First 2020 Penny Set and Souvenir Medallion – Walt Disney World Resort

Walt Disney World has started releasing the 2020 coins.  The machines with the individual designs in each park and a few resorts are still coming out and I’ll have a big post about all of those once they are available.

However, there were a few separate 2020 coins that were released and I thought I would go ahead and share them with you separately.

First was over at Disney Springs in the Pin Trader store.  This location does have quite a few penny machines but those designs have not changed.  The new design that I came across was in the Collectible Medallion machine.

This machine seems to have its designs swapped out on a fairly regular schedule.  I feel like I was just over here getting a new coin not too long ago.

The cost of these coins is still the same at $5 per coin or 3 for $10.  Above is a picture of all the current designs available.  The second design from the left is the one we had found just a few weeks ago.

This medallion is pretty similar to the 2019 version it replaced.  It has a similar Disney Springs pattern on the front with Mickey Mouse on top obviously now it has 2020.  The back design is still the standard Disney Springs logo on all the other medallions here.

Next, we actually headed into the Magic Kingdom.  We visited on January 4th and it was a crazy madhouse.  Thankfully we weren’t going in too far for these new penny designs and just headed into the Main Street Railroad Station.

Not too long ago this location used to have a 3-design pressed quarter machine, but that was replaced in 2019 with this machine that had 4 designs all dated with 2019.  I actually thought this would be one of the last machines swapped out, but sure enough, it was one of the first.

This is still a 4-design hand-crank machine, but it’s one of the recently converted models that cost $1 per design.  This machine does accept credit cards or digital payments like ApplePay however, if you use those forms of payment you must get all 4 pennies for $4.   If you only want one penny (or less than the full set of 4) you need to use cash.

Above is a picture of the marquee at the top of the machine.  I liked the Train logo in the middle from last year and am glad to see it return.  It’s just a nice little touch to signify where it is in the park.  They should have a machine at each train station and make a fun subset to collect for a penny pressing trip around the Train loop.

The designs here all have 2020 on them with images of Cinderella’s Castle, Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy.

Well, this was just a quick taste of the new 2020 pressed coins still on the way.  I think I have about half of them collected.  Hopefully, the rest will be released soon as these are highly popular to collect each year and I know people are anxious to know where they are all located.

Here’s to a fantastic 2020 with lots more pennies to press!

Festival of the Holiday’s 2019 – Epcot

Happy New Year!!
Unfortunately, I had planned to write the below post a couple weeks ago but I got sick and some family events happened during the holidays.  I apologize for the delay and this festival has completed for 2019 but the next festival will be upon us before too long.
——————–

Epcot doesn’t waste any time transitioning from one Festival to the next.  It seems like just a few weeks ago I was enjoying the Food and Wine Festival, and then just this past week everything changed over to the Festival of the Holidays.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living with the Land NEW Pressed Penny Set – Epcot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail and New Collectible Medallion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Landry’s Restaurant Machines Converting to $1 per Penny Design (Walt Disney World)

Did someone say price increase?  Yup, it’s that time again to review some penny machines around Walt Disney World property that have been converted to the new cost of $1.  These machines that I’m about to review were actually not on my radar as they are in locations not directly owned by Disney.

Some of you may be familiar with the Landry’s name as they run some popular chain restaurants like Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex Cafe, Bubba Gump and many more.  But it seems they have also decided to increase the cost of their penny machines.  They do have a few different restaurants on Disney property so first up we will head over to Disney Springs.

We are in full Fall season swing in Florida, although the temperatures are still in the 90s so not much has changed.  It’s not raining as often which I guess is a plus.

Located in the Marketplace section of Disney Springs is the T-Rex Cafe.  It’s a very unique themed restaurant with a giant dinosaur fossil on display out front.  Inside there are animatronic dinosaurs near the tables and even a meteor shower takes place every 15-20 minutes.

They do have a pretty large gift shop with plenty of dino related merchandise.  This is also where the penny press machines are located.  The first machine is just inside the main entrance.

