The Jungle Book NEW Pressed Penny Set – Animal Kingdom

It’s been a little while since we were over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park, so we had scheduled a reservation to visit this past weekend.  It seems that it was just meant to be as I was informed on the drive over to the park that there were reports of a new pressed penny machine sighting.

We did have a whole day planned at the park, but it didn’t take too long for us to find the new machine.  Just over the bridge when you first see the Tree of Life there is a pretty large gift shop on the left called the Island Mercantile.

I usually cut through these stores just for some quick Air Conditioning, but this time we were on the hunt.

The inside of the store is really beautiful with all sorts of theming and unique carvings on the walls and up in the ceiling.  Plus there is a ton of merch, but we will revisit this shortly.

After wandering around the entire inside of the store more than a couple times I headed outside, and sure enough, there was the machine.

The cabinet of this new machine was gorgeous, with some cool wood carved creatures on the front and both sides.  Plus I really liked the blue color.

I pressed a set of the new pennies and was a bit surprised to notice that they were all themed around the Disney classic animated movie The Jungle Book.  There are designs of Mowgli, Baloo, Shere Khan, Kaa, Bagheera, and more.

Now just a quick note, after getting these pennies I headed back into the store and was just curious to see what type of merchandise they would have for The Jungle Book.  I checked every shelf and display I could and the only items I found were a couple collectible pins.  It is a bit sad to know that this movie doesn’t have much available, but at least we have a nice new pressed penny set.  Keep on Pressing!

Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg – Pressed Penny

Joan Ruth Bader was born on March 15, 1933, in Brooklyn New York.

She earned her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University and married Martin Ginsburg in 1954.  She became a mother before starting law school at Harvard, where she was one of the few women in her class.  She transferred to Columbia Law School where she graduated join first in her class.  During the 1960s she worked with the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure, where she learned Swedish.  Her work in Sweden influenced her thinking about gender equality.  She then became a professor at Rutgers Law School and Columbia Law School teaching civil procedure as one of the few women in her field.

She spent much of her legal career as an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights, winning many arguments before the Supreme Court.  In the 1970s she was one of the general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.  In 1980 President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where she serviced until her appointment to the Supreme Court in 1993.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in her home in Washington, D.C. on September 18th, 2020 at the age of 87 from complications of pancreatic cancer.  She was a true pioneer and trailblazer within the United States Judicial System.

To commemorate her life fellow TEC (The Elongated Collectors) member Tyler Tyson created the special pressed penny design.  The designs were made available to fellow club members as either just a single penny as pictured at the top of this article, or as a full denomination set which included the image pressed on a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and dollar.

 

Pressed Penny Pins

A few times a year I scour the internet for anything new or unique concerning Pressed Pennies.  In the past, this has let to retired online games with pressed penny machines in them, jewelry, unique art, a porcelain statue, and on more than one occasion my searches bring me to Etsy.  Just recently I did this same search and did come across something new (which doesn’t always happen) and it then sparked a similar topic I had wanted to write about in the past but never got around to it.  So here is my attempt at merging those two together.

Many of the different Disney parks have released pressed pennies with designs celebrating their very popular Pin Trading program.  Recently my daughters have become avid pin collectors and really got into pin trading primarily with the Disney Cast members.  In one of the pin stores, one of my daughters asked if there was a pressed penny pin we could get and I told her I didn’t think those existing.

Now skip forward to my recent random search on the internet for Penny related things and came across an Etsy store: Wonderful World of Pins Co.  This really cute store had a few different pin designs available but one of them really caught my eye.  It’s a pressed penny design of Cinderella’s Castle with some fireworks, and also has 1971 at the top which is the year the Magic Kingdom opened in Florida.  The colors were really pretty and I just really liked this so I immediately purchased one.  I will also say it looks amazing in person and it now has a special spot in our pin collection, but I’ll have to make sure no one in my family tries to trade it away.

After the Castle pin had shown up it sparked a memory I had of some other pins that had been released in Disneyland California years ago.  These were a pressed penny style pin set that was envisioned by WDI (Walt Disney Imagineering).  The pins were available to Cast Members (employees) exclusively at the Mickey’s of Glendale store which is for Cast Members only.  You can find these pins on eBay but the resale cost is pretty high.  I keep an eye out for deals whenever possible, and was able to get the above set for a reasonable price.  This is actually the second group of WDI Pressed Penny Pins and was released on November 6th, 2010.

