Zoo Miami – Miami, FL

The next day of our Miami Vacation we wanted to be a little more laid back.  We tried not to get up too early, and didn’t rush down for breakfast.  But eventually we did make it out the door of our hotel, into our car and over to our adventure for the day.

Zoo Miami was a bit of a drive from where our hotel was in South Beach, but since we were visiting during the week traffic wasn’t too bad.  I had visited this zoo back in the 80s when I was a kid but didn’t remember much.  We had some old home videos I watched but other than the monorail (yes they have a monorail here) not much else seemed to look familiar so I’m sure there had been extensive renovations since then.

After we got through the main entrance we were greeted by a flock of Flamingos in all their pink glory.  Our two daughters love pink and by association love Flamingos.  We kept to the main path and eventually came to a bike rental stand but we skipped right by it.  They offer pretty big tandem bikes that your entire family can ride thought the zoo.  When we first saw them we kind of laughed, but I will admit by the end of our trip we kind of wished we had rented one as it was a LOT of walking.

This zoo was really nicely designed, and the exhibits were really beautiful.  They had all the standard animals that most zoos have.

We will eventually get to some penny machines, but we did come across a whole bunch of these Mold-A-Matic machines.  I remember these from when I was a kid.  You put in a couple of dollars (or swipe your credit card now a days) and two halves of the metal mold move together, are injected with wax, and then after a minute or so the wax mold drops into the collection bin.

Just for fun we created one of these souvenirs and our kids loved them.  I have them pretty well-trained to help spot penny press machines, but they now had a new mission and would holler out as soon as they found another wax machine.  By the end of the day I think we had accumulated about 7 or 8 of these figures.

The zoo also had a very nice aviary.  Usually I’m not a huge fan of these as the birds always flying over my head is a little unnerving.  But this one was pretty nice and peaceful.  They were quite a few birds but they were mostly in the trees eating and the little pools of water were filled with all sorts of fish and turtles which was fun.

The sun was blazing down by this time of day so it seemed like a good time to take a break and get have a bit of a rest with some drinks.  We found the Critter Connection area that is like their kids section.  When you first walk in there are a set of restrooms, a snack bar, and a playground out back with a carousel.

Also in this area just outside the restrooms was the first penny machine.  The cabinet was nicely decorated for the zoo.  I’m not a huge fan of these type of manual crank machines as always find they don’t press very well.  Either the designs don’t line up, or they roll long or short.  It’s kind of hit or miss.  Also a strange thing with this machine was if you zoom in on the above picture only 3 designs were shows on the cabinet.

But you know me I’m always going to try and see if that 4th design is still available.  Sure enough I was able to press 4 designs in total and as you can see above they all came our really nicely.  The camel one was a little long but much better than most of my experiences with this type of machine.  The set included images of the Zoo Miami Logo, A tree front with a peace sign, a Giraffe, and a Camel.

After we rested in the shade for a bit with some bottles of water and a couple soft pretzels our daughters raced off towards the carousel.  We took a few trips around since there was no line the attendant just let us stay on a couple of times.  Eventually we dragged our girls off as they kicked and screamed about wanting to keep going.  The zoo path we were following wound back and forth in a slalom pattern between exhibits.  There weren’t too many people at the zoo this day, but the path just seemed to be endless.  Eventually we found the elephants which is always just one of those animals we have to see every time.  The trainers were out feeding them and had them put on a bit of a show.  This wasn’t a circus type show, but instead they were trying to show off some of the things they would do in the wild.  At one point they had them “speak” which was just them blowing air out of their trunks machine the well-known honking sound.  I tried to think whether I had ever heard an elephant do this in person, and it was really interesting to witness first hand.

With the elephants fed we headed off to the next place which had giraffes.  They were also being fed at this time of day which kept them a little further away from where we were standing to watch.  They just seem like they should tilt forward with those long necks, but are so graceful when they move.  Really amazing to see in a large open area.

Our youngest daughter had been calling our for the Gorillas all day, and we thankfully found them.  They weren’t doing much other than just sitting on the grass and enjoying the Florida sun.  If you look real close in the picture above there was a really big iguana just in front of the tree stump to the left of the Gorilla.  I’m not really sure how he got in there, but the gorilla didn’t seem fazed by it.  Just another fun odd couple at the zoo.

Eventually it was time for another pit stop.  But this time we figured it was probably a good idea to get some lunch and sit in the shade before we passed out from the heat.  We found the covered area shown above which was called the Oasis Grill.  They had the usual pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, and basic garden salad.  Pretty standard park food but our kids enjoyed it, and my wife and I were just happy to sit for a little bit.

As we sat at our table eating I noted across on the other side in among a few of the tables was the second penny machine.  Same type of machine as the first one with a similar cabinet design but different animals printed at the bottom.

Again these pennies actually pressed pretty nicely.  The set includes images of another Zoo Miami Logo, an Elephant, a Rhino and a Gorilla.

Once lunch was done and we had rehydrated with plenty of water we headed back out into the sun for the last leg of our zoo trip.  Unfortunately by this time everyone was getting pretty tired and a little cranky.  There was definitely a lot of walking.  I was hoping we could make it back to the front of the park seeing everything from ground level, and then take a round trip tour in the sky on the monorail.  But after visiting with a large tortoise, and some familiar Florida animals in the “local” section of the park everyone was ready to head back to our hotel and just chill.

