my surprise was that the machine I found just inside the main door was actually a quarter machine.

   

Luckily I always bring spare change and had just enough to press each of the four designs.  When I was young I was obsessed with dinosaurs and would have been able to name most of these without hesitation.  However as I’ve gotten older those crazy long names have escaped me.  To help me out thankfully these designs included the names of each dino and were of a T-Rex, Brachiosaurus, Velociraptor, and Pteranodon.

These pressed quarters also had a nice design on the back of each coin of a T-Rex and Dinosaur World.

   

Just beside this machine was a table and basket holding a collection of pressed penny booklets.  There was a generic penny passport that had a sticker stating it would hold pressed quarters.  The second booklet which I purchased was themed for Dinosaur World but would only hold pressed pennies.  That was okay for me since I don’t store my coins in these booklets anyways, but can resist buying these booklets anyways as a separate collection.  While I paid for the booklet I also bought our entrance ticket to the park and headed back outside.

As we exited out the back of the gift shop we encountered a large open area with some huge dinosaurs keeping an eye on everyone.  These were stationary and not animated at all but the details on them were still pretty amazing.  This first area of the park had a lot of picnic tables and signs reserving some of the sections for birthday parties (lucky kids).  There was also a dino themed playground, and a fossil hunt area that you could buy a separate ticket to participate with.

We just kept following the path through the park and came to a stone archway that reminded me of the Jurassic Park entrance just much less intimidating.  This welcomed us to Dinosaur World.

In this area we were on a raised boardwalk that wound through the thick foliage and trees.  There were dinosaurs around each corner and had signage nearby listing their name and some details about them.

We found some mammoths in one area but was surprised they weren’t inside a glacier or other ice age type cavern.  But I guess that’s hard to find in the hot Florida weather.

I was a little disappointed that these dinosaurs didn’t move.  Some had speakers nearby that would broadcast generic dinosaur roars or noises.

This area of the park had pathways that headed in all different directions but was much larger than I anticipated.  There was a lot of walking but thankfully the tall trees overhead gave a lot of nice shade.

Eventually we seemed to have visited with all the different dinosaurs in this area of the park and headed back to the front area to one last section yet to see.

The museum.  When we had bought our tickets the nice woman at the counter told us to prepare our daughters for the animatronic dinos inside as they can be scary.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as you can see from the picture above there was another machine to use first.

   

This machine had three designs all pressed on pennies.  This machine did roll the designs a little short on the one end but the finished product wasn’t too bad.  The images on the coins included a Brontosaurus, a Dimetrodon, and of course the famous T-Rex.  These pressed pennies did not have a back design on them.

Inside the museum the pathway went back and forth hiding the animatronics at the end, but you could hear them making noise.  The walls had little windows that displayed different fossils and prehistoric items.

Eventually we made our way  to the end where the moving dinosaurs were but to be honest they were pretty tame.  My youngest daughter who is just 2 years old ran right up to them and didn’t seem to be bothered by them at all.

They didn’t move much and their sounds much but they were still detailed nicely to make for a fun finale to our visit.  After quite a bit of walking and sun shine it was about time we headed back to the modern-day.  It was a nice surprise to find two coin press machines here.  Dinosaur world was a cute little park and my kids really enjoyed it, but I think it would be difficult to spend an entire day here.  I’m sure we will be back to visit some day to visit the dinos and hopefully find some new pressed coins.

Manatee Viewing – Blue Spring State Park, FL

My family is coming up on almost a year since our big move down to Florida.  It’s taken time to get used to new stores, restaurants and of course roadways and traffic patterns.  As more time goes by we have started to feel a little more like locals and less like being on a long vacation.  Recently we were talking with some neighbors and they told us about something that tourists obviously like to do, but it definitely a locals thing to check out.

About an hour away from our house we headed up to Blue Spring State Park.  This is an area of central Florida where during few months out of the year manatees head towards the warmer waters.

We have seen manatees in captivity before at aquariums and zoos but the usually was only one or two in an exhibit.  As you can see from the sign we came across this day there were 308 spotted in the waters.  This was really going to be interesting.

There was a small fee of $6 for our car load to get into the park.  Just like any state park there were nice wide open areas, and some hiking paths.

This park however also had some special viewing areas along the main pathway giving you various views of the manatees.

Seeing them in the wild was really unique.  Plus the large number of them all in one place was also amazing.

The day was a little chilly when we visited, but we really took our time and enjoyed this special opportunity.  At the end of the main pathway was a small gift shop and snack bar with some things like hot dogs, coffee, and hot chocolate.  We eventually started to head back towards where our card was and came across the Thursby House.