I hunted through my Disneyland pressed penny collection and found the matching pressed pennies to that pin set.  It really was a fantastic idea to recreate these penny designs in pin form and I wish they did this in Florida (and not just for Cast Members).

As of right now, there are 21 sets of these pins for a total of 74 pressed penny pins.  They range from sets of the Haunted Mansion to Wreck-It Ralph and they are all based on pressed penny designs.  The last set (#21) was released around September 10th, 2014.  That is also quite a while ago so these may not be coming back anytime soon.  I was going to add pictures of the other sets but my resource for most of these details was from the fantastic Disneyland Pressed Penny resource http://www.ParkPennies.com.  Here is a link to their page all about the WDI Pressed Penny Pins with pictures of all the sets should you be interested in more information.

Thanks for checking in and be sure to let me know in the comments if you ever come across any unique items themed around Pressed Pennies or their machines and I’ll be sure to check it out.  I’m still waiting for Lego to create a Pressed Penny machine in Lego form but so far nada.  Happy Pressing!

WDW Converting Older 3-Design Electric Penny Machines to $1

Over the past year or so we have reviewed how Walt Disney World (and some other theme parks around Central Florida) have begun converting their penny machines over to $1.  The machines being convered were the 4-design hand crank models and we were hoping it would stop there.

But unfortunately on a recent visit to the Magic Kingdom I found what a lot of collectors had been worried about.

I didn’t even make it very far into the park before noticing the very first machine over near the Newsstand looked different.

 
Old Machine                                   New Machine

Above on the left is how the machine looked only a few weeks before.  The picture on the right is how it looked after coming back.  When I noticed the credit card payment system I knew what had happened.

The marquee at the top is a bit different as well, with added information on the new increased cost and they also announce proudly that “We provide the penny”.

Here is a close up of the payment system and information on how it works.  Please note that if you chose to use a credit card or digital payment like ApplePay you will automatically be charge the full $3 and will get all 3 pennies.  You cannot use this type of payment for only one design.  For that you need to use cash and it must be exact the machine does not give change.  So make sure you have your dollar bills ready.  After you insert your dollar, the button will light up and you can chose your design to press.

Here is a picture of the penny set.  They are exactly the same as before the machine was converted.  No variances that I can see like the Frontierland Railroad Station machine we reviewed last week.  The pennies the machine supplied were not great and I’ve definitely seen better with other machines.  But I’ll try cleaning them up a bit and hopefully that will help.

I’ve mentioned this numerous times in the past that many collectors aren’t happy about not being able to use their own preferred pennies.  I do like to use my own whenever possible, but I just enjoy this hobby too much for this small detail to deter me from collecting.  It’s more about the adventure and just simple enjoyment of watching a penny get squished into a fun souvenir.

We are anticipating that since this machine has been changed over the rest of the 3-design electronic machines will soon follow.  On this most recent visit to Magic Kingdom I did check on the other machines but no others had been convered as of yet.  As always we will keep you up to date on the changes.  I don’t think I’ll review each machine individually as they are converted and may instead wait for all of them to be done and write one large article about all of them.  Let me know what you think.  Will you continue to collect these pressed pennies?

Stay safe and Keep on Pressing!

Frontierland Railroad Station NEWish Pressed Pennies – Magic Kingdom

Fresh off a couple new penny machines over at Epcot, it now was time to head back over to the Magic Kingdom for a NEW-ish machine.  What do I mean by that…well we will get to that in a little bit.

I was able to get a park reservation for a Sunday and above is a picture of the entrance to the park.  It was pretty quiet on this visit.

We headed back towards Frontierland only stopping once for a Dole Whip (I’m so weak), then back to Splash Mountain.

As you stand in front of the entrance to Splash Mountain, if you look up you will see the Frontierland Railroad Station.  Unfortunately due to the Tron Coaster construction currently underway the railroad is not running.

But that’s okay since the place we are actually heading is not up to the railroad platform.  Instead, you walk just to the right of Splash Mountain underneath the train station.

If you decide that you would rather take a trip down the Briar Patch by riding Splash Mountain first that’s no problem.  Once you exit the ride you will have to walk underneath the train station as well to get back to the park.  Which is perfect since this is where you will find the new penny machine.