Something to note on these designs is they all said Miami Metro Zoo along the bottom which was the previous official name of the zoo.  Does this mean the designs will be updated soon?  Probably not, but still makes for a fun set of coins to press.

Gatorland – Orlando, FL

A Long long time ago when I was much younger I remember a family vacation to Florida.  Some of our extended family also came down to join in the events, and one of those days my sister and I went to a scary but amazing place with our grandparents.  Recently I decided to take my daughters to this very same place and in the 20 some years since my first trip it was not what I remembered which is actually a good thing.

Gatorland is exactly what the name implies.  Everything gator related can be found within its walls.  As a child I remember big pits filled with gators jumping out of the water to try to grab a snack.  But perspective is interesting how it can change with age and as you get taller.

As you first walk in past the ticket window area there are various boardwalk style pathways that allow you to see different areas with various sizes and ages of gators.  The railings are solid, and secured with fencing to prevent any too close for comfort encounters.  There are also a lot of staff on hand to answer your questions and give you all sorts of information about these creatures.

As with most of the tourist attractions in Florida there are my favorite souvenirs Penny Presses.  This machine was close tot he area with the smaller sized gators.

This set includes images of a Gator head, a Bear, a Flamingo and a Snake.

I was curious how my two girls would take to this place, but they really enjoyed it.  Being new to Florida I figured any safe encounters with gators I’ll chalk up to a learning experience.

Remember that memory I mentioned earlier about gators jumping out of the water to catch a snack?  Well that actually does still happen, but it’s not in the form of a deep pit.  Instead there is a pool of water with some pretty large gators swimming around and as part of a show called Jumparoo they leap out to try to eat pieces of chicken from a wire.

Seeing those large creatures snap up those chicken pieces is really quite a show and my girls were cheering them on throughout the whole show.

One of the extra experiences here is to get your family picture taken with a large snake.  I am not a snake fan so this was not something I was going to do, but nearby was the second penny machine.  I pressed these coins with my eyes always on the snake making sure he didn’t escape from the handler.

This second set of pennies had the following designs: the Gatorland Logo, Gatorland Park, a Gator and a Snake in a tree.  Along the way we found other interesting activities like feeding gators, and a bird aviary.

The gators had already been fed so that wasn’t available when we were in the area, instead we checked out the birds.  Once inside you can buy a popsicle stick covered in birdseed.  Then as you walk inside with all the birds they immediately flock to the stick and start chowing down.  My daughter Hanna didn’t like when they would stand on her hand, but it was still a cute thing to do.

After we finished feeding the birds we made sure none escaped and continued on our pathway and found a little gift shop called the Bayou.  Outside this store was the third and final penny machine to be found inside the park.

The third set of coins is my personal favorite, and are pretty detailed.  Each has a gator as part of the design, but the slogans on these are what make them great.  3000 lbs of Bone Crushing Jaw Power! Oh Snap!, Drop in any time you’re in Florida, Trespassers will be Eaten, and Gator X-ing.  By this time everyone was getting a little hungry so we decided to stop for some lunch.

They have a BBQ style quick service location here with things like chicken fingers, pulled pork sandwiches and if you can believe this Gator nuggets.  We couldn’t resist getting some and trying them.  I really hate to say this but they really do taste like chicken, and my girls didn’t mind them either.

After lunch we checked out a train ride around the park, and also spent some time with a couple large tortoises.  The park also has a nice kids playground and water park-ish area.  Before leaving we had to stop for one last photo-op you can see above.

Other than having gators this place was not at all like I remembered, but was still a lot of fun.  Everyone had a great time, and he entrance fee is pretty reasonable for everything you get to experience.  The penny designs were a nice addition to my ever-growing Florida collection.  These are some really extraordinary reptiles and everyone should learn a little more about them, especially if you like visiting Florida.

Elmwood Park Zoo – Norristown, PA

Up here in Jersey we have had a pretty easy winter.  It’s been cold, but not much snow this year.  There have really only been two big snow storms hit our area and the snow is usually all melted away within a week or so.  Since I originally came from Canada I will say we have had it pretty good this year.  But regardless since the temperatures have been cold, and the wind making it very hard to stay outside for any length of time our daughters have been getting cabin fever staying instead all the time.  This past weekend it was a little more on the milder side (with more cold on the way) so we decided to take the opportunity and spend a day out at the zoo.  I’m always on the look out for new penny machines and this gave us the opportunity to visit a zoo we hadn’t visited before, and for my own selfish reasons get some new pennies.

About an hour from our house on the PA turnpike we were in a place called Norristown and found the Elmwood Park Zoo.  This is not a huge zoo, but much bigger than I had anticipated.  Unfortunately since we were visiting during their winter season a lot of the animals were not available to see.  Many of the attractions were also closed so we didn’t have much to look at.  The entrance fee was significantly less due to the limited things to see and do, but I will definitely want to come back when it’s warmer to see all they have when it’s completely open.

Their outdoor exhibits were very nicely put together, and the birds and other winter creatures were out and enjoying the warmer than usual weather.

