Hanna’s Minnie Mouse Birthday Party

My daughter Hanna celebrated her 3rd birthday just the other day and this weekend we held her party.  With our recent trip to Walt Disney World earlier this year Hanna has become obsessed with Minnie Mouse.  Which ended up being great for us as it immediately became the theme of her party.

Hanna 3rd Birthday

Our house was decorated up in pink bows, and there were cookies shaped like bows and the classic Mickey silhouette for the kids to decorate.  It was a great party but very exhausting by the time everyone went home and we finished cleaning up.

After everything was done I wanted to post something about her party and I wish I could say I commissioned a penny machine just for her party but sadly it wasn’t in the budget this year but it’s on my to-do list for a future birthday.  Instead I used this as an excuse to go through my collection and post some Minnie Mouse designs that I have acquired over the years.  To my surprise there really are not a whole lot of designs.  I didn’t want to inundate with you every single one but I picked out a few of my favorites.

Quick side note, I wanted to thank Parkpennies.com and Presscoins.com for their fantastic websites that are invaluable resources and helped with some of the details on these coins.

DL Adventureland Bazaar

First up we will travel to Anaheim California.  The above design was available in the Disneyland park in Adventureland at Rajan’s Mint.  This design has Minnie in what is referred to online as a “Shy Pose”.  It was first made available in 2006 and eventually retired in 2012.

MK Emporium 2005

After that quick trip to the west coast we now head down to Florida to check out some designs from Walt Disney World.  The above design was a pressed quarter I picked up on a trip in 2005.  This was the year the resort had their “Happiest Celebration on Earth” going on.  This design was available in the Magic Kingdom at the Emporium located on Main Street.

DTD Cap N Jack Retired

Above is a pressed pennies with classic Minnie’s face only.  This design was originally available at Cap’n Jack’s Restaurant located in Downtown Disney.  It was first moved in 2013 for the very beginning of the Disney Springs changes.  Then in 2014 it was relocated in Hollywood Studios at the Prop Shop.  In January 2015 this machine then moved again to the Fort Wilderness Campground at the Settlement Trading Post by the marina where it is currently still available.

RST All Star Sports

Over at the All-Star Sports Resort the above design is also currently on-stage and available.  It has Minnie on Roller Skates which I thought was kind of cute.  This resort actually has 4 machines in total available outside the Game Point Arcade which is across from the End Zone Food Court.

MK Tom Sawyer Exit

This design has Minnie dressed up like a Cowgirl.  It’s available in a machine located in Frontierland near the Tom Sawyer Island exit also close to Big Thunder Mountain.  This machine was first available in 2011, was temporarily moved to the Country Bear Jamboree porch in 2012.  As of 2015 this machine has been located at the Frontier Trading Post.

HS Prop Shop 2015

I thought I would end with a recent addition to my collection which I got earlier this year.  It is part of the annual design set that lists the year 2015 and has Minnie clasping her hands together.  This design is located in Hollywood Studios at the Prop Shop but not for too much longer with the end of the year quickly approaching.

As I mentioned above this is just a sampling of the pressed coins that have been available with a Minnie design.  If you’re interested in finding out more be sure to check out the above links I included for Parkpennies.com and Presscoins.com as they will have a much more comprehensive list.  These were a few I found and wanted to share since I was still in the Minnie Mouse mode from Hanna’s birthday party.  I know Hanna had a great birthday and will be curious to see what theme she requests next year.

Absecon Lighthouse – Atlantic City, NJ

I have a bit of a confession I’m obsessed with Lighthouses.  I’m not really sure why as I have an extreme fear of heights but always insist of walking up the twisted staircases to look out the top.  Luckily being on the east cost we have quite a few lighthouses up and down the state and I’m pretty sure I’ve visited them all at least twice.  They are just so beautiful to look at and learning about their history is equally as entertaining.

This past weekend we were near Atlantic City and had no plans to visit a casino but instead we decided to visit the Absecon Lighthouse which is located at the north end of AC.  It’s located at Vermont and Pacific Avenues, and standing at 171 feet (52m) it is the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey.