The designs on the pennies have not changed on any of these machines, but along with the price increase you no longer use your own chosen penny to press.  The machine supplies a penny for you.  It does appear that they are using uncirculated new pennies so they come out nice an shiny.  But a lot of collectors are not happy about this and prefer to use their own pennies which is just no longer available.  Even though the designs haven’t changed I’m going to include pictures of all the pennies so you can see what the supplied pennies look like.

The second machine is located not too far from the first machine.  There is a hallway that leads back outside to an enclosed kids play area while you wait for your table to become available.  This is where the second machine can be found.

As you can see from the above, the pennies that the machine supplied are not too bad.  I’ll be interested to see how they hold up over time and whether they tarnish more easily due to the newer metallic combination used in modern minted pennies.

After T-Rex, we headed to the opposite side of the Marketplace area of Disney Springs to the Rainforest Cafe.  I’ve posted many times about Rainforest Cafes that I have visited in different cities.  They are all pretty similar and have animatronic elephants, gorillas and other jungle creatures situations around the restaurant.  The food is not my favorite, but I really enjoy the atmosphere and eat here probably more often than I should.

Just like T-Rex, they have a pretty large gift shop with lots of Rainforest Cafe logo merchandise.  Near the check-in area is where the penny machines are located.

The penny designs haven’t changed in this location either, just the increase to the cost and supplied pennies.

You can see the last design on the right rolled a bit short.  I actually tried to press this design about 4 times (yes $1 per attempt) and they all came out the same.  I did mention it to the staff and they gave me back $3 of my dollars and were going to report the machine so a tech can come and try to realign it.

Right next to that first machine is the second penny machine.

This set of pennies pressed without any issues and looked pretty good.  You may have noticed that there was a third machine here.  But that machine is a pressed quarter machine, the designs are the same and the cost has not changed it’s still $1.25 per quarter.  I’m crossing my fingers they don’t increase those machines.

Those were the two restaurants in Disney Springs so next we headed over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the next couple places.

In case you didn’t know there are actually two Rainforest Cafe restaurants on Disney property.

Similar to the one in Disney Springs they have three machines in total.  Two of them are penny machines, and the third is a quarter machine which hasn’t changed.

Other than the increase in cost not much has changed with the cabinet.

This was another nice set of pennies, and they pressed without any major issue.

The second machine squeezed in the middle.  Since these machines are located right near the main entrance it can be a bit busy here as people try to check-in for their reservations.

After pressing these pennies I started taking a closer look at the inner workings of the machine and noticed the hopper of where the pile of pennies is kept while they wait to be pressed.

That large pipe to the right of the hopper is just where they load the pennies into the machine.  It does hold quite a few pennies and I’d be curious how often they need to refill this.

Here is just a close up of the signage on the front of the machine reflecting the new $1.00 cost.  It does let you know “No Penny, No Problem: We Supply!”

Only one more restaurant to check out and it’s back in the Asia section of the park.  The restaurant is called Yak & Yeti with some Asian fusion food.  This is one of my favorite restaurants to eat at in the park, but it’s very busy and hard to get reservations for.  Walk-ins can happen but you have to try and go early.

The machine is located just inside the main doors by the check-in desk.  This is also the main area where people situate themselves while waiting for their table.  It can get very packed in here, and I had to wait a few minutes just to maneuver my way over to the machine.

Another cute set of pennies themed around the restaurant which I always like.  Well, that completes all the Landry’s restaurants on Walt Disney World property and is all of their pressed penny machines (other than the pressed quarter machines) that have been converted to $1.  On a side note both Disney Springs restaurants and the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom do NOT require theme park admission.  Disney Springs currently has free parking so you could visit T-Rex and that Rainforest free of charge other than the $1 per penny.  Parking at Animal Kingdom as of 2019 is $26 but that will change without notice so it could be an expensive price to pay if you just want to go and get those Rainforest Cafe pennies.  Yak & Yeti is inside the park so you would need a ticket to access that machine.

