Universal’s Citywalk Reopens during Covid-19

It’s been about two months since we last visited a Theme Park.  The self-quarantine we have been experiencing has gone as well as can be expected, but we do miss our weekend excursions to the parks.  Recently Florida did start Phase 1 of it’s reopening allowing certain restaurants and merchants to open.  Then a surprise announcement was made from Universal Studios that they were going to have a limited opening for Citywalk starting on May 14th.  I was a bit anxious to go and check it out but decided to wait a few days just for them to try and iron out the process before I ventured over there.  This past Saturday I strapped on my mask and headed over to see how they had everything set up and to check on the pressed penny machines.

Currently, Citywalk is only opened from 4pm to 10pm and I headed out around 4 to try and avoid that initial rush of guests entering.  This was probably the only time I was able to go north on I-4 without any traffic and made it to Universal in record time.  Once I got off the highway and towards the parking plaza I noticed that only a few of the lanes were open but no Team Members were there due to Universal stating that parking would be free during this limited opening.

Once inside the parking garage, Team Members were helping to guide you where to park.  Every second parking spot was blocked by a traffic cone to make sure everyone was keeping to the required social distancing guidelines.

There were plenty of signs making sure everyone was aware that the Theme Parks were still closed and only Citywalk was available.

They also had lots of signs around displaying the requirements to enter Citywalk which included having a facial covering on at all times (except when eating or drinking).

Before leaving the parking garage we had to enter a queue for a required temperature screening.  Any guests with a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher were not allowed to enter.  It was a simple process, you just waited on the social distancing markers on the group until your turn to be screened and then a Security Team member had a non-invasive temperature scanner that they aimed at your forehead for a few seconds and then allowed you to pass if your temperature was okay.

After that, we were allowed to head down to the Parking Hub for the security screening.  Before I jumped into that line I wanted to visit the pressed penny machines in this area.  This first set of two machines were in the same location with no changes.

The second set of machines in the Hub is just outside the restrooms in between the souvenir stand and express food stand.  No changes to these machines either.

Security was similar to the process before the initial closure.  They have the x-ray machines that will scan your bags and possessions while you walk through a metal detector.  The only difference was the number of Team Members around trying to ensure everyone was keeping 6ft between parties.  After security, I headed down the last part of the walkway towards Citywalk but opted not to use the moving sidewalks as I was sure my hands would automatically try to touch the handrails which I wanted to avoid.

As I walked up to this main entrance area of Citywalk it was immediately apparent that the crowds were very light.  Universal was limiting the overall capacity to Citywalk and later on, during my visit, there were more people around but was still way less than usual.

Just outside the Movie Theater was the next penny machine.  No changes were made to the machine itself or the designs.

Across from the Movie Theater is the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant and was one of the few places open to eat inside.  Due to the restaurants having to keep capacity of around 25% that doesn’t allow for many guests to be eating at once.  I had read later on that wait times to get a table exceeded 2 hours.

To visit the pressed penny machine inside the restaurant I was asked to enter through their gift shop which had a separate entrance.  There were no changes to this machine.

I continued walking through Citywalk and you can see the sparse crowd above and people were pretty good at keeping themselves distance from each other.

Nearby was the Universal Store and I was interested to see how the distancing would work inside.  There was a queue set up outside in anticipation of the crowds that would try to get inside.  Since this is a smaller store they did need to pulse people inside.

The pressed penny machine was just inside the doors and was the only machine with a hand sanitizer nearby.  Although to be honest I assume this was not solely for the penny machine for all guests exiting the store.

Everyone was doing a good job with following the rules and all seemed to be keeping their masks on.  I only witness one guest with their mask dangling from one ear and not covering his face but he was quickly approved by Security and asked to put it back on properly.

It was nice to have plenty of space around you as everyone kept their distance.  I headed down towards Margaritaville to see how things were going there.

This restaurant had decided to keep the indoor area closed, and were only seating guests at their outdoor patio or across the walkway at the Lone Palm bar.

I headed inside the gift shop just for a quick visit to check on the 8-design touch screen penny machine and it was still available for use.

Toothsome Chocolate Factory was open for business, but the Hard Rock Cafe was not. Due to this, the crowd levels on that side of the waterway was pretty quiet.

It was nice to see that Universal kept the bridges open towards the theme parks for us gluttons that wanted just a quick glimpse of the parks.  Plus I guess it was needed to access the Toothsome restaurant.  But I just couldn’t help myself and wanted a closer look at the parks.

You could walk right up to the main entrance areas for the Islands of Adventure.  I also noticed that the ground was covered with the social distancing stickers.  At least this area of the park looks like it’s ready for business but I’m sure they still have a lot of work to do inside before they will open again.

It was a beautiful day when I visited but it was obvious that our situations had changed and that visiting these places would be very different moving forward.