Previously this location had a 3-design electronic penny machine that was removed fairly recently.  Then with the latest news that Splash Mountain will be rethemed to Princess and the Frog, I assumed this machine may not return until after that retheming.  But I was wrong.

As you can see from the image above the machine has returned but is noticeably different.  For one it is now a 4 design manual press machine.  It has also been updated to the new $1 per penny price point, and the machine supplies a shiny new zinc penny.

Here is a look at the new set of pressed pennies from this machine.  Now if you have been collecting Walt Disney World pressed pennies you may be like me and at a glad recognized these designs.  After I had pressed this set I was pretty sure these were previously retired designs that were just brought back.  But once I got home I took a closer look to compare these with the older designs I remembered.

 

First, we will look at the Br’er Vulture design.  It was originally at this very same location under the Frontierland Railroad Station.  However, when I put the two pennies together (New is on the Left, and Old is on the Right) you can see there are some differences.  There is now a notch at the top of the design that splits the dot border, and the Magic Kingdom banner is in a different location.

 

The second penny with Br’er Rabbit was also at the old machine in this same location.  The notch on the left is now splitting the dot border, Br’er Rabbit looks to be a little smaller, the Magic Kingdom banner is larger and the (c) Disney is now on the left of the design.

 

The third penny design that has Mickey and Minnie splashing in some water is STILL available at the Splashdown Photo Preview area.  This is located at the exit of Splash Mountain where there is a wall of video screens showing the ride photos.  In this same area is a sort of hidden penny machine.  That notch is splitting the border again on the new design, the Splash Mountain logo looks a little different, and Mickey & Minnie are more spread apart.

 

The last penny design used to be inside the Country Bear Jamboree waiting area but was recently removed and replaced with an 8-design touch screen machine.  That notch is again splitting the border, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad appears to be a new font, the Train and tracks look a bit more detailed, and the Magic Kingdom banner has been raised a bit and isn’t as wide.

As you can see these are technically new penny designs, but upon closer look, they are very similar to other designs just with some slight variances.  I obviously still picked up a set for my collection and many other collectors enjoy finding variant designs so I’m sure these will be popular.  However, if you remember I did mention above that Splash Mountain is going to be rethemed shortly so I do find it a bit odd that they kept some of the Splash Mountain designs.  You may want to get a set of these before this machine inevitably changed for some new Princess and the Frog designs.

Happy Collecting!!

The American Adventure NEW Pressed Pennies – EPCOT

On a recent trip to Epcot, I was primarily looking for the new Mission Space penny machine.  If you haven’t read about that trip you can check it out here.  After finding that machine the rest of our day was set aside to try some of the Food and Wine Festival food booths, and we also did a Ratatouille Scavenger Hunt.

As we made our way around the World Showcase the crowd level was higher than I had anticipated and many of the food booths had very long lines.  That mixed with the hot Florida sun made waiting in those lines seem very unappealing.

We did periodically come across a booth with either a short or no line and we took advantage of those.  Above was from the Africa booth and was the Piri Piri Skewered Shrimp with Citrus-scented Couscous.  This was really good, the shrimp were a little overcooked but the flavors were great with just a little spice to them.

A little further along our travels, we visited the Spain booth and tried a couple items.  First, we tried the Charcuterie which was a selection of imported Spanish Meats, Cheeses, and Olives with an Herb Vinaigrette.  My wife absolutely loved this one.  I did try a bit of it and the meats and cheeses were really flavorful, but olives are just not my thing.  The second item we got was the Spanish-style Paella with Chorizo and Shrimp.  This was probably my favorite so far of the festival with lots of flavors.

By this time we were getting a bit tired and in need of a break.  The American Adventure pavilion just nearby so we headed in that direction for some downtime in the shade.

While we sat under the shaded pavilion rehydrating with some much-needed water, I spied something across the patio.

I quickly headed over to investigate and sure enough, it was a brand new penny machine.

It is a newer version of the 4-design hand-crank machine.  Each design costs $1 and you can use either cash, credit card, or digital payment like ApplePay.  The machine supplies the penny to be pressed so you are not able to use your own preferred pennies, unfortunately.