One of the buildings we came to was called “The Bayou”.  Inside there were some frogs, snacks, an alligator and some monkeys (not sure why they were in the Bayou).

This was also where we found the first penny machine.  As you can see from the picture above it’s a four design hand crank machine.  The only issue I have with these machines is that the finished coins drop out at the bottom but there is no holding cup or tray for them.  They just hit a little piece of wood and more often than note go flying onto the floor.  My daughter Hanna has fun running around trying to catch them, but sometimes they do go missing if you aren’t paying attention.

The coins did press very nicely and only had a slight curve to them.  This first set included images of a Jaguar, an American Alligator, an American Bison, and a Flamingo. With the coins stored away we finished checking our The Bayou and headed back outside.  We visited the few remaining exhibits that were open that day.  As we headed towards the front of the zoo we went to check out their gift shop and found the second penny machine.

I’m sure you noticed the sign on the machine that said, “Out of Order”.  This always is a bummer when you visit from a distance and come away empty-handed.

The penny designs at this machine were of a Red Panda, a Giraffe, an Eagle, and a Zebra.  Once I got back home I did what I usually try whenever I come across a broken machine.  I wrote a quick letter to the zoo and included enough quarters and pennies for all four designs, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope to return them.  There have only been a few instances where I never received anything back, but it’s pretty rare and most places are more than happy to help a collector in need.  My advise when doing this is make it as easy for them as possible, and there really isn’t a reason for them not to help.

With our faces getting a little frozen we headed back to our cars and over to a diner for some hot chocolate and lunch.  It was a fun little trip and I was disappointed there weren’t more animals to see.  But this just gives us an excuse to come back when it’s warmer.

UPDATE 12-21-2017:
It took about 6 months but I finally received the pennies from the zoo.  I have a feeling it was more due to our recent move down south as the envelope still had our old address on it.  So after making its ways through the postal system the pennies arrived earlier today.  It’s always nice to finalize a set that’s been incomplete.  Below is a picture of the pennies, and thank you to the staff at the Elmwood Park Zoo for pressing these and sending them back.

Zoo America – Hershey, PA

While we spent the day in Hersey Pennsylvania we stopped in to check out Zoo America.  Now this isn’t a huge zoo and you can probably get through the whole thing in about 30-45 minutes if you walk really slow, but still has some unique exhibits I haven’t seen at other zoos.  You can access this separately from Hershey Park and there is a pretty reasonable admission.  However, if you are visiting Hershey Park you can access the zoo for free.  Just make sure to get your hand stamped before walking over the bridge as that is how you will get back into the Park once you’re done with the zoo.


Once you enter the Zoo there is a recommended trail to follow which will ensure you get to visit all the areas and exhibits.  Once of my favorite is the Desert with a nice assortment of animals and is one of the unique exhibits I had mentioned above.


For years this Zoo has had 3 penny machines available.  They have changed designs over the years and as luck would have it during this visit I was able to get the brand new sets.


The first machine along the recommended trail is located in Bear Country.  It’s just outside the covered viewing area of the Black bears.


You will see that each of these designs includes the name of the animal pictures (thank you!) which is nice as sometimes I have a hard time figuring out what it’s supposed to be.  This set included a River Otter, Great Horned Owl, American Black Bear and an American Alligator.


The second machines is located on the main path of the zoo and is located right near the small little concession stand.


These coins were on the very of rolling short but thankfully still came out okay.  The images on these coins are a Canada Lynx, North American Porcupine, a Road runner, and a Gray Wolf.


The last machine is located just before the exit of the zoo before you enter the gift shop.  Technically this is also located right at the entrance, but if you follow the recommended trail you will go up some stairs behind this machine and won’t be able to access it until the end.  Another good reason to stick to the trail is it will ensure you find all three machines.


The final set of pennies has a Rattlesnake, an American Marten, Swift Fox, and a Thick Billed Parrot.


Each of the 12 designs does include a backstamp of the zoo’s website zooamerica.com. The image was not very centered in any of the coins I pressed and the above is the best one I could find.

As I mentioned above it would be hard to spend an entire day at this zoo as it isn’t that big.  But it does make a nice side trip away from the crowds and screaming from the Theme Park.  With out fill of animals and yet more pennies collected it was time to meet up with the rest of our family back in Hershey Park.  Roller coasters were calling our name.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park – Washington, DC

As with a lot of my day trips I had to pass through Washington DC for a work thing and had the afternoon off before heading home so I jumped at the chance to get some new pennies.  A couple of years ago we took our first daughter Hanna on a long weekend trip to DC and visited all the museums and she especially loved the zoo which you can read about here.  I’m always checking online to see if and when new machines become available to try to keep my collection as up to date as possible, and wouldn’t you know it the zoo had all brand new machines.

Washington DC Zoo 01

One fantastic thing about the Smithsonian National Zoological Park (whew!) is that it’s absolutely free.  There are some places to donate to the zoo and help the animals which I would absolutely recommend everyone do.  This place is pretty big and I will give advanced notice part of it is along the side of a fairly steep hill / mountain.  I would probably recommend starting at the bottom when you first get there so that once you are heading home you just have to coast down the hill.  In any case I did not take my own advice and started at the back near the visitors center which was where I made my first stop.