Down towards Universal Studios, it was a good time to try and get your picture with the Globe.  Usually, this is a heavy traffic area, and getting a nice photo can be a bit of a challenge but not on this day.

Here was the main entrance arch for Universal Studios.  Again this is another area that is usually crowded with people.  But seeing it with no one around and even catching a glimpse inside the park was a little disheartening.

By this time I was getting a little hungry but didn’t want to wait a long time for a table at one of the restaurants.  Instead, I was hit with a craving for a Voodoo donut and thought it would help take the edge off until I got back home.

Plenty more distancing markers were in the queue for Voodoo.  This line as with most of them I sure, seemed long but moved pretty quickly.

The line did go from the front of the building, pass the NBC Grill, and then back into the hallway near the back exit to the Movie Theater and restrooms.  This is where the next two pressed penny machines were found.  Previously these machines were on the opposite wall, but now that the Voodoo Donut line was set up along that wall they had to move the machines.

Once inside you waited in another small queue before heading to the cashier to place your donut order and pay.  They did prefer you paid with a touchless method like a credit card or ApplePay, but I did see them accepting cash from a few people.

Here was my box of donuts.  Unfortunately, they were not all for me, but I did get quite a selection to bring home to my family.

To the right of the Voodoo Donut shop is a series of ramps and stairs that take you up to the second level food court.  None of these tables were blocked off to encourage the distancing and I suppose they were just leaving it up to the guests to stay at a safe distance if eating up here.

I did grab a table for just a few minutes so I could eat my donut.  In the short period I was up here I don’t believe I saw another person so it’s a pretty deserted area even though a few of the food locations here were open.  This is also where the last penny machine was located, hidden in the back near the Sushi stand.

After my donut was finished I walked across the bridge and down past all the clubs and bars.  None of these were open, and due to the limited operating hours of Citywalk (4pm – 10pm) they are all not currently open at all but I’m sure that will change with as we work our way through the additional Phase openings in the next few weeks.

My overall impression after my visit was optimistic.  I think this was a good starting point, but they do have a ways to go before the parks will open.  On a few occasions, I did find myself defaulting back to my Theme Park ways and not realizing I was inadvertently walking too close to someone, or when browsing in the gift shop there was just so little room in there it was hard to keep a proper distance from other guests. The biggest thing I was surprised with was the actual penny machines.  I would have assumed that hand sanitizer would have been attached to each machine or located right nearby so you could clean your hands before and after using the machine.  But this wasn’t the case.  I did ask a Team Member about the penny machines and was told that they were being cleaned on a more frequent schedule.  However, I was at Citywalk this day for about 2-3 hours and didn’t see a single machine get cleaned.  I have sent an inquiry to Universal about this and am awaiting a response which I’ll post if I hear back from them.  Other than that I took this as a nice sign that things are slowly starting to reopen and can’t wait for the day we can visit the parks again, but only if I feel they will be safe enough to enjoy.  With Citywalk opening in this limited capacity for a while, I’m hoping that Universal will continue to tweak their process and have no doubt they will do everything they can to keep their guests safe.

Updated 05/21/2020: Below is the response to the inquiry I had sent Universal’s Guest Services about their process of keeping the Pressed Penny Machines safe to use.


Hello David,

Thank you for contacting Universal Orlando Resort. I apologize for the delay in response, as we are working diligently to assist every Guest reaching out to us.

We do indeed still have penny press machines. Currently, there is one (1) located in our hub security check area prior to entering CityWalk. While I cannot confirm this surface is wiped down after every single touch, it is wiped down with increased frequency by our Park Services team stationed in the area. There are also hand sanitizer stations located within the area and a restroom to wash hands a few feet away. I hope this has answered your questions. If you have any additional questions or concerns, feel free to reach back out. We look forward to seeing you and your family.

Best Regards,
Guest Communication
Universal Orlando Resort

New Marquee on Spider-Man Penny Machine – Islands of Adventure, Orlando FL

This will be a quick post on something I had meant to write about over a year ago and just kind of forgot about it.  It’s not a new machine, or anything really major but something I thought was kind of interesting.

One of my favorite attractions at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks is The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.  It actually took me years before I finally decided to try it.  It seems that as I’ve gotten older I’m a little more adventurous with rides, and I’m glad I finally tried it because it’s really fantastic.

Once you are done with the ride and just like every other theme park you exit into a gift shop, and if you are a Spider-Man fan this is the place for you.  On a quick side note, if you are not a ride person you can still access the shop from outside, it’s located just to the left of the attraction entrance as seen above.

In this gift shop were two penny machines.  One was a 4-design hand crank model, and the other machine was the newer 8-design digital touch screen version.  When I first used the digital machine was back in 2017.  I had then visited Universal numerous times since then and walked past this machine many times without noticing anything different.  Then in 2018, I was working on a video for our YouTube channel documenting all the machines throughout Universal Orlando and something caught my eye.  The machine cabinet was the same but the marquee at the top was different.