Here they are the pressed penny set.  I really think this is a cute set and love the design of the Mickey-American Flag, but they are all great new designs.  I did walk around the rest of the pavilion just to check on the old machine but it was nowhere to be found and I’m going to assume it’s been retired.

We eventually finished our visit to Epcot and had a great time.  I did check the other Pavilion penny machines but didn’t see any other new ones so far.  This is an interesting change since it’s one of the first times we have seen a 3-design ($0.50 per penny) machine completely replaced by these new 4-design ($1.00 per penny) machines.  Fellow collectors have been anticipating this change and it may be finally coming to fruition.  This would be a huge overhaul of machines since most of Disney property has those older 3-design machines.  This change over could take years and I’ll be very interested to see if we get all new designs or if they will just install the old designs back into the new cabinets.  Only time will tell but I’ll be sure to document them as quickly as I can.  Keep on Pressing!!

Mission Space NEW Pressed Pennies – Epcot

It’s been almost a month since my last visit to a Disney Theme Park.  This was partly due to my own feelings of safety and looking to ensure I kept my exposure limited whenever possible.  But another factor has also been playing a part in this decision and that is the Disney Park Reservation system.  Basically, if you want to visit one of the parks you need to make a reservation in advance.  With the parks having the limited guest capacity (currently, it’s around 30%), and that is also divided between On-site Resort Guests, Day Guests (not staying at a resort), and Annual Passholders.  Unfortunately, Annual Passholders book up these reservations pretty quickly and it’s been a bit difficult to get one.

Photo Credit: Disney

Prior to all this, whenever I heard about a new pressed penny machine or design I would just head into the park that evening or the following weekend at the latest to document the new coins.  But with this new reservation system, it makes spontaneous trips almost impossible.  I took that as a sign to just take a break from the parks.

Eventually, I was able to secure a reservation for Epcot and as my luck would have it, there was a new penny machine released.  It was very nice to be back in the parks, but since it was Labor Day weekend the crowds were definitely larger than I had anticipated.  Plus Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival was in full gear and weekends are a busy time for these Festivals.

My family was anxious to get back into the World Showcase for some rides and more importantly Festival Food booths.  But first I needed to stop by my arch-nemesis Mission Space.  Here’s a quick story.  Years ago when I still lived in New Jersey I had visited Walt Disney World for vacation and had a reservation for my favorite restaurant on property ‘Ohana at the Polynesian Resort.  That day I had decided to visit Epcot to kill time before my dinner, and my friend wanted to try Mission Space.  I’m always a bit nervous about new attractions but decided to go on with him.  Basically, it’s a centrifuge where it simulates you blasting off from Earth into Space.  Because it’s a centrifuge you are in these little capsules that spin around really fast to simulate the g-forces you would encounter on this type of trip.  Our flight was a bit delayed due to someone getting sick as they exited the ride.  That should have been my notice to skip this one but I didn’t and afterward, my stomach was upset and I was so out of it I had to just go back to our resort.  The thought of food would make me nauseous so I had to make the difficult decision to skip my ‘Ohana reservation.  It’s such a popular restaurant that I was unable to reschedule for any other time during our visit.  So my hatred of this attraction all stems back to that trip and how it made me miss dinner at my favorite restaurant.

Years have past and that scar still runs deep.  I haven’t been on this attraction since, and they even now have a “less intense” version but I’m still not ready to experience it again.  However, even though the penny press machine is located in the gift shop you do NOT need to experience the attraction if you don’t want to.   When facing the front of the building just walk over to the left and you will find the gift shop.  I always liked the above picture which is in the shop just behind the checkout desk.

Just inside the doors to the gift shop is where the penny machine could be found.  Not too long ago there was a 3-design machine here that had Mission Space theme designs.  But that was recently removed and had a Star Wars machine here instead.  I always thought that was a bit of a stretch to have Star Wars with Mission Space but hey what do I know.

I was glad to see the new designs were all inspired by Mission Space.  Above is the marquee from the machine and the price has remained the same for now.  $1 per penny or you can get the entire set of 8 for $5.

The large plexiglass window on the front allows for a fun view of the inner workings of this machine which I always enjoyed watching.  They also have pressed pennies from the machine on display so you can see what the final results will be.

