Retired Pennies at Universal Studios Florida – Coming Soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This machine will only have 1 design retired.

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

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

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

Two of the three designs here will be retired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa – Orlando, Fl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FUN Convention Winter 2019 – Orlando Florida

This convention kind of snuck up on me and I thankfully found out about it a few days before it actually started.  FUN stands for Florida United Numismatists and they have two conventions a year, one in the winter and another in the summer.  It moves around to various cities throughout the state and this year luckily it was in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center.

I’ve been to a few events in this convention center but wow it always amazes me how huge this place is.  If you make the mistake and park in the wrong area you could be walking for quite a while.

Once I found the right area of the convention center I checked in to get my name badge and was given a few special items for visiting.

The first one reminded me of a casino chip, and had the city of Hollywood Florida on the front, and the Florida United Numismatists on the back.

The second item was a beautiful medallion about the FUN convention host cities.  The back listed each city and the number of times it has hosted the event.  Before I go too much further I should mention that admission to this event was free, other than the cost for parking at the convention center.

As we headed towards the main entrance to the show there was a banner welcoming everyone to the show and even had some details on the other hosts sites which seemed to be a trend here.

Once inside I’m always blown away by how big these shows are and the number of vendors.

The tables are literally wall to wall with everything you could possibly imaging when it comes to collecting coins or any time of currency.

Many of the vendors were looking to buy as well as sell their own items, and there seemed to be a lot of transaction happening all over the place.

All the way in back was where the exhibits were where people have displayed some of their collection with a certain theme.  There are different categories and all are judged with the change to win your division.

I did come across some of the exhibits that had some elongated coins which I always love to take my time looking at.  The hard work and details they put into these are really amazing.

Below is one I came across that was about the FUN conventions of previous years.

After enjoying the exhibits we grabbed a quick snack in the food area, and then headed back to the aisle of vendors.  Eventually we found the TEC (The Elongated Collectors) Club table that was located right beside Mr. Raymond Dillard’s table.

Mr. Dillard was working both tables at the time we stopped by.  I had met him for the first time about 6 years ago at the ANA World’s Fair of Money convention in Philadelphia.  He is an amazing wealth of knowledge not just about elongated coins, but a wonderful man to just sit and chat with.

The TEC table had lots of information about the club including some recent issues of the new letter, pamphlets about the club, and of course applications for anyone interested in joining.

There was also a free pressed penny that they were giving out.

Mr. Dillard was also busy with his own table.  His manual coin press machine is always a visitor favorite.  I wonder how many coins have been pressed on that machine.

He was giving out a free pressed penny as well.

Usually if you have a special coin you want to press he will be more than happy to do so for you.  Otherwise the tray on the machine was filled with freshly pressed pennies.

This was another really nice looking design for the FUN convention.  As was the theme I mentioned earlier, the design listed all the host cities of the show.

Not only was he handing out free pennies, but his table was covered with lots and lots of pressed coins at very reasonable prices.  I could spend a lot of time going through some of those bins of coins.

We had a great afternoon spending time with Mr. Dillard and some other elongated collectors.  Eventually we were getting a bit tired and had a long walk back to our car still to make.

As we headed out I noted the next show would be in July and still in Orlando so we will be sure to come back them.  It was really a lot of fun and had lots of unique things to check out.

If you are not already a member of TEC you really should check it out.  I’ve been a member for about 10 years now and have thoroughly enjoyed being a member.  The cost is very reasonable, for 2019 the dues are $11 for a 1 year digital membership or $15 for a hard copy membership.  That just means you get the quarterly newsletter either digitally (PDF in an email) or a hardcopy in the mail.  Each quarter you also get a nice little package with pressed coins inside as well as the coveted membership coins each year.  There is a special editors coin you get if you submit an article to be published in the newsletter and also a recruiter coin if you help a fellow collector join the club.

On that note 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 I’m helping spread the word and sharing the adventure of elongated coin collecting.

Icon Orlando – Orlando, FL

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!
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Over a year ago I had taken my daughters to check out an attraction we found along International Drive in Orlando called the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye.  This was a huge ferris wheel that can be seen for miles around the surrounding areas.  Not too long ago it had been rebranded as the Icon Orlando, and rumor had it that the pressed penny designs here had been updated due to this change.

