ESPN Club – Disney’s Boardwalk

Years ago when I had been visited Walt Disney World on vacations we always spent most of our time obviously in theme parks.  Whether we were going on rides, eating snacks, or big meals, and especially when penny pressing we were more often than not in those parks.  After we moved down to Florida I was able to try and explore more of WDW property since we didn’t need to spend all of our time in the parks anymore.  Some of these trips had us find some hidden gems like the Sebastien’s Restaurant over at Caribbean Beach Resort or the secret dinner menu over at the All-Star Movie Resort.  But one place had ended up being my go-to spot when I just want a bit of Disney pixie dust without heading into a park, and that ended up being the Disney Boardwalk.

The Boardwalk wraps around about half of Crescent Lake just outside of Epcot.  Directly across from the Boardwalk is the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, the Swan & Dolphin Resorts are also just a quick walk away.  Then right on the Boardwalk is the Inn  (Resort) that you can stay at during your visit and is a beautiful place is you don’t mind the creepy clown slide by the pool.

Along the Boardwalk are some carnival-style games where you can win prizes, along with plenty of restaurants, bars, and live entertainment at night.  I have visited most of the restaurants and shops along here, but one that I had never experienced was the ESPN Club.  This place can get very during televised sporting events.  Finally it was time to go and see what this club was all about, so I made sure we went shortly after it opened on a Saturday to try and avoid the crowds later on.

They do list the upcoming games on the marquee out front so you can keep an eye out for your favorite team.  But as you will see inside there are plenty of TVs to cover any game you may be looking for.

This is not some secret club and you don’t need to sign up for anything ahead of time.  This is open to the public just like any other restaurant or bar.

As you walk inside past the check-in stand the main bar is straight ahead.  Notice all those TV screens around the bar, that’s just the tip of the ice burg.

The sports memorabilia is also in full force here and amazing to see their collection.

This was the main dining room that was set up like a basketball court which was neat, and lots more autographed items all around the walls.

They had items from all different teams among the major sports like Baseball, Football, Hockey, and Basketball.

The autographed jerseys are all nicely framed and I’m pretty sure that no matter who your favorite player is they probably have his jersey.  The amount of stuff in here is amazing.

This wall had some Hockey jerseys of some players I remember from when I was younger.  I especially liked the Chiefs one in the middle of the famous Hanson Brothers from the Paul Newman movie Slap Shot.

 

I had wondered around to see all the memorabilia while I waited for my lunch which did arrive pretty quickly (a perk of going early).  For an appetizer I tried their House Made Chili which was okay nothing I would go out of my way for.  Then as my main entree I had the Reuben sandwich.  It was fine but again nothing extraordinary and I wouldn’t rush back for it.  They did have a big menu so I would definitely come back again to try something else.

Once my lunch was done I skipped dessert and paid my bill.  This way I was able to spend a little more time checking out the decorations.  In the little hallway that connects the main entrance to the larger dining room I was seated as is where the pressed penny machine was located.

This is also part of the waiting area for guests in the restaurant.  There were a few seats along the sidewall and I would anticipate this area gets pretty crowded if all you are looking to do is use the penny press.  Pro-tip: go early!

Here is a picture of the marquee on the machine with the designs for each available penny.

My original set of pressed pennies from here were in pretty bad shape and I had used crumby pennies.  So I used this as an excuse to get a fresh new set.  The images are of Mickey playing Football, Donald playing Basketball, and Daisy playing Softball.

Overall I had a fun time here and as much as I make it sound like I want to avoid crowds, I think this would be a great place to watch an important playoff game or even the College Basketball tournament.  Having all the screens with different games, and plenty of beer on tap plus I’m sure the crowds inside would just add to the atmosphere.  I may have to try this out sometime in the future.  The food is fine and I did enjoy what I got but would be interested in trying something different next time like some Buffalo wings…mmm wings.

The pressed pennies hadn’t changed in the years since I last stopped in, and it would be nice to see some updated designs at some point.  I do like the ESPN Club logo on each design which made a unique touch to this set.  After I left the restaurant I enjoyed the rest of my morning just taking in the sights along the Boardwalk which really is a great place to visit when you need a little break from the parks.  Keep on Rollin’!!

Universal’s Citywalk Reopens during Covid-19

It’s been about two months since we last visited a Theme Park.  The self-quarantine we have been experiencing has gone as well as can be expected, but we do miss our weekend excursions to the parks.  Recently Florida did start Phase 1 of it’s reopening allowing certain restaurants and merchants to open.  Then a surprise announcement was made from Universal Studios that they were going to have a limited opening for Citywalk starting on May 14th.  I was a bit anxious to go and check it out but decided to wait a few days just for them to try and iron out the process before I ventured over there.  This past Saturday I strapped on my mask and headed over to see how they had everything set up and to check on the pressed penny machines.