This is a nice set and I’m glad we were able to get over to Epcot for them.  Eventually, I’ll bury the hatchet with this attraction and go on again but I’ll be sure to not have any special dining reservations afterward.  We enjoyed the rest of our day at Epcot and did come across another new penny machine but you’ll just have to stay tuned to read all about that one shortly.  Happy Pressing!!

Bass Pro Shop – Gainesville, FL

Recently we took a trip up to Gainesville Florida on the hunt for some pressed penny machines.  Earlier on our first day, we had visited the Florida Museum of Natural History, then on our way back to our hotel, I found our second stop.

Right off of I-75 was the Celebration Pointe shopping and dining area, which is where the Bass Pro Shop was located.

Over the years I’ve visited a lot of these stores as they almost always have a pressed penny machine inside.  Plus I’m completely obsessed with these stores, they are just amazing to me.

The stores are huge and have such a wide array of products.  I could spend an entire afternoon just walking around inside.

I’m not much of a fisherman but holy cow this place would be where I went if I needed to stock up on fishing poles or lures.

It’s almost like a museum combined with a store with all the taxidermied animals around, plus numerous fish tanks and did you notice the trees in the above picture.

Even though this store has thousands of items, my favorite area is the BBQ section.  With all the different smokers, grills, and accessories it’s a grill masters paradise.

My grilling skills are not so great but this is where I picked up a few things to try and help myself out.  They have a huge selection of rubs, spices, and sauces available for pretty much any palate preference.

They also always seem to have a wide selection of Moonshine products.  On one of my first visits to a Bass Pro Shop in New York State, I found Moonshine Hot Sauce which was really good.  Each location seems to have something different, and this was no exception.  Moonshine Peanut Brittle, how could I resist.  Quick product review, I did buy the brittle and tried it when we eventually got back home.  It was good but didn’t have a moonshine taste so I think I may have been deceived.

After wandering around the entire store I did find the pressed penny machine towards the back near the large fish tank and waterfall.  Unfortunately, when I found it they were just getting ready to put on a Grilling class and the machine was blocked.  I took this as a sign to sit and watch the class which was not too long and had some interesting information that I will need to try.

 Eventually, they did move all the things out of the way and I was able to use the machine.

One thing I thought was really great was this little business card holder that was located on the machine.  It was filled with a handful of pennies that were free to SMASH!  Over the years I’ve visited hundreds of pressed penny machines and this is the first time I’ve ever seen this and I think it was fantastic!  I had a few extra pennies on me so I made sure to add some for other collectors.

The designs on the pennies came out pretty nicely.  Each Bass Pro Shop does have similar designs which are almost always a group of animals that would be indigenous to the area where the store is located.  The other nice thing about these pennies is that they always list the store location allowing me to distinguish among the different Bass Pro Shop locations.

This was another fantastic trip to my guilty pleasure store, and the pressed pennies will be a nice addition to my collection.  We left the store and headed out to get some dinner before retiring for the night at our hotel.  Tomorrow we had one last stop to make before we would be heading back home.  Stay tuned beacuse the next place is really unique and one of a kind.  Keep on Pressing!

Florida Museum of Natural History – Gainesville, FL

On my continuing exploration of Florida on the hunt for Pressed Penny Machines, I’ve exhausted the locations around the Orlando area and now was going to head north a bit to the next city on my list which was Gainesville.  Online I’ve seen that there are three reported locations with penny machines and so throughout a weekend I made it my mission to find them all.  Our first stop was over at the University of Florida.

The Florida Museum of Natural History is located on the University campus and did offer free parking.  This area of the campus was very nice and pretty expansive with a couple large outdoor sculptures that I always enjoy.

Inside the Museum you are greeted with a short queue area and a gift shop on the right side but we will revisit that on our way out.  The Museum is Free of charge to visit the main exhibits but donations are welcome and I would encourage that if you are visiting.  They do offer some special exhibits throughout the year that does have an admission fee.

The first large area just beyond the front desk was like the main hub.  There were different hallways in all directions taking you to the various exhibits in the Museum.  This area also had a large Mammoth fossil along one wall, and there was also a table with an Alligator Skeleton that the kids seemed to really be intrigued by.

The next area I visited was the Discovery Zone which is kind of a kid’s area with plenty of interactive things to do and learn.

