Mickey’s Star Traders – Magic Kingdom, FL

In years past when I would hear about new penny press machines becoming available in Disney World I would have mixed emotions.  Mostly excitement that there were not coin designs available, but a little sad knowing that it may be over a year before I could get down there to use the machine in person.  Thankfully I have a great network of fellow collectors that help me acquire these coins to keep my collection up to date, but there is nothing I like better than using the machines myself.  But now that we live down in the Orlando area it actually took me a moment to realize that hey I can just get up and go to the park after work and get these new coins.  It’s kind of been a slow learning curve but makes for some fun little evening adventures.  This past week was one of the first where I was checking my favorite press coins.com website and was surprises to see a new 8-design penny machine in the Magic Kingdom.  It took all my strength not to just bail out on work immediately, but I managed to complete by shift and then head over to the park to get these brand new designs.

After driving over to the ticketing and transportation center, going through security and jumping on the monorail into the Magic Kingdom I started heading down main street.  The castle is always so beautiful in the background even with the ominous clouds gathering overhead.  Now that I can go more often I like the opportunity to take my time getting to places inside the park instead of always having to run to our next fastpass or dining reservation.  It makes for a much more enjoyable visit.  Once over in tomorrowland I walked past Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Stitch’s Great Escape and hung a left past the Merchant of Venus store (click the link to see the penny machine located in this store).  Sort of across from the speedway and beside Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe is a little store called Mickey’s Star Traders.

Inside as always are bottles of soda, candy, plush characters, t-shirts, et al.  This was home to one of the few Quarter Press machines on property and thankfully that machine is still here but it was moved to the entrance closer to Cosmic Ray’s.

Confession on the picture above, I had visited the park about a week before this current trip I’m writing about and took the above machine picture.  This is in the old location, but the machine and designs are still exactly the same.  I know there are some eagle-eyed readers that would have called me out on this being the old spot so I figured I better cop to it immediately.

It’s funny on this machine there is still a sticker that says “All Brand New Designs” but these designs have actually be here for quite a while now.  They include Mickey & Pluto in a Spaceship, Zurg from Toy Story fame, and the Tomorrowland Logo.  Now it’s on to the new machine.

This machine is located where he old machine used to be, and is at the entrance closes to the restroom area.  It’s still inside the store which is nice so you can get a break from the heart in some blasting AC.  The machine is an 8-design touch screen version.  You can get 1 design for $1, or all 8 for $5.  I’m sure you know what I got.

As I’ve mentioned before these are penny like tokens that usually press pretty consistently and are nice and shiny.  I’m still waiting to see how they hold up over time.  The designs in this set are of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Buzz Lightyear, Stitch, and Mr. Incredible all with the Tomorrowland Logo and in some form of spacesuit or space travel.

While using this machine I overheard a couple talking about it and they said something I hadn’t heard of and tested out to make sure I wasn’t wrong.  They said that if you only pick to press 1 design you don’t get to choose the design, but rather the machine randomly picks it for you.  This is NOT true.  I actually pressed a single design just to try it out, and actually let the couple watch while I did it.  If you are either short on extra change (this does accept credit cards or Apple Pay) and you only decide to press 1 coin you do get to pick which one you want.  I wasn’t sure if this was a common misnomer people thought happened with these machines so I figured I would bust that myth immediately.

It was starting to get dark, thankfully the rain had held off and as I headed through the Tomorrowland terrace I got a quick look at the new castle projection and fireworks show “Happily Ever After”.  This took over for the much beloved “Wishes” fireworks show but from what I have seen and hear this is a much needed upgrade and will just blow you away.  I haven’t seen the whole show yet and have it on my to do list to get out there one night just to check it out.  But here is a shot I got as I was heading back to my car.  Until next time keep on collecting!

Disney Cruise 2017 – Port Canaveral, FL

For our 5th wedding anniversary my wife and I decided it was time to take our long overdue honeymoon.  When we first got married we had a lot going on in our lives and just figured we would take our honeymoon when things slowed down and before we knew it 5 years had passed.  So this was the year we were going to change that and decided to take a cruise to the Bahamas.  Of course being the Disney fans that we are the Disney Cruise Line seemed right up our alley, except we were leaving our girls behind to stay with grandparents (gasp!).  We missed our girls every day, but the quite and slow pace of our long weekend trip was just what we needed to relax and just recharge.

We were scheduled to check-in at 10:30 am so we got up early and headed over to Port Canaveral in plenty of time.  This was our first cruise so we weren’t sure exactly what we were doing but Disney made it very simple.  We parked in the garage right across from the terminal and as we walked over towards the security area our ship was in the distance waiting for us.

After checking in and getting our boarding group number we sat in the waiting area of the terminal.  Over to the far side of the check-in desks was something I kind of thought I may never actually get to see or use in person.  They have two pressed penny machines here with Disney Cruise Line designs on them.  However, these machines can only be accessed by passengers on the ship.  If you are just passing through there is no way you can get to these machines.  I first found out about these machines months ago and have been scouring online sources trying to acquire a set but to no avail.  But now I was going to be able to use them in person and add some hard to get coins to my collection.

   

The first machine situated on the left side had designs of the Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Cruise Line with Mickey.  Our cruise ship for the weekend was the Disney Dream so it was cool that they have coin designs specifically for each ship in the fleet.

   

The machine on the right side also had three designs including the other two ships: the Disney Wonder, Disney Magic, and Disney’s Castaway Cay (pronounced Key) which is Disney’s private island in the Bahamas.

Each of the pressed pennies have a backstamp on them of the Disney Cruise Lines logo.  This was a nice touch as most of the pressed coins in Florida don’t have backstamps which are almost the norm out in California.  With these special pennies pressed and safely stored away our boarding group was called shortly after.

You get to walk through this cool “hidden mickey” although it’s not really all that hidden.  Next you get your picture taken, before the staff on board ask for your family name and announce you onto to the ship.