Currently, Citywalk is only opened from 4pm to 10pm and I headed out around 4 to try and avoid that initial rush of guests entering.  This was probably the only time I was able to go north on I-4 without any traffic and made it to Universal in record time.  Once I got off the highway and towards the parking plaza I noticed that only a few of the lanes were open but no Team Members were there due to Universal stating that parking would be free during this limited opening.

Once inside the parking garage, Team Members were helping to guide you where to park.  Every second parking spot was blocked by a traffic cone to make sure everyone was keeping to the required social distancing guidelines.

There were plenty of signs making sure everyone was aware that the Theme Parks were still closed and only Citywalk was available.

They also had lots of signs around displaying the requirements to enter Citywalk which included having a facial covering on at all times (except when eating or drinking).

Before leaving the parking garage we had to enter a queue for a required temperature screening.  Any guests with a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher were not allowed to enter.  It was a simple process, you just waited on the social distancing markers on the group until your turn to be screened and then a Security Team member had a non-invasive temperature scanner that they aimed at your forehead for a few seconds and then allowed you to pass if your temperature was okay.

After that, we were allowed to head down to the Parking Hub for the security screening.  Before I jumped into that line I wanted to visit the pressed penny machines in this area.  This first set of two machines were in the same location with no changes.

The second set of machines in the Hub is just outside the restrooms in between the souvenir stand and express food stand.  No changes to these machines either.

Security was similar to the process before the initial closure.  They have the x-ray machines that will scan your bags and possessions while you walk through a metal detector.  The only difference was the number of Team Members around trying to ensure everyone was keeping 6ft between parties.  After security, I headed down the last part of the walkway towards Citywalk but opted not to use the moving sidewalks as I was sure my hands would automatically try to touch the handrails which I wanted to avoid.

As I walked up to this main entrance area of Citywalk it was immediately apparent that the crowds were very light.  Universal was limiting the overall capacity to Citywalk and later on, during my visit, there were more people around but was still way less than usual.

Just outside the Movie Theater was the next penny machine.  No changes were made to the machine itself or the designs.

Across from the Movie Theater is the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant and was one of the few places open to eat inside.  Due to the restaurants having to keep capacity of around 25% that doesn’t allow for many guests to be eating at once.  I had read later on that wait times to get a table exceeded 2 hours.

To visit the pressed penny machine inside the restaurant I was asked to enter through their gift shop which had a separate entrance.  There were no changes to this machine.

I continued walking through Citywalk and you can see the sparse crowd above and people were pretty good at keeping themselves distance from each other.

Nearby was the Universal Store and I was interested to see how the distancing would work inside.  There was a queue set up outside in anticipation of the crowds that would try to get inside.  Since this is a smaller store they did need to pulse people inside.

The pressed penny machine was just inside the doors and was the only machine with a hand sanitizer nearby.  Although to be honest I assume this was not solely for the penny machine for all guests exiting the store.

Everyone was doing a good job with following the rules and all seemed to be keeping their masks on.  I only witness one guest with their mask dangling from one ear and not covering his face but he was quickly approved by Security and asked to put it back on properly.

It was nice to have plenty of space around you as everyone kept their distance.  I headed down towards Margaritaville to see how things were going there.

This restaurant had decided to keep the indoor area closed, and were only seating guests at their outdoor patio or across the walkway at the Lone Palm bar.

I headed inside the gift shop just for a quick visit to check on the 8-design touch screen penny machine and it was still available for use.

Toothsome Chocolate Factory was open for business, but the Hard Rock Cafe was not. Due to this, the crowd levels on that side of the waterway was pretty quiet.

It was nice to see that Universal kept the bridges open towards the theme parks for us gluttons that wanted just a quick glimpse of the parks.  Plus I guess it was needed to access the Toothsome restaurant.  But I just couldn’t help myself and wanted a closer look at the parks.

You could walk right up to the main entrance areas for the Islands of Adventure.  I also noticed that the ground was covered with the social distancing stickers.  At least this area of the park looks like it’s ready for business but I’m sure they still have a lot of work to do inside before they will open again.

It was a beautiful day when I visited but it was obvious that our situations had changed and that visiting these places would be very different moving forward.

Down towards Universal Studios, it was a good time to try and get your picture with the Globe.  Usually, this is a heavy traffic area, and getting a nice photo can be a bit of a challenge but not on this day.

Here was the main entrance arch for Universal Studios.  Again this is another area that is usually crowded with people.  But seeing it with no one around and even catching a glimpse inside the park was a little disheartening.

By this time I was getting a little hungry but didn’t want to wait a long time for a table at one of the restaurants.  Instead, I was hit with a craving for a Voodoo donut and thought it would help take the edge off until I got back home.

Plenty more distancing markers were in the queue for Voodoo.  This line as with most of them I sure, seemed long but moved pretty quickly.