It kind of looked like we had been shrunk down to the size of a bug with the large trees looming over us from the ceiling.

There was also a large bug collection on display and plenty of dinosaur fossils that you could actually touch and examine.

My youngest daughter loved this area and I did have to drag her out of here eventually so we could continue our tour.  The next hallway we encountered led us to the South Florida People and Environments exhibit.

This was another interesting area that was set up like you were walking along a boardwalk with trees and wildlife on either side of you.  Just beyond this area is a large exhibit showcasing Florida’s Indian tribes the Seminole and Miccosukee who lived in South Florida.  There were displays of their beautiful ceremonial clothing, woodwork, and artifacts from early Seminole sites.

We did then run into an interesting hallway that was called The Hall of Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land.  As you can see from the above picture one of the walls was filled with some pretty intimidating teeth.

At the back of the Museum was the West Gallery with visible collections and labs.

Most of the labs back in this area did have people working mostly on paperwork during our visit.  But I found this really cool that you could see into their labs while they worked on their research.

One of these areas along the West Gallery was their Butterfly collection and I was completely blown away by this.  The above room had plenty to see but there was so much more around the corner.

This entire hallway was set up for their Butterfly exhibits.  The glass cases on the walls extended from just about floor level all the way up to the ceiling.  Some of the butterflies were small, and others were huge.

The total number of butterflies they had on display was just amazing, and the range of colors was so beautiful.  This area was worth the trip in itself, and I’ve never seen anything like this before.

After spending a lot of time in the butterfly area we found ourselves back near the main entrance of the Museum and headed into the gift shop to see what they had.

We did buy a few things to help support the museum and then walked just outside the gift shop to where the pressed penny machine was.

The machine had a nice sleek looking cabinet.  I do find this style presses pennies a little short sometimes and this was also the case here.

Most of the design did come through but you can see a bit was cut off on the ends.  These museum pennies are also great as they usually showcase specific exhibits from inside that museum making them a little more unique.

Even though this museum would have been quite a drive just from the Orlando area, it was a fun place to explore.  It’s not very big, but we did spend a couple hours inside and wow that butterfly exhibit was really amazing and highly recommended.  This was just our first stop in Gainesville and still has a few more stops to make on this trip.  Be sure to check back for more on this trip.  Keep on Pressing!

Epcot Reopening Preview – NEW Pressed Pennies!!

A week after Disney reopening the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom theme parks, they were ready to open their other parks Hollywood Studios and Epcot.  Not only was Epcot reopening but they were also kicking things off with their Food and Wine Festival that will now be running longer than any previous year.  I was able to snag a Park Reservation to check out Epcot and see how things had changed.

Just like the other parks, there is a required temperature screening before you can enter the park.  It was quick and simple with no line when I had arrived.  Afterward, I headed through the security check and then up to the main entrance.

A really nice thing that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before at the parks is that all of the entry touchpoints were open.  This helped prevent any line from forming while you scan your magic band or park ticket.

As I mentioned above the Food and Wine Festival officially started July 15th and will run through the Fall.  This is also the 25th anniversary of the festival.

Walking back towards the World Showcase you can see the very light crowd level in the park.  The nice thing about Epcot is that it a large property and allows guests quite a bit of room to spread out.

One thing that I thought was interesting is that not all of the Festival food booths were open.  Quite a few of them had signs stating they will open in the “Fall”.  Also, there was next to no Food and Wine merchandise available, instead, they were still trying to sell through the Flower and Garden Festival items from before the parks had closed in March.

I decided to head towards the Mexico Pavilion and start my way around the World Showcase in that direction.

The first open booth I encountered was the Mexico booth and I just had to stop and try something.  The Ribeye Taco was just calling my name.  It was really good but the portion size was really small and at $6.95 seemed overpriced.

I continued my trip around the world by next visiting the Norway Pavilion.  The line for the Frozen Ever After attraction was around 30 minutes which wasn’t too bad compared to normal operating days.  However, I was more interested in visiting the Relaxation Station in this area that is located in the Akershus restaurant.  Previously this was a Character Dining buffet but with all the current restrictions that are not happening.  Instead, you can come inside for a break from the sun for some air conditioning and a chance to remove your mask for awhile.  I have never been to this restaurant but I was really amazed at how beautiful it was.  The decorations and theming were really great and I hope to actually eat here sometime in the future.