There are still some 4-design penny machines around that haven’t been converted yet but we will keep our eyes open and report back as those are swamped out.  Happy Collecting!!

The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pressed Pennies – Epcot

Weren’t we just at Epcot?  It seems like I’ve been here the last few weeks documenting penny machines.  Well that’s okay I’m not going to complain about Disney released new Pressed Penny designs.  As you may remember a week ago I had visited the park to find all the penny machines that had been converted to $1, and one of the last machines was at The Seas with Nemo and Friends gift shop.  While I was checking out that machine I saw a couple techs working on a new 8-design machine so I knew I had to come back and get more info on it.

Did I mention the front of Epcot is a huge construction site?  Yes, it’s a bit of a hot mess to try and get into the park at the time of writing.  There is quite a walk from the parking lot into the park even if you take the tram but I keep telling myself it will be great once all is done….in a few years (gulp!).  Thankfully I wasn’t going too far into the park as I just need to stay in Future World and headed towards the Seas with Nemo and Friends.

This is a bit of an older attraction but one that kids and adults all seem to like since it’s not too intense for those not interested in roller coasters or space simulators.

Due to this, you can usually get a fast pass pretty easily, or if that’s not available the standby wait time is usually fairly short.  I was able to get a Fastpass and headed right in.  The attraction has you getting into a sea shell ride vehicle and takes you through the Finding Nemo story.  There are some screens projecting Nemo and his friends that are surrounded by coral or other underwater scenery and is just a nice relaxing way to soak up some air conditioning.  At the end of the ride, you exit out into the Seabase (large aquarium) area of the building.  Eventually, you exit out through a gift shop.

If you would rather not ride on the attraction that is no problem when looking at the front entrance to the ride where you would hop into line just turn to the left and follow the pathway around back.  This will bring you directly into that gift shop.

On the far side of the gift shop, you can see the penny machines.  the one on the right side is the recently converted 4-design machine that was changed to $1 per penny and I wrote about previously.

However, the machine we were here to see this day was the one on the left.  This is the new 8-design penny machine.

Standard (now) touchscreen interface, the cost is $1 per penny or $5 for all 8 designs.  The machine accepts cash, credit card or digital payment like ApplePay.

The machine supplies shiny new pennies and they came out really nice.  The images are mostly themed around the Pixar movie Finding Dory the sequel to Finding Nemo.  But there are also a couple designs from The Little Mermaid including one of Ariel and Ursula’s Moray Eel Minions Flotsam and Jetsam.

What a nice new set of pennies and it fits in really nicely with this area of the park.  I’m a sucker for aquariums and when they have a fun ride, manatees, and pressed pennies I’m all in.

Epcot Machines Converting to $1 per Penny Design

I think we all knew this was inevitable.  First, we saw the new penny machine in Toy Story Land released at $1 per penny, then all the 4-design machines in the Magic Kingdom were converted to $1.  Now I’ve seen it with my own eyes, Epcot has been changed as well.

I’ll try not to keep harping on this but Epcot basically is a big construction site right now. So many changes are coming and I’m sure that it will be beautiful once all done.  It makes getting around this park now a bit of a pain with all the construction walls and buildings being torn down but I was on a mission to find all these converted machines.

Just beyond Spaceship Earth (the big golf ball) is Pin Central.  Basically, just a stand where you can buy a ton of different Disney Pins, or trade with cast members and other guests.  On the left and right sides of this stand were two penny machines.

   

In the pictures above the machine on the left is the “before” and the machine on the right is the “after”.  You can see the cabinet has been changed slightly.  It has some new graphics, no longer has the coin slider since the machine supplies the pennies now, and also has been given a credit card component.  The 4 penny designs have not changed: Phineas & Ferb playing guitars, Spaceship Earth with a Goofy Hat, Agent P, and Duffy the Disney Bear.