Absecon Lighthouse 01

The lighthouse was initially lit on January 15, 1857 and was eventually deactivated in 1933.  Currently the keeper’s quarters has been recreated and is now serves as a museum and gift shop.

Absecon Lighthouse 02

You can climb to the top of the lighthouse for a small donation which is well worth it as long as you don’t mind the long climb up.  Once as the top there is a cage around the perimeter to keep you from falling over.  However I always keep a death grip on these bars for my own piece of mind and to try to avoid any vertigo.

Absecon Lighthouse 03

At the top you do get a beautiful view of Atlantic City, all the casinos and the Absecon.  It does get very windy up there with makes talking with anyone a little difficult, but once you see the view you won’t be too interested in talking.

Back down on solid group we checked out the museum which does have a lot of amazing old pictures and new articles about the lighthouse, the keepers and ocean life.  There is also a lighthouse lens exhibit located in the original oil house.  Right beside the main front door of the museum is a single-die penny machine.

NJ - Absecon Lighthouse

To press the penny the machine does need 3 quarters which is a little more than most machines.  The design as you might have guessed is of the Absecon Lighthouse with some pretty nice detail.

Absecon Lighthouse Penny

This would normally have been a long trip for us to get just one penny all though I must admit I have driven further for one.  But we were in the area and whenever I can get up close and personal with a lighthouse I don’t hesitate too much.  For anyone interested in lighthouses this is another great place to visit.

Turtle Back Zoo – West Orange, NJ

Another weekend came and went and we decided to visit yet another zoo that was located up in northern part of the state.  Turtle Back Zoo is located in South Orange, NJ and was founded in 1963.  Initially it was setup to display animals indigenous to New Jersey, but currently has species from almost every continent on the planet and houses over 700 animals in total.

Turtle Back Zoo Logo

We are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums through our annual pass with the Philadelphia Zoo so our admission was free.  This is a nice tip if you like visiting zoos as you get to access a lot of zoos nationwide for one membership price.  This zoo really is great and has a wide variety of animals to see and activities to participant with.  One of the first activities we came across were pony rides which Hanna has never done before.  We weren’t sure how she would handle it especially since my wife and I weren’t allowed in with her and had to watch from the sidelines, but she absolutely loved it.  Oh and a pony has now jumped to the top of her birthday gift list.

TBZ Pony Ride

Another cool exhibit they had was a walk through bird sanctuary with all kinds of birds flying around you as you pass through.  You can even buy little sticks that have birdseed on them to feed the birds.

TBZ Bird Feeding

Did you noticed the Canada Eh! shirt above?  That was picked up on our recent trip back to Canada for our annual family reunion and a stop over in Cooperstown to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.  You can check out the post here to read about some penny machines I picked up along the way.

We did see all your usual animals and reptiles along the way.  They have a great little aquarium with a touch tank that you can pet some small stingrays and even a few sharks.  Below is a picture of Hanna attempting to touch one of the Rays.

TBZ Touch Tank

We also came across a couple porcupines which usually aren’t too active and these were no different.  However the one did flop down on the ground and stretched out his (or her) back legs which was really cute and you can see in the picture below.

TBZ Porcupine

After a quick break for some ice cream we checked out the Komodo Dragon exhibit which is located right beside the main Gift Shop.  We stopped in to check out the usual assortment of stuffed animals and t-shirts.

TBZ Gift Shop

In between the gift shop and the main admission ticket window there is a small hallway connecting the two.  In this area we found the one penny machine available at the zoo.

NJ - Turtle Back Zoo 2015 Machine 01

I had visited this zoo a few years ago to collect the pennies which was a different machine at that time.  This new machine apparently is new for this year.  Here’s a close up of the design marquee signage.

NJ - Turtle Back Zoo 2015 Machine 01a

I grabbed my usual stash of coins I keep on hand in case I come across a new machine and pressed all four designs.  They came out great, and the machine worked perfectly.