The line did go from the front of the building, pass the NBC Grill, and then back into the hallway near the back exit to the Movie Theater and restrooms.  This is where the next two pressed penny machines were found.  Previously these machines were on the opposite wall, but now that the Voodoo Donut line was set up along that wall they had to move the machines.

Once inside you waited in another small queue before heading to the cashier to place your donut order and pay.  They did prefer you paid with a touchless method like a credit card or ApplePay, but I did see them accepting cash from a few people.

Here was my box of donuts.  Unfortunately, they were not all for me, but I did get quite a selection to bring home to my family.

To the right of the Voodoo Donut shop is a series of ramps and stairs that take you up to the second level food court.  None of these tables were blocked off to encourage the distancing and I suppose they were just leaving it up to the guests to stay at a safe distance if eating up here.

I did grab a table for just a few minutes so I could eat my donut.  In the short period I was up here I don’t believe I saw another person so it’s a pretty deserted area even though a few of the food locations here were open.  This is also where the last penny machine was located, hidden in the back near the Sushi stand.

After my donut was finished I walked across the bridge and down past all the clubs and bars.  None of these were open, and due to the limited operating hours of Citywalk (4pm – 10pm) they are all not currently open at all but I’m sure that will change with as we work our way through the additional Phase openings in the next few weeks.

My overall impression after my visit was optimistic.  I think this was a good starting point, but they do have a ways to go before the parks will open.  On a few occasions, I did find myself defaulting back to my Theme Park ways and not realizing I was inadvertently walking too close to someone, or when browsing in the gift shop there was just so little room in there it was hard to keep a proper distance from other guests. The biggest thing I was surprised with was the actual penny machines.  I would have assumed that hand sanitizer would have been attached to each machine or located right nearby so you could clean your hands before and after using the machine.  But this wasn’t the case.  I did ask a Team Member about the penny machines and was told that they were being cleaned on a more frequent schedule.  However, I was at Citywalk this day for about 2-3 hours and didn’t see a single machine get cleaned.  I have sent an inquiry to Universal about this and am awaiting a response which I’ll post if I hear back from them.  Other than that I took this as a nice sign that things are slowly starting to reopen and can’t wait for the day we can visit the parks again, but only if I feel they will be safe enough to enjoy.  With Citywalk opening in this limited capacity for a while, I’m hoping that Universal will continue to tweak their process and have no doubt they will do everything they can to keep their guests safe.

Updated 05/21/2020: Below is the response to the inquiry I had sent Universal’s Guest Services about their process of keeping the Pressed Penny Machines safe to use.


Hello David,

Thank you for contacting Universal Orlando Resort. I apologize for the delay in response, as we are working diligently to assist every Guest reaching out to us.

We do indeed still have penny press machines. Currently, there is one (1) located in our hub security check area prior to entering CityWalk. While I cannot confirm this surface is wiped down after every single touch, it is wiped down with increased frequency by our Park Services team stationed in the area. There are also hand sanitizer stations located within the area and a restroom to wash hands a few feet away. I hope this has answered your questions. If you have any additional questions or concerns, feel free to reach back out. We look forward to seeing you and your family.

Best Regards,
Guest Communication
Universal Orlando Resort

Disney Springs / WDW Resort Machines Converting to $1 per Penny Design

The below was all documented prior to the closing of the theme parks.  With the recent announcement that Disney Springs will have a limited reopening on May 20th only time will tell if the machines are still available or if using them will change due to new health concerns.  When I feel it’s safe to revisit I’ll go back and post an update.  Enjoy!
——————

With all the Disney Theme parks changed over the conversion finally made it’s way to Disney Springs and the Disney Resorts.  This did seem to be a much longer transition for some reason, but I was keeping a close eye on them and was able to document the last few machines before all the park closures.

Let’s start this tour over at Disney Springs which is really one of my favorite places to visit on property.  Mostly because I love food and there are so many great restaurants there, but they do also have plenty of penny machines.

I parked my car in the Orange Parking garage since it’s closest to the Westside of Disney Springs near the AMC Movie Theater.  Not too far from the parking garage is the Food Truck Pavilion where the first machine was located.

 

I usually mention this at some point in each of the conversion blogs but wanted to make sure I didn’t forget to mention that all these machines were converted to $1 per design.  The machine supplies a shiny zinc penny, however, the designs have not changed and are the same as they were before the change.

Next, I headed towards the Town Center area which is where you can find Planet Hollywood, the Coca-cola Store, Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy, and one of my favorites Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill.

 

In between the Coke store and Wolfgang Puck is the Fire House Restrooms and a Pressed Penny Machine is just outside.

I had a bit of a walk to the next machine which is outside the big World of Disney store at the Marketplace Stage.

 

Not much changed with the machine other than maybe a fresh coat of paint, and new signage for how to use the machine and the updated payment system.