   

The picture above is my attempt at a comparison.  On the left is the picture I took in November 2017, and the one on the right is from July 2018.

The designs were still the same inside the machine, and nothing else really had changed just the marquee.  I know the newer marquee design is how most of the machines are displayed now with all the penny designs right at eye level.  Again this was nothing overly exciting but I thought it was interesting that they had taken the time to change this part of the machine.

The Great American Toilet Paper Shortage 2020 – Pressed Pennies

I’m sure we are all starting to get a little cabin fever from our self quarantining, and this current situation we are all experiencing is definitely something to take seriously for our own health, and others around us.  It is a little hard to spend this much time all cooped up inside and is harder for some of us than others.

I did need to venture out the other day to the grocery store for a few items and the highway near our house was completely deserted.

 

Thankfully our house is nicely stocked with a reasonable quantity of toilet paper and paper towels, but when I got to the store those shelves were completely bare.  The stores even had a queue setup that you could wait in, just in case they did get a shipment that day but there was no guarantee.  I picked up the items we did need and headed back to our home.

With all non-essential stores and attractions closed, for now, it’s hard to get my pressed penny fix.  To try and help I have been scouring eBay for coins to help fill in some of my collection gaps.  But more often I’ve been going through the TEC Facebook page and other Pressed Penny related groups or websites.  Among all the different posts from fellow collectors, I did come across a few that put a smile on my face and wanted to share with everyone.

First was on the TEC (The Elongated Collectors) Facebook page which if you aren’t a part of the group you should check it out.  The Facebook page is free and open to anyone even if you are not an official TEC member.  It’s a great way to experience the club and see what other members are posting about the hobby.  Plus there is a lot of trading and buying/selling of coins.  Some of these designs are pretty unique and would be hard to find anywhere else.

One recent post was from Tyler Tyson who is not just a member of TEC but the current Vice President of the club.  He had been working on a light-hearted penny design commemorating the toilet paper shortage.  There were a few different progressions of this design that he posted over a week or so.  He did make these available in a limited quantity to anyone in the group that was interested in for a small fee.  This is another perk of being in the Facebook group as special designs like this will pop up for sale every so often.

Updated:
Shortly after I had posted about the above penny, Tyler offered to the Facebook group a special set of 4 pressed dimes.  Each dime had the progression of the design through each stage ending with the design on the bottom.  He was offering only a small quantity of this set so they are probably no longer available, but as I’ve mentioned it’s a good reason to be a part of the Facebook page for special items like these.

Another group on Facebook I follow and really enjoy is The Penny Depot.  They also have a website and online store where you can buy many of their pressed penny designs.  I’ve written about some of their other designs in the past and have quite a few of their designs in my collection.  They are really detailed and celebrate some special events that you just don’t penny designs for very often.

In a recent post, they had made available another fun design called “The Great American Toilet Paper Shortage 2020”.  As soon as I saw this design I immediately went to their website and ordered one for my collection.

This wasn’t to try and make like of the situation we are in, but I did think we need to look on the lighter side of things from time to time to keep our sanity.  Please be safe and happy collecting!

Universal Studios / Islands of Adventure New Pressed Pennies 2019-2020

Back in 2019 I had visited the Universal Studios Orlando parks around Easter Weekend and noticed that some of the penny machines had stickers on them notating that some of the designs would be retiring.  You can read about that here to catch up.  Then I waited patiently and checked back at the parks about every two weeks waiting for these new designs to appear and it did take a long time.  The last few final pennies didn’t show up until earlier this year, and I’m finally able to share them all with you.

First up was a machine that used to be found out in one of the parking structures and had the Fantastic Four as designs on the pennies.  Those have been retired and now this machine was relocated to the Universal Store in CityWalk.

I really like this set with some fun designs.  They include a class King Kong, and E.T. images, plus a new Jaws designs, and my favorite is the Back to the Future penny with Doc Brown’s DeLorean License plate “Outatime”.

That was the only change out in CityWalk, so we then headed inside Universal Studios Park first as they only had 2 machines with changes.  Just as we walked inside the park we headed into the Universal Studio Store.

This store has 4 machines in total available, but only one of them had received new penny designs.

With this machine, not all of the designs were replaced.  The Kong design stayed which I thought was a bit strange.  The two new designs are of Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon and Mel from the Secret Life of Pets.

Next, we walked over to the San Francisco area of the park and into the Candy Factory.

This machine always had a fun cabinet and fit in nicely with the “Factory” design inside.

I was pleasantly surprised to find another Back to the Future design here with Marty and Doc together, then there was Max from the Secret Life of Pets, and my Daughters’s favorite Princess Poppy from the Trolls movie (she had me press a few extras for her own collection).

That wrapped up the designs at Universal Studios, although I will note that with the closure of the T2 3D Stunt show and the soon to open Bourne Spectacular set to replace it.  In the gift shop for that attraction, the penny machine was recently removed so I’m crossing my fingers that a new one will return.  Maybe with some Jason Bourne designs.

