ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on this destination
———————————————————————————–

Growing up in Canada we are pretty much born with a hockey stick in hand.  I’ve always loved pretty much any kind of sports, but always had a special place in my heart for Hockey.  But in Canada we do have a few weeks of warm weather from time to time and during that warm time I did play quite a bit of baseball.  During middle school and high school I played basketball, volleyball and even some Rugby for a very brief time.  I think it was partly due to the competition I loved, but also the camaraderie with my team mates and the satisfaction with improving your playing skills.  When I was young the facilities we played at were pretty limited, but they did the trick and we enjoyed playing wherever we could.

Flash forward years later and now that we are living down in Florida hockey is around but not like it was in the Great White North.  So what is a sports fan to do.  Of course with the internet and TV I can still watch all my favorite teams, but there is still something about amateur sports.  During a conversation with my parents about Spring Training Baseball they mentioned the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney.

I’ve mentioned in the past that for the last few years they started coming down to Florida to see their beloved New York Mets over in Port St. Lucie.  Usually they would try to visit other teams in central Florida and a few times came to the ESPN complex to watch some games.  I looked up the complex online and was amazed at how big this place was, and it isn’t just baseball/softball fields.

There are fields for Soccer, Track and Field, Tennis, and indoor arenas for Basketball and Volleyball, plus I’m sure a lot more I didn’t even notice.

After parking in the lot you walk up to a central hub with the complex logo in the middle.  This is a big photo-op for the athletes, their family and all fans looking to document their trip here.

Just up a little walkway from the hub is the main entrance that takes you to the different fields and restaurant inside.  Tickets are required to get into this area, but for most of the events the prices are pretty inexpensive.

Back down by the hub is the ESPN Clubhouse which is like the souvenir shop for the complex.  No admission is needed to access this store.

As with all the other gift shops on Disney property there is a lot of character merchandise, but also a lot of ESPN stuff as well from t-shirts to shots glasses.

In the back of the store near a Cast Members only door/backroom area in among some sweatshirts was the main reason for my visit this morning.

This machine has had the same designs for a few years now.  I remember visiting this machine years on a previous trip and it was located at the front of the store near the cash registers.  When visiting keep and eye out for it as they seem to move it around from time to time.

The machine is a three design electric model.  The images on each of the pennies included the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Logo, Minnie & Daisy, and Team Mickey.

Also during some special events there is an additional penny machine located in the J Center Arena.  I went during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend to use this machine.  You can read out it here.

This is a cute little set of pressed coins.  Getting to the complex without a car can be a little difficult, but there are Disney buses from time to time taking guests over there or of course you can take a cab or uber.  You can check the complex website to see a schedule of games that are going on year round.  Be sure to buy some tickets and support the young athletes (and some professionals) as their teams play here.  This is kind of a hidden gem but a really nice place to take in a great morning or afternoon of sports.  The competition is great, the complex is fun and there is even a penny machine for a quick souvenir of your visit.

2018 Dated Walt Disney World Pressed Coins Set

They’re here!!  It’s that time of year again and the 2018 dated pressed coins have started showing up all over property.  I spent the good part of my weekend driving to all the parks and resorts in an attempt to get all these new coins.  But unfortunately not all of them have been made available.  Just like the last few years there will be a total of 15 designs.  I was able to get 11 of them, and will be updating this post as I acquire the last 4.  I’m sure these final few designs will be made available in the next couple weeks at the latest.  So let’s get started.

My trip started early Saturday morning at the Animal Kingdom.  To my surprise the large crowds were there to visit Pandora and not get these brand new coins.  But I guess that works out better for us collectors.

   

Located in Dinoland USA in a store called Chester & Hester’s Dino Treasures.  The penny at this machine has 2018 with the new slogan “The Year to be Here” and a small Tree of Life.

   

The second machine in the Animal Kingdom is at the Harambe Railroad Station platform.  This train will take you to Rafiki’s Planet Watch but is not required to use the machine.  This machine pressed a quarter of Pluto and the year 2018.