NJ - Turtle Back Zoo Pennies

The four designs include: a large Tortoise, a Komodo Dragon, Two Red Pandas, and a Giraffe.  With the new pennies safely stored away in my pocket we started to head towards the last attraction on our list.

TBZ Carousel

Hanna’s obsession (other than the most recent pony obsession) are carousels.  This worked our perfectly as the carousel was on our way back out towards the exit.  Instead of the usual Horses to ride this one had all different types of exotic animals.  Hanna was torn between a few choices but ended up picking the Polar Bear.  After our ride we headed to our car and made the trip back hope.

This was another great day trip and I must say this zoo has definitely expanded since the last time I was here.  New animals, new rides and best of all a new penny machine.

Petro Truck Stop – Bordentown, NJ

My earliest memories of collecting pressed pennies goes way back to when I was a kid.  It started during a family trip to Walt Disney World and my grandfather initially gave me a few coins and showed me how to use one of the machines in the Magic Kingdom and I was hooked.  I remember bringing those first few pressed pennies to school for show and tell, and they were always stored safely in my little leather cowboy themed wallet I had during my childhood.

Cowboy Wallet

We moved a few times and it always seemed that when I was unpacking at our new house I would find that wallet and my pressed coins would still be in the change compartment.  Unfortunately over the years, tried as I might I can’t find the wallet anymore.  Now that I’m more of a serious collector I’m kind of sad that I can’t find these original coins as I would love to see what designs I had collected way back way.

After those initial coins once I got a little older, went through high school, then college and eventually started my career there were quite a few years where I can completely forgotten about the hobby I loved so much as a kid.  Then during one trip back to Walt Disney World in Florida as an adult it all came flooding back to me.  As with any trip to Disney there is always a lot of walking and I found it annoying to constantly have a pocket full of change that seemed to grow larger each day.  So each night when we got back to our room we would unload all the loose change into a bowl that was located on the clothes bureau.  I’m not sure what we through was going to happen to it but figured we would decide how to handle it before we left.  Then as the last full day of our trip arrived we headed downstairs to the quick service restaurant for breakfast and I saw a penny machine.  That’s when it all came back, and immediately knew what I could do with all our extra change.  That entire day we spend running around the Magic Kingdom pressing as many coins as we could before we had to head home.  On one of the last machines we used there was sign that would change this casual hobby to an obsession.

PennyCollector Sticker

At first I didn’t realize what a gold mine this website would become.  But when I saw it I took a picture so I wouldn’t forget and filed it away until we got back home.  Days later once we started going through all our pictures I came across this one and reminded me about the website I wanted to check out.  It only took a few seconds for the page to load in my web browser, but I was on the site all night.  I had always assumed that pressed penny machines were only available in Disney and didn’t realize they were everywhere.   Suddenly I knew what every free weekend moving forward was going to include trips all over the state.  The problem was where do I start, and the collecting itch had already begun so I needed to make it close by and as soon as possible.  The closes machine ended up being at a Petro Truck Stop that was about 10 minutes from my apartment at the time.  The following day I made a special trip over and was not let down.  Over by the restroom area was my first non-Disney pressed penny machine.

Petro Truck Stop - 01

After fumbling out some change I had in my pocket I pressed the coins.  This was before my current pre-planning preparation, and the pennies were nothing special just ones I had lying around.  It’s always interesting the longer you stick with a hobby the more specific you get about your process and the materials you use.  The pennies pressed with no major issue (other than the dirty coins) and there was no looking back from here.

Petro Truck Stop Pennies

Above are the actually first set of coins I pressed at this Truck Stop and you can see they are far from perfect, but they were always a special set for me as they really are the ones that started my new collection.

It took a little over a year or so to collect every known pressed penny design listed for the entire State of New Jersey.  What’s great about the hobby is that these machines are constantly coming and going, or changing so you never get much rest.  As I mentioned earlier when I first started getting these coins I was never too concerned with the types of pennies I used or their over all condition.  In more recent years this has changed and I’ve been using this blog as an opportunity to revisit a lot of these locations to get new sets of all the coins.