With Universal Studios done we headed over to the other park Islands of Adventure for quite a few changes.  The first was in the Island Market & Export store.

 

Initially, this machine had a sticker on it stating all three designs were to be retired, but then the sticker was eventually removed with no changes.  As you can see above the designs have been kept the same.  Guess they changed their mind.

The next location was over in Seuss Landing at the Cats, Hats and Things gift shop.

Ok, so this one was a bit strange.  The sticker that was on this machine showed the design on the left side of the marquee with the Cat and the Hat with his fingers intertwined was to be retired.  But you can see above that was not the case, instead, the design on the right of the Cat and the Hat full-body design was removed from this machine and relocated to the Gertrude McFuzz store (see below for that machine).

This machine did receive a new design of Fish in his Bowl.

Now we will skip over to the Gertrude McFuzz store and go over the rest of this Dr. Seuess design changes.

When this machine was updated it was around the Holiday season and this area of the store is used for the Grinch meet and greets so it does get a bit busy and hard to access during that time.

Above is a picture of the two “new” designs at this machine.  The one on the left is just “new to this machine” and was originally in the Cats, Hats and Things store.  The penny on the right of The Lorax is brand new.

Passing through Seuss Landing you arrive in The Lost Continent.  There is a store near the Mythos restaurant called Treasures of Poseidon.

Unfortunately, the machine that was here just inside the doors was completely removed, but…

Shortly after that machine was removed and failed to return I did find a new machine over in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center.  You can read more about it here.

The machine cabinet is different but I had a feeling this may have been the same machine just redesigned for this location.

Continuing through the Jurassic Park area the next set of new pennies was in the Jurassic Outfitters store.  You just need to walk all the way into the back near where the Jurassic Park River Adventure boat ride lets out.  It’s easy to find, just follow all the soaking wet people.

This is another cool cabinet design.  I like how it appears to be carved out of stone which is perfect for the Jurassic themed store.

The new designs here are themed around Jurassic World and include the Movie Logo, Blue the Raptor and the Indominus Rex.

The last few machines are over in Toono Lagoon.  First, we headed into the Betty Boop store.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this machine.  I had visited here years ago and the machine broke after I rolled two of the three designs.  Then I made a special trip back a couple years later to get the missing design and the machine was broken.  I eventually found the missing penny on eBay to complete my collection and thankfully haven’t had to use this machine since.  But that all changed when these new designs were released.  Thankfully the machine worked perfectly and I got my new coins without any issue.  The new designs are of Betty winking, and her dog Pudgy.

Across the walkway is the Toon Extra gift shop.  They have lots of Scooby-Doo, Betty Boop, and Popeye merchandise in here along with other cartoon favorites.

I thought he speech bubble on this machine was fun.  “A Penny for your Thoughts.”

All three designs in this machine were replaced.  They are all themed around Popeye and include the Spinach eating man himself, Olive Oyl, and Bluto.

That completed all the new pennies released in Universal Orlando.  In total 20 new pennies were made available and I think most of them were fun new additions.  It is nice to see some of the new Dreamworks animated movie characters getting coins, plus some of the classic franchises like Back to the Future.  Universal does not usually change out their designs as frequently as Disney so this may be it for a while.  But I’ll be sure to visit when I can for any new machines or designs.  Hopefully, they continue with those stickers on the machines, which makes it much easier to know which designs retiring.

Hollywood Studios Machines Converting to $1 per Penny Design

At the time of writing this, Walt Disney World Theme parks currently closed due to the Covid-19 virus and the social distancing going on throughout the United States we are all pretty much confined to our homes.  But this does give us some time to catch up on things like cleaning up the house, or maybe spending some time outside weeding our garden…however, in my case, those still sound very boring and I’d rather write about pressed pennies.  Thankfully we had so many new pennies released, and I still have our family vacation from last year to write about that this may just be the time I need to get all those adventures posted.  First, though I wanted to continue reviewing the next park at Walt Disney World to convert their 4-design penny machines over to $1.

Hollywood Studios has had an exciting year, with 2019 bringing us Star Wars (Land) Galaxy’s Edge, then in December we got the new Rise of the Resistance ride which is unbelievably amazing, and now just a few weeks ago the new Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opened.  This has finally completed (for now) the park’s transformation and part of that was swapping out these penny machines.

Let’s get started by heading straight up Hollywood Boulevard to where it intersects with Sunset Boulevard.  There is a little building here called Hollywood Junction.  On the backside of this building, there used to be two machines.

  

But unfortunately one of these machines has not returned.  It’s been weeks since these machines were all changed so I’m assuming that the second machine has been retired and not coming back.  Maybe it was to make room for the new ATM placed in this area, but in the picture above on the right, there still looks to be plenty of room for that machine.