Continuing through Disney Springs I miraculously passed by the Ghiradelli’s store without buying any ice cream, pass the Dockside Margarita stand, and instead over to the Once Upon a Toy store.  Wow, I have very interesting priorities!

 

This was a machine I thought would need more work to have converted just due to its different shape and design.  But the vendor somehow figured out a way to do it while keeping the overall look of the machine pretty similar.

After leaving the toy store I cut through the Pin Trader store, and then through the Star Wars Trading Post.  It does surprise me this store doesn’t have a penny machine, but exiting out this store I could see the next machine up against the outside wall of Goofy’s Candy Co near a Winnie the Pooh photo spot.

 

These machines do accept cash and credit cards or digital payments like Apple Pay.  Please note that if you are only looking to press one coin the only option is to use cash.  If you opt for a credit card or Apple Pay you are automatically charged $4 and get the entire set.  This does cause confusion for some people and I’ve seen them leave after only pressing one penny and I always call them back to try and help ensure they get their full set.

Right around the corner is the main entrance for Goofy’s Candy Co.  I try to avoid this place whenever possible as it’s just too tempting when you walk inside.

 

But on this trip, I needed to face my candy enemy and head inside to check on the penny machine and maybe buy a piece of Cookies and Cream fudge..or maybe two pieces I can’t help myself.

That finishes up all the machines at Disney Springs, but next, I wanted to check out the machines at the Resorts.  Thankfully there are only two 4-design machines on property.  Since my car was all the way on the other side of Disney Springs I decided to grab a Bus over to the first resort.

My first stop was at the Port Orleans French Quarter resort.  This is one of my favorite resorts.  My wife and I spent a week here years ago and really enjoyed the resort plus we made sure to pick up beignets each day after visiting the parks so we had a snack in our room.  I’m sure housekeeping wasn’t happy with the excessive amount of powdered sugar we managed to get all over the floor.

 

Inside the main Lobby of the Resort just outside the Scat Cat’s Club near the restrooms is the penny machine I was looking for.  Since my two pieces of fudge at Disney Springs didn’t satisfy my sweet tooth I headed to the food court and picked up an order of beignets for the road.  I waited for the Resort bus to Epcot to arrive and enjoyed my snack on the bus.

Once at Epcot, I cut through the park and over to the International Gateway where I headed towards the Boardwalk Inn.

 

During the day the Boardwalk by the water doesn’t have a lot of entertainment going on, but this is a fun place to be after the sun sets.  There are buskers doing all sorts of shows for passersby.  The penny machine is located near the dock where you get the Friendship boats back to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or a couple of the other resorts along the waterway.

That was the last 4-design machine on property and they have now all been converted to $1 pre-loaded machines.  This was a fun day trip, but I always enjoy checking out the penny machines and just enjoying the resorts and parks. Will they decide to change the 3-design electronic machines I truly don’t know but kind of think it may be inevitable.  It will be very interesting to see what happens with all the machines once the parks open up again after this longer than anticipated closure.

Stay safe and Happy Collecting!

2020 Disneyland COVID Shutdown Pressed Coin Set

In another attempt to put a little smile on everyone’s face I’m going to share a new set of pennies I received.  Unfortunately, it does surround a touchy subject and maybe even more sensitive to Disney fans is the Disneyland shutdown currently going on.

This set was engraved by Don Cade and I think he did a great job.  The set included the design pressed on a Penny, Nickel and Quarter.  These were not available in any pressed penny machine, but instead available to fellow pressed coin collectors and a few sets made it on eBay.  I’m not sure they are currently still available there but it never hurts to double-check.

Here is a bit of a closer look at the pressed nickel.  I thought this would make for an interesting way to remember this unique situation we have found ourselves in.

Be sure to wash your hands, try not to touch your face, and just try to stay safe!

May the Fourth 2020

It’s Star Wars Day!

That’s right there is even a day for Star Wars.  In years past there were usually special events at stores all across the country with toys or collectibles released on this day.  This year, however, is a bit different with most of us still having Social Distancing and Stay at Home requirements still in effect.  I have seen the online Disney Store was having some issues earlier today with the enormous amount of shoppers trying to collect the special release items and I’m sure they are all sold out by now.  But I did manage to place an order not too long ago for a unique item and as luck would have it, the package arrived just a short while ago.

The folks over at The Penny Depot put this design together and have it available on their website for purchase.  I follow them on Instagram and as soon as they posted the picture I headed over there to buy one for my collection.  It’s a fun design and I do wish it had the year on it just to help me remember this was during the dreaded 2020 quarantine.  But regardless it’s a great addition to my collection.

Stay safe and remember May the fourth be with you!

Busch Gardens Tampa – Part 2

Just as a quick recap we were visiting Busch Gardens in Tampa Florida and had made our way about halfway through the park before we needed to stop for some lunch in a nice shaded area.