After leaving Animal Kingdom my next stop was over at the All-Star Sports resort.  Located just outside the Game Point Arcade is where the machine is found.

   

This machine had 2018 Donald Duck pressed on a quarter.  Thankfully the next machine wasn’t too far away and just down the street in the All-Star Music resort.

   

Spending more time just outside the Note’able Games arcade to use the machine and press a quarter with 2018 Minnie Mouse.  I grabbed a quick snack in the food court and hopped back in my car for the next stop.

I was making pretty good time heading all over Disney property and found myself at Epcot for the next three machines.  First was in the Mouse Gear gift shop.

   

This penny design is similar to the one I collected earlier at the Animal Kingdom except it has Spaceship earth and 2018 The Year to be Here.  Somehow I managed to leave this store without buying anything which almost never happens, but my wallet definitely thanked me.  After leaving the store I headed towards the World Showcase and into the Disney Traders store.

   

Every time I use this machine I think it should do more than just press pennies as it looks pretty fancy.  But alas is just pressed pennies which is still fine with me.  The design from this machine is on a penny and is the main mouse himself Mickey leaning on the 2018.  With the penny safely stored away I checked my Disney Parks app and was able to grab a fastness for Soarin’ which is one of my favorite rides.

Over at the Land pavilion I headed in to use my fastness, but once done I headed upstairs towards the Garden Grill which is a revolving restaurant where you can meet Mickey, Pluto and Chip and Dale.  Right beside the restaurant is also where I found the next machine.

   

Just like in the restaurant this pressed quarter has the dynamic duo of Chip and Dale underneath a Mickey ears hat and 2018.  For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to leave my car in the Epcot parking lot and take the monorail over to the next two stops.  Once back at the Ticketing and Transportation center I switched monorail and decided to check out the Contemporary Resort first.

For anyone that has taken the monorail over to the Contemporary you exit onto a planform and then need to take an escalator down to the fourth floor concourse.  This is where you can find Chef Mickey’s or the Contempo Cafe for something to each.  But this is also where the Game Station arcade.

   

The first machine here had a design of Goofy with 2018 The Year to be Here.

   

A few steps to the left and I was face to face with the second machine offering a 2018 design.  This machine had an image of Minnie Mouse and The Year to Be Here pressed on a quarter.  I left the arcade and headed back up to the monorail platform so I could head into the Magic Kingdom.

   

Immediately upon entering the kingdom I headed underneath the Main Street Railroad station.  There are two machines down here but only the quarter machine had a new 2018 Cinderella’s Castle design.  A little further up main street I headed into the Emporium for the last available 2018 design.

   

This one is probably my favorite this year.  It has 2018 with the soon to be famous tag line for this year (I promise not to type it down again).  But the big winner on this penny is the image of Walt and Mickey holding hands.  This is based on the famous Partners statue that is a reminder to all how this all started.

Update 01/09/17:
I made it over for a quick follow-up visit to Disney’s flagship Grand Floridian Resort & spa.  About a week ago I visited here and the design hadn’t been updated, but on this visit the change had finally been made.  It’s on the second floor concourse right near the doors that led out to the monorail platform.  This design is of Chip & Dale under a Mickey Ears hat and the year 2018.

   

Update 01/10/17:
After work I took a quick drive over to Hollywood Studios to try to get the penny that was released in the Rock Around the Shop.  This is the gift store at the exit to Rockin’ Roller Coaster.  However, if you are a chicken like me and don’t want to ride the coaster, you can just walk in the “Exit” and up the ramp into the store.  The design is of Mickey’s face with 2018 and the new slogan.

   

Update 01/13/17:
Since we are just out of the holiday season I don’t want to say this is a slow time at the parks but it is a little less crowded.  Due to this the parks all have much shorter operating hours during the week so it was hard to get into the Magic Kingdom after work.  However I was finally able to get over there today and get the pressed penny at Sir Mickey’s

These are 14 of the 15 pressed coins available so far.  Below is info on the last machine we are currently waiting on.  The image below is straight from the CTM Group website which is the company that designs and maintains the machines.  I’ll update this post with pictures of the actual coin as I acquire it.