   

If you walk to the opposite side of the Pin Stand you can find the second machine available here.  Left is before and the right picture is after the conversion.  As with all these machines, the images have not changed.

   

Next, I headed over to the Land Pavilion in Future World (soon to be part of World Nature after Epcot’s renovations).  Inside the Land Pavilion is where you would find the main attraction Soarin’, as well as the Living with the Land attraction where you take a boat ride through a greenhouse.  Once inside the pavilion on the lower level is the Sunshine Season’s food court area and is where you can find the above penny machine.

I included a close up of the new usage details that are located on the front of the machine.  Due to the machine supplying the penny after payment is made there is a slightly different method of use.  Not much has changed, but you do need to “take your take” and don’t just start cranking the handle after you insert payment.  You do need to give it a few extra seconds to load the penny in place or your end result will be a mis-rolled coin.

   

We will be back to finish off Future World in a little bit, but for now, I headed into the World Showcase and my first stop was the Japan Pavilion.  The first machine here has been moved towards the back of the pavilion after it’s conversion.  This makes it easy to find and is now right next to the second machine.

   

It was nice to see that these unique cabinets have been kept the same other than the new instructions and payment methods.  I always like the way these looked and they fit into the pavilion nicely.

   

After the Japan pavilion, we had a bit of a trek through a few other Countries until we eventually found the African Outpost.  This is not a full pavilion but has a unique store and also a tent with a very talented woodcarver working on various pieces for purchase.  I’ve spent lots of time just watching him work as it’s really fascinating.  It was nice to see this cabinet get a bit of an update, there is now a marquee on the top with large images of the designs available in the machine that was not there previously.

   

We were almost done with the World Showcase but had one Pavilion left to check out. I headed into the China Pavilion and found the first machine about halfway towards the back near an outdoor stand that was selling puppets.

   

The second machine is all the way in the back of the Pavilion.  It’s near the exit to the movie theater where you can see the Reflections of China video.  The cabinets are fun designs for these machines as well and look to have received a fresh coat of paint.

Initially, these were all the machines that had been converted to $1, but strangely there was still one other 4-design machine in the park that had remained unchanged.

It was located back in Future World at the Seas with Nemo and Friends attraction in the gift shop.  Above is a picture of the machine.  After some conversations with other collectors we figured it would be changed eventually but due to it being a combination cabinet that housed not just the penny machine, but also a quarter press and a change machine all in one.  This was probably a bit of a complex machine to upgrade.  I held off on writing this post for weeks hoping that the machine would be changed and I could put the completed stamp on this park but it seemed like months were passing by and it still hadn’t changed.  So I started to detail out all the other machines, and of course just as I was about to publish the post I visited the park one random evening and witnessed them putting the machine out and getting it setup.

As you can see the machine was split out from that massive combo design.  It now has a new stand-alone design, but the images are still the same.  I chatted with the wonderful tech that was working on the machine as I’ve met her a few times in the past.  She mentioned the quarter press has been removed completely along with the change machine.  This is a bit sad since I really like the pressed quarter machines since the coins are larger they have nicer final images pressed and the details are always more pronounced.  Thankfully there are still a few quarter press machines around the property so I just hope they don’t decide to start removing them.

You may have noticed from the above picture of the new penny machine that there appears to be another machine beside it.  I was going to gloss over it and hope you didn’t notice but it was kind of hard to hide it from.  In place of the removed quarter press, they did release a new 8-design penny press machine.  It wasn’t completely working when I visited to get the above pictures so I’ll be going back in the next few days to use the machine and get more details on it.  At that time I’ll write a separate post on the pennies available in that new set.

Where will the next set of machines be converted?  My guess is Hollywood Studios but there are also a few machines at Disney Springs and a couple at the resorts.  I’ll be making some extra trips to these locations over the next few weeks to try and keep everyone up to date on the changes.  Happy collecting!!

Epcot’s International Food and Wine 2019 – Collectible Medallion

It’s that time of year again for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  Well technically it’s been going on for almost 3 months at this point but I was finally able to get over there and visit some food booths plus I was able to find a collectible medallion that was released for the festival.