Just today I was out for a drive with my daughter Hanna and she was asking for ice cream from the back seat.  I was around the Bordentown area and remembered that the Petro Truck Stop was still a machine I hadn’t gone back to visit since the very first trip.  Even thought it was still only a few minutes from our house I completely overlooked it.  This seemed like a perfect opportunity to get a new set of pennies and also satisfy Hanna’s craving for strawberry ice cream.

Petro Sign

The Truck Stop is located on Rising Sun Road between Route 206 and Route 130.  Depending on when you visit this place can either be extremely busy with truckers stopping in for a bathroom break or some food at the Iron Skillet.

Petro Iron Skillet

After parking the car we headed inside and picked up our ice cream at the little stand outside the Iron Skillet.  With melting ice cream in hand we then headed back towards the restroom area where the machine was originally located, but it’s wasn’t there.  This place isn’t very big so it only took us a few minutes to walk around every inch of the place but still couldn’t find the machine.  I asked a couple of people that worked there about it and they didn’t know anything about it.  So it seems this machine must have been removed quite awhile ago.

I apologize for taking you through this entire story only to let you know the machine is no longer available.  The little side trip just got me thinking about where it had all began for me and I felt the need to tell the tale.  The good news is that the designs are similar to many you can get along the New Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway so they aren’t really unique in any way.  For me however they will always hold a special place in my collection as where it all began.

Lucy the Elephant – Margate, NJ

I have lived in New Jersey for almost 20 years and only now have I been able to go and meet Lucy the Elephant.  But not just meet her, I was also able to climb inside her and check out a museum dedicated to her.  Confused yet?  That’s okay I’ll explain before you call the ASPCA on me.  This is one of those famous landmarks in New Jersey that you hear about but is kind of out of the way and not always top on the priority list.  It’s about 2 miles outside of Atlantic City which I visit a few times year but I’m usually in a rush to get to the casino or in a rush to get the heck out of there.  This time however I set our GPS directly to Lucy’s coordinates so we could check her out.

Lucy Elephant

As I mentioned above Lucy is located in Margate New Jersey which is only a few minutes outside Atlantic City.  She is a six-story tall elephant that was originally constructed in 1881 in an effort to sell real estate in the area, and also attract tourists.  There are guided tours you can take that will review Lucy’s amazing history, and will also take you inside her structure.

Inside Lucy Elephant

On the ground floor there is a gift shop which can be accessed without paying the admission to enter Lucy or take the guided tour.  Inside the gift shop as you might have guessed there is a penny machine.  These were designs that I have had on my to-do list for years and was only finally able to acquire.

Lucy the Elephant Machine

The machine was working great, unfortunately the gift shop is a little small and if there are more than a handful of people inside it can make moving around a little difficult.  Eventually I was able to make may way over to the machine and press the coins.

Lucy Margate Elephant

There were four designs available: Lucy the Elephant, Ocean City NJ, NJ Beaches and Battleship New Jersey.  I’m not really sure why the Battleship design was available here since it’s actually located in Camden, NJ about an hour away from Ocean City, but in any case it is a nice design.

The visit overall didn’t take too long, in all honesty it took much longer to get there than it did to enjoy the attraction.  But it was still cool to finally see Lucy up close and in person.  So if you find yourself in Atlantic City having a run of bad luck in the Casino take a quick trip over to see Lucy, press some new pennies and maybe your luck will change.

Labor Day Weekend – Cape May, NJ

Labor Day weekend has finally arrived.  The schools buses started to show up on the streets this past week adding to the local traffic, and making us daydream of the nice easy summer commutes to work we enjoyed just a short time ago.  Our daughter Hanna isn’t in school yet, but it felt like the last summer weekend anyways so we decided to take another trip.  This time all the way down to the southern most point of Jersey known as Cape May.

welcome cape may

Cape May is really a beautiful place, with a lot of things to do.  My wife an I stayed here a few years ago for a long weekend and it was really relaxing.  Being so far south there isn’t a lot of traffic from the New York crowds, so this is really a Jersey beach with some people cover over from Delaware on the Ferry (but we’ll go over this a little later).