The last machine is located at Hollywood Studios.  This may be the most delayed of all the new 2018 coins.  It’s of Mickey leaning against the 2018, but is located in the Muppet’s Stage 1 Company store.  The issue is that part of this store is currently behind a “temporary” construction wall and is also where this press machine is located.  For some reason they aren’t moving the machine out at this time.  According to the cast members the machine will remain unavailable until the renovations have been completed.  Hopefully this will only be a few weeks.

These new 2018 pressed coins are really nice again this year.  This has become one of my favorite times of year for collecting pressed coins.  It’s exciting to see the new designs and of course a lot of fun to trek around property collecting them all.  Make sure to grab a set or two for your collection before the year ends.

Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground – Lake Buena Vista, FL

I mentioned in a previous post about a last-minute trip to Disney my wife.  One downfall with a last-minute vacation especially at Disney is you don’t have the 180 day window to book dining reservations or 60 days out to book fast passes for rides.  You end up just winging it which has the potential to be disastrous.  But thankfully for us we managed to try out some new dining locations that are kind of hidden gems and are much easier to get a table at without calling ahead.  One of these places we still talk about is the Trail’s End Restaurant located in the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

First off I’ll say this place is huge.  It’s so expansive that there is an internal bus system with various routes taking you throughout the campgrounds and cabins.  On this more recent afternoon trip back I did manage to make a reservation for lunch, but before heading all the way to the marina I had a few stops along the way.

After parking in the guest lot I headed into the Reception Outpost (Registration Lobby).  All of the buildings here look like log cabins and tend to be a little dark inside but I enjoy this place immensely.  It’s just fun to be here.

Up against the back wall of this registration area is the first pressed penny machine.

The set of pennies here are all from the Pixar movie Monsters, Inc: Waternoose, Celia, and Boo in her Monster Costume.  With these pennies in my pocket I walked back outside and across the parking lot to the bus stop.  There are three different routes trough the campground, but they all end up near Pioneer Hall.  But note that if you want to get all the pennies available here you do need to take the Orange bus as it’s the only one that stops at the Meadow Trading Post.

This is kind of like a general store for a certain area campsites, and is where you can get all your snacks, food and souvenir needs.

There are some cool things in here like S’mores kits and popcorn which always seem to taste better over a campfire.

At the back of the settlement post near the check out register was the second penny machine.

This second set of pennies has designs of Pioneer Mickey with a Musket, Chip & Dale, and Western Goofy all tied up.  I headed back outside to the Bus Stop and hopped on the next bus that came by.  After a short ride I hopped off on the final stop which was up at Pioneer Hall.

There are a lot of things going on up here, including Tri-Circle-D Ranch, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, and Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue.

This is also where the Marina is located where you can take a nice boat ride over to the Wilderness Lodge Resort, Contemporary Resort and/or the Magic Kingdom.  There is also another shop called the Settlement Trading Post.

Inside this place is very similar to the Meadow Trading Post, and sells pretty much the same stuff.

The third penny machine is located just outside the main set of doors to this Trading Post.

This machine has a classic set of designs including Mickey, Minnie and Goofy.  By this time it was getting pretty close to my lunch reservation and thankfully I didn’t have far to go.

The Trail’s End Restaurant was still as good as I remember and really hit the spot.  It’s a buffet with a fairly unique set of options, and I still recommend this place highly.  After a busy morning of collecting pressed coins the filling lunch was a nice end to my visit at the campgrounds.

Port Orleans French Quarter & Riverside Resorts – Lake Buena Vista, FL

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on these machines
———————————————————————————–

Years ago my wife and I had decided to take a last-minute trip to the most Magical Place on Earth.  This was out of the ordinary for me as I’m always much more of a detailed pre-planner.  We only had a few resorts available to us at the time, but we wanted to stay somewhere we hadn’t been before.  Port Orleans French Quarter was the one we decided to book and to this day we will talk about how much we loved that resort.