It was time for another visit to see what has changed.  We jumped in our car and made the drive down I-4 towards International Drive.

One really nice thing about this area is that they offer free parking in their garage.  We parked the car and as we headed out towards the Icon Orlando we could see the rebranded starting all around.

Inside the previously red interior color has been changed to blue, and the new sign above the ticket counters has been updated to the new name.

We didn’t have time to actually go up in the attraction this visit but thankfully the penny machine does not need paid admission to access.  Just to the right of the ticket counter is the exit / gift shop and the penny machine right outside.

The cabinet is pretty much the same, but does have one slight difference.  Just below the touch screen is the Icon Orlando Skyline logo.

Here is a close up of the touch screen with all the designs available.  The price is still $1 for 1 penny, or $5 for all 8.  I’m sure you know which option I went for.

The designs are fairly similar to the previous ones but do now have the new name Icon Orlando on them.

After I had pressed a few sets of the coins we headed into the gift shop to look around.  All the new merch was available and I do like the new blue color.  There is absolutely no sign of the previous Coca-Cola branding.

This is really a fun place to visit and other than the Icon Orlando, you can also visit Madame Tussauds or the SeaLife aquarium.  The Icon Orlando though is quite the experience and once up at the very top you have fantastic views of the Orlando area.  If you aren’t a fan of heights you may want to skip it, but just remember the pennies are easily obtained without admission.  Happy Collecting!

Hotel Plaza Boulevard – Disney Springs Area, FL

First off I’ll apologize for the delay in getting around to writing about these new penny press machines.  These were released weeks ago while I was out-of-town on a Family vacation.  It’s amazing how just a week away can put everything so far behind.  I’m still trying to time to write about our trip.  But in the mean time I figured I needed to try and catch up on some of these “newer” machines.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post about these hotels that are located on Walt Disney World property but are not Disney owned.  They are usually referred to as “Good Neighbor” hotels.  You get most of the same benefits (fast passes, early park hours, and transportation to the parks) but usually at a much lower price which is nice.  Located to the east of Disney Springs right along Hotel Plaza Boulevard are these seven hotels.  Each of these hotels does have a Disney gift shop located inside, but in the past none of them ever had a pressed penny machine.  Then all of a sudden five of these hotels received machines and I had to head over as soon as I was back in town to check them out.

Since I had never visited these hotels before I wasn’t sure what the parking situation would be like and was worried about high hourly parking rates.  So instead I parked (for free) in one of the Disney Springs parking garages and walked to each of the hotels.  I walked through the Marketplace and just beside the Once Upon a Toy Store is a walkway that allows you to cross the busy Buena Vista Drive.

These walkways were actually pretty nice, and my daughter had a great time watching the cars pass by underneath our feet.  Eventually we ended up on the far side of Hotel Plaza Boulevard and headed into the first hotel.

The Hilton Orlando Buena Vista was out first stop.  Heading inside through the main lobby area we hung a right and down the hallway we saw the familiar Disney Store sign.

There is nothing unique about these stores.  After visiting all of them they pretty much carried the same items, standard souvenirs, plush character, drinks, snacks and toiletries.

   

Just inside the store on the right side was the penny press machine.  The cabinet was painted the classic Mickey red which was a nice surprise.  The designs available in this machine were of  Mickey & Pluto, Lilo with a  Camera, and Stitch playing a Ukulele.

The hotels are next to each other, but there is still quite a walk in between each one.  It was a nice walk although this time of year the Florida sun and humidity can get to you pretty quickly.

The second hotel was the Holiday Inn Orlando.  We headed inside past the check-in area, hung a left and just near the lounge area was the gift shop.

As my daughter checked out the souvenirs (although I think by now she has pretty much all of them) I found the machine along the sidewalk and pressed my coins.

   

The designs at this machine were of two new designs: Chef Minnie with a Cake, and Goofy fishing, but the third design was of Lumiere & Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast.  This last design used to be available at the Once Upon a Time gift shop in Hollywood Studios.  It had been removed back in July 2017 when two new 8-design touch screen machines were located there instead.