Above is a picture of the main atrium that you walk into, I took this from one of the higher decks to get a better shot of the chandelier and entry way.  Your cabin’s aren’t ready until later in the afternoon and there is a fun Sail Away party up on the main deck where all your favorite Disney characters help celebrate the beginning of the cruise.

There are constantly things to do on board, and the food is pretty much always available.  We spent the first evening exploring the ship and my wife took full advantage of the Spa.

We had a stateroom on the seventh deck with a balcony that made for some really amazing mornings.  Watching the sun rise and even peek through the clouds like the above picture were very magical.  It was really nice to sit out an enjoy the crashing waves, with a coffee in hand and sea air all around you.  If you look closely in the distance you can even see another cruise ship.  On Saturday morning we decided to check out the Enchanted Garden restaurant for breakfast.

The Disney cruise lines have what they call rotational dining so your evening dinner location changes each night.  The rotation is listed on your room card, and we were scheduled to eat here for dinner but opted for a different kind of buy-up option that I’ll go over in a bit.  So we figured since we would miss this place for dinner why not go inside for breakfast.

Inside it’s themed like an English Garden which also kind of reminded me of the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom theme park.  For breakfast they had a huge buffet with all types of your usual offerings, including fresh fruit, pastries, breads, meats, and of course eggs, bacon, etc.  Since most people seemed to be leaving early to explore our first port of call this place was pretty calm and very little lines for the food which was nice.

Our first port of call was Nassau in the Bahama’s.  We eventually headed off the ship for a bit to walk around.  I didn’t have an excursion planned so instead we just walked around and did a bit of shopping.

The locals were very nice, but can be a bit over bearing.  You are constantly being called after to come and buy things they are selling or trying to get you into their cab for a tour of the island.  It was never overly aggressive but can get a little uncomfortable if you aren’t used to that.  We go through the main area by the dock and headed a few blocks inland towards the main street and there were a lot of standard tourist shops to check out.  After a couple of hours we decided to get back on the ship and lay out in the sun for a bit.  This was a vacation after all we couldn’t come back from the Bahama’s without a tan.

The ship does have two adults only restaurants that you can make reservations for.  I booked the reservations a few months ago to ensure we could get a table, but it did seem like you could still make late minute reservations on board if needed.  As I mentioned these restaurants are not completely covered by your usual cruise cost.  There is an up charge but is pretty reasonable for what you get.  One of the restaurants is called Remy’s which is based on the Pixar movie Ratatouille and is obviously French inspired.  We decided to try the other restaurant called Palo which is an Italian inspired dining experience.

There was a dress code for this restaurant.  It wasn’t too outrageous in requiring a tuxedo or anything.  But there was no swim wear and for men they requested either a suite, or dress pants and shirt.  For the ladies a dress or pant suit was acceptable.  The inside was beautiful and we were informed by our hostess that the interior was actually designed as if you were in Venice Italy.  I’ve never been to Venice so I’ll take their word for it, but it was really an exceptional place to have a meal.

During the initial booking of the cruise I mentioned that we were celebrating our wedding anniversary which definitely worked out in our favor.  The hostess seated us at a nice private table away from the other tables with a beautiful view of the ocean as the ship made its way to our next port.  When the menu came it was explained to us that the Palo experience can take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  We were in no rush so this was fine with us.  They do offer a chef selection menu where you get five courses picked by the chef and matched with accompanying wines.  Or you can do the a la carte menu which is what we opted for.  Your first course is an antipasto which is created table side from a huge cart with a wide assortment of cured meats, cheese, roasted veggies and olive oils.  Next was our appetizers which my wife selected a potato gnocchi, and I went for the fried calamari and shrimp were was all really fresh, tender and fantastic.  There was then an intermezzo of lime sorbet to help cleanse our palette before our main entrees arrived.

My wife got the filet over puree cauliflower with two sauces a red wine reduction, and a Gorgonzola white sauce.

I opted for the Lobster pappardelle pasta.  Both were beautifully plated and tasted fantastic.  However we were getting pretty close to our bursting point, and there was still desert on the way.

As our last course our server recommended the souffles which Palo is known for.  They initially only had a chocolate version, but recently have added an amaretto version.  So we ordered one of each and they were both fantastic.  The chef even came out at the end to ensure everything had been satisfactory which was a really nice touch.  With our stomachs bursting we slowly walked back to our cabin to relax for a bit before the fireworks show later that night as part of the pirate party.

The next morning we arrived at Disney’s private island in the Bahama’s Castaway Cay.  It was another gorgeous day in the low nineties, but the sun was blazing.

As we exited the boat we decided just to walk to the beach instead of taking the tram.  It wasn’t too bad of a walk and was just nice to work off those extra calories we had ingested at Palo the night before.

The picture above is of the famous Mount Rustmore on the island.  You eventually come to an area with various souvenir shops with t-shirts, coffee mugs, pins, and of course beach supplies if needed.

We eventually did need to hop on a separate tram to get over to Serenity Bay which is an adults only area.

My wife and I had a couples massage scheduled in a cabana over in this area right on the beach which was an interesting experience.  The massage was about an hour, but seemed to go by way to fast.  We were very relaxed after that and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the beach, sun and water.  Before we knew it we had to head back to the ship before it left to take us back to Florida.

For dinner that night we were scheduled at the Royal Palace.  This was another French inspired restaurant that loosely reminded me of Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom.

The food here was nice, not Palo quality but still very good.  My wife and I both started with the french onion soup which is a guilty pleasure of ours.  My wife had a horseradish crusted salmon which she really enjoyed, and I had a sliced sirloin.

With dinner complete we wanted to try to enjoy the ship for a few more hours and wandered around on the top deck.  Eventually we headed to bed and when we woke up the next morning we were back in Port Canaveral.  We had a nice quick breakfast back at the Royal Palace and then were able to disembark the ship.

Overall it has been a fantastic little trip and the much needed sleep and relaxation make for a great vacation.  I would highly recommend the Disney Cruise Line, and we are hoping to go again in the near future maybe when our girls are a little older.  If you do take a Disney cruise don’t forget to bring some change so you can press those elusive pennies as they will be a great addition to your collection and are highly sought after by collectors.  Happy cruising!