I’ll say this just once at this time but please note this is the same for all the other machines I’ll review today.  After the conversion, the machine(s) have returned with the new $1 per penny price tag.  It accepts cash, credit card or digital payments like ApplePay.  The machine also supplies a pre-loaded zinc penny.  You can no longer use your own preferred pennies.  Also, the designs have not changed and are exactly the same as they were before the change.

Next, I headed over to the Muppet Courtyard into the Stage 1 Company gift shop which is all Muppet’s Themed.

 

This machine is located in the back of the store where they usually have most of the plush toys but of course, that can change.  This store does have two other machines, but this is the only 4-design model available here.

I had to kind of backtrack a little bit towards the Echo Lake area.  Near the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular show is a little shop called the Adventure Outpost.

 

The first machine at this location is right out front before you even enter the store.  The cabinet of the machine has changed slightly but still is pretty similar to what it was before.

 

The second machine is inside the store.  As I mentioned above this store is small so it isn’t hard to find this machine but it can be a little difficult to use if the store is busy.

If you do decide to go and watch the Indiana Jones stunt show one of the exits brings you out near the Backlot Express quick-service restaurant.  There is also a little outdoor gift shop here that has the next penny machine.

 

The machine has moved slightly after the change but is still in the same general area of that outdoor shop.

 

Next, we headed to the other side of the park and started heading down Sunset Boulevard.  About halfway down you will come to the Sunset Ranch which has a couple quick-services places to eat, plus a pin store, and a little stand called Anaheim Product with churros, pretzels, frozen lemonade, and other snacks.  Right out from of this stand is the above pictures penny machine.  I always liked this machine with the cabinet designed to looks like crates of produce.  When the machines get themed like that it always just seems to add to the fun.

If you spin around 180 degrees you will see a little alleyway in between some larger stores.  At the back of this alleyway are a set of restrooms and a penny machine.

 

I always dislike when penny machines are placed outside restrooms but that seems to be a very common location for them.  Guess people need something to do while waiting for their family members.

 

At the end of Sunset Boulevard, we took a left into the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Courtyard.  Just beside the face painting tent is the penny machine.

Past the entrance to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is an area of the park that was previously only open for certain events, but now is open all the time with a new attraction at the Sunset Showcase Theater called Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy.

 

The penny machine in this area is located just outside the exit to the theater.  You do not need to sit through the show to access the machine as it is outside for anyone to see.  But the show is cute and has a really cool Lightning McQueen animatronic inside.  Originally this machine was located back in the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Courtyard near the previous machine but was relocated here once the show opened premiered.

Finally, we come to the last 4-design machine in this park.  It’s over near the Tower of Terror, outside the Hollywood Tower Gift Shop in the courtyard.

 

You do not need to ride Tower of Terror to use this machine (thankfully).  That ride is not one of my favorites so I’m glad I can just walk over to use this machine with the screams of the attraction riders hollering out in the background.

Hollywood Studios had the most 4-design machines of all the parks.  They were changed out over the course of a month or so.  It’s interesting to watch how they handle this by removing about half of the machines first, then once those are changed out they remove the second half.  However, these definitely seem to take longer than the other locations to get all the machines back.  As I mentioned way back at the beginning we did lose one of the machines that still has not returned and I don’t think it will.  But the park still has lots of other machines and plenty of penny designs available to keep you busy.  Oh and if you have some time in between pressing your coins, make sure to try out some of the new rides you won’t be disappointed.

FUN Convention 2020 – Orlando Florida

Just this past weekend was the F.U.N. (Florida United Numismatists) Convention for 2020.  It’s also so early in the new year I almost missed it.  But thankfully I had thought ahead and added it to my phone calendar last year so I wouldn’t forget.  This was my second year attending and it seemed to be bigger than last year.  If you are interested in reading about my visit last year you can check it out here.

Once again this year it was over at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.  This place is huge, and it seems like I’m walking miles just to get from the parking lot to the actual convention hall.

There are plenty of signs around to help you find where you need to go.

Eventually, you will come to the registration area.  The convention is free to attend but they do like you to check-in and get a name tag.

The other perk of checking-in is they will give you a coin for visiting.  These are different each year which makes them a fun collectible.  This year’s theme was Walking with Liberty.  The above picture shows the front and back of the coin.

Once you have your name tag you head upstairs to where the coin show is located.

As I entered inside I’m always taken back by just how big this event is.  The number of vendors and clubs with tables can be a bit overwhelming at first.  Thankfully you do get a guide book and the aisles are labeled with numbers to help you navigate around.

All the way in the back is the Educational Exhibits which I love checking out.  I probably spend most of my time back here.  The exhibits range from rare coins to special sets of currency, or even a specific theme.

I check out all of the exhibits but I’m always drawn to the elongated coin ones which are where I spend most of my time.

The time and effort people have put into these exhibits are unbelievable and I hope one day to enter one myself.