Before we get into those medallions lets take a tour around the festival.  With all the construction currently going on at Epcot, there is not much at the front of the park.  Usually, there is a topiary or signage after you scan your ticket into the park.  That area has completely been torn down, and one side is behind construction walls.  So they have moved most of that stuff out to the main entrance to the World Showcase.

I was immediately drawn towards the smell of grilling meats and found myself quickly waiting in line at the Flavors from Fire booth.

It was nice to see an actual grill out behind the booth.  Most of the booths have the components of the food items made in a kitchen somewhere else in the park and then transported by cart to the booths to be constructed.  That can make for a less than “fresh” feeling with the food items, but with the grills going strong I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case here.

There were a few items here that I wanted to try, but a few were the same from last year.  We were trying to make a push for some new items this year.  First, we tried the Steakhouse Blended Burger.  It was a blended Beef and Mushroom slider with brie cheese fondue, arugula, and a truffle and blue cheese potato chip on a brioche bun.

The second item we got here was the Charred Chimichurri skirt steak on a smoked corn cake with pickled vegetable slaw and cilantro aioli.  This was definitely our favorite item the entire day, even my 7-year-old daughter loved this one.

Not too far away we headed into a little courtyard that had a few booths all right beside each other.  The one we checked out was Active Eats.

Above is a picture of the Loaded Macaroni & Cheese with Nueske’s pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, and leeks.

Just a few steps away was the Coastal Eats booth which had a menu designed around seafood.

This was an item my daughter (who is trying to be a little more adventurous with her foods) chose to try.  This was the lump crab cake with Napa cabbage slaw and avocado-lemongrass cream.

We then started to head into the main World Showcase loop and just couldn’t pass up the Canada booth.  They have had the same items for the last couple years due to being fan favorites, I do wish they would change it up a bit but it’s hard to argue with the items they do keep bringing back.

Pictured above is their famous Canadian cheddar and bacon soup serviced with a pretzel roll.  This is the exact same soup available inside the Pavilion at Le Cellier steakhouse restaurant just smaller size.  I was able to get a copy of the recipe from the restaurant years ago and make it at home every so often and it really doesn’t disappoint.

This next item is one of the more expensive throughout the entire festival but it’s a classic that is hard to pass up.  Le Cellier wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce.  You can also see a small cup in the background which is one of our favorite ice wines from the Niagara on the Lake region of Canada (near Niagara Falls). It is a Vidal Icewine from the Chateau Des Charmes Vinyard.

With so many food booths it’s easy to start getting filled up before you really get into the heart of the festival.  We decided to skip a few of the booths near the United Kingdom pavilion and France.  I thought our daughter may want to try the Escargot Croissant in France but she said she wasn’t ready to try eating snails yet.  Maybe next year!!  Just beyond France was the Morocco booth with some interesting items.

First was a NY strip steak green shermoula flatbread with fresh radish and tomato salsa.  This was really fantastic, kind of like a steak taco.  The steak was a bit spicy but was definitely on the top of my list this year.

We broke one of our rules and had a sweet treat before finishing up our savory items but when I saw Chocolate Baklava I just had to get it.  This is rolled phyllo dough with toasted almonds and dark chocolate sauce.

The next booth was over in the Japan pavilion and was something I had seen pictures of online, and video reviews where people were really enjoying it.

This was the Frothy Ramen, chilled noodles and dashi broth with a light foam topping.  It looked really good and I’m a sucker for ramen noddles but whoa this was not for me.  The flavor was extremely strong and overpowering for my palette.  I’ve been waiting for someone else to review it online and say they didn’t like it but so far I haven’t seen one so maybe this is just not my thing.

Our kids were pretty stuffed by this thing and my wife was getting close to her limit as well.  But of course, I wanted to keep going so we skipped a few more booths and stopped in Italy.  You just can’t go wrong with some pasta.