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jiko / The Mara / Pumbaa’s Fun & Games

When my wife and I first got married we were in the middle of buying a new house, and having a our first child so we didn’t get to have a honeymoon.  We had always planned on taking a honeymoon at some point but kept pushing it off.  Finally I decided it was time to do something and as if we don’t already get enough Disney fun, we booked a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas.

I’ll get into this a little more in a future post, but we arrived a day early for our cruise to Orlando so we could do some shopping for our new house (Spoiler) that we are having build in Florida.  We had a very early flight from Jersey to Orlando and spent the entire day shopping.  Even though we were pretty exhausted from the day I had booked a dinner reservation at Jiko which is a signature restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This was a place we have wanted to try in the past, and today was the day to go and we weren’t going to miss it.

I’ve said it before but this is really am amazing resort to visit.  We haven’t stayed here yet, but have visited a few times during a down day just to walk around.  It’s really a treat for the senses when you come to visit this resort.

Of course there are the Savannah’s towards the back of the resort that let some of your favorite exotic animals roam around.  Some like the giraffes have feeding times you can go and watch or help with if you are lucky enough.

We were running a little late for our reservation, and the maps for this resort can be a little confusing.  But after heading outside by the pool, then back inside we eventually found Jiko.

Jiko stands for The Cooking Place which is a central location where people would gather to enjoy each others company and community dining.  In the middle of this restaurant is a cool area you can sit at a high bar type table and watch the chefs create the starter courses available on the menu.

We were seated at a table towards the back in a nice quiet area.  The wait staff was very attentive and explained all about Jiko, the decorations and art inside, the cooking styles and always wanted to ensure all our questions were answered.  For a started we decided to try the Taste of Africa.

This was a similar bread and dip sampler to what we had a few months ago a Sanaa also located in the Animal Kingdom.  However this one had fewer options but was still very good.  It included unique “breads” like Pappadum, Sesame Fatir, Flax-Seed Naan, and also came with a variety of African inspired dips.

For my main course I went with the 7 oz oak-grilled filet that I had heard a lot of good things about.  It was service over top of bobotie mac and cheese, asparagus, and a South African red wine sauce.  The spices used on the steak and in the mac and cheese were from a different spice palette than what I’m used to but was a nice change and very unique and tasty.

My wife had a Moroccan Lamb Tagine which was basically a huge lamb shank with parsnip and root spinach.  It was fall apart tender and very juicy but a huge portion which would have been difficult for most to finish in one sitting.  We were offered dessert but were so stuffed by that time that we chose to pass (Yikes!).  Instead of just heading right back out to our card we decided to try to walk off a bit of our dinner by wandering around the resort a bit.  Just outside Jiko towards the main pool we ran into the quick service cafeteria style eatery called The Mara.

As with all the other resorts this place includes various stations with different types of food at each.  Your standard flatbread pizzas, salads, and chicken nuggets are all available here.  We went inside to get a small dessert I had heard about called Zebra Domes.

So what exactly is a zebra dome?  Well the explanation is as follows: An Amarula cream liquor mousse covered with a panna cotta like white chocolate, drizzled with chocolate stripes and chocolate shavings.  These come in a nice to-go package of four so you can snack on them as you walk.  Please note that these do have liquor in them so you may want to avoid letting your little ones try them.  I believe they do offer non-alcoholic versions but didn’t see any when I was there.  Before heading back outside I found two coin press machines just near the main set of doors.

   

The first machine had three penny designs available including Shenzi (Hyena leader from The Lion King), Terk Tantor & Young Tarzan, and Pleakley from Lilo & Stitch.

   

Right next to the penny machine was a second machine that had one quarter design available.  This machine would press an image of Pumbaa and Simba from the Lion King with the Animal Kingdom Lodge logo on it.  We headed back outside and just a short walk away found the next stop.

Pumbaa’s Fun & Games is the resorts arcade.  It has your standard air hockey table, and classic arcade games.  Just outside the door to the arcade was the third coin press machine at this resort.

   

The cabinet design on this machine was really fun and reminded me of the machines they have over at the Animal Kingdom theme park.  This machine also had three designs which included Safari Mickey, Safari Minnie, and Mike from Monsters, Inc.

By this time our long day had finally caught up to us and we were ready to head back for some sleep before our cruise started the next day.  The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a bit out of the way, and if you don’t have a rental car may be tough to get too on the Disney bus system.  But it is doable (I’ve done it in the past) and is well worth the trip over to experience it in person.  Don’t forget to get the pennies located here, and with the layout of the resort can be like a treasure hunt to find them.  Happy hunting!

Disney Quest & Emporium – Disney Springs, FL

On a recent very quick trip down to Orlando I made sure to take a stroll down Disney Springs to see the ongoing changes there.  Even just from my last visit in November there had been some new opening like the overhauled Planet Hollywood, and The Edison restaurant is coming along nicely.  But on this trip I was really here to get some pennies.  I was about to say new pennies but these have been around for a while just not in a place that was easily accessible.

Disney Quest is one of the few places on Disney Property I have never actually experienced or even gone inside.  For those of you that don’t know it’s basically a large Arcade with all different types of interactive games, classic arcade style games, Virtual Reality (VR) experiences and supposedly more.  This place never really interested me and with the fairly high entrance cost was always what kept me away.  The downside for my obsessive pressed penny collection is that two machines were placed inside on the third floor a few years ago.  You were only allowed inside if you paid the entrance fee which I just couldn’t justify.  Recently I had heard that these two machines were moved down to their lobby so I could finally get a chance to use them.  However, when I got there and walked in there were no machines.  I couldn’t believe it, my online community had been wrong for once.  After spinning around a few times to make sure I didn’t miss them I decided to walk next door to the Disney Quest Emporium.

Boom, right inside the doors were the two machines I was looking for.  Check these beauties out, as I’m hoping you recognize them from the Wreck-It Ralph movie.  Really cool theming.