Our first stop was the Cape May County Park & Zoo which is actually located about 15 minutes outside of Cape May.  Admission is free, but they do accept donations which I would highly recommend.

Cape May Zoo Entrance

Even though the zoo is free this is a really nice place.  There are lots of different animals from all over the world.  The employee’s that work here are all very knowledgable and very friendly.  As soon as we entered the zoo I found our first penny machine.

Cape May Zoo Machine 01

The cabinet for the machine was in great condition and I’m sure helps with all the difference weather through the seasons as the zoo is open year round.  You may notice as I did that the sign at the bottom listed this a Machine 2, so I knew I had to keep my eyes open for at least one other machine.

Cape May Zoo Pennies 01

Just like every zoo I have visited and collected pressed coins for these designs were of animals they had on display.  These included: A Leaping Tiger, Large Tortoise, A Pig, and an American Eagle.  With coins in hand we continued to check out the zoo, petting some farm animals, watching some of the more exotic ones getting fed, and they also had nice play structure for the kids to climb and play on.  Eventually we made it over to the Reptile House which I will say is not one of my favorites but at the same time can’t resist getting up close and personal with them.  Right outside the Reptile House was the second (or technically first) machine.

Cape May Zoo Machine 02

I always come prepared, but there was a change machine located here as well in case you’re in need.  My experience is that these change machines are usually out-of-order more often that the penny machines.  My advise is always bring enough change for the machines you had planned to used, and then also bring a few extra sets of coins just in case of emergency.  You never know when the machine may have a bad roll, or you come across another machine you didn’t know was there.

Cape May Zoo Pennies 02

These coins pressed without any issue.  The four designs are: A Ring-tailed Lemur, A Boa Constrictor, and American Bison, and a Giraffe.  On the subject of the Giraffe there is part of this zoo where you walk along a wooden platform through the woods that seems to go on forever, but  trust me it’s work the walk.

cm zoo africa

Above is an actual picture of the walkway.  You eventually come out to one of the most amazing exhibits I’ve ever seen to view Giraffes, Zebra and some other African animals.  You are on a raised platform that is maybe 6-7 feet in the air and it gives you a really nice vantage point to view the animals up close.

After the African exhibit we made our way back through the zoo towards the exit.  We jumped in our car and headed into Cape May.  It’s filled with beautifully restored Victorian houses, and there is a lot of history here.  On a previous trip my wife and I took a horse and buggy ride around town and the driver was a wealth of historical information that was really amazing.  As we drove around we eventually came to our next stop the Cape May Lighthouse.

Cape May Lighthouse 02

The Lighthouse was built in 1859 and is 157 feet 6 inches tall.  It has 217 steps which for a small fee will take you up to the very top.  We didn’t make the trip up to the top, but have before.  It’s quite a work out and not for anyone that is afraid of heights.  As with every lighthouse the view from the top is gorgeous and will take your breath away.

Cape May Lighthouse Machine 01

This visit though was just to use the brand new 4 design penny machine that had just been put on display.  There used to be a one-die version that was here for years, but that has since been replaced with this beauty.  No admission is required to use the penny machine.  It’s located at the bottom of the stairs across from the information desk.

Cape May Lighthouse Pennies

The 4 designs are all Cape May inspired: Cape May Lighthouse 1859, Cape May Point State Park, World War II Lookout tower Sunset Beach, and a Horseshoe Crab.  Have you ever seen a Horseshoe Crab?  They are weird but really amazing little creatures.  Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ has some on display that you can touch, and the handlers will also flip them over so you can see what they look like under their armor.

Back in the car for another short trip over to the Cape May – Lewes Ferry Terminal.  This is pretty self-explanatory there are ferry’s that will take you from Cape May New Jersey across to Lewes Delaware and vise versa.  On our trip last year to Washington DC we took the Ferry back to Jersey from Delaware.  It was about an hour or so trip, and you just drive you car right onboard and then walk up to the passenger areas where you can stand out on desk with the sea breeze in your face, or you can enjoy a snack at the concession stand and sit inside.