That Florida sun can really get to you if you aren’t careful.  But after our nice little break and we were ready to explore the rest of the park.

We found ourselves in the Pantopia section of the park which was very colorful and had some interesting looking buildings.  This is actually where we had stopped for some lunch at a food court style restaurant with different stations depending on what you were in the mood for.  They had Italian, American, Asian and Tex-Med which was a nice wide array of options.  But it was extremely busy inside and was hard to find a place to sit once we have our food.  After lunch, we explored this area a bit more, and there are quite a few rides for kids including a Carousel.

After we had walked through Pantopia we headed up some ramps to a higher ground level which was the Congo section.  There was a Train Station here but it was not open for some reason.

Nearby the Train Station was a set of Restrooms with a penny machine nearby.  The most common location for penny machines.

 

This machine has penny designs of a couple Giraffes, a Zebra, SheiKra and Kumba Roller Coasters.

Nearby this area were some interesting attractions like Ubanga-Banga bumper cars, the Congo River Rapids which from what I saw you get completely soaked on, and Kumba a pretty intense looking roller coaster.

The next area of the park is known as Jungala where they have a great area for kids called the Treetop Trails, then you can visit the Tiger exhibit and an area with Orangutans.

When you are visiting the Orangutans there is a building with large glass windows that will give you an up-close view of them.  My personal favorite was the larger platform surrounded by netting where you get a more wide angle of their exhibit.

Under here is also where the two penny press machines are found and are located diagonally from each other under this covered area.

 

The first machine I came across had Pantopia listed on its marquee so I’m guessing these machines tend to move around periodically.  The penny designs for this machine were fun with images of two Gorillas, a Giraffe, the Falcon’s Fury ride, and a couple Elephants.

 

Just on the other side of this platform is the second penny machine.  The designs here are of a Tiger and cub, the Jungle Flyer, an Orangutan, and a Tiger face.  After we said goodbye to the Orangutans there was a nice little pathway with not a lot going on but led us to the Stanleyville section.

This area had quite a bit going on as well, with a Skyride station, the Stanley Falls Flume ride (another one you get quite soaked on), and the SkeiKra coaster.  Be careful around this part of the coaster pictured above as they have some nice benches and shaded areas but you will notice the ground is pretty slick.  This part of the coaster goes through a pond of water and sprays it up into the air behind it as it zooms by.  Of course, your kids will love it, and I did find it a bit humorous to see the adults quickly running for cover when they realized what was about to happen.

Not too far away from the entrance to SheiKra is a gift shop called the Kariba Marketplace.  Part of this store is inside, and part is outside under a covered canopy and that is where you will find another penny machine.

 

This machine seems to be in its proper location as the cabinet is designed for the SheiKra coaster.  The images available at this machine include a family of Tigers, an Iguana, Ring-tailed Lemur and the SheiKra Coaster.

By this time of day, we were definitely starting to drag a little bit.  The hot Florida sun had taken its toll and we were ready to find the exit, but there was one last area to visit before we were back at the entrance/exit.  I’m sure you can guess by the picture above that it’s all about Sesame Street and is called the Safari of Fun.  This is really a great place for young children.  The buildings and rides are all themed around Sesame Street, there are meet and greet areas to visit with your favorite pals like Elmo, Cookie Monster or Grover.

As you enter and leave this area you will see a gift shop completely filled with Sesame Street merchandise.  The store is called Abby Cadabby’s Treasure Hunt and was so much fun to explore with my 3-year-old daughter.  Of course, the plush toys are what she headed for with their bright colors and cute designs, but they also had t-shirts, coffee mugs and so much more.

 

This store is also the location for the last available penny machine and had designs of some popular Sesame Street characters like Zoe, Cookie Monster, Abby and Elmo.

We waved goodbye to Elmo and my daughter decided it was time to crash.  She fell asleep shortly after in the stroller as I headed down the last section of the pathway heading towards the entrance.  I passed by a very beautiful area filled with bright Pink Flamingos but didn’t have the heart to wake up my daughter to see them.  We had such a great time that I know we will be back as soon as we can.

I get the impression it’s similar to SeaWorld (same company) in that the penny designs probably don’t get changed out too often.  But they do have some new coasters and attractions opening up soon, so hopefully, some new pennies may appear.  This was a really great park and far exceeded my expectations.

Busch Gardens Tampa – Part 1

I never get tired of visiting the parks we have near out neighborhood like Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld, but every so often it’s fun to explore a new park we haven’t visited before.  Thankfully about an hour away in Tampa is Busch Gardens and gave me the opportunity to try something new.

Before I left on this visit I honestly thought that this would be similar to a Six Flags Theme Park which we had in New Jersey and various other locations around the country.  But after visiting I can say it’s so much more than that.  Sure it has some pretty advanced Roller Coasters and attractions, but they have shows, great food, and animals.  It’s almost like you combined a zoo and theme park together which is right up my alley.