There were even some exhibits specifically about our club TEC (The Elongated Collectors).  The above had some sample newsletters, information about the club and even an 1893 Columbia pressed coin which is usually considered the first pressed design available at the Chicago World’s fair.

Another exhibit for TEC showcased some of the special pressed coins available to our members like a recruiter coin, a merit coin and the Dillard exhibit aware, plus there was even a copy of the Yesterday’s Elongated book

After I finished exploring all the exhibits I started wandering up and down all of the aisle.  It’s amazing what is available here.  No matter what type of coin or currency you are interested in, the odds are there is someone here that would be able to help add to your collection.

Over near the U.S. Mint area, was where I found the tables I was really looking forward to finding.  First was the TEC table and right beside it was Mr. Ray Dillard’s table.

Mr. Dillard was there with his trademark machine that he offers to press your pocket change for free.

This year’s design was keeping with the Conventions theme of Walking with Liberty.

Above is a picture of the pressed penny he was handing out to all visitors that stop by his table.

Then as a very special gift, he presented me with the same design but pressed on a US dollar coin.  This was a gift for TEC Members attending the convention.  It was really fantastic and I was completely caught off guard by his generosity.

Over at the TEC table, my daughters and I had a great time chatting with current TEC President Cindy Calhoun.  I had met Cindy years ago at an ANA convention in Philadelphia and it was nice to catch up a bit.  My daughters were so excited when she handed them each some pressed pennies for their own collections included the above “Join TEC” coin which I think is a great way to help spread the word about the club.

With our pockets full of some new pressed coins and plenty of handouts we were ready to head home.  Even though this has only been my second year attending I do look forward to it and have 2021 already programmed into my phone so I don’t forget about it next year.  Everyone we spoke with was very friendly and just so passionate about their hobby and personal collections they just love talking about it.

I don’t talk about it too often but if you are not already a member of TEC you really should check it out.  I’ve been a member for over 10 years now and have thoroughly enjoyed being a member.  The cost is very reasonable and you can opt for either a hard copy of the newsletter to be mailed to your home or you can get a digital copy emailed to you.  Each quarter you also get a nice little package with some unique pressed coins you just won’t find at your average theme park, and you will also get the coveted membership coins each year.  You can join by visiting the website www.tecnews.org and click on the Join/Renew coin.  Be sure to reference member #4237 so they know you heard it from me as I’m always trying to share the adventure of elongated coin collecting.

Festival of the Holiday’s 2019 – Epcot

Happy New Year!!
Unfortunately, I had planned to write the below post a couple weeks ago but I got sick and some family events happened during the holidays.  I apologize for the delay and this festival has completed for 2019 but the next festival will be upon us before too long.
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Epcot doesn’t waste any time transitioning from one Festival to the next.  It seems like just a few weeks ago I was enjoying the Food and Wine Festival, and then just this past week everything changed over to the Festival of the Holidays.

I will admit this is not one of my favorite festivals, but it still gives me an excuse to head over to the park and try some new food items, or experience the Candlelight Processional which is actually a great show.

This year my two daughters wanted to try and complete the Cookie Stroll.

Last year I had attempted it but only got through a couple cookies before I felt sick from all the sugar and holiday spice.  This year my plan was to break up the sweetness with some savory dishes and hopefully not go home with my tail between my legs utterly defeated and embarrassed.

My two girls were excited and ready for some cookies.  After we got inside the park we picked up our Festival Passport so we knew where to go and headed for the first cookie.

 

The booth over near the Canadian Pavilion was called the Yukon Holiday kitchen, and they had the Peppermint Pinwheel Cookie.  I am not a huge peppermint fan, but this cookie was actually really good.  It was soft, moist and didn’t have an overwhelming amount of peppermint flavor which was a plus for me.

If you are going to try the cookie stroll, make sure you get your passport stamped after you pay for the cookie.

 

The second cookie was at the Fest of the Three Kings booth and was a Chocolate Crinkle Cookie.  This was just okay for us, my girls didn’t really like it.  To be it was almost more like a cake than a cookie, it was a bit dry but had plenty of chocolate flavor.

 

We then had to take a bit of a stroll around the World Showcase until we got to the German Pavilion and the Bavaria Holiday Kitchen booth.  They had the Linzer Cookie which was filled with raspberry jam.  This was fantastic and was my clear favorite of all the cookies we tried that day.

 

Over in the American Adventure pavilion was the American Holiday Table booth.  Here you could try a classic Gingerbread Man cookie.  I do not enjoy gingerbread myself so this was a miss for me, but my girls raved about this cookie.  They liked it so much they begged for a second one to enjoy on the way to our next booth.

 

In between the Morocco and France pavilion was a very popular food booth called L’Chaim! Holiday Kitchen.  They had a Pastrami on Rye sandwich which I had tried last year and was really good, as well as a couple different potato Latkes.  But we were here for a cookie and got the Black and White cookie.  This has a nice lemon flavor to it, but nothing too exciting.  My youngest enjoyed eating all the frosting from the top and she said that was her favorite part.