Machine number one on the right has images of the Wreck-It Ralph Logo, Fix It Felix Jr, and Sgt. Calhoun.

Machine number two on the left included images of Ralph, Vanellope, and King Candy.  After I walked outside I passed by the ticket window for Disney Quest and saw two more penny machines.

These two machines used to be inside the Disney Quest Emporium but were moved out here when the above Wreck-It Ralph machines were placed inside.  Hope that makes sense.

The machine on the left had designs of the Disney Quest Logo, Aladdin & Jasmine, Reclining Space Goofy, and Space Mickey.

The second machine shown on the right (in blue) had designs of Cyberspace Mountain Logo, Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey, a Pirate Skull, and another Disney Quest Logo.

Now please be aware if you are going to try to get any or all of these coins that you may only have a limited amount of time.  It was announced earlier this year that Disney Quest will be closing for good in July 2017.  The Wreck-It Ralph machines could just get placed somewhere else on property, but the other two machines have Disney Quest designs and I would doubt these will stick around after the closure.  Time is ticking so be sure to get these before they are gone.

Merchant of Venus – Magic Kingdom, FL

Recently it seems like Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom has been getting some much needed new pressed penny machines.  First over at the Speedway, then at Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and now over at a store that you have probably cut through to get a quick Air Conditioning break, Merchant of Venus.

This store is located just beside Stitch’s Great Escape and Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies.  As with most of the other stores in the Magic Kingdom they sell pins, plush toys, and all your usual march.  They do try to specialize in Space themed movies, so there is a lot of Stitch and Tomorrowland stuff here to collect.  Just inside one of the doors is where the latest penny machine is now located.

I should really stop referring to these as penny machines, and rather the new 8-Design touch screen pressed token machines.  I still have come to like these machines (the additional designs helps).  They are easy to use, and the finished coins that drop out of the machine are nice and shiny.  Not sure if they will hold up like that after numerous years but only time will tell.

As you can see from the machine itself this is another set of Star Wars themed coins.  The designs include: Star Wars Logo, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, R2-D2, Stormtrooper, Tie Fighter, Millennium Falcon, and an X-Wing Fighter.  These coins are similar to some of the other Star Wars themed designs available around the Disney property.  I’m hoping they start to come out with more obscure character designs but then maybe casual collectors are less like to press a set.  But with more Star Wars movies on the way each year for the foreseeable future I’m sure there will be many more pressed coin designs on the way.

2016 WDW Trip Day 6 – Wedding Pavilion / Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

The Wedding Day was finally here.  My brother-in-law’s sister was getting married and being the huge Disney fan that she is there was nowhere else in the world to get married.  But we had a few hours before the ceremony so we got up early and headed over to the Grand Floridian Resort for breakfast.

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1900 Park Fare is located on the first floor of the resort and is a character breakfast buffet.  The characters we met included Marry Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and Alice.

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The food was pretty standard and nothing overly exciting.  There was a kids area that had candy dispensers which Hanna enjoyed but who wouldn’t be excited about endless gummy bears.  After breakfast we headed over to the Wedding Pavilion which is right on the Grand Floridian property.

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This really is a beautiful place to get married, and as you can see from the above picture the day they had was as perfect as anyone could have wished for.

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Inside the area where the ceremony was held was decorated for a magical event.  It’s hard to see in this picture but the big window in the middle at the back where they exchanged vows looks right out towards the Magic Kingdom and Cinderella’s Castle.

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Our niece Ava and nephew Luke were the flower girl and ring bearer.  How cute are they?  They did a great job and was a great way to star the ceremony.  The entire ceremony was really just like a fairy tale, and Disney had completely outdone themselves.  Before we knew it the vows had been exchanged, rings blessed, and we were outside ready to toss flower petals at the newlyweds.  Up next was the reception, and Disney did include a bus to transport everyone over, but since we had driven we just got back in our car.

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As luck would have it the reception was near the Boardwalk Resort which was right across from our resort.  We took the opportunity to walk along the Boardwalk towards the Dance Hall.

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Inside is where the reception was held.  Our table assignments were designed like the old fashion paper fastpasses which I thought was a really cool touch.  The cocktail hour was very nice and we got to catch a glimpse at the cake.

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Eventually it was time for the wedding party to make their grand entrance, and then the first dance, bride and father dance, and just a whole lot of fun.  The dinner was a buffet style which was nice, and the food was a nice assortment of options.  The dance hall was definitely rockin’ once the meal was over and the DJ was really fantastic.  I’m still not sure if he was from Disney or not but either way he did a really great job.  Before we knew it the festivities were coming to a conclusion.  As we left my parents headed back to their car to drive it around to our records, but I took the change to visit a few penny machines on the boardwalk.

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Inside the Boardwalk Resort just near the main lobby is a set of elevators and right there you will find the two penny machines.  The cabinets of these machines are pretty cool looking and look like they came out of Atlantic City in the ’20s.  the first machine has images of Chip, Winnie the Pooh, and an Elephant squirting Donald Duck.

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The second machine had designs of Mickie in a Tux, Ariel, and Lilo with a doll.  We headed back outside to the boardwalk and found the next machine right along the waterfront.

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This machine had 4 designs available and included images of Goofy juggling on a unicycle, Mickey with a Surrey Bike, Mickey as a Strongman, and Mickey & Minnie on the Boardwalk.  I’ve been on the boardwalk during the day and it’s nice, but it definitely gets interesting at night with a lot more going on.  A little further down the boardwalk was an ESPN Zone restaurant and bar.  I headed inside real quick as a machine is located just near the check-in desk.

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The pennies at this machine all included the ESPN Club logo and had images of Football player Mickey, Donald twirling a Basketball, and Daisy swinging a bat.  The Boston Red Sox’s where in a close playoff game and the bar was getting a little crazy with fans so I headed back outside so we could finish making our way over to our resort.

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This was a picture I took of our Beach Club resort from the Boardwalk.  The resorts really do come alive at night and this was just a really nice way to cap of a wonderful day.