Still on the same side of the boulevard the next stop was at the B Resort & Spa.  Strange name, but this was a beautiful looking hotel.

I was only able to check out the lobby and gift shop but from what I could see this looks really nice and I’d be interested in checking it out in the future.

As I walked into the gift shop I noticed a large mural behind the check out area.  I’m sure it was just an interchangeable piece of wallpaper but it was still fun to look at with the Magic Kingdom and it’s landmarks depicted in the image.

Plus the penny machine was right beside it so while I used the machine I took a closer look at it.  I’ve seen some t-shirts and other merchandise in some of the park stores with this style drawing so I’m sure this is the new 2018 design.  I may have to pick something up the next time I’m in the parks.

   

The designs at this machine were of Minnie with her hands together, Pluto jumping on Mickey.  Both of which were brand new images.  The third design is of Anna & Elsa from Frozen.  This used to be at the Puffin’s Roost in Epcot at the Norway Pavilion but had been removed a year or so ago.

The last hotel on this side of the boulevard was the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton.

This was an interesting designed building, but the lobby area was not very big.  As soon as I walked in the check-in desk was to the right, and the Disney store was to the left.  Pretty easy to find.

   

While I used this machine to press the pennies the cast member in the store came by to  talk.  She mentioned the machine has just been brought in a few days prior.  I asked if she knew whether all the “Good Neighbor” hotels were getting them and she wasn’t sure, but more on that in a bit.  The designs in this machine were of Minnie Mouse, Donald in a Tuxedo, and Jiminy Cricket.

Once I had left the DoubleTree suites it was time to cross over the boulevard.  This is a very busy street so be careful crossing.  I didn’t want to risk just running across especially with my young daughter along for the visit.  So we waited, and waited and waited for the traffic light to change.  But made for a much safer crossing.  On the other side were a couple of hotels but we had to head all the way back towards Disney Springs.

At this intersection of Hotel Plaza Boulevard and East Buena Vista Drive is where the overhead walkways where that we had initially taken to cross the street.  On this side of the boulevard there was a sidewalk so we just headed to the right down East Buena Vista Drive.

After a bit of a walk we found the last hotel on this trip the Hilton Palace Buena Vista.

This Disney store is a little more difficult to find.  If you come in through the front main entrance of the hotel you need to take the elevator down a floor.  In this area is where the food court section is and the gift shop is just nearby.

This was yet another beautiful looking hotel and I was really surprised.  I’m not sure why I just assumed these would be a little run down or outdated but they were definitely not what I was expecting.

   

This was the last machine to use and unfortunately it was a little temperamental.  It seemed like the slide the finished pressed penny uses to eventually end up in the cup at the bottom wasn’t lined up correctly.  The machine seemed to press the coins fine, but once they slide down they apparently ended up in the bottom of the cabinet.  I asked the cast member for help but they said they didn’t have the key to open up the machine.  Thankfully I had a few extra sets of quarters and pennies for just this type of situation.  After a few test runs I found that if I kept my hand just inside the bottom cup it would help keep the pennies from dropping inside the machine.  Hopefully this has been fixed as the cast member said they would bring it up with their manager.

With all these new pennies stored away in my pocket we decided to make our way back over the walkways to Disney Springs.

Now I did mention that I had asked the cast member at the DoubleTree Suites about other machines in the area.  As you can see from the picture of the area map I found along the sidewalk there are seven Good Neighbor resorts.

As of this visit I made there were only five of these resorts with penny machines.  However I have read online that rumors are swirling about the remaining two hotels (Best Western and Wyndham) will be getting machines in the near future.  Fingers crossed!

   

Plus you can read here about the Hilton over at Bonnet Creek that got a new machine that I had posted about earlier.  It definitely seems like Disney has been releasing a lot of new penny press machines in locations they never had before.  I’m hoping this is due to the popularity of these machines and they realize people really enjoy them plus of course they make the resorts some money.