As the sign says this house was built by Louis Thursday in 1872.

This house is set up like a small little museum.  There is no cost to go inside and walk around but the upper floors are off-limits.  Not sure if that’s all the time or just certain times of the year.

There is not a whole lot going on inside the house / museum.  There is the kitchen full stocked in the back of the above picture but is behind glass so you can look but not touch.

In the main entry way just behind the stairwell I found a penny pincher machine.  Before we headed on this trip I did check good ol’ pennycollector.com and knew about this machine ahead of time and came prepared.  But as I always say you should keep a few extra sets of quarters and pennies in your car just in case.  You never know when you may find an unexpected penny machine.

Once thing I noticed about this machine is that it had wheels on the bottom.  I’m not sure if those are due to the machine always being moved around inside the house.  But figured I would mention it as the machine may not be in the same location all the time.

This set of pennies pressed pretty well, but I do find these machines have a tendency to roll short.  The designs included with this set are of a Manatee, Alligator, Bear and a Scuba diver.  The last one I didn’t get, but did find out once I got home that during some times of the year you can go scuba diving in the lake but I don’t think it can be done when the manatees are around.

This place can get very busy during the manatee watching season so make sure to go early in the day or the park may be closed for capacity.  This was really a wonderful true Florida experience.  Our kids had a lot of fun and the manatees are really a strange but very special create.  Make sure to bring some pennies to commemorate your visit and help spread the work of keeping manatees safe in the water.

Skeletons Museum – Orlando, FL

Maybe this was something I should have held off on until we got closer to Halloween, but It was just too interesting not to review.  At the I-Drive 360 site I had left the main building and headed out back to a courtyard with various store fronts for your usual chains like Walgreen’s, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.  I had barely walked a few feet outside when one of the signs caught my eye.

Skeletons Museum of Osteology.  With a strange morbid curiosity I walked inside and found myself in a gift shop.  Just inside one of the doors I found a penny machine.

This style of machine I find more often than not, rolls most designs short, but these actually came out pretty nicely.

The images on these coins were as strange as this place.  They included as you can probably guess skeletons of a Giraffe, a Wallaby, a Sea Otter, and a Piranha.  I will admit the gift shop was interesting with some models, puzzles and t-shirts all with various skeletons on them but I wanted to know what was inside the museum.  Curiosity just got the best of me so I paid for a ticket and headed in the back.

When I was a kid we had a history museum in our city that we would visit quite a few times during a year.  Mostly because I was obsessed with Dinosaurs, and that was the closest place that I could spend hours looking at Dino Fossils.  The Skeleton Museum had that same type of feel to it just with skeletons of any animal you could imagine.

As you can see in the above picture there were exhibits with Cheetah’s, Horses and people.

All different types of large cats of every different shape and size.  I’m not a snake fan, but there were some really cool skeletons of a King Cobra and a Boa Constrictors.  They were interesting but creeped me out at the same time and I had to quickly skip past before it came to life.

All the way in the back was some very large animals including a Giraffe, Elephant and Hippo.  The museum would around these different exhibits with similar groupings of creatures.  Eventually I made my way back towards the exit and just near the restrooms was a second penny machine.

I didn’t ask at the front desk as the employee was pretty busy with customers, but my guess is that you can only access this machine with a paid ticket.  But the one out from in the gift shop can be accessed during operating hours free of charge.

This second set of pennies had skeleton designs of a Pelican, a Cheetah, a Killer Whale and a Sea Horse.

I forgot to mention that all of the coins from both machines had a backstamp on them with the Skeleton Museum’s logo.

After I had my fill of flesh-eating beetles and skeletons I headed out of the museum.  It was definitely a unique place to visit, but if skeleton’s are not your thing this is probably something to skip.  There wasn’t anything stomach turning inside, but sometimes skeletons are just creepy.  The museum had a huge selection of skeletons and lots of information about them and how they are collected, and displayed.  If you are looking for something different while your on I-Drive make sure to check this place out.

Sea Life Aquarium – Orlando, FL

Continuing my day at the I-Drive 360 area I had just finished up with Madame Tussauds and had a few other places I could check out.  There was a small kiosk that would let me experience a 7-D attraction.  I have no real idea what that means, but the people seemed on the ride as I went by seemed to be screaming pretty loudly so I decided to keep moving.  All the way on the other side of the lobby was something more my speed.

The Sea Life Aquarium was tucked into the back corner of the building but don’t let the little store front deceive you this place was pretty big inside and had a lot of exhibits.

A nice little feature they had was tank just outside by the ticket window.  This way the kids had something to look at while you wait in line to buy the tickets.  The entrance fee was very reasonable and I always like to think most of it is going to help feed and take care of the sea creatures.