Next up was the China food booth with the above menu available.  The offerings do seem limited this time around.  I’m not sure if this will change as the festival continues.

They also have some variation of a Bao Bun at this booth which I’m obsessed with.  This year it was a Mongolian Beef version so I picked it up with a cup of the Happy Peach drink.  This was another winner for me, the beef was flavorful and the bun was soft and pillowy.  Even though the bun was $6.75 I felt it was a much better value than the taco I had earlier.  The peach drink was just okay and at $11.50 due to it containing alcohol was pretty pricey.

As I stood to the side of the China Pavilion enjoying my food, all of a sudden the music ramped up and I was greeted by a Character Cavalcade featuring Elsa and Anna.  I mentioned this in the Magic Kingdom review but I wanted to say again that I really think this is a great way to enjoy the characters.  These impromptu experiences are not scheduled and just happen randomly throughout the day.  They don’t last long unless you follow them around the Showcase.  But within just a few minutes they had passed by where I was standing and then everyone went back to what they were doing.  I hope they keep these up in the future.

I continued around the Showcase and as you can see the crowds continued to be really light and in my opinion very enjoyable.  All too often, I’ve visited the parks with massive crowds and it can take some of the fun out of your day.

Over in the Japan Pavilion with the Matsuriza Traditional Japanese Drummers no longer performing it was really quite.

The Morocco Pavilion was also extremely quiet.  I walked through the marketplace and think I saw only 2 or 3 people.

Next up was the France Pavilion.  My wife loves the Chocolate Croissants available in Les Halles Patisserie and I was going to surprise her with one, but unfortunately when I went inside the Patisserie was closed.  I have seen that a few days after my visit it has reopened with a limited menu.

One completely new experience for me on this trip was the ability to check out this large Pavilion building that I’ve only ever seen from a distance.  It’s located between the United Kingdom and Canadian Pavilions.

Usually, this is reserved for special events, but during the Festival it’s been opened to guests and houses a few different food booths.  This place was huge!  Plenty of space inside, lots of high top tables that were all appropriately spaced out, and live music were playing.  Plus there was plenty of Air Conditioning, always important during summertime in Florida.

The food booth all the way in the back of the Pavilion was dedicated to Macaroni & Cheese which sounded pretty good to me.

I opted for the Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese which was also really fantastic.  The Buffalo flavor was not very spicy and I would have preferred a little more spice for my taste.  Since Disney wants to make sure as many people can enjoy it their spicy level is usually pretty low.  But in any case, I reall[y did enjoy this and was on quite the roll this trip with Festival foods.

After enjoying a bit of a break in this Pavilion I headed back out to the Showcase and finished my tour.  I headed back towards Future World and visited a few areas like the Imagination Pavilion, The Land, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends.

Nothing new in any of those areas, so I headed to the other side of Spaceship Earth and headed towards one of my favorite attractions Test Track.  Unfortunately, this ride was not working when I got there, but I decided to go around the side to the Simporium (gift shop).

I spoke with a Cast Member who confirmed that the store was open even though the ride was down.  There usually is a 3-design penny machine inside and I wanted to make sure it was still there, but to my surprise, it was gone.

In its place was a new 8-design touch screen pressed penny machine.  First I had to do my usual photoshoot with the machine and then I went up and pressed my set.  The Cast Member told me I was the first guest (other than the tech who installed it) to use the machine.  I felt so honored to be the first!

This was a nice set of designs all themed around Test Track.  There are a few with Mickey and his friends as well as a couple with some unique Test Track logos.  I was so happy to find some new pennies on this visit and it was a great way to end my day.

My plan was only to try a few food items this time around as I really wanted to spend most of my time reviewing the pressed penny machines.  I’m planning on going back maybe in August to do a full Food and Wine Festival tour with my wife and friends which is something we do every year.  As for the penny machines around the World Showcase, they were all pretty much still in their usual locations, only a couple were not open like in Germany and Canada.  Those machines are located in the gift shops which were not open that day.  The machines in Future World were all the same and available other than the new one at Test Track.  It was definitely a great day and so much fun to be back in Epcot.  I’m looking forward to visiting again to really dive into the Food Festival and hopefully, we will see some more new pressed pennies soon.