BONUS: Day 7 – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

The next was the our last full day of our trip.  We had scheduled to take it easy this day so we could be ready for the Halloween party at night in the Magic Kingdom.  For breakfast we headed back to the Polynesian Village Resort to meet up with my sister’s family at ‘Ohana.

ohana-mickey

The breakfast here includes characters and we were able to see Lilo, Stitch, Pluto, and Mickey.  The food was endless jumbo sized skilled filled with bacon, eggs, sausage and biscuits.  This sounds like a standard breakfast but for some reason it was really fantastic and I would definitely come back here again to start a day.  After we ate we all headed back to our resorts for some pool time, and naps in the afternoon.  By late afternoon we headed over to the Magic Kingdom for the party.

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This is a special ticketed event that we had to set up ahead of time.  We had printed tickets for the entrance gate, but were given special wrist bands so the cast members knew who was allowed in after the park closed for non-party guests.

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I posted this before but the castle was all lit up for Halloween and was really cool looking.  Our kids didn’t want to get into their costumes until we were in the park so it was about now that they decided to transform.

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Hanna had recently coming interested in Sleeping Beauty after watching it a few times.  To be honest I think it’s just because the dress is pink, but she really got into it knowing that candy must be nearby.  Since we were allowed in a little early we had made dinner reservations over at the coveted Be Our Guest restaurant.

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For dinner this restaurant is a standard table service setup where a wait staff comes to take your order.  For lunch there is touch screen kiosks to place your order.  We were seated in the darker West Wing room which is also where you find the famous rose with the falling petals.  We experience lunch the year before, and to be honest I think I preferred it.  The foods I had for dinner was okay but the sandwiches for lunch just seemed to be a lot more enjoyable.  For dessert make sure the “Try the Gray Stuff” and it was delicious.

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After we were done eating we were escorted into a private room to visit with the Beast, and take some pictures.  With dinner done the Halloween party was just about to start.  We headed over to Adventureland so we could ride Pirates and check out the first of many trick or treating spots throughout the park.

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There was a bit of a line at most of these places but it moved pretty quickly, and the cast members were not shy about giving fistfuls of candy.  It only takes Hanna a few times to get the hang of it and was rushing us to each of the candy stops.  When we got over to Splash Mountain our niece Ava wanted to ride it.  My family didn’t want to go so I went with my sister, and brother-in-law and got a log all to ourselves.

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My sister and I were in the second row, and Ava was in the front enjoying every moment of the ride.  I’m holding out hope that my youngest Melody will go on this with me when she’s older.  My sister used to drag me on this when we were kids so it was kind of fund to have an updated picture.  Once we were soaked we met up with our family and had perfect timing for the start of the first parade.  We were pretty close and had a great view.  I’m a big fan of the Haunted Mansion so my favorite part of the parade was the Hitchhiking Ghosts.

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 The rest of the evening continued on with us getting as much candy as we could, and riding more attractions than usual.  The nice thing about this after hours party is that since there are only a limited number of tickets sold the crowds levels are much smaller and wait times for rides are really, really short.  Eventually we were over in Fantasyland to ride The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train again, and then a short walk to ride Dumbo.

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I got to ride with my nephew Luke who didn’t want it to end, and I was able to snag a quick selfie with him.  We got off the ride and my dad and I went to check out the Big Top Souvenirs shop.  My dad wanted to get one of the limited edition Halloween Party Magic Bands and I went to use the penny machine.

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This is one of the few 4 design hand crank machines available in the Magic Kingdom.  The designs are all circus inspired and have images of Donald lifting a heavy weight, Minnie on the Trapeze, the Great Goofini, and Ringmaster Mickey.

Just as if we had planned it when we met back up with our group the fireworks started and we had a pretty good view area for the show.  When they were done there was still about an hour or so before the party was over, but our group was exhausted and already falling asleep.  We headed towards the front of the park, back to our car and eventually to our resort.

The next morning was our flight back to Jersey, and unfortunately back to reality.  It had been another wonderful vacation filled more amazing memories we won’t soon forget, and a whole lot of press coins to review.

2016 WDW Trip Day 5 – Animal Kingdom Lodge / Art of Animation Resort

After an eventful morning at the Animal Kingdom park we left shortly after noon to try to make our lunch reservation at a new place we had never been to before.  We left the parking lot and just a short drive away we drove up to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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The security guard at the gat was very nice in explaining where we needed to go.  After parking the car we headed inside and were just blown away with this resort.  The details they included here are really amazing, and towards the back of the lobby were huge windows giving you a fantastic view of the Savanna the resort surrounds.

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We took the staircase down one level and found the restaurant lunch Sanaa which I have been wanting to try for a while and have heard nothing but great things about.

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After a few minutes wait while they got our table ready we were given a tour of the restaurant on our way to the table.

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There were some tables right up near the large windows to look out at the Savanna, but unfortunately our group was too large and weren’t able to get one of these tables.

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But regardless there are fantastic views from pretty much every table inside.  Throughout our meal we were able to see various animals, and birds come right passed the windows which makes this a unique dining experience.  The food is definitely not what we are used to eating but was still excellent.

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The Indian-style bread service appetizer was the most talked about.  We opted for the full tasting option which included 5 different naan breads, and 9 different sauces/accompaniments.  This was our chance to try something outside our comfort zone but not be too crazy and this was really a great find and experience.  Weeks after our vacation was over this was the one place we all kept talking about.  It’s not necessarily the easiest place to get to if you aren’t staying at this resort, but that’s what makes this a hidden gem and well worth the extra time to get there.

After lunch we did spend a little time wandering around the resort and came to a conclusion that we were going to try to stay here on an upcoming trip.  I can only imagine how cool the rooms are, especially if you get one that looks out over the savanna.  Eventually we got back to our car, but didn’t want to got back to our resort right away.  I mentioned checking our another resort The Art of Animation which is a value resort but with really nice theming.  Last year I made a trip myself over to this resort to check it out and wrote about it here.  This time I wanted the rest of my family to check it out and Hanna really got a kick out of the Cars characters.