This was quite a bit of walking to start in Disney Springs, and make the long trek to each resort.  But it took about an hour and a half at a leisurely pace.  We tried not to rush and once I was inside these hotels I did want to spend a bit of time checking them out.  I didn’t see any of the guest rooms, but if they are anything like the lobby’s and mail hotel areas I would absolutely keep these in mind when visiting the area.  Plus they have penny machines so that’s always a plus in my books.

Legoland Florida Second Visit – Winter Haven, FL

A few weeks had gone by since our first trip to Legoland Florida, and this past saturday we found ourselves with nothing schedule and thought we would head back.

After entering into the park my kids headed right for the carousel which is their favorite go to ride right now.  While we were enjoying the ride on one of the revolutions I saw the Lego Studio Store and there was a penny machine near the door.  Once the carousel ride was finished we headed over to check it out.

At first I took this to be a new machine, but after I got home it seems these designs have been available in the past.  So my assumption is the machine was just out for refurbishment during the off-season.  There was another machine I found on this day but we will get to that in a little bit.

   

The designs that were available at this machine included Fabulous Lad Vegas, The White House, Kenny Space Center, and San Francisco.  Next we started making our way through the different sections of the park, and eventually found our way back to minifigure world.  This trip we took a lot more time to take in some of the details they put into these really amazing scenes.

Of course we checked out the Kennedy Space Center shuttle launch, and watch a bit of the Nascar race which always seem to generate a big crowd.  Then we headed towards the back area where we found good old New York City.

This eventually lead us around into a side area that was all about Star Wars.

The different sections in this area had a scene from each movie.

There was even a Millennium Falcon that would take off every few minutes.

My personal favorite The Empire Strikes Back was represented with the battle on the ice planet Hoth.  There were a few more scenes that were really impressive but I don’t want to switch over to Star Wars fanboy mode.  We then spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the rest of the park and even went for another stroll through Cypress Gardens.  On the way out we did make a stop in The Big Store.

Near the middle set of doors to the store I saw a second penny press machine that wasn’t there on our first visit.

While my family was inside looking for new Lego sets to bring home I headed over to check out this additional machine.

   

This machine did roll the pennies a little short.  I tried adjusting a few of the rolls and the above are about the best I was able to do.  The set includes images of the Legoland Florida logo, the Legoland Entrance, Minifigure Blake, and Minifigure Sunny.

When I met back up with my family they had picked out a few new Lego sets and were anxious to get home and start working on them.  We headed out of the park and drove back home.  In total so far I’ve found a total of 6 penny press machines throughout Legoland.  We have not go into the water park yet and I’m hoping maybe there is another machine back there, but I’m not sure when we will be back to check that part out.  I have some family coming into town in a few weeks and they mentioned maybe taking a break from Disney (Gasp!!) so we may suggest Legoland so I can see if any additional machines show up.

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.

SeaWorld Seven Seas Food Festival – Orlando, FL

In some past posts I’ve reviewed the different festivals that have gone on over at Epcot, but just recently I tried something new.  My youngest daughter has really enjoyed SeaWorld lately and we have found ourselves over there more often than I had anticipated.

On a recent trip we found ourselves visiting the park in the middle of their Seven Seas Food.  I had heard some advertisements on the radio and TV about the festival but to be honest it has started to seem like every park and town are having their own food festivals now.

However since we had been to SeaWorld quite few times in the last month I was looking for something different to try.  As much as I like the Food and Wine or Flower and Garden at Epcot they can definitely get pricey after while.  At the Seven Seas Food Festival you can buy everything al la carte, or they do offer special lanyard.

These lanyard can be purchased for a set price depending on the total number of samples you would like.  As an annual passholder they also had special bonus samples offered for free when you buy a lanyard.  Then when you visit the different booths you can get any of the food or beverage options and each will only cost you one punch on the lanyard regardless of the item price.

The food options were overall pretty good.  As you enter the main festival area there are passport booklets that review the festival, and the food/beverage options.  There is also a map inside showing you where all the booth locations are throughout the park.

I didn’t want to go too crazy with the food, but figured we would at least sample a few things as we walked around.  First we stopped by the Cocina Criolla booth and tried the Pincho de Cerdo con Tostones which was skewered flame grilled pork with a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce which I have pictured above.