Washington DC Zoo 02

Inside the visitors center is one of the gift shops, a set of restrooms and some other little exhibits to check out.  My reason for stopping by is the penny machine located right outside the restrooms.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 01

As you can see this is another one of those new fancy super multi mega design machines.  This one offers 2 designs for $1 or all 8 for $3.  But, it was out-of-order so I came back empty-handed with this one.  To help cheer myself up I grabbed an ice cream cone which always helps.  I visited various animal exhibits and next stopped at the Panda Shop.

Washington DC Zoo 03

As you can see in the above image the penny machine is located right outside the main door of this store.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 02

Another thing I will say about these machines is that they were all decorated really nicely.  I’m always a fan of nice cabinet images, the plain ones just never seem as exciting.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 02 Blog

This machine was back to the standard four designs and had images of a Giant Panda with Baby, Giant Panda lying on a rock, a Mountain Lion and a Seal.  Nearby was the Bus Stop area which is pretty self-explanatory.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 03

Each of these four design machines are $0.50 plus your penny.  I always come prepared but it was nice to see change machines available.  Please note that this Bus Stop is actually where all the school buses and tour buses drop off all their riders.  It took me a little while to use this machine because it was just swarmed by school kids from a bout 4 or 5 buses all at once.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 03 Blog

However the kids were very nice and let me by to use the machine without much fuss.  They were interested in watching me use the machine a little too closely (I like my personal space) but after I left I saw them all trying to find loose change for the machine.  The next four designs were of a Giant Panda eating, a Komodo Dragon, a Mountain Lion, and another Giant Panda walking.  Since I was in the Panda area and this zoo is known for their Panda’s that is what I checked out next.  Another FYI this area of the zoo is always PACKED with visitors.  It is not uncommon for the zoo to set up a queue for entering this area so be prepared to wait.

Washington DC Zoo 04

This trip however the Panda’s were actually being kept inside.  I’m not sure if it was due to the heat or not but this did help keep this area a little calmer.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 04

Down near the outside viewing area is nice coverage section with interactive displays and is a pleasant place to take a break from the sun.  This was also where the next penny machine.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 04 Blog

Sick of Pandas yet?  How can you possibly be they are so cute and watching them eat bamboo is fascinating to me for some reason.  Always, these pennies had the Elephant Trails, a Panda lying on a rock, a Spotted Eagle Ray, and an Elephant.

Washington DC Zoo 06

Once inside I finally found one but as you can see from the picture above he was not up to entertaining his guests.  Oh well maybe next time.  I made good time through the panda exhibit and as I left the crowd was really started to fill up (probably due to all the students, I really miss field trips).  Now I was at the top of the mountain and was making my way down trying not to think about the climb back up I would have later on. One of the first buildings I came to was the Great Ape House.

Washington DC Zoo 09

If you like primates this is the place for you.  There are some outside but again due to the heat most were inside.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 05

About half way through the Great Ape House I took a break from monkey watching to use the machine located inside.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 05 Blog

You may have guess that these coins would be themed after the primates and you would be absolutely correct.  The designs are as follows a Gorilla’s Face, an Orangutan on a vine, a Panda Face and one of my favorites a Ring-Tail Lemur.  I finished visiting with the monkeys and headed outside only to go immediately into the next building which was the Reptile House.

Washington DC Zoo 10

Here’s a little disclaimer I’m not a fan of snakes and Reptile houses are usually filled with them.  I do my best to confront my fears but I’m still convinced they will escape from their exhibits.  Sucking it up and made a mad dash inside, used the machine and got the heck out of there.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 06

Unfortunately due to this I can’t really tell you what other animals are inside, but I will say the machine worked perfectly for the few moments I was there.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 06 Blog

Next four pennies designs were reptile themed except for another panda.  The images included the Baby Panda, an Alligator, a Komodo Dragon, and a Turtle (Tortoise?).  I finished walking down the mountain and make a quick stop in the Mane Grill (Lion exit was near by get it, haha).  After a short snack I found the last penny machine near an Info Booth and a wall of vending machines.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 07

Even though I always had eaten some ice cream the Dippin’ Dots machine beside the penny machine was calling my name so I pressed the coins as quick as I could.

Washington DC Zoo Machine 07 Blog

These last four pennies had a Cobra, an Elephant, and Panda lying down, and lastly the famous Panda Bao Bao.  With Dippin’ Dots in hand I started my slow climb up the mountain and headed towards the exit where my car was located.  It had been a fun day visiting with the animals, doing some cardio and getting a whole bunch of new pennies.  Even though the big fancy 8 design machine was out-of-order I’ll try sending a letter to the zoo in an attempt to get a set.  This is a great zoo with some really unique exhibits I haven’t seen anywhere else.  Be sure to check it out if you’re in the Nations Capital but don’t forget to bring your walking shoes.

Philadelphia Zoo 2016 – New Machines!!