Part of my SeaWorld annual pass granted me access to Busch Gardens as well so that was a nice perk I don’t think I realized when I had initially bought my pass.  You do have to park on one side of the street and then can either walk or take a tram over to the park.  Out front is the guest services buildings to help with your ticket purchases.  But to the left and right of this center walkway I encountered the first set of 4 (yes four) pressed penny machines.

The first two machines on the left side when facing the security area.

  

One thing I immediately noticed about these machines is the designs that were really unique.  The penny designs at this machine include an Alligator, Prairie Dog, Parrot, and Cheetah.

  

Just a couple steps to the right is the second machine.  The penny designs here were of the Sand Serpent logo, a Snake, a couple Apes, and a Toirtous.

If you spin around 180 degrees you find the second set of machines across the walkway.

  

The third machine has penny designs of a couple Elephants, Montu, Busch Gardens Logo, and Falcon’s Fury.

  

Finally the last machine out in this area has designs including Kangaroos, a Hippo, Peacock, and an African Dog.  Since these machines are located outside of the actual park you could access them without an admission ticket.  Although you would need to pay for parking or have someone drop you off while you used them.  Unfortunately, the rest of the machines are inside the park and would require paid admission.

After passing through security and scanning your park ticket you are transported into a Moroccan market.  The theming here was really great, and they also had performers walking around interacting with guests as they passed by.

As I mentioned at the beginning this is kind of like a zoo with a theme park mixed inside.  As we wandered through the Morocco area we came across a big area filled with some huge American Alligators.

We continued our tour through the park and came to the Cheetah area.  This was really interesting as they were doing a demonstration with the big cats and how they do specific exercises with them to encourage their natural hunting instincts.  It was amazing to see the Cheetahs get up to some pretty high running speeds.

Nearby is the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster which is pretty impressive.  A little too advanced for me, but I did sit on a bench and watch it for quite a while.

Inside the gift shop for the coaster was where I found the next penny machine.

  

The penny designs here are all themed around the Cheetah Hunt coaster.  I thought this was a really great set.

As we continued following the pathway we found ourselves in the Egypt section of the park.  This area was filled with a couple different coasters, Cobra’s Curse and Montu.

Across from the entrance to the Cobra’s Curse coaster was a quick service area called Serpent’s Snacks and was where the next penny machine was found.

  

The designs available at this machine were themed around the Cobra’s Curse coaster but did have one design for V.IS.E. (Viper Int’l Survey & Excavation) which is a fictional archeological group as part of the attractions back story.

Above is a picture of some of the track from Cobra’s Curse.  It’s another pretty amazing coaster with an elevator that brings the coaster cars up into the air and then attaches back to the track.  At one point the cars start to spin on the track and there are plenty of screams coming from the riders.

The next area we headed through was where more of the animal attractions started to appear.  Above is a picture of the Serengeti Plains that has quite a few different types of animals.

There is also a train that you can ride through that area for a closer look at the animals.

We were able to see quite a few different animals like Giraffes and Zebras.  They don’t get too close to the train, but it does give you a pretty close up view of them.

The train has a couple different stations around the park so it makes for an easy way to get around the large park.

We had decided to take the full tour around the park on the train so we had started and ended at the same point which was the Nairobi Station.  Just outside the station near the railroad crossing was a Mold-O-Rama machine that my kids love and we have quite a collection of them.  Right beside that was the next penny machine.

  

This machine had designs of the park Train, a Rhino, an Elephant, and a baby Gorilla for the Animal Care Center.

Not too far away was the Elephant section with quite a few of them.  By this time of day, it was well beyond lunchtime and we needed to find some food and rest for a bit.  We were about halfway through the park, but there was still plenty more to check out.  Stay tuned for Part 2 and the remaining penny machines.  Keep on Pressing!

2020 TEC Member Coin

We all have certain things we look forward to each year, like a special birthday or holiday.  I suffer from this possibly more than most as I really enjoy most major holidays especially when it grants me an extra day off from work.  But one time of year I always look forward too is when the Spring edition of The Elongated Collectors (TEC) newsletter.  I do enjoy every issue I get, but the Spring issue is extra special as it includes the much sought after Membership coin.

This was designed by Paul Conner and Tyler Tyson both TEC members.  It was engraved by John Gusmano and rolled on nickels by Tyler Tyson.  This year’s design is a play on the classic Lucky Cent elongated.  I’m Lucky to be a 2020 TEC Member.