All this time later I wanted to make another trip back and just walk around the resort and see what has changed.  Plus I figured I can also go check out the related sister resort Riverside.  The French Quarter resort opened in May of 1991 as is themed like New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

After I parked my car I headed inside the French Quarter resort first and wandered past the registration area.  Nearby is the Jackson Square Gift shop.

As with pretty much every other resort gift shop it has the same merchandise with not too much variance.

Towards the back of the store near where the coolers are with soda and other refrigerated snacks is where I came across the first penny machine.

The penny set available here included images of Mickey playing the Trumpet, Donald with a Trombone, and Jester Goofy.  We were going to finish up our visit back at this resort, but decided to head over to the Riverside part of the resort for quick visit.

The more scenic way over to the resort would be to walk but this is a quite a long hike, and with our younger daughter with us we opted for the air-conditioned car.

The Riverside resort is themed after the American South along the Mississippi River.  It opened less than a year after the French Quarter in February 1992.

The large lobby and registration area really transform you into the deep south.  The staff has that wonderful southern charm as well and as the Disney saying goes welcomes you home.  Located in the registration area are the next two penny machines we came across.

The first machine has three designs with images of the Prince from Snow White, Princess Jasmine, and Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse.

Only a few steps away on the opposite side of the large window was the second machine.  Unfortunately when we visited this machine was out-of-order, but thankfully for my collection I already acquired these coins on my previous stay here.

The set of pennies from this machine (when working) have designs of Grumpy Dwarf, Spaceman Mickey, and the Wicked Queen from Snow White.

Just across from the registration area is this resorts gift shop known as Fulton’s General Store.

As you walk into the gift shop you will find the next penny machine.

The penny set available at this machine are all about your friends from the Hundred Acre Wood.  Tigger, Winnie the Pooh, and Eeyore.

At the back of the General Store is the fifth and final machine currently available at the Port Orleans resorts.

The last set of pennies has designs of Classic Mickey Mouse, Sleepy Dwarf, and Goofy with a Swimming Tube.  With all the coins pressed we headed back outside to take a look around.

This resort has a few different dining options and one of them is the Riverside Mill Food court, and the above picture is of the outside of that building.  The raised boardwalk pathway around the resort is a fun way to take in the entire atmosphere of the south.  After aimlessly walking around we went back to our car for a quick stop back at the French Quarter resort for a special treat.

In the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory is the main food court for the resort.  They have items known in New Orleans like Po’ boys, Gumbo, and Jambalaya.  For dessert there is my daughters favorite straight from Tiana’s Place in The Princess and the Frog, beignets.  Fried squares of dough covered with powdered sugar just can’t be beat and was a nice ending to our staycation.  My daughter’s reaction below explains just how we felt about those beignets.  Happy collecting.

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – Lake Buena Vista, FL

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on these machines
———————————————————————————–

Over these last few weeks as I’ve been checking out the different resorts and pretending I was staying for a short vacation there was one resort on the list I was really looking forward to.  I’ve stayed at a lot of the different resorts but one has always been on my bucket list but with my usual vacation budget could probably only stay there for a night or two.

My previous trips to the Grand Floridian usually amount to a quick scan as the monorail rooms passed on our way to the Magic Kingdom.  To be honest I hadn’t actually planned to visit this resort this soon but my wife’s birthday was quickly approaching and I decided to splurge for her to get a morning spa treatment.  There are a few different locations on Disney property with a Spa but I could think of no better place to go all out than the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  Plus this would give me a chance to wander around and see what they had to offer.

This resort is just simply magnificent to look at, and the exudes luxury.  It opened it’s doors in June 1988 and was themed as a Victorian era beach resort.  This is one of the Deluxe hotels on property and has the AAA Five Diamond award-winning restaurant called Victoria & Albert’s.  As I mentioned above this on the monorail loop and makes for a quick trip into the Magic Kingdom.

If you are staying here and want to visit one of the other parks, or Disney Springs there is a bus stop just beyond the main entrance where the registration and lobby are located.