Last year we had decided to support our nearby Philadelphia Zoo by becoming members.  The fee for the family was really quite reasonable and not only could we visit that zoo but we also had free admission to hundreds of zoos and aquariums across the country.  We have had some really cold weather recently in Jersey and going outside even just running to the card was more than we could take.  Finally this past weekend we had some nice weather and I jumped at the change to take my daughter Hanna out for a trip to see some animals.  When we visited the zoo in previous years they always had a few penny machines around, and when we went last year they were all gone and I wrote out it here.  In that post I said I hoped that this was a sign that new machines were on the way and wouldn’t you know it I was absolutely correct.  Plus there was news about a mystery machine that was to be available but no pictures or information were available.  This sounded like a challenge.

Zoo Visit 01

After a 40 minute trip we arrived at the zoo and headed inside.  We didn’t make it far before running into the first new machine.

Ticketing Booth

Right beside the admission ticket booth was a brand spanking new machine.  I will say I’m not a huge fan of the wheel instead of the handle crank, but that didn’t stop me from pressing a set.

Ticketing Booth Pennies

The first set of designs included a Flamingo, Monkey, Lion and the 6ABC Zoo Balloon.  All of the designs also said Philadelphia Zoo.  Thankfully with our membership we didn’t have to wait in line for any tickets and just headed through the gate.  Making our way methodically around every inch of the zoo we eventually came to big cat country which Hanna always likes.

Zoo Visit 02

Apparently this Leopard was fond of Hanna as she kept following her as we walked past her.  After exiting the big cat area we were facing the Trading Post Gift Shop which was the location of the next machine.

Trading Post Gift Shop

Hanna helped collect the pennies as I pressed them.  She always likes to show them off to other kids that may be nearby.

Trading Post Pennies

These next four designs included two Giraffes, a Rhino, another Lion, and a Lemur.  By this time Hanna was hungry so we stopped for some lunch.  A couple of the kids Hanna had shown off our pennies to came up with their parents and asked if we knew of any other machines.  I told them we were on the lookout as well but had some tips on where they could be found.  The family was very appreciative and headed off on their search.  Once we were done eating we headed back out and it didn’t take long before we found the third machine.

Grove Gift Shop

The machine was right outside the Grove Gift Shop which was closed for the season.  Thankfully they kept the machine outside so we could use it.

Grove Shop Pennies

Continuing the theme of the zoo these next four designs had another set of animals on them.  A Cheetah, Gorilla, Seal and a red Panda.  Next we headed into the bird sanctuary which I liked but Hanna wasn’t a big fan of the birds walking and flying all around here.

Zoo Visit 03

Leaving before any of the birds could escape with us we headed down the last stretch of the zoo.  Here we found the Giraffes, Rhinos and Zebras.  Across from them was the Polar Bear Observation area which has an above water view and a below water view.  On the lower viewing area we found another machine.

Polar Bear Observation

The family we had met back at lunch was just leaving this machine and waved as they left.  We made our way up to the machine and pressed out set.

Polar Bear Pennies

As you can see in the above picture the images were of a Frog, Peacock, a Kangaroo and what I believe is an Aye-aye Lemur.

These above four machines were the ones that I knew about from pennycollector.com but we still had to find the mystery machine.  I did have some doubt that it may not have been made available yet, but I was holding out hope we would find it.  There were a few areas we had only briefly checked out and now we headed back in for a more thorough search but we didn’t find it.  As we started to head towards the exit I had one last glimmer of home the ZooShop.  Hanna ran in to try to find a toy to bring home and after she carefully selected a stuffed Pink Baby Elephant we headed out the middle set of doors and found the last machine.

Philly Zoo Machine 05 2016

As an extra special surprise this was another one of the latest and greatest super-multi design machines.  It had 8 brand spanking new designs available in total.

Zooshop Designs

Above is a close up of the 8 designs available that are displayed in the machine.  The cost for this machine was 2 designs for $1 or all 8 for $3.

Philly Zoo 05 Pennies 2016

All the designs are pressed on blanks which give a nice shiny finished product.  The designs included: The Zoo Logo, a Black Bear, and orangutan, a Parrot, a Three-toed Sloth, a Crocodile, a Northern Bald Eagle, and a Amur Tiger.

We were happy with our visit and had a pocket full of new pennies to add to our collection.  Another great use of our annual pass which really turned out to be a great investment for our family.  Looks like I’ll be renewing it very soon so I can keep an eye on these new machines.

Central Park Zoo – New York, NY

After leaving the Natural History museum I was confronted with the realization that the New York City Marathon was going on.  I wanted to head straight east across Central Park to the zoo but with the marathon route blocking my way I headed out on a long winding route through the park trying to get to the other side.  About 45 minutes later I finally made it to the Central Park Zoo.  Another zoo?  You bet this has definitely been the summer of zoo visits, maybe next year I’ll pick another type of attraction and visit as many as I can.  But come on it’s a zoo with lots of cute fuzzy animals.

Central Park Zoo 01

Before entering the actual zoo there are some placed to visit that are located outside the main entrance and no admission is required.  The Dancing Crane Cafe is a nice quick place to grab something to eat, or you can also visit the main gift shop.  I had paid for my ticked online the night before so thankfully I didn’t need to stand in the long ticket line.  Outside the gift shop and across from the zoo entrance were the first two penny machines available at the zoo.

Central Park Zoo Machine 01

Both machines were inside a cabinet that I’m sure helped protect them from the outside elements and there was a change machine right in the middle.