The exhibits throughout range from Amazon fish, to local creatures found just off the Florida shores.

The tanks appeared to be all well-kept and clean, plus the fish were of all shades of colors which are just beautiful to look at.  There is something mesmerizing about watching fish swim lazily around a tank.

There were also some larger tanks for bigger sea creatures include sharks, rays and sea turtles.

Another unique part of this aquarium is a large tunnel you walk through with the fish swimming all around you.  This can be found in many other aquariums but this one is different in that the floor below your feet is also clear, making is appear like you are actually in the tank surrounded by marine life.

Another cool thing was a touch tank with some star fish, and other small sea animals that you can gently touch.  There is a staff member always nearby to help ensure the animals aren’t harmed, and I must say that is a constant battle as some of the children do get kind of rough with the poor creatures.

After finishing up all the areas of the aquarium I found myself back in another gift shop with the usual plush animals, t-shirts and things I just really don’t have room for anymore.  But in the area over near the cooler filled with soda and bottles of water was something I always have time and space for.

This four design hand crank machine has a nice cabinet decorated with sharks and a pretty blue color of the ocean.  You can kind of see it to the left of the machine but there is a change maker right beside it should you not come prepared with coins to press.

The set of pennies included The Touch Tank, Jelly Fish, an Electric Eel, and a Shark.  These designs are similar to other aquariums but I guess that’s to be expected with the most popular creatures always being available.  To make these a little more unique all the coins do include the Sea Life Aquarium logo.

I’ve definitely been in larger aquariums but this is kind of a greatest hits place.  It’s not too large but not tiny either.  It took about an hour or so to go through the entire thing and really spend some time at each exhibit.  With my pennies pressed I was off to check out another museum of sorts that I had never experienced before.

Madame Tussauds – Orlando, FL

A year and a half ago I visited my very first Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in New York and was both intrigued by it and creeped out at the same time.  You can read out it here.  After moving down to the Orlando area my family has spent most weekend over at the Disney parks as we just feel like we are on vacation.  But as I truly hate to say this, after a while we wanted to do something else (gasp!).

One weekend I had dropped my mother in law off at the Florida Mall so she could get out of the house and do some shopping.  I had already exhausted that mall and wasn’t interesting in spending more time in there.  Instead I headed over towards International Drive and hit the jackpot.  From a distance I could see this huge ferris wheel type attraction and that just drew me towards it.  It’s known as the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye but more on that in another post as that was the finally to this little side adventure.  This road side attraction area was called the I Drive 360.

After parking in the lot (free parking by the way) I entered the building and came into a huge lobby type area with quite the assortment of things to do.  I first came across Madame Tussauds near the entrance so that’s what I headed into first.

Of course there is an entrance fee but they do have a free wax celebrity outside that you can pose with for free.  I couldn’t resist the draw of this place so I paid for a ticket and headed in.  There are the standard figures of Presidents and historical figures, but this location had a few I didn’t find in New York which I guess is due to their Florida connection.

The lady of honor herself, Madame Tussaud in the process of creating a wax figure.

Stephen Spielberg, I’m guess due to his relationship with Universal Studios?!?!  Sure sounds good to me.

Steve Jobs.  Now this could be due to his popularity with many Apple fans, but I liked to think it was due to his contribution with starting Pixar Animation.

Of course how could they not include Walt Disney.  This was a very busy figure with lots of people crowding around to get a selfie.  It was very cool to see a lot of different celebrities from the one I visited in New York.  As with the other location once I was done with the exhibits I found myself in the gift shop.  I figured I had spent enough money on the entrance ticket that I didn’t need any souvenirs but did spot one that was inexpensive and right up my alley.

Thankfully I always come with a pocket full of change for just these types of situations.  There were four designs available in this hand crank machine.

The pennies pressed nicely and had images of Madame Tussauds Orlando, an Astronaut, Orlando U.S.A., and a Movie Clapperboard.  All the designs did have the Madame Tussauds logo and I always like when these attraction chains have the city on the coins.  It helps make each set of coins a little unique, and fun to collect each location.

Now I will let you know that this machine is available just outside the gift shop so you do not need to pay the admission cost to use the machine.  But if you have the time I would recommend it as it’s a unique experience and a fun way to make your friends jealous of the celebrity sightings you had on your vacation.