While you wait for your bus to arrive be sure to use the penny machine located in this area.  If there are a lot of people waiting for a ride this can get a little congested.

The designs available in this first set of pennies includes: Mickey in a Tuxedo, Winnie the Pooh & Tigger playing in a Flower Patch, and the Siamese Cats from Lady & the Tramp.  Turning around I headed back inside the registration area and you just can’t help but be overwhelmed this main building.  There is a large lobby area in the middle, and if you are lucky you can enjoy a pianist playing, or maybe even Cinderella making a grand entrance down the stairs.  Near the bell services area are a set of restrooms which also is near the exit to a restaurant called 1900 Park Fare.

This is usually a buffet style character meal with a rotating cast of characters including Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter.

In this side hallway where the exit is located you can find an additional pressed Penny and Quarter machine.

The quarter machine has a cute set of coins that are part of a numbered set called “Friends”.  The designs include Mickey Donald & Goofy, Mulan & Mushu, and Pumbaa Simba & Timon.

The second machine here has three images pressed on pennies that include: Gus & Jaq from Cinderella, Alice, and Prince Charming.  The final machine available at this resort is up on at the second floor lobby.  From the exit of 1900 Park Fare you can either take the elevators or the grand staircase on the opposite side of the lobby.  Once upstairs you get a wonderful view of the main floor, and the beautiful chandeliers.

On the second floor there are a few different type of stores available, and Mizner’s Lounge if you need a stiff drink.  If you are heading out to the monorail station to head over to the Magic Kingdom, beside to check out the penny machine that is located just before the doors leading outside.

One of the dates 2017 pennies is available at this machine along with images of Mickey’s Face, and Pearl from Finding Nemo.  With all the coins visited and collected I wandered a little more around the grounds of the resort and was just really impressed with this resort.  Some day hopefully I can scrounge up enough to stay here for at least one night (but hopefully longer) so I can really enjoy the benefits of this location.

Nightmare Before Christmas Penny Set – Days of Christmas Store in Disney Springs

Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away and Disney has definitely started helping people in Florida get into the Holiday spirit.  It’s still a little strange to be walking through the theme parks with fake snow falling from the rooftops and Christmas trees everywhere you look but I’m still wearing shorts and a t-shirt with mid-70 degree weather.  This is going to take some getting used any.

Of course Disney also has some places that celebrate the holiday’s year round including one store in Disney Springs called the Days of Christmas.  This place is almost always very busy regardless of the time of year.  People just really love Christmas and who can blame them.  While working today I got a notification that a new 8-Design penny machine was just released and located in this store.

Inside is the biggest selection of Christmas ornaments I have ever seen, and they are Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars related.  Some can be customized which is fun to watch the cast members with steady hands working endlessly on these special souvenirs.

The dated ornaments with the year listed on them are always popular with people commemorating their trips.  I’ll admit I am one of them as well.  Towards the back of the main store is another room that has some clothing, Santa hats, and other souvenirs.  This is where I found the new machine just near the door.

I’m not sure if I’m surprise or not but this was another 8-design penny-sized token machine.  These have definitely become the popular option for new machines of late on Disney property and even Universal.

I had to double-check on some of the characters as I didn’t initially remember all their names.  This is a pretty cool set and I’m sure this is a first appearance in coin form for a lot of these characters.  The designs include images of: Jack Skellington, Sally & Jack in the moonlight, Zero, Oogie Boogie, the Mayor of Halloween town, Sally with a veil, Jack clasping his hands, and Barrel.

As usual I have not intel on whether this is a temporary machine or not.  But since this store is holiday themed all year round, and does include quite a bit of Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise I think it’s a same assumption that this machine will be around for a while.  This is a very popular movie, and people really love these characters so I’m sure this machine will be very popular.  Make sure to get your set as this is definitely a nice additional to any collection.