Central Park 02 Pennies

Each machine at the zoo had four designs available.  This first machine had images of a Pot-Bellied Pig, a Red Panda, a Black & White Ruffed Lemur, and a Poison Dart Frog.

Central Park Zoo Machine 02

Unfortunately the second machine was out-of-order with a label stuck across the coin slider.  I was temped to remove it and try the machine anyways, but I didn’t want to risk wasting my coins or worse breaking the machine further.

Central Park Zoo Machine 02a

The pennies available at this machine were an Emerald Tree Boa, Nubian Goat, a Sea Lion and a Grizzly Bear.  After my trip I wait about a week and then mailed off a set of quarters and pennies asking the zoo to press me a set from this machine.  I haven’t heard back but am keeping my fingers crossed I’ll receive something back to finish up this set.

With the pennies from the first machine stored away I handed my ticket to the attendant and headed inside to see the animals.  The Central Park Zoo isn’t huge and if you don’t linger too long you can see everything in an hour or so.

Central Park Zoo 07

One of the Grizzly Bears was pretty active and came right up close to the glass for us to catch a glimpse in-between naps.

Central Park Zoo 08

They also have Sea Lion tank and have regular feeding sessions you can watch throughout the day.  There are many other animals exhibits around the zoo but no animals really out of the ordinary.  One thing that is a little strange about this zoo is that there is a separate Children’s Zoo you can access with your regular admission but you have to leave the main zoo, walk under 65th Street via a tunnel/bridge and the Children’s zoo is on the other size.

Central Park Zoo 10

The Tisch Children’s Zoo had a petting area and mostly just contains some barnyard animals like goats and sheep.  But the animals are kept behind a fence so you have to try to coax them over with food you can pay for with a few quarters.

Central Park Zoo 12

After feeding some goats I had to make a pit stop and lucky for me the next penny machine was right outside the restrooms.

Central Park Zoo Machine 03

There were a bunch of younger kids playing with the machine but not actually using it.  When they noticed I was waiting patiently they moved out of the way and watched as I pressed a set.  This tends to happen quite often and I’m sure I have parents cursing my name after I leave as their kids always go running asking for loose change to use the machine.

Central Park 03 Pennies

These pennies included a Cow, a Tortoise, a Big, and a huge Spider in an intricate web.  I quickly left the area before the parents of the kids asking for change could hunt me down.  My research before coming into the city listed that there should be one more machine in the Dancing Crane Cafe.  I headed back in that direction, headed into the cafe and walked all around but didn’t see it.  I thought I may have missed it somewhere inside the zoo so I showed my hand stamp and went back inside.  Deciding to check every nook and cranny the first place I hadn’t gone to initially was the education center primarily used when schools come to visit the zoo.  In between the education center and a set of restrooms was a little hallway that connected to the cafe and this is where I found the last machine.

Central Park Zoo Machine 04

This machine wasn’t leveled correctly and when I cranked the handle it would dip to one side.  It made using the machine a little difficult and also made a lot of noise.  Not to be deterred I held the top of the machine to try to steady it while turning the handle.

Central Park 04 Pennies

These designs had a little more detail than the others which was probably due to this being a newer machine.  The images had a Rattlesnake, Snow Leopard, Snow Monkey and a Macaw.  I headed back inside the cafe and grabbed a Gatorade to try to re-hydrate due to all the walking I had done so far, but my trip was far from over.

**Updated (12/11/15)
A few days after my trip into New York City I sent a letter to the Central Park Zoo with some quarters and pennies letting them know I had recently visited but one of the machines had been out-of-order.  I asked if someone would be able to press me a set once the machine was fixed.  About 2 months later I received my envelope back with a fresh set of pressed coins and a nice letter from someone in their guest services apologizing for the machine being out-of-order.  I have done this a few times in the past and almost always receive the coins back.  It’s not always the quickest method to acquire pressed coins but I do appreciate the employee’s taking some time to help fill my collection.

Central Park Zoo Broken Pennies

Turtle Back Zoo – West Orange, NJ

Another weekend came and went and we decided to visit yet another zoo that was located up in northern part of the state.  Turtle Back Zoo is located in South Orange, NJ and was founded in 1963.  Initially it was setup to display animals indigenous to New Jersey, but currently has species from almost every continent on the planet and houses over 700 animals in total.

Turtle Back Zoo Logo

We are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums through our annual pass with the Philadelphia Zoo so our admission was free.  This is a nice tip if you like visiting zoos as you get to access a lot of zoos nationwide for one membership price.  This zoo really is great and has a wide variety of animals to see and activities to participant with.  One of the first activities we came across were pony rides which Hanna has never done before.  We weren’t sure how she would handle it especially since my wife and I weren’t allowed in with her and had to watch from the sidelines, but she absolutely loved it.  Oh and a pony has now jumped to the top of her birthday gift list.

TBZ Pony Ride

Another cool exhibit they had was a walk through bird sanctuary with all kinds of birds flying around you as you pass through.  You can even buy little sticks that have birdseed on them to feed the birds.

TBZ Bird Feeding

Did you noticed the Canada Eh! shirt above?  That was picked up on our recent trip back to Canada for our annual family reunion and a stop over in Cooperstown to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.  You can check out the post here to read about some penny machines I picked up along the way.