Pictured above were the Ravioli carbonara, parmesan, and pecorino ravioli, egg yolk, cream, and bacon.  The presentation we got in the little paper boat was a bit of a mess, but the flavor was really good and helped cleans the Frothy ramen taste off my tongue.

After that pretty heavy pasta dish, I was ready to call it a day and wasn’t sure how I would be able to comfortably get back to our car.  As we finished the last bit of the showcase we decided to head into the Port of Entry store to see what kind of Festival merchandise was available.

As my family looked around picking out t-shirts, Christmas tree ornaments and maybe a bottle of wine or two, I was drawn to an area on the opposite side of the store.  Earlier this year during the Flower and Garden festival they had released specially designed coins that you can read out here.  Fellow collectors had been wondering since then if Disney would continue this with other festivals and sure enough, here it was for the Food and Wine.

The cost for these coins was the same as before (thankfully!) at $5 for one coin or $10 for three.  So if you want all four that will run you $15.  Yes, it’s a bit pricey but these designs are just so fun it’s hard to say no.

There are quite a few coins on display in the center second of the machine.  Other machines around Disney have coins in here spinning on little risers but this machine didn’t have that and instead was just laying flat.

Here is a close up of the entire set.  They have designs of Chef Mickey, Chef Remy, Chef Minnie, and Chef Figment.

On the back of each coin is the same design regardless of the front image you select.  It’s the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2019 logo which I really like.

With my $15 souvenirs packed away, I headed over to my family that had picked out quite a bit more in other merchandise but that’s okay.  It’s a fun festival to enjoy each fall, and we always like trying new food items we wouldn’t normally try.  The Festival runs from August 29, 2019 through November 23, 2019 so you still have a few weeks left to visit.  Then we get into the Festival of the Holidays and I wonder if we can count on another new set of collectible medallions?

Pirates of the Caribbean Collectible Medallions – Magic Kingdom WDW

Throughout 2019 we have noticed that the 4-design pressed penny machines around Walt Disney World property have been slowly converted to have a higher cost per penny…now at a whopping $1.  This is up from the standard $0.50 which seems to be the norm for most of the penny presses around the United States.  You can read about some of the recent changes here.   While thoughts on this increase among collectors various with some not happy about the increase, others upset that they can no longer use their own pennies, to others agreeing this was inevitable with the assumed rising cost to maintain the machines.  However, you fell about this change about increased cost I have started to notice something else start popping up around property that is even more expensive…collectible medallions.

Initially, when a set of these came out I had convinced myself I wouldn’t get them and wanted to stay focused on the pressed pennies.  Then they released a special medallion for the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot (something I’ve always wanted with pressed pennies), and I finally broke.  Thankfully at the time, there were only a couple machines but it seems like more and more of these are making appearances.  Just a few weeks ago I received a message on Facebook about a new set of medallions but this time in the Magic Kingdom for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.

The first chance I got I headed over to the park and visited one of my favorite rides.  I was able to get a last-minute fastness so I enjoyed the ride first and then headed towards the gift shop in search of the machine.

The store is actually called the Plaza del Sol Caribe Bazaar but most people just say the gift shop at the end of the Pirates ride.

It didn’t take long to find the machine since it’s located pretty much in the dead center of the store.  This is good and bad, easy to find but in a very busy spot.  There are people both exiting the attraction that pass right by it, and also people shopping all around.  I stood here about a good 5 minutes just to try and get a clear picture of the machine and the above is about the best I could do.

The cabinet for the medallions is pretty cool looking.  The distressed wood makes it look like it came straight off a pirate ship or was made of old treasure chests.

I find these machines a bit interesting as to how they are setup.  In the middle of the machine are large glass pieces where you can see inside where the coins are stored.  But these never move so they are not actually the ones you get after you pay for them.  I guess this is where the “extras” are stored until needed, but wouldn’t it look strange when the inside is empty due to the coins all being loaded for dispensing?  To be honest I’ve never seen one of these medallion machines without any coins in this middle display section but you would think eventually they would want to sell off those coins as well.  If I ever find someone doing some maintenance on these machines I’ll have to try and ask how it works.