 

Old Key West Resort – Lake Buena Vista, FL

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on these machines
———————————————————————————–

Over the years when I would come down to Florida to visit Walt Disney World I always tried to stay at a different Disney resort.  Each of the resorts has their own unique theming and experiences.  It was always on my so-called Disney bucket list to try to stay at all the resorts at least once.  Now as anyone that has stayed on property at a Disney resort knows they can get a little pricey making that type of task potentially out of reach.  Since we have moved to Florida I would still like to mark this off my list as some point, but for now I’ll just stick to driving over and visiting each resort for an afternoon.  With 20 plus resorts this should keep me busy for a while, now I just need to figure out where to start.

Since we are on the topic of places on my bucket list, Key West is pretty high on that list so I figured why not check out Disney’s version of this intriguing locale.  Old Key West Resort was the very first Disney Vacation Club Resort and opened in December of 1991.  You do not need to be  DVC member to stay here, but since the rooms are either a Deluxe Studio, or 1 , 2 or 3 Bedroom Villas (including a kitchenette) these can get a little pricing if not using your club member points.

You can see by the above picture that the style of this place is very Key West, at least from what I’ve seen on TV and in vacation magazines.  There is just a very calming feeling that washed over me as I walked around this resort.  It was pretty quiet, and everything seemed to move at a nice leisurely pace.  Now this could be due to my visit being during the week in the early afternoon, but still it was really a nice environment to enjoy.

There is plenty of waterfront space to be entertained by.  Some of the Disney resorts used to have boats you could rent which looks to be the case here, but during my visit there were none available.

Olivia’s Cafe is the main table service restaurant here serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with a Key West flair.

The pools here are really nice and the kids area is themed like a giant sand castle.  When I visited they seemed unusually quiet and not much activity but I’m sure most days this is not the norm.

Back towards the main entrance to the resort is the Conch Flats General Store.  Really just their souvenir / gift shop.  My daughter always thinks these are her personal toy closet, and I usually have to drag her out even though they have pretty much the same stuff all over the place.  There are a few unique Old Key West items found here like luggage tags, coffee mugs and t-shirts.  Directly across from the General Store is the main registration building.

Inside this building the interior is a lot of wood paneling and gave me a very nautical feel.  There was an area to the far end with little chairs and Mickey cartoons for the kids to watch while their parents get checked into the resort.  On display is also a model of a Disney Cruise ship which I will admit I looked at for a least 10 minutes, it was very incredibly detailed.  Also in this area were two pressed coins machines.

The first machine was an older model which you can tell by the marquee.  The penny designs available her included Abu from Aladdin, Iago also from Aladdin, and the Disney’s Old Key West Resort Logo.  If you make a 180 degree turn you will come face to face with the second coin press machine.

This second machine only has one design available and pressed on a quarter.  This type of machine automatically starts to press your quarter as soon as you slide the required coins into the machine.  These used to be more common, but have been getting replaced with newer versions containing 3 designs.

This design is another resort special and has Pirate Mickey with a Parrot on his arm with Disney’s Old Key West above him.

My first adventure of casually visiting  a resort and checking out what they have to offer was a lot of fun.  Plus it gives me an excuse to collect even more pressed coins.  I’ll keep visiting the different resorts from time to time and will be sure to bring you a long.

Saratoga Springs Resort – Lake Buena Vista, FL

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on these machines
———————————————————————————–

When my wife was pregnant with our first daughter we went on a babymoon which I still think is strange.  However a doctor prescribed vacation wasn’t something I was going to turn down so we tried to pick someplace within driving distance but still someplace different that we hadn’t been to before.  After a few nights of online searching we eventually decided on Lake George in upstate New York.  Along the drive up there we made a stop in Saratoga Springs to grab some food and were amazed with this little town.  Everything about it seemed to have popped up around the horse track. It was a quaint place to visit and we ended up spending more time there than we originally planned.

When I was trying to figure out the next Disney resort to explore I saw the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and immediately was drawn back to that afternoon in upstate New York.

A soon as you start walking around this beautiful resort the connection to the horse track is clearly apparent.  The resort was originally opened in May of 2004 and was finished over multiple phases.  Currently it is the largest Disney Vacation Club resort.