We had done it.  After the Black and White cookie, it was time to head over to the Holiday Sweets and Treats booth for our complimentary Completer cookie.

 

It was a cute Santa Mickey-shaped Sugar Cookie and we even got a free bottle of white milk.  We each took a small bite just to say we tried all of them, but by this time we were sick of cookies and couldn’t really enjoy it so we packaged it up and took it home.

To try and celebrate our glorious victory over the cookie stroll we headed into the Port of Entry gift shop to see what Festival merchandise was available.  There were the standard t-shirts, sweaters, and candy cane flavored popcorn but nothing really called out to me this year.  Then as we wandered around the store I found something.

The collectible coins/medallions were back.  The Food and Wine versions had been removed and replaced with the new Festival of the Holidays designs.

The machine looks exactly the same, but had a new marquee and was filled with the new coins.

They are still the same cost at $5 each, or 3 for $10.

The designs are Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Chip & Dale.  The back of the coins has the Festival of the Holidays logo.

I was originally against these coins mostly due to their very high cost, but now that these seem to be coming out for each festival I’ve grown to enjoy.  With everything going on this time of year I actually forgot these may even be available so it was a happy coincidence to come across them.

Later that evening the rest of our family arrived at Epcot and we had dinner in the France Pavilion at Chefs de France.  Then we finished our evening enjoying the Candlelight Processional with guest host Gary Sinise.  He was fantastic, the music was wonderful and the singing just topped off our amazing day.

I hope you have a wonderful Holiday.  Please stay safe and enjoy your special time with family and friends.

Orlando Icon Park – Penny Machines Converted to $1

Our fears have been confirmed.  It seems like Disney is not the only place converting their pressed penny machines to $1.  A very kind friend had sent me a message online that they saw some penny machines in Orlando had the new price rate.  I almost couldn’t believe it so I made sure to head on over as soon as I had a free afternoon to confirm it…and it turns out to be 100% true.

The attraction in question has gone through quite a few name changes over the past couple of years.  Currently, it’s called Icon Park over on International Drive.  I had written about this place previously as the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye and you can read about Madame Tussauds here and the Sealife Aquarium here.

The large Ferris wheel can be seen from all over Orlando, but when you park right beneath it in the lot the actual size can be a bit overwhelming.  It’s very difficult to get it all in one picture.

You can head inside to where the main building is located right behind the giant wheel.  This is where you can get your tickets to ride the Icon (Ferris wheel), or visit the other attractions here.

One of the first places you will come across is Madame Tussauds the famous wax museum.  I didn’t go inside this time, but it is definitely a fun place to experience.  Just outside the exit to the gift shop is where the penny machine is located.  Just as a reminder you do NOT need to pay for admission to use this machine.

You can see the machine has some updated decals on the outside.

This machine accepts dollar bills and supplies a pre-loaded zinc penny.

Even though the machine was removed temporarily to perform the conversion, just like most of the Disney machines, the designs available have not changed.

Located directly across from the wax museum is the Sea Life Aquarium which is really a hidden gem.  I have gone back to this aquarium a few times over the last couple of years and I really enjoy it each and every time.

As much as I do encourage you to buy a ticket and experience this unique aquarium if you are stopping by just for a quick visit to use the penny machine you do not need to pay for admission.  Just to the left of the ticket counter is the entrance to the gift shop.

Just inside the gift shop near the soda cooler and ice cream freezer is where you can find the machine.

The dreaded $1.00 signage and instructions on how to use the machine.  No penny, No problem!

These designs have also remained unchanged.  I did press a new set and they did come out pretty nicely even though they are on pre-loaded zinc pennies.  I will be curious to continue to monitor how they look as the years go by.  Using zinc pennies has always been something long-time collectors have tried to avoid.  I’m crossing my fingers they don’t deteriorate too quickly but I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Living with the Land NEW Pressed Penny Set – Epcot

So we are halfway through the month of December.   This is the time of year that I begin to try and prepare myself for the chaos that ensues when Disney starts releasing the new dated coins all over property.  I assumed those would be the next “new” coins, but then they tried to sneak a new machine over at The Land Pavilion in Epcot.

My family was heading into Epcot for the Candlelight Processional the day after I had heard about this new machine.  So things couldn’t have worked out better.  After we had dinner there was a little time to spare before the show was to start, which gave me the opportunity to visit The Land.

When you walk into this pavilion you are on the second floor.  Directly across is the Garden grill revolving restaurant and just to the right of that is where the coin press machines were located.

There used to a 3 design penny machine and a 3 design quarter machine (see above) here but both have now been removed.  The quarter machine had one of the 2019 dated designs so this may be the beginning of those being retired.

Above is a picture I took to show that both of those old machines are gone and only the new 8-design machine is there along with a dog-tag engraving machine.