I really try not to bring this up too often as I don’t want to come off like an advertisement.  But this seemed like a good time of year to just review TEC and the benefits.  The membership fee is very reasonable and usually includes either a Digital Only or Hardcopy option.  Unfortunately due to our current worldwide situation only digital versions are being sent out but that should hopefully be temporary.  Plus you receive a few special elongated coins with each quarterly newsletter.  Fellow members are fantastic and always there to assist with any questions you may have.  Many sell supplies that you may need for your collection.  There is a lot of coin trading and special member meet-ups throughout the year that I would encourage you to take advantage of.

If your interested in learning more about TEC please check out the website www.tecnews.org.  You can even fill out a membership form directly on the website.  Feel free to list that you were referred by TEC Member #4237 (that’s Me!).  This won’t get you any special treatment (sorry) but TEC always likes to keep track of how all the members find out about the club.  Happy Collecting!

Disneyland Adventures XBOX Video Game – Pressed Pennies

It’s been about a month since I was in a theme park and, to be honest, I’m starting to get the twitch that I need to get back for some magic.  I’m not sure how I used to deal in the past with long periods of time between visits to Disney.  But ever since we moved down to Orlando it just became part of our weekly routine and without it, I’m definitely missing it more than other things.  I’m also not the only one in my family missing the parks, and thankfully my oldest daughter has a much better memory than I do and asked if we could play the Disney video game.  It took me a bit to remember exactly what she was referencing and once I figured it out I couldn’t have fired up our the Xbox quick enough.

The game is called Disneyland Adventures.  It was originally released back in 2011 for the Xbox Kinect but I didn’t know about it at that time.  Then in 2017, they released the game with remastered 4K HDR graphics, updated Kinect support but also the option to not use Kinect and instead just use the standard Xbox controllers.  They also released this in 2018 for Windows PC users.

We did have a Kinect but who knows where it went, probably in some random box located in our garage.  Thankfully we have a newer Xbox One console and I had received this as a Christmas gift a year or so ago but never really got to play it, but now was our chance.

What is really cool about this game is the software designers recreated the entire Disneyland theme park in California.  Obviously, I’m more familiar with the Florida WDW park, so some things in this game seem a little out of place for me but the details they put into this make for a fun alternative during our current self-quarantine status.

I had watched a video from a Media Preview on this game when it was being released in 2017.  Something I thought was really interesting was that one of the creators said to get all the details as accurate as possible he spent around 5 months in the park and took over 50,000 pictures of buildings, sidewalks, textures, even trash cans, and park bench locations.

They even recreated Walt Disney’s quote on the arch as you walk underneath the Main Street Train Station.  You start by picking your character either a young boy or girl and can design their hair color, and initial outfit.  Then you can just start walking through the park.

This is what’s known as an “Open World” game where you are not forced to follow any specific story or path.  You can just wander aimlessly as I usually do and check out all the different lands of the park.

Walking down Main Street USA you can see Sleeping Beauty Castle in the distance.  Along the way are all the storefronts you have come to know.  Some you can visit to buy things like Autograph books, or Photo Albums which you will use later on in the game.  Some stores also sell new clothing to wear or even costumes if you prefer.  My favorite Princess is Jasmine so my daughter insisted we buy a Jasmine T-shirt for our character.

I was very impressed to see they even included the Partners statue with Walt and Mickey.  Plus check out that crows, wow I wish this was how things were in the actual parks.

Some of your favorite characters can be found throughout the park, like Mickey in front of the Castle.

Or Minnie Mouse near the entrance to Adventureland.  You can interact with these characters by having them sign your autograph book (if you purchased one).  Just like the real Disney, they want you to spend as much money as possible, so there are different autograph books for certain groups of characters like Princesses, Villains, Alice and Wonderland plus a few others.

You can also dance with the characters, give them a hug, or a high five.  It’s fun to try these with each one as the dances are different and how they sign your book changes.

The cast of characters is quite diverse.  There is, of course, the main cast of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and Plus.  Then you can also find Chip and Dale, Stitch and even Br’er Bear or Br’er Fox.

Then you can also find many Princesses like Belle.  Be on the lookout as the Beast is also somewhere nearby.

We have also found Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, and Tiana.  I’m sure there are more we just haven’t gotten to them yet.  Another interaction you can have with the characters is they will sometimes ask you for help.  Tiana wanted to make some of her famous Gumbo and asked us to find the ingredients.  The game then will help you search the park for the required ingredients and once you have them all collected to make sure to bring them back to Tiana.

Did I mention Villians?  Yes, they are here too.  My daughter loves trying to hug the villains as they seem to horrified or cower away when you try.

When some people visit the parks they don’t go for the characters but instead for the rides and attractions.  Well, this game has most of them recreate like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride shown above.

Pirates of the Caribbean are also here and it’s fun to walk near the attraction to see other guests lined up in the queue plus the familiar attraction soundtrack can be heard.