Cape May Ferry Building 02

There is no cost to park here, however when you are entering if you are only visiting to use the penny machines make sure you use the lanes for dropping off passengers.  Otherwise you may get stuck in the lanes to board the Ferry.  As soon as you walk inside there is a gift shop to the right and the last penny machine of the day was located just outside.

Cape May Ferry Machine 01

I pressed the four designs which were of: The Cape May Lighthouse, Cape May-Lewes Ferry, A Victorian House, and Dolphins at the Jersey Shore.

Cape May Ferry 1

As my family took a much needed bathroom break I roamed around the terminal looking for a second machine.  On my previous visit there were two machines located here but I couldn’t find it.  After coming back home I did some research online and it appears that from time to time the machines will board one of the ferries.  Now I can’t say for sure this is where it is, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it’s true.  As a flash back I posted a picture of the second machine below.

Cape May Ferry Terminal 2

Just as a reminder the above picture was taken about 3 years ago.  At that time the machine worked great and pressed the 4 designs without any issue.

Cape May Ferry 2

The 4 designs I pressed at that time were: Cape May – Lewes Ferry, Cape Henlopen Lighthouse, Delaware The 1st State, and My Lucky Penny Lewes Delaware.

We grabbed from snacks and drinks for our 2 hours drive back home.  It had been a nice day to spend outside with the family.  We avoided the beach as they are always crazy over Labor Day weekend.  It’s sad to know the summer has come to and end.  As a penny collector this is always the time of year when the most collecting can get done.  During the winter months I try to visit some indoor attractions to get pennies, but most of the time I’m scouring eBay for coins to fill in the gaps of my collection.

The weather is still warm, and the sun is shining bright so maybe we will still be able to fit some other coin pressing trips in before the dreaded snow arrives.

Clara Barton Service Area – NJ Turnpike

As the summer comes to and end we have been taking a lot of little trips all over the state to enjoy the warm weather while it lasts.  I’ve mentioned this in the past, that if you need to go really far north or really far south the Turnpike is the quickest way to go, but all the pot holes and massive amounts of traffic can really test once patience.

This past weekend we were visiting some family and ended up on the New Jersey Turnpike.  I took the opportunity to check out another Service Area that was along the way to see how the penny machine was working, and whether the designs had changed (wishful thinking).  The Clara Barton service area is located on the Southbound side of the turnpike located between Exits 1 and 2 in Oldmans Township around mile marker 5.4 (in case you really wanted specifics).

NJ - Clara Barton Sign 2

I ran inside and found the machine located near the restroom area which also makes them a prime place for people to lean on.  There was a gentleman making sure that in case gravity gave out he would ensure the penny machine stayed safely grounded.  I approached and nicely asked to use the machine and he moved aside slightly as I took my pictures and pressed a new set of coins.

NJ - Clara Barton 01

According to my records these designs are the same ones that have been here for the past few years.  I wouldn’t anticipate these changing anytime soon as they are similar to almost every other rest stop in the northeast (except in Maryland but that’ll be for another time).

NJ - Clara Barton 01 Pennies

The machine rolled the pennies very smoothly which is also unique for these machines.  Usually they are pretty tough to crank and you need a lot of elbow grease.  The designs include: I Love You, My Lucky Penny with a Shamrock, The Lords Prayer, and a Unicorn with a leash?!? Maybe a princess necklace.  Who knows, I remember seeing this design a few years ago and being puzzled by it then as well.

With the fresh pressed pennies in my pocket I grabbed a Cinnabon and a frappuccino from Starbucks coffee before getting back in my car and finishing our trip. It’s nice to be able to crank out a few pennies to relieve some aggression when you’ve been sitting in Turnpike traffic for a few hours.

Rainforest Cafe at Menlo Park Mall – Edison, NJ

I’ll admit I have a soft spot for themed family restaurants.  That may be why I love almost every restaurant in Disney World.  I also luck out by having New York City and Philadelphia so close by that they also have quite a few of these, Gump & Co, and the Jekyll & Hyde Club are just a couple I can think of.  I’m no foodie but as long as the atmosphere is fun, service good and the food at least edible I’ll give the place a chance.  Once of my all time favorites is the Rainforest Cafe chain.