High Rock Spring Pool is the original main pool of the resort and is situation right near the main registration building.  It was created to look like a natural spring with geysers, trees and other natural features.  Since I wasn’t staying at the resort I couldn’t try out the pool but it definitely looks cool.

Back at the main registration building called The Carriage House you will find the different eateries like The Turf Club Bar and Grill or the quick service Artist’s Palette.  The spa and fitness center are also located here as well and of course there is a resort gift shop.

inside the Carriage House continued the theming which was fun to see all the little details.  The registration area above looked like it should have horses wandering around with their jockeys preparing for a race.

The lobby area in-between registration and the gift shop area was a very relaxing area.  I found myself sitting her for a bit just enjoying where I was, regardless of the fact that I really wasn’t on vacation.  But at that moment it felt like I was.

Just across from where I was sitting was a set of public restrooms, and the penny machine I had been looking for.

There are three designs available here and fit in perfectly with this resort.  The pennies have images of Mickey riding a Horse, Angry Donald Jumping, and Cinderella hugging her Horse.

Part of the charm of the city Saratoga Springs New York was the main street that ran through the center of town with all its little shops, cafes and restaurants.  Obviously this resort couldn’t quite recreate that  setting, but walking around the grounds definitely gave me that tranquil feeling I remember all those years ago.  It may have all been in my head, but this made for a fantastic afternoon even if I was in Florida and not New York.

RunDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – Pressed Penny Set

Click here to see my YouTube channel video on these machines
———————————————————————————–

This weekend is usually one to stay away from the Walt Disney World property if you are not participating in the Marathon as the crowd levels can be a little above normal.

I am not currently a runner, but would like to participant sometime in the future hopefully if I can get some proper training done first.  Of course I’m always up to get out of the house and run (fast walk) when there is a rumor of a new penny machine.  Of course on Friday I read online that a machine with some runDisney designs had been placed for the event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

As I mentioned above crowd levels can be a bit crazy for these special events.  Parking at the ESPN Complex can be a little challenging on normal days, and next to impossible during marathon weekend.  My plan of attack was to park over at the All-Star Sports resort, hope on the Wide World of Sports bus and just cruise on in.  To be honest this worked perfectly and my daughter and I were the only passengers.  Then we got off the bus and encountered the crowd.

The information I received about the new penny machine was that it was in a building called the “J Center”.  Thankfully I could see it from roughly the area where the bus let us off.

We walked up the main path with the crowd and I will say the energy of everyone, runners and spectators was really infectious.  People were walking around with their medals and everyone was congratulating each other which was nice to see and partake in.

The above banner was up in a lot of different places.  I wish it was on a t-shirt or something as I really like this design.

Eventually we made our way over to the J Center and entered into the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Health & Fitness Expo.

Lots more people.  This was basically a trade show for health and fitness, which included tech gadgets, trainers, and all matter of things along with lots of free giveaways.  There was a specific path down to the lower level with you heading down a set of stairs to the left, and then coming back up on the right side of the building.

We walked around for a bit and eventually found the machine over by the “up” stairs.

This was not a special cabinet, but rather just a plain wood version.  It was a three design electric model and was pressing the designs very nicely.

The designs were themed around runDisney which was a nice touch.  Images were of Marathon Mickey, an Outline of Mickey’s Head, and the runDisney Logo.  All of the designs include the phrase “Every Mile is Magic” which I think is a really nice touch.

Now there is no way to know how long this machine will be available.  There are other runDisney events throughout the year so it may be available moving forward.  However the J Center is only open to the public when events are taking place.  If you go on a day with no events this building is usually locked up tight.  Make sure you plan ahead if you are looking to try to get a set.

Date Night in Canadian Pavilion – Epcot

It’s been a few months since our move down to Florida, the moving boxes have all been put away and we are getting comfortable with our new surroundings.  We have taken little adventures around our area to try to get familiarized with our locale, and of course finding new doctors and a vet for our cats is always an adventure.  My wife and I both work for the same company and they allowed us to continue working remotely from our home after the move which was a big help.  But spending so much time in the same house can drive you a little batty.  With our two young daughters, getting some time just to ourselves can be a bit of challenge.  We decided as a lot of couples do to start having date nights every so often so we can just get out of the house for a few hours.