My personal favorite is the Haunted Mansion.  I do kind of wish that you could virtually ride the actual rides with maybe some interactivity happening for coins or points.  But instead, when you head towards the entrance there are portals that will take you to a mini-game themed around that attraction.  They are fun but some seem to go on way too long and I just get anxious to exit back to the park.

I liked standing near Splash Mountain to hear the people screaming as they crest over the top of the drop.

Some of the rides unfortunately you can only watch and do not include any type of mini-game.  Like the famous Tea Cups.

The Matterhorn is also here and a nice plus is being able to watch the Monorail zoom around its beam.

Some attractions are not included in the game like Star Tours or the Indiana Jones adventure.  From what I read Disney did not own Lucasfilms at the time this game was being developed and licensing those properties would have been too difficult.  One thing I did find that I thought was funny was Captain EO.  That is definitely a throwback.

Of course, I couldn’t overlook It’s a Small World, just such a classic ride and I love the exterior of the attraction in Disneyland so much better than the Florida version.

We’ve visited most of the themed lands like Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and Fantasyland and eventually I did find Mickey’s Toontown.

This is another fun area of the game with lots to see and do, plus Mickey and his pals are also here for more autographs and pictures.

One of the areas of the park is Critter Country that has Winnie the Pooh and his friends.  While we were interacting with Eeyore I noticed something in the background.

Are those Pressed penny machines!?!?  Holy cow that is pretty cool.

I then had an idea that I wanted to see how many other machines were located throughout the park.  My next stop was the Penny Arcade on Main Street.

The last time I was physically in Disneyland was back in 2008 and I remember the Penny Arcade as being the Holy Grail of Pressed Penny machines.  Now years later I know that is no longer the case, but remember this game was released originally in 2012 so the creators were probably there a couple years before that taking all their pictures and is the time period the game is situated.

Ah, the good old days with so many penny machines all in one place.

Now if you are like me you are probably wondering if you can use the machines in the game.  So far I don’t think so.  In the hours we have played so far, there doesn’t appear to be a way to use them.  I’ve also read some online guides and forums but nothing seems to mention using these machines.  It’s too bad because that would have been awesome!  In the gift shops along with the autograph books, they could sell the penny booklets and let you use the coins you pick up around the park in the machines to collect a themed set.  My daughter is currently in love with this game so we will be continuing to play it for quite a while I’m sure and if I do find you can somehow use the machines I’ll post an update here.  However, one thing I did do some research on was I wanted to try and figure out which designs they were using on the machines.  They all look to have the same marquee with the same three designs.  Remembering when the designers were at the park I eventually found the set in my personal collection.

I did get a lot of help from my favorite Disneyland pressed penny resource www.ParkPennies.com. The information they had on these coins was a big help to ensure this was the correct set.  All three of these designs were initially released on October 18, 2006, and were removed on January 4, 2012, when the Penny Arcade was closed down for a refurbishment.  When it eventually opened up again the machines inside did not return and these pennies were considered retired.

The middle design was really what stuck out for me in the pictures from the game and helped me find the set.  Snow White I was also pretty certain of but the third design was tough to make out initially but once I saw the information on ParkPennies website the full set revealed itself.

I’m crossing my fingers that we can hopefully move passed the current self-quartine situation we have found ourselves in.  I am anxious to get back to the parks and to a bit more of a normal routine.  Plus I really need to press some pennies it’s an addiction you know.  But in the meantime, my daughter and I will be enjoying our Virtual adventures with this Disneyland game.

New Marquee on Spider-Man Penny Machine – Islands of Adventure, Orlando FL

This will be a quick post on something I had meant to write about over a year ago and just kind of forgot about it.  It’s not a new machine, or anything really major but something I thought was kind of interesting.

One of my favorite attractions at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks is The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.  It actually took me years before I finally decided to try it.  It seems that as I’ve gotten older I’m a little more adventurous with rides, and I’m glad I finally tried it because it’s really fantastic.

Once you are done with the ride and just like every other theme park you exit into a gift shop, and if you are a Spider-Man fan this is the place for you.  On a quick side note, if you are not a ride person you can still access the shop from outside, it’s located just to the left of the attraction entrance as seen above.

In this gift shop were two penny machines.  One was a 4-design hand crank model, and the other machine was the newer 8-design digital touch screen version.  When I first used the digital machine was back in 2017.  I had then visited Universal numerous times since then and walked past this machine many times without noticing anything different.  Then in 2018, I was working on a video for our YouTube channel documenting all the machines throughout Universal Orlando and something caught my eye.  The machine cabinet was the same but the marquee at the top was different.

   

The picture above is my attempt at a comparison.  On the left is the picture I took in November 2017, and the one on the right is from July 2018.

The designs were still the same inside the machine, and nothing else really had changed just the marquee.  I know the newer marquee design is how most of the machines are displayed now with all the penny designs right at eye level.  Again this was nothing overly exciting but I thought it was interesting that they had taken the time to change this part of the machine.