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I remember the first time visiting one of these as a teenager and just being blown away, and I think that initial experience stuck with me that I keep going back whenever I can.  We used to have quite a few of these nearby but over the years they have been slowly closing up.  There is one in Atlantic City that I visited earlier this year and posted about, but this time I visited the only other location in Jersey which is located at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison.

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The fun begins as soon as you walk up to the restaurant.  Even if you  There is front desk to check in and “Start you adventure”, and in the event you need to wait for your table, not to worry there is a nice big gift store filled with all sorts of things your kids will beg you for.

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Right next to the gift shop is a very nice bar with all sorts of Rainforest-y inspired drinks both alcoholic and non.  The animal themes even continue in here, I mean who wouldn’t want to sit on one of those chairs.  Not much lumbar support but you should be leaning forward enjoying your drink anyways so no biggie.

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We eventually made it to our table in the middle of the jungle and Hanna was immediately given a special Cha-Cha piece of headwear to put on.  Cha-Cha is one of the Rainforest Cafe mascots and I believe is some type of tree frog.

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As you wait for your food there is a lot of things to look at.  Luckily when we went it was early so there weren’t too many people there and we were able to wander around without intruding on anyone’s lunch.

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There are some animatronic Elephants, Butterflies, and even some Gorillas that come to life periodically and keep things interesting.  Every 30 minutes or so there is even a thunderstorm that really gets the animals riled up.

Lunch eventually showed up and everyone enjoyed their entrée.  When we were done Hanna asked for one last tour around to say goodbye to all the animals.  Then we headed back out to the gift shop area.  Just like every other Rainforest Cafe location I have ever visited they have a penny machine.  One really cool thing about their machines are that the designs always includes the location of the restaurant.  This makes a cool subset of coins that can be collected as you check out all their different locations across the country.  Plus they take up a lot less room than the souvenir glasses they always try to get you to buy.

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The machine worked really smoothly and pressed the designs nicely.  There were some children nearby that immediately ran over when I started using the machine.  They wanted to asked questions and I walked them through what the machine was doing and showed them the final products.  They seemed impressed and ran off no doubt to ask their parents for some extra change.

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The designs include: Bamba the Gorilla, NJ Turnpike, Cha-Cha the Frog, and Nile the Crocodile.  You can also get Rainforest Cafe penny booklets in the gift shop.

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This location only had the Second Edition available, but I have seen the First Edition available from time to time you just have to keep looking.

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Here’s a close up of the special penny available on the Second Edition booklet.  It has three of the Rainforest Cafe characters: Tuki the Elephant, Cha-Cha the Tree Frog, and Rio the Macaw.

Here’s a little secret.  I can’t guarantee this is even still available but a few years ago when I visited this location to use the penny machine I also bought the penny booklet.  While at the register paying for the booklet the cashier asked if I collected pressed pennies.  I told her I did and she pulled out a bag from under the counter and offered me a special gift.

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The Rainforest Cafe used to have a Safari Club that you could join and accumulate points with each meal that would be used to pay for future appetizers and other things.  This was a special pressed penny they would give to anyone that signed up for the Safari Club.  The cashier didn’t make me sign up for the club (although I probably would have if needed to get the coin), I was truly grateful to her for offering this to me.

I have talked with other collects and not many people seemed to know about this coin.  I still don’t know if all their locations offered this at some point, or if you can even still get it.  I have asked from time to time hoping to try and get another one, but I always get a confused look from the employee so I think this may not be available anymore.  But it doesn’t hurt to ask, and don’t be afraid to tell people you collect pressed coins, you never know who may have a special one to give out.  You’ll never know unless you ask.

Insectropolis – Toms River, NJ

Looking for something different to do with the kids?  Well located in Toms River New Jersey is a really neat little place, although some people may find it a bit creepy crawly.  Insectropolis is completely filled with bugs, but in a good way I guess.