Here are the buttons that you would press to pick the medallions you want after paying for them.  The cost is $5 each, or 3 of them for $10.  So if you want all 4 that will run you $15.  The machine does accept cash or credit card, but be aware if paying with a credit card it will only allow the $10 option (for three coins).

As per usual I just couldn’t resist the entire set.  The coins are made of different materials, although I would actually assume the core of them is the same but with a different coating/finish on the outside.  The designs are Pirate Mickey, Pirate Minnie, Pluto and the Skeleton steering the ship from the ride.

The back of all the medallions has the same design for the Pirates of the Caribbean with the skull and crossbones.  These coins aren’t dated like some of the other ones released this year so I would think this set may be sticking around for a while but you just never know with Disney.

Now back to my original conversation on the increased cost to the pressed pennies.  Am I happy about an increase in cost, of course not!  I wish they could stay at $0.50 forever especially with my obsessive need to collect all of them that would help keep my expense budget down.  But I do really enjoy this hobby and even at $1 per penny, it’s still a pretty good steak for a collectible and souvenir from Disney.  It would be nice to be able to use my own penny but the machines now do seem to be supplying uncirculated pennies that come out nice and shiny and hopefully will hold up over the years if properly stored, only time will tell.  Then we come to these new medallions and at $5 a coin they are now starting to push their luck.  The coins are hefty and solid, not cheaply made and I enjoy the unique designs on them.  I don’t know if I would pay much more than the current cost for these medallions so hopefully, they stay this cost for now and limit the total number of medallions available to help keep these all affordable for collectibles and casual fans alike.  If the costs rise too much more and my budget allows for only medallions or pressed pennies, the pennies will win out every time.  Although even that has a limit of how much we would be willing to pay for our beloved pressed pennies.

The Dino Institute NEW Pressed Pennies – Animal Kingdom

One area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom that seems to get overlooked a lot is Dinoland USA.  Most of this area is set up like a carnival with cheap carnival games, face painting, and a Dumbo style knockoff ride with flying Dino’s.

A few years ago there were rumors that this area was going to be changed to an Indiana Jones theme but nothing seems to have come of that.

But recently we did finally get something new in the form of a pressed penny machine.

Situated in the back corner of Dinoland is the Dinosaur attraction.  This is probably the only real reason to come to this area of the park.  However, if you don’t have a Fastpass for this ride you may be waiting in line for quite a while.

This ride is based on the computer-animated Disney movie Dinosaur released in 2000. You are loaded onto a jeep-like vehicle and taken back in time to try and locate a dinosaur.  But you don’t have much time due to a meteor about to hit earth to kickstart the dino extinction.  Thankfully you do manage to make it back and as you exit the ride you are placed inside The Dino Institute gift shop.

Inside is pretty typical with all the standard gift shop items.

The shop is not very wide but pretty long.  Situated about halfway through the store along one of the walls is where I found the penny machine.

As you can see from the nearby wall this place can use a little TLC.  It looks like a new coat of paint would do wonders.

The machine is an 8-design touch screen model.  The cost (for now) is still $1 per penny or $5 for all 8 pennies.  The machine is also pre-loaded with zinc pennies and you cannot use your own coins.

Above is a close up of the internal gears and penny dies.  They also have samples of the entire set on display.

The set at this machine is really cute with some fun designs from the Pixar movie The Good Dinosaur.  I understand the underlying theme here is dinosaurs, but it does seem a little strange to mix movies in this location.  One movie for the ride and a different one in the gift shop.  But I’ll try not to overthink this one as I really do like the designs on these pennies.  I guess since they are sticking with the Dino theme this land is going to stick around for a while.  Hopefully, we can get some updated attractions sometime in the near future or at the very least a new coat of paint in the gift shop!