We did see all your usual animals and reptiles along the way.  They have a great little aquarium with a touch tank that you can pet some small stingrays and even a few sharks.  Below is a picture of Hanna attempting to touch one of the Rays.

TBZ Touch Tank

We also came across a couple porcupines which usually aren’t too active and these were no different.  However the one did flop down on the ground and stretched out his (or her) back legs which was really cute and you can see in the picture below.

TBZ Porcupine

After a quick break for some ice cream we checked out the Komodo Dragon exhibit which is located right beside the main Gift Shop.  We stopped in to check out the usual assortment of stuffed animals and t-shirts.

TBZ Gift Shop

In between the gift shop and the main admission ticket window there is a small hallway connecting the two.  In this area we found the one penny machine available at the zoo.

NJ - Turtle Back Zoo 2015 Machine 01

I had visited this zoo a few years ago to collect the pennies which was a different machine at that time.  This new machine apparently is new for this year.  Here’s a close up of the design marquee signage.

NJ - Turtle Back Zoo 2015 Machine 01a

I grabbed my usual stash of coins I keep on hand in case I come across a new machine and pressed all four designs.  They came out great, and the machine worked perfectly.

NJ - Turtle Back Zoo Pennies

The four designs include: a large Tortoise, a Komodo Dragon, Two Red Pandas, and a Giraffe.  With the new pennies safely stored away in my pocket we started to head towards the last attraction on our list.

TBZ Carousel

Hanna’s obsession (other than the most recent pony obsession) are carousels.  This worked our perfectly as the carousel was on our way back out towards the exit.  Instead of the usual Horses to ride this one had all different types of exotic animals.  Hanna was torn between a few choices but ended up picking the Polar Bear.  After our ride we headed to our car and made the trip back hope.

This was another great day trip and I must say this zoo has definitely expanded since the last time I was here.  New animals, new rides and best of all a new penny machine.

Labor Day Weekend – Cape May, NJ

Labor Day weekend has finally arrived.  The schools buses started to show up on the streets this past week adding to the local traffic, and making us daydream of the nice easy summer commutes to work we enjoyed just a short time ago.  Our daughter Hanna isn’t in school yet, but it felt like the last summer weekend anyways so we decided to take another trip.  This time all the way down to the southern most point of Jersey known as Cape May.

welcome cape may

Cape May is really a beautiful place, with a lot of things to do.  My wife an I stayed here a few years ago for a long weekend and it was really relaxing.  Being so far south there isn’t a lot of traffic from the New York crowds, so this is really a Jersey beach with some people cover over from Delaware on the Ferry (but we’ll go over this a little later).

Our first stop was the Cape May County Park & Zoo which is actually located about 15 minutes outside of Cape May.  Admission is free, but they do accept donations which I would highly recommend.

Cape May Zoo Entrance

Even though the zoo is free this is a really nice place.  There are lots of different animals from all over the world.  The employee’s that work here are all very knowledgable and very friendly.  As soon as we entered the zoo I found our first penny machine.

Cape May Zoo Machine 01

The cabinet for the machine was in great condition and I’m sure helps with all the difference weather through the seasons as the zoo is open year round.  You may notice as I did that the sign at the bottom listed this a Machine 2, so I knew I had to keep my eyes open for at least one other machine.

Cape May Zoo Pennies 01

Just like every zoo I have visited and collected pressed coins for these designs were of animals they had on display.  These included: A Leaping Tiger, Large Tortoise, A Pig, and an American Eagle.  With coins in hand we continued to check out the zoo, petting some farm animals, watching some of the more exotic ones getting fed, and they also had nice play structure for the kids to climb and play on.  Eventually we made it over to the Reptile House which I will say is not one of my favorites but at the same time can’t resist getting up close and personal with them.  Right outside the Reptile House was the second (or technically first) machine.

Cape May Zoo Machine 02

I always come prepared, but there was a change machine located here as well in case you’re in need.  My experience is that these change machines are usually out-of-order more often that the penny machines.  My advise is always bring enough change for the machines you had planned to used, and then also bring a few extra sets of coins just in case of emergency.  You never know when the machine may have a bad roll, or you come across another machine you didn’t know was there.

Cape May Zoo Pennies 02

These coins pressed without any issue.  The four designs are: A Ring-tailed Lemur, A Boa Constrictor, and American Bison, and a Giraffe.  On the subject of the Giraffe there is part of this zoo where you walk along a wooden platform through the woods that seems to go on forever, but  trust me it’s work the walk.

cm zoo africa

Above is an actual picture of the walkway.  You eventually come out to one of the most amazing exhibits I’ve ever seen to view Giraffes, Zebra and some other African animals.  You are on a raised platform that is maybe 6-7 feet in the air and it gives you a really nice vantage point to view the animals up close.

After the African exhibit we made our way back through the zoo towards the exit.  We jumped in our car and headed into Cape May.  It’s filled with beautifully restored Victorian houses, and there is a lot of history here.  On a previous trip my wife and I took a horse and buggy ride around town and the driver was a wealth of historical information that was really amazing.  As we drove around we eventually came to our next stop the Cape May Lighthouse.