Valley Forge National Historical Park – Valley Forge, PA

One day this past weekend I was out running errands with my youngest daughter Melody.  She had been a little cranky and in-between stops she fell asleep and I knew that I had to do whatever I could to ensure she got a nice long nap.  I just started driving and eventually found myself on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  I really was just trying to find someplace nearby that I could set the cruise control and not be stopping at a red light every one hundred yards.  Since I was heading out towards King of Prussia I knew that the Valley Forge park was nearby and was always on my to-do list.  As I get older I find myself more and more interested in American History (where you when I was in high school).  You can check out a previous visit to Gettysburg, PA here (Part 1 and Part 2).  As luck would have it just as I was pulling into the parking area Melody woke up and seemed ready to stretch her legs a bit, and what better place than a park.

Valley Forge was the camp where the American Continental Army spent the winter of 1777-78 during the American Revolutionary War.  More than 2,500 American soldiers perished here due to starvation, disease, and exposure to the harsh winter.

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I’m no historian so I won’t go into much more detail about what happened at Valley Forge since I will most likely quote something incorrectly.  Instead be sure to stop by the Historical park and check out the visitor center.

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I will say it’s always nice to be greeted upon arrival by the great General George Washington.

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There are some very detailed exhibits throughout the Visitor Center museum detailing what Valley Forge.  What the conditions were like, how the soldiers spent their down time, living conditions and more.

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There was also an interesting collection of weapons on display and detailed descriptions of each.  If you take your time visiting each exhibit you could easily spend an afternoon here, but there are many other places to see and things to do.  There is also a theatre showing a movie about the events at Valley Forge.  It’s not long only about 20 minutes or so but well worth the price of admission (did I mention this is all free? yup free).  After we finished checking everything out we headed back down to the main area of the visitor center for their gift shop.

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Named the Encampment Store there is plenty of T-shirts, Christmas ornaments, shot glasses and books just like you would find in most of these little shops.  Over to one side of the store I came across one of the other reasons I had always wanted to visit this park.

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It just wouldn’t be a weekend trip without coming across a penny machine somewhere. My family always laughs when I try to play it off like I didn’t know the machine was here.  Ahh they know me all too well.

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The designs available here include The National Memorial Arch, a Revolutionary Cannon, America’s First Army, and Dogwoods.

I would have loved to spend even more time here, and we didn’t get to wonder around the park.  The wind was really making it hard to stay outside for too long and as I saw Melody’s cheeks getting red I knew she was ready to head back to our car.  Hopefully I’ll get back here in the near future when it’s a little warmer so I can really experience all there is.  Be sure to stop by and get a bit of a history lesson, a nice walk through the park and of course don’t forget to press a set of pennies before you go.

The Franklin Institute 2016 – Philadelphia, PA

On a recent weekend trip into Philadelphia with my daughter we decided to go check out The Franklin Institute.  We had visited this museum a year or so ago and my daughter really enjoyed all the interactive exhibits and of course all the other kids running around.  I have always likes science museums and this is really one of the best ones I’ve ever been to.  Plus they are notorious for having quite a few penny press machines, and was one of the first 8-design touch screen machine I had used (click here to read all about it).

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Hanna and I did explore the entire museum, but just so you know most of the machines can actually be accessed right in the main Atrium shown above with no admission required (but if you park in their garage there is a fee).  Now I know I have a habit of calling these penny press machines which in most situations is correct, but more and more machines have been made available where the supply a coin like token instead.  So technically these machines were token presses but they work exactly the same.

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The first machine was located right by the elevators that take you down to the parking garage below the museum.  This machine had four designs and each were $1.

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The designs on this first set included the Liberty Bell, City of Brotherly Love Philadelphia, I Heart The Franklin Institute, and Fels Planetarium.

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Just a few feet away was the second machine sitting right beside the Information Desk.  These designs were also $1 each.

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The images available in this set: The Train Factory, The Franklin Institute Science Museum, Our Carbon Footprint, and the Philadelphia Phillies logo.

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The next machine is situated in great location just outside the Restrooms.  I’m not sure why places put the machines here (seems very common) but I guess it’s to guarantee foot traffic.  These were also $1 each.

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The designs on this set included the Joel M Bloom Observatory, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Isaac’s Loft and the Air Show.

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I know I gave a link about this 8-Design machine above but couldn’t help including it in this post as well.  Please note that this machine is no longer near the Pendulum Staircase (which required admission), it is now located near the Restrooms (yay!) as well (no admission required).

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I really do like these new machines and I couldn’t resist pressing another set.  It does take cash, credit or Apple Pay which is what I used and it worked perfectly.

As a recap this museum really is a great place to visit and an easy way to spend an afternoon with your kids (or just by yourself).  The exhibits are fantastic, the special exhibits are even better, plus you can press 20 new tokens all within a 100 foot radius.