Next we headed over towards the Brazilian Market and sampled a few things.

Above was the Brazilian Churrasco which was grilled skirt steak with chimichurri and garbanzo frito.

There was also an interesting Brazilian chicken salad with chicken, ham, raisins, carrots, apples and olives topped with shoestring potatoes.

My daughter likes the Arctic Encounter so we always make sure and check that out so we can visit the beluga whales and polar bears.  As we exited there was the Polynesian Market where I sampled a Lumpia which was a spring roll filled with pork and served with a Thai pineapple sauce.

There were a few additional items I sampled while we walked around the park but we actually had a surprise encounter.  Over near the Mexican Market we ran into Executive Chef Hector Colon.  He oversees the menu development for not just SeaWorld Orlando, but also Discovery Cove and Aquatica water park.  I had recognized him from a behind the scene documentary on SeaWorld.  It was really fantastic to meet him and we appreciated the time he took out of his day to chat with us and take a picture.  We thanked him for all his work on the festival and the food throughout the parks as they really have raised the bar.  I felt that was a great way to top off our day at the park and decided it was time to head out.

As we headed towards the exit we passed by the Shamu Emporium.  It’s still under construction right now, and a whole bunch of penny machines from around the park are now temporary located here.  I took a quick review of each machine in the area and found one that was either new or somehow missed on my previous trips.

The machine was working nicely but I did have an issue pressing one of the designs.  I tried it a couple of times and each time rolled a little short.

The designs look to be some classic SeaWorld images of Shamu the famous Orca whale.  When I was back home I checked my collection and didn’t see these included so I think they may be new designs or at the very least new to me.

The Seven Seas Food Festival was a lot of fun, the live music was great and the food was really fantastic and different.  Unfortunately the festival concluded at the end of April but I will definitely be back next year.

Grand Floridian Resort NEW Pressed Pennies

As luck would have it I go out-of-town for a week and when I get back home there was a bunch of new penny machines released.  I’m not complaining but it did make for a busy few days as I tried to get caught up on what I had missed.

For this first stop I headed over to the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  If you aren’t staying at this resort or have a dining reservation parking here is usually off-limits.  Depending on who you get at the security booth sometimes they let me park for 10 minutes to run in and use the penny machines.  But don’t bank on this every time as I’ve only been able to do that a couple of times.  In most instances I park over at the Ticket and Transportation Center and take the monorail over.

To access this new machine that was just released you need to head up to the second floor of the main building.  However, as mentioned above if you take the monorail over you will enter the resort already on the correct floor.

Just inside the doors to the monorail station is where the new 8 design machine can be found.

The plain white cabinet of this machine fits right in with the style of this resort.

All of the designs say “Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort” on them which is already nice to have included.  The images included in this set are of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Mickey & Minnie, Pluto, Tinker Bell and Bambi.  This was a nice new set to have released and I’m curious to see if more of these 8 design machines start showing up at other resorts.  They definitely seem to be the machine of choice at Disney lately.

Before we go, some of you eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that this machine is located in the same place a previous 3 design machine was.  Well as part two of this adventure I headed over to the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts which is where that machine had been moved to.

The machine can be accessed from either the Yacht Club or Beach Club resort as it can be found outside the Lafferty Arcade which is pretty much in between both resorts.  This is also just a short walk from the famous Beaches and Cream Soda Shop.  As you can see in the picture above to the far right is Beaches and Cream with the original penny machine found at this resort.  In the middle is the Arcade and on the left side is the penny machine relocated here.

The machine is the same, and the three designs are also unchanged.  For those of you still trying to collect the 2018 dates pressed coin set this is where the 2018 Chip & Dale penny can now be found.

This was an interesting choice of locations for this machine, but it does kind of fit with the design of these moderate resorts.  I’m just happy they didn’t make this disappear for a while as it would be inconvenience to lose out on the 2018 penny.

As I mentioned before there are still some other new machines out there that I’m working on visiting and documenting.  I should have details on those shortly, and will be sure to share with everyone what the new coins looks like and where they can be found.