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When we were don’t walking around the resort we went back into the main building and got some drinks and snacks from their food court for the ride back.  While we were inside I took the opportunity to update my pressed coins from this resort.

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Both these machines have some really detailed designs.  This first machine has pennies with images of Nemo, Lightning McQueen, and The Art of Animation Resort Logo.

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The second machine has pennies with designs of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Simba from The Lion King, and Mater from Pixar’s Cars.  By this time we were about ready for an afternoon nap.  We headed back to our resort and took the rest of the afternoon off just to rest and recharge.  Our dinner reservation was later that evening but thankfully it was just over in the Yacht Club Resort which was just a short walk away.

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The Yachtsman Steakhouse was another fantastic meal.  Coming from Jersey we have visited some really great Steakhouses in New York City, but this was really a nice find.  Upon entering the restaurant we passed by their meat aging room, which is also where they hand cut the different steaks.

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They do have an open kitchen so you can see everything going on, and the staff is very friendly and greeted us as we passed by.  Our table was a little further back but our wait staff were fantastic.

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The food was also really top-notch, but please note that the price definitely reflects this.  But we were so impressed with everything that we felt the cost was definitely justified.

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I started with a French Onion Soup which I have any time it’s on the menu.  My main course was a 10 oz Black Angus Filet Mignon with mashed potatoes and a Cabernet wine sauce which is pictured above.

When we were done it was a good thing our resort was a quick walk away.  We were completely stuffed but the nice walk along the water helped our digestion.  This has been a fun day filled with new adventures and new food favorites we would absolutely be trying again.  Tomorrow was the Wedding Day so we made it an early night.

2016 WDW Trip Day 5 – Animal Kingdom

This day’s schedule had us visiting the Animal Kingdom in the morning, but I had booked us a lunch reservation at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This was causing me some indigestion to try to figure out the best way for us to enjoy the park but still be able to make it over for lunch.  We decided to get to the park as early as possible so we had more than enough time to do everything we wanted.

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Just after the security check point but before the actual entrance to the park is one of the multiple locations of the Rainforest Cafe that are available on property.

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They serve breakfast at this location which I think is the only one that does so, but I just wanted to use the machines inside.

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The first three machines are right inside the main entrance.  The machine on the left has pennies  with images of Maya the Jaguar, Cha Cha the Tree Frog, Iggy the Iguana, and Ozzie the Orangutan.  The second machine has designs including Bamba the Gorilla, Cha Cha the Tree Frog, a Mockingbird with Rio the Macaw, and Tuki the Baby Elephant.

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The third machine near the entrance had images of an Alligator, a Mockingbird (Florida State Bird), a Crab, and Two Hot Air Balloons.  The last machine pressed on quarters and had images of an Orangutan, a Frog, a Fish, and a Butterfly all with Rainforest Cafe Orlando, FL included in the designs.  With all these coins collected I ran back outside and met us with my family.  Just as we were about to head into the park I noticed that we were in a perfect spot to catch a glimpse of the Floating Mountains soon to be revealed in the new “Avatar Land”, technically the actual name is Pandora: The World of Avatar.

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Disney has announced that this new area of Animal Kingdom will open the Summer of 2017.  Not exact date has been officially announced and of course there are a ton of rumors.  But I will say I am really excited to check this brand new state of the art area once it’s open.  Next we headed straight back to the Tree of Life, watched the flying birds opening ceremony and immediately headed to DinoLand USA.  Hanna loves the TriceraTop Spin ride which is exactly like Dumbo just with Dinosaurs.  While they waited to get on I headed nearby to Chester & Hester’s Dino Treasures.

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Unfortunately as you can see from the picture on the left above this machine was out-of-order when I visited.  This machine when working had another of the 2016 designs with Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey, an Iguanodon, and a Carnotaurus.  The second machine on the right was located outside the store and was in perfect working condition.  This machine had designs of Paleontologist Mickey, Terk, and Scar from The Lion King.  I got back to the Flying Dino ride just in time to see Hanna and my wife soaring through the sky.  When the ride was over Hanna insisted on going again.  There wasn’t much of a line so they hopped right back on.  This gave me another opportunity to check out a couple other nearby machines.

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The Restaurantosaurus is a quick service location which some interesting menu options.  Right before you enter there is a penny machine on the front porch area.

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This machine has three pennies available with images of Tarzan & Jane, Donald dressed like a Dinosaur, and a Dinosaur Fossil.  At this early in the morning this restaurant is not open, however the doors were unlocked and I knew there was another machine somewhere inside.  Once inside I found myself wondering straight into a staff meeting of cast members.  I apologized for interrupting and asked if they could point me in the direction of the penny machine.  They were more than happy to help and showed me where it was in one of the back dining areas among a bunch of tables.

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This was probably the most convenient time I could have used this machine since no one was in there eating.  But if you go during any other time of the day this area may be packed with people making this a little more difficult to access.  The pennies here included three separate images of Dinosaurs.  To be honest I have no idea what kind of Dino’s these are so I’m not even going to guess.  Here’s a close up of the marquee so you can see the designs.

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My family all met up just outside this area of the DinoLand USA area and I noticed Hanna convinced her Grandparents she needed to have her face painted.

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We then started off to the next area of the park.  Along the way we passed the Everest coaster which I get vertigo just looking at from the ground, but went into the gift shop called the Serka Zong Bazaar.

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The first penny image I have always like since it first became available.  It’s a cute cartoon version of the Yeti you encounter on the Everest ride.  The other two designs are of Mountain Climber Mickey, and the Everest Coaster Logo.

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It was about time for our Fastpass to the Safari jeep ride so we headed over there first.  Hanna actually stayed awake this year and enjoyed helping our guide point out the different animals along the way.  When the safari was over we headed to the Harambe Railway Station.