With so many options it can be a little daunting to figure out where to go.  We had recently visited Epcot and I saw a restaurant I hadn’t been to in years so I checked the myDisneyExperience smart phone app and was able to get a reservation for about 7pm.  Before that we did have some time to waste so I grabbed a fastness for one of our favorite attractions.

The new Soarin’ around the World movie is a nice update.  I was really hoping to get a purely Florida version but flying over the Great Wall of China, and the Eiffel tower is still a pretty cool experience.  Once we were done with Soarin’ we headed outside so we could make sure we arrived in plenty of time for our reservation.

I was originally born in Canada so the Canadian Pavilion was always a stop my family would make on vacations when I was young.  In the lower area of the Pavilion is the very popular Le Cellier steakhouse.  You could try just walking up for a table but be prepared to wait.  Reservations would be highly recommended to ensure you get a table.

As the name suggests the restaurant is themed like you are in a Wine Cellar.  It’s a little dark inside and usually very noisy, but on this trip it was still dark but actually kind of relaxing inside.  Even though we were only two for dinner, we were sat at a larger table for four.  This allowed us to spread out a bit as some of the Disney restaurants do crowd you in together with all the other guests.

For an appetizer my wife and I split a Canadian favorite poutine.  This has become quite the phenomenon in a lot of areas through the US with each place putting a bit of a spin on it.  The classic is french fries, covered with a thick beef gravy and squeaky cheese curds (yes squeaky that’s how you know they are authentic).  The version we had this time was called the Montreal Poutine.  It included fresh-cut french fries, Montreal style smoked brisket, french onion gravy, Gruyère cheese with a mustard cheese sauce.  This far from a classic version but was very tasty.  The brisket was also nice, but was layered on top in long slices which made it a little difficult to each with the fries.  I would have preferred it was cubed up and mixed in a little better, but still very nice.

For our main course we both got the Signature Filet Mignon, which was a AAA Canadian Tenderloin, Mushroom Risotto, Asparagus-Tomato relish and a Truffle Butter sauce.  I’m not a big mushroom fan but this was really tender and fantastic.  For dessert my wife got the Maple Creme Brûlée, and I tried their Maple Sugar-Pecan Doughnuts with a Coffee mousse.  The doughnuts were okay, but my wife’s Creme Brûlée was definitely the winner.  With our wonderful meal complete we headed outside.

The Canadian Pavilion at night when it’s all lit up is really pretty.  The native decorations and totem poles are a nice touch as well giving some details on the rich history of the country and its people.

Of course there is also a gift shop located here called the Northwest Mercantile.  These gifts shops around the world showcase are fun to walk through as they have items directly from those countries.  Inside the mercantile I saw candy and other items that I haven’t seen since my last trip to visit family in Canada.

I always like to talk with the cast members working in these stores as they are usually on the college program and are from the country you are visiting.  I visited with Nick who was from the Toronto area and chatted about how my father’s side of the family were all from that area.  It always makes the world seem just a little bit smaller.

Tucked away in the back by all the shirts and sweaters is a penny machine.  There is some native decoration on the cabinet which was cool.

The machine was electric and pressed three designs The Canadian Pavilion, Mickey wearing a Mountie Hat, and Canada Duffy Bear.  As we continued looking through the gift shop we hear an announcement from outside in the park that the fireworks show would be starting shortly.

Thankfully the park was actually not that busy and we were able to just walk right up to the fence surrounding water where the show takes place.  It’s called IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, and is a Fireworks and laser show.

Some of the show pieces move around on the water, and the lasers  can be seen from all around the showcase.  The fireworks are some of the best on property.

This was a great way to end our date night, and we had a great time just spending some time together at the park.  Dinner was great and of course I was still able to squeeze in a penny machine.  Now I just have to figure out where we are going next.