Insectropolis 01

The outside doesn’t do this place justice, but as soon as you walk in you are transported into a bug-themed city.  There are thousands of bugs on display both alive and not but beautifully displayed with a lot of detailed information.

Insectropolis Butterflies  Insectropolis Bettles

They do also offer a learning session that also includes the change to touch some unique bugs like large millipedes, beetles and of course a tarantula.  I will be honest I’m not much of a bug person especially spiders so I kept my distance but there were many people much braver (and younger) than I that couldn’t get enough of the bugs.

NJ - Insectopolis Machine 01

After you have had your fill of  bugs there is a penny machine located right inside the main door.  No admission is required to use the machine so if you are squeamish and not up to seeing the bugs you I guarantee you the machine is in a bug free zone.

Insectropolis Pennies

The machine pressed 4 designs.  They did press a little short but the designs still appeared mostly complete.  The designs were: Monarch Butterfly, Ladybird Beetle, Emperor Scorpion, and a Tarantula.

Insectropolis Pennies Back

These pennies are also knows an mules as they also had a back stamp on each coin.  The back stamp listed “Ozane’s bugseum of New Jersey”.  I’m not sure if this was the original name of the place or not but either way still pretty cool.

Whether you’re an entomology fan, or just trying to face your fears (One of these days I’ll touch the Spider…nah who am I kidding) I’m almost positive your kids will love it.  They also offer birthday parties and an overnight sleepover for the truly brave.  Or just run in and press the pennies, I won’t think any less of you as I would probably do the same more often than not.

Camp Taylor Campground – Columbia, NJ

Just the other day I had to take a trip up to northern New Jersey to visit a government building as the next required step in getting my American Citizenship.  For those of you that may not know I’m originally from Canada and relocated to the States almost 20 years ago.  So we figured it was about time to finally take the plunge, but unfortunately it is an extremely slow process.  Anyways, after my appointment to get fingerprinted I had the rest of the day off from work so I figured I would stop by and acquire a new set of pressed pennies from a place I had never been to before.

Camp Taylor 02

Located in Columbia, NJ is a place called Camp Taylor Campground.  This place is located up in the mountains and it did put my car to the test driving up some pretty steep climbs.  But once I arrived I could see why this is a popular place to come and camp.  However one thing did make me a little nervous about potentially camping here in the future.

Camp Taylor 01

It is also home to the Lakota Wolf Preserve.  Unfortunately I didn’t have much time so I couldn’t go and see exactly what it was all about.  From what I read off their webpage they offer guide tours to see wild wolves in their natural habitat.  Hopefully they don’t come too close to the campsites, but I’m sure that has been well planned out in advance.  Anyways, as I pulled in off the main road I parked outside the main store.

Camp Taylor 03

It’s set up almost like an old fashion general store, and I was immediately greater upon entering.  I said I had just stopped in to use the penny machine.  The nice woman there asked if I needed any shiny pennies for the machine which was very generous and something I don’t experience too often when using the machines.  I thanked her but explained I had come prepared with my own.

NJ - Camp Taylor Machine 01

The machine was located right inside the front door of the store.  This place had a lot of stuff for same and wasn’t big on space, but when rolling pennies you don’t need much room.  The machine worked very smoothly which isn’t surprised as I was also told that machine had just recently been services.

NJ - Camp Taylor Pennies

Each coin pressed with a bit of a tail on each one but the designs still appears without too much distortion.  The found designs included: A Camp Site Scene, A Bear, A Wolf Howling in the Woods, and a Wolf Face.

NJ - Camp Taylor Pennies Back

The back of each design had information about the camp.  It said “Camp Taylor Campground Columbia, NJ” and also listed their website www.camptaylor.com.  This was the third campground I have visited that has had a penny machine.  There was of course a few machines in Florida at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, and another near Gettysburg, PA that I will write about at another time.  We used to camp a lot when I was a kid, and now that I have a little one of my own once she’s a little older  I’ll definitely be taking her out of the city to the great outdoors.  Maybe we  can catch a glimpse of some wildlife and you never know maybe another penny machine.