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There are two machines located in the waiting area for the train.  Just be sure to not delay too long as you may miss the train if you don’t press the coins quick enough.  The machine on the left pressed quarters and had the 2016 Pluto design, Simba & Nala, and Shere Khan.  The second machine has pennies designs including Tarzan, Pumbaa, and Professor Archimedes from Tarzan.  I finished up just in time and jumped right on the train.  This takes you up to the Conservation Station which our kids had a great time at last year and we were anticipating the same.  After we got off the train there is a long walk to the Conservation Station but this is a great place to take a quick bathroom break and enjoy the air conditioning.

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The above machine was new for 2016.  The images on these pennies were of Goofy with a Giraffe, Donald with a Map, and Timon & Pumbaa.  My daughter Hanna helped me press these coins and just as we were done she saw a familiar face make an appearance for a meet and greet so we headed right over and got in line.

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Recently at home Hanna has become a fan of The Lion Guard which is a TV show based on a movie that is a new sequel to Lion King.  Yikes did you get all that?  Anyways my wife had to explain this to me as I couldn’t figure out how Hanna new who Rafiki was, but that explained it.  She really enjoyed meeting Rafiki and he was really great with her not rushing her on and spending quite a bit of time with her.  I’m sure it helped that there were only a few people in line at that time.  Back outside there is a petting zoo which we had to drag Hanna away from last year, but this year she petted a few sheep and goats but was almost dragging the adults out this time around.  Melody seemed to be enjoying herself, but that may be due to us escorting her around like royalty.

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We made our way back to the train and once off were in the Africa area of the park.  We had a fastpass coming up but had time for a quick snack at the Tamu Tamu refreshments stand.  Hanna got an ice cream sundae and I opted for a Dole Whip with Coconut rum.  We ate our snacks as we wandered back over towards the Asia part of the park.

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The Yak & Yeti is a restaurant we have eaten at a few times over the years.  We have always had enjoyable food and great service, but I do know some people who have said otherwise.  We enjoy it so we usually try to go each time we are at this park, but this year we had other lunch plans so I just ran inside to use the penny machine.

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The designs on these pennies include the Himalaya Mountains, a Yak, Two Tibetan Mastiffs, and a Pagoda.  Our fastpass for a character meet and greet had started so we just took a quick trip over the bridge to Discovery Island and scanned our magic bands to enter the greeting area.

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We still had to wait a few minutes in a queue but once we rounded the corner and Hanna saw who we were going to meeting she could hardly contain herself.  Mickey and Minnie in Safari outfits was a cute theme.  We got a lot of pictures and they definitely took their time interacting with both Hanna and Melody.  Hanna didn’t want to let Minnie’s hand go at the end but we promised to come back again another time.  It was getting closer to lunch time and we needed to start heading back to the parking lot so we could try to make it to our reservation.  We didn’t get to hit up all the attractions at the Animal Kingdom we wanted to but did get most of them done.  Thankfully once we were back in our car we didn’t have too far to go.  Check back to see where we went for lunch and if we run into any other penny machines (Hint: Absolutely).

Epcot China Pavilion Penny Machine #3 – Just released

I don’t know if  I should necessarily call this breaking news, but  I guess in the Walt Disney World Pressed Penny collector circle that’s what this is.  Make sure if you are visiting Epcot you head over to the China Pavilion and check out the third penny machine that has been placed on stage here.  This is becoming quite a collecting corner for pressed coins.  Two of the machines are four design hand crank models, and the third is a three design electric model.  This new machine is located just outside the House of Good Fortune gift shop.

The designs include images off Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald.  Two of the designs list China, and the other two have a unique Disney logos on them.  There is no word on whether these are only for a limited time, but I’m excited to see the multiple machines at this location.

Hopefully some of the other pavilions will follow suit and gets some new updated machines.

2016 WDW Trip Day 4 – Hollywood Studios

With two young daughters we don’t get to sleep in too much, especially not on vacation.  We were up early as usual and had planned to visit Hollywood Studios.  With all the changes going on at that park we weren’t planning on being there for more than half a day.  First we decided to get some breakfast at our resort and there was a place nearby that would allow us a few character interactions at the same time.

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The Cape May Cafe is located right near the main lobby of the Beach Club Resort.  Our reservation was for the first available time so the restaurant wasn’t even open yet when we arrived.  There was a short wait while they got things setup, but it was nice to have the place almost completely to ourselves.  This was also a nice perk for when the characters started coming by and we got to spend a nice extended amount of time each of them.

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Minnie Mouse was of course the favorite for our girls.  Since we were at the Beach Club each character was dressed appropriately in beach attire.  We also got to visit with Goofy and Donald.

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Unfortunately Mickey isn’t here for a visit, but the three we did get to visit with were really great with the kids, posed for lots of pictures and of course we couldn’t let them go without signing our autograph book.  The food here is a buffet style and had most of the standard Disney breakfast items, but there were a few more unique items available.  After breakfast we headed out to the water front and hopped on one of the boats that transport guests between Epcot, Yacht & Beach Club resorts, the Boardwalk resort, Swan and Dolphin and finally Hollywood Studios.

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There is no “express” option to take you directly to the Studios, so it can take a little while to visit the other resorts first but it’s actually a very nice method of getting to the park.  Once we arrived we got off the boat and headed inside, and right down the main boulevard.  We had no fastpasses booked and nothing particularly planned for this day so we wanted to just wander around and see what we could find to do.  Just outside the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular were the first couple penny machines.

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The first machine is near the exit to the Stunt show, but can be accessed without having to sit through the show (but who could pass up a chance to see Indy).  The four designs here include the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular Logo, Silvermist Fairy, Indiana Chip, and Indiana Mickey with a Whip.  The second machine is located nearby at the Indiana Jones Outpost.  The pennies here have images of Mickey with an Old Time Camera, Merida from Brave, Agent P, and Buzz Lightyear.

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We were heading towards Star Tours but I needed to make a quick stop at a relatively new gift shop called Frozen Fractal Gifts.  I had written about these coins before and you can read out it here.  But this was the first time I was able to use check out the machine in person.