Here is a close up of the machine.  It has a similar cabinet design to the previous machines and blends in nicely with The Land Pavilion theme.

The internal working of the press is always very mesmerizing to me.  I enjoy getting down close and watching as it presses my coins.

Here is a picture of the marquee on the top of the machine with the designs available in this set.  Same price as the other similar machines, $1 per penny or all 8 for $5.

Finally above is pictured my complete set after pressing.  There are some fun designs in this set and some characters we don’t see very often like Bambi and Jiminy Cricket.

The entire set has the works “Living with the Land” on them which are in reference to the classic slow movie boat ride that takes you through The Land Pavilion greenhouse.  It’s not a very thrilling ride but has some fun information along the way and you get to see where they grow some of the produce used in the restaurants all over property.

Will this be the last new set before those 2020 coins start showing up.  I’ll be sure to keep you all up to date on where and when that all starts happening.

Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail and New Collectible Medallion

Welcome to December!  Thankfully it’s not too cold here in Florida, but during this time of year, it’s hard to get in the Holiday spirit.  Thankfully Disney puts on some events to help get you feeling festive.  In previous years we have checked out the Mickey’s Very Mery Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom, and last year we saw the holiday projection show down Sunset Boulevard on the Tower of Terror.  But the one thing we have started to make a tradition is the Christmas Tree Trail at Disney Springs.

This is something completely free to do, and you can also try to visit Santa if you don’t mind waiting on average around 200 minutes (a virtual queue is available).  For us, though we usually just pick a nice place to have dinner around 6pm, then just as it gets dark we head over to start the trail.

The main entrance for the trail is over in the Marketplace area of Disney Springs near the Earl of Sandwich or Once Upon a Toy store.  There is a podium set up where you can put your name down for a time to visit with Santa, or you can just head right in and check out the trees.

The trail consists of 23 themed Christmas Trees.  Usually, they are based around specific Disney movies.  Above is the Sleeping Beauty tree with lots of fun ornaments like the fairy godmother hats, some balls of yarn and of course the princess herself Aurora.

This next one was our personal favorite this year.  It was themed around the Princess and the Frog animated movie.  It had some Mardi Gras masks on it and was topped with some Jazz instruments.

The Little Mermaid tree had King Triton’s Trident up at the top and was decorated with lots of seashells, starfish and what we guessed were large pearls.

One of my favorite animated movies is Aladdin and I always look forward to this tree.  It’s located on top of a carpet that looks very much like the magic carpet from the movie.  Jafar’s cobra staff is peeking out about halfway up the tree, and of course, there is the magic lamp right at the top.

With Frozen 2 just released this past week, we knew this was definitely going to be out this year.  There are plenty of carrots on the tree for Olaf’s nose and I’m sure in case Sven the Reindeer is looking for a snack.  The tree has a snow-frosted look to some of the needs which were a nice detail.

I was a bit conflicted with this tree.  I love the Haunted Mansion attraction and have gone on it more times than I can count.  But this tree seemed a bit out of place.  I know it’s very popular among Disney fans but the large Bride torso in the middle of the tree was a bit off-putting.

Cinderella’s tree was very elegant.  the decorations not too overdone, but I enjoyed seeing the pumpkins, fancy ornaments and of course a clock to keep track of when midnight arrives.

I saved this one for last as I thought it was pretty unique.  Having a lightsaber as the topper to the tree was a nice touch.  There were little Jawa ornaments and a Porg or two in there.

Did I mention Disney makes it snow in this area?  Well, sort of anyway.  Periodically you can hear the machines start-up and the snow start to blow into the air and fall all around.  The kids definitely love it but make sure they don’t try to catch any of the flakes on their tongues as it’s actually a type of soap bubble so it won’t taste very good.

After we finished up the Christmas tree trail we headed back towards the parking garages but made a small stop in the Pin Traders store.  Our daughters are always on the lookout for new pins to trade.  While they were trading with cast members I headed over to the Medallion machine that was moved here (previously it was at the Art of Disney store).

It appears from a distance to be unchanged, but something caught my eye and I went in for a closer look.

The price was still the same $5 for one coin or 3 for $10.  Sure enough one of the coins had been replaced.  There used to be a Mickey’s 90th Birthday celebration coin.  But now that 2019 was coming to a close I guess it was time to move out those dated coins.

 

Above is a close up of the medallion on the left and on the right is the artwork from the machine button.  The one and only Mickey Mouse.  With some new medallions in my pocket and the kids with some new pins, it was about time to head home.

There were plenty of great Christmas trees but wow does the trail get busy.  I’ve heard if you go earlier in the day it’s not as bad, but seeing the trees lit up at night is just how we prefer to see them.  It’s hard to get pictures of your family in front of their favorite tree but just be patient as the crowds will eventually give you a split second or two to snap your picture.  Our mantra of the Holiday season…just be patient and keep on collecting!