Cape May Lighthouse 02

The Lighthouse was built in 1859 and is 157 feet 6 inches tall.  It has 217 steps which for a small fee will take you up to the very top.  We didn’t make the trip up to the top, but have before.  It’s quite a work out and not for anyone that is afraid of heights.  As with every lighthouse the view from the top is gorgeous and will take your breath away.

Cape May Lighthouse Machine 01

This visit though was just to use the brand new 4 design penny machine that had just been put on display.  There used to be a one-die version that was here for years, but that has since been replaced with this beauty.  No admission is required to use the penny machine.  It’s located at the bottom of the stairs across from the information desk.

Cape May Lighthouse Pennies

The 4 designs are all Cape May inspired: Cape May Lighthouse 1859, Cape May Point State Park, World War II Lookout tower Sunset Beach, and a Horseshoe Crab.  Have you ever seen a Horseshoe Crab?  They are weird but really amazing little creatures.  Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ has some on display that you can touch, and the handlers will also flip them over so you can see what they look like under their armor.

Back in the car for another short trip over to the Cape May – Lewes Ferry Terminal.  This is pretty self-explanatory there are ferry’s that will take you from Cape May New Jersey across to Lewes Delaware and vise versa.  On our trip last year to Washington DC we took the Ferry back to Jersey from Delaware.  It was about an hour or so trip, and you just drive you car right onboard and then walk up to the passenger areas where you can stand out on desk with the sea breeze in your face, or you can enjoy a snack at the concession stand and sit inside.

Cape May Ferry Building 02

There is no cost to park here, however when you are entering if you are only visiting to use the penny machines make sure you use the lanes for dropping off passengers.  Otherwise you may get stuck in the lanes to board the Ferry.  As soon as you walk inside there is a gift shop to the right and the last penny machine of the day was located just outside.

Cape May Ferry Machine 01

I pressed the four designs which were of: The Cape May Lighthouse, Cape May-Lewes Ferry, A Victorian House, and Dolphins at the Jersey Shore.

Cape May Ferry 1

As my family took a much needed bathroom break I roamed around the terminal looking for a second machine.  On my previous visit there were two machines located here but I couldn’t find it.  After coming back home I did some research online and it appears that from time to time the machines will board one of the ferries.  Now I can’t say for sure this is where it is, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it’s true.  As a flash back I posted a picture of the second machine below.

Cape May Ferry Terminal 2

Just as a reminder the above picture was taken about 3 years ago.  At that time the machine worked great and pressed the 4 designs without any issue.

Cape May Ferry 2

The 4 designs I pressed at that time were: Cape May – Lewes Ferry, Cape Henlopen Lighthouse, Delaware The 1st State, and My Lucky Penny Lewes Delaware.

We grabbed from snacks and drinks for our 2 hours drive back home.  It had been a nice day to spend outside with the family.  We avoided the beach as they are always crazy over Labor Day weekend.  It’s sad to know the summer has come to and end.  As a penny collector this is always the time of year when the most collecting can get done.  During the winter months I try to visit some indoor attractions to get pennies, but most of the time I’m scouring eBay for coins to fill in the gaps of my collection.

The weather is still warm, and the sun is shining bright so maybe we will still be able to fit some other coin pressing trips in before the dreaded snow arrives.

Staten Island Zoo – Staten Island, NY

With the summer slowly passing us by before we know it the temperature will begin to drop and we’ll be stuck inside more often than we would like.  With the weekends we have left my family has been trying to do as much as we can.  Just this past weekend we visited for the first time ever the Staten Island Zoo.

Staten island zoo sign

This zoo was about an hour drive from our house in central jersey, straight up the turnpike and over the Goethals bridge.  This isn’t a large zoo but still has a wide variety of animals and things to do.  After arriving one of the first exhibits we came across were the river otters.


As you can see above Hanna had a great time playing with one of them through the glass.  Primarily the zoo has a central building with different wings that branch off in different directions.  Each wing houses a specific genre of animal for example the Reptile wing,  or the Tropical Forest wing.  While in the Tropical Forest wing I came across the first of two penny machines available at the zoo.

Staten Island Zoo 01

We visited the zoo right as it opened so there wasn’t a lot of traffic.  This area of the zoo was pretty empty so while I pressed the pennies I only had the nearby monkeys as an audience.  They didn’t look too impressed.

Staten Island Zoo 01 Pennies

The three designs at this machine were: A Leopard, Mandrill and an Emu.  The coins pressed very nicely and the machine was in pretty good shape.  We continued walking around the zoo and Hanna saw her most favorite ride of all, a carousel.  So we took a quick break to go for a ride.


After taking a spin we headed to the last part of the zoo which was called the Kids Korral.  We had to first travel over a covered bridge which is also where we found the second penny machine.

Staten Island Zoo 02

I always come prepared with enough quarters and pennies (plus some extras just in case), but in case you need it there was a change machine located right nearby.

Staten Island Zoo 02 Pennies

The three designs at this machine were: The Staten Island Zoo Logo, A Red Panda, and a Horse.  With the last set of pennies in hand we went to the Kids Zoo to feed and pet some barnyard animals before heading home.

If you’re looking for a zoo to spend an entire day at this wouldn’t be the place to go.  But it was nice for a few hours which is just enough time to see a decent selection of exotic animals and of course press some coins.