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This is another one of those 8-design touch screen models becoming more popular throughout the parks.  This is not a numbered set, but as you can assume it’s a Frozen themed set.  The designs include Anna & Olaf, Olaf & Elsa, Kristoff & Anna, Sven, Kristoff Olaf Sven Anna Elsa, Olaf, Anna, and Elsa.  Now it was time to get our Star Wars on.  This was Hanna’s first ride on Star Tours and it was a little too jerky for her.  She didn’t complain much but we may need to wait another year or so before trying to get her back on it.  Since we are on the topic of Star Wars, we couldn’t see anything behind the construction walls about the new Star Wars land, but they did have some concept art up on the wall.

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This wall is up along the walkway you take towards the Muppet’s courtyard.  The kids didn’t seem interested in the Muppet Vision movie attraction, but instead we checked out the Stage 1 Company Muppet Shop.

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There are three machines available here, but two of them hadn’t changed so I only visited one of them.  The designs here included the 2016 Sorcerer’s Hat logo, Minnie in a Costume, and Belle with the Hollywood Studios Logo all pressed on quarters.  Due to the construction areas the Muppet’s Courtyard has turned into a dead-end, and you need to head back towards Star Tours to be rerouted towards the rest of the park.

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Over in the Animation area we checked out the Toy Story Midway Mania attraction but wait times were already beyond 90 minutes and our kids wouldn’t last that long.  We were able to distract Hanna with the opportunity to get her face painted which she jumped at the change and forgot all out the Midway Mania ride.  While she got her face painted I used the nearby Toy Story penny machine.  The pennies have images of Hamm, Wheezy, Rex and the Toy Alien.

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We were getting close to the Star Wars Launch Bay which was new from the last time we had visited.  But in the Animation Courtyard there was a store called the In Character Shop with a 12-Design touch screen machine.

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I’ve written about this machine a few times and won’t go into details at this time, but I did post recently about a change to the coins this machine was pre-loaded with.  Check out my post here that gives a comparison of the coins I pressed in 2015 vs 2016.  Right next door is another shop called The Studio Store.  While the kids checked out the wall of plush characters I used the machine hidden inside.

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The pennies in this machine had designs of Chick Hicks from Pixar’s Cars, Donald Goofy & Mickey with Mickey Hats, and Luigi from Pixar’s Cars.

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Now it was time for more Star Wars.  Unfortunately the wait time for the Launch Bay and visited with some of the characters was just way too long.  Instead we headed in to the Launch Bay gift shop which is still pretty cool.  They are some nice movie memorabilia inside to check out, and some Star Wars toys and souvenirs I just haven’t seen anywhere else.  As you exit the store there is a new penny machine right outside.

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The theming of this machine is really cool and fits in perfectly with the Launch Bay.  It’s another touch screen model and has 8 designs available.  Technically you can get just one but why would you do that.  The designs here are of Kylo Ren Fighting, BB-8, Kylo Ren holding his Lightsaber, Finn, Star Wars The Force Awakens Logo, Rey holding a staff, Stormtrooper, and Rey with a Lightsaber.  We now headed towards the Sunset Boulevard area of the park and came across two machines in a location known as Hollywood Junction.

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The first machine on the left had pennies with designs of Phineas Flynn, Carl from the movie Up, Doug & Russell also from the movie Up, and Ferb.  The second machine on the right had images of Mike Wazowski, Sully Sullivan, Boo, and Randall Boggs all from Monsters Inc.  Sunset Boulevard is always a busy place with crowds heading down towards the two big attractions which we will get to shortly.  Partway down the street we came across the Sunset Ranch.

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The four pennies you can press at this machine include Guido holding a set of tires, Movie Producer Mickey, Singing Daisy, and Mater & Lightning McQueen.  Next we headed towards the Rock n Roller Coaster courtyard for the next set of machines.

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Both machines have four penny designs.  The first one on the left has images of Mater, Lightning McQueen, Radiator Springs, and Mater & Lightning McQueen together.  The second machine includes pennies of Mickey playing a Guitar, Rock n Roller Coaster Limo, Singing Goofy, and the Rock n Roller Coaster flaming guitar logo.  We are not fans of the Aerosmith ride, but the shop at the end of the ride has a penny machine so I just headed inside to check it out.

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The store is known as the Rock Around the Shop and it a pretty unique place.  Even the penny machine shown above has the cabinet designed like a piece of concert equipment.  The pennies here have pictures of Rock n Roller Coaster Logo, Mickey riding the Coaster, and The Walt Disney Studios Logo.  Back through the courtyard and across Sunset Boulevard is the other big attraction here the Tower of Terror.  Again this is something that makes my stomach drop just thinking about it.  But my brother in-law and niece Ava were all about going on this.  I followed them to take some pictures but let them go one without me once they got to the queue.  While I waited I headed into the gift shop.

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Inside the Tower of Terror shop is a machine pressing quarters.  The designs on these coins include Goofy with a Microphone, The Hollywood Tower Hotel, and Stitch dressed as a Bellhop.  Back outside just near the beginning of the queue for the ride is a newer machine that was placed here earlier in 2016.

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This machine has more Tower of Terror themed designs including Bellhop Mickey, Bellhop Minnie, Bellhop Goofy, and Bellhops Chip & Dale.  I headed back to meet up with the rest of my family while we waiting for our brave Tower riders to finish up with the ride.  When they were done Ava seemed to enjoy the ride but was in no rush to go back on.  We had pretty much seen everything there was to do at the Studios due to all the construction and current closures.  As we headed back towards the front of the park I made one last stop in the Legends of Hollywood store.

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For those Star Wars fans out there this is another nice set of coins.  The images are of Kylo Ren from The Force Awakens, R2-D2, and Yoda.  After that we finished heading out of the park, back to the dock, onto the ferry and back to our Resort.  We took a nice break in the room, and then spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool.  It had been a quick day at the park but very enjoyable none the less.  After seeing some of the areas blocked off that will be transformed into the new Star Wars and Toy Story lands we can’t wait to see how they turn out.  Hopefully we don’t need to wait too long, and I’m crossing my fingers for a lot of new (highly themed) penny press machines.