Knott’s Berry Farm – An Underappreciated Park
Just 6 miles north of Disneyland lies a park that not many outside Southern California know of. The city of Buena Park skirts around its border fences, with the park’s train giving a view of the surrounding streets. The park has themes ranging from an abandoned old west town to Latin America to a 1950s boardwalk. While these things may not seem to be ideal for a great theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm is just that. A great theme park.
Before going into what you can expect from this charming little park, here’s a little history of “The Farm”. In the 1920s, a farmer named Walter Knott began to grow a hybrid berry named the boysenberry on a plot of land in Buena Park, California. In 1934, Walter’s wife Cordelia began to sell fried chicken out of a tea shop on the property.
The chicken dinners became so successful, that in 1940 Walter began to construct a replica ghost town to entertain guests while they waited to dine. By the 1960s, the Knott “Ghost Town” began to feature rides, the first of which was the Calico Mine Ride. Since then, Knott’s Berry Farm has added many attractions, and in 1997 was sold to Cedar Fair Entertainment.
The Park Today
Today, Knott’s Berry Farm features 9 roller coasters (with a 10th opening summer 2018), 5 themed areas, endless shows and attractions, and more than 70 years of history. The highlight roller coasters are the wooden GhostRider, the launched Xcelerator (one the fastest roller coasters in the United States), and the suspended Silver Bullet. While there is plenty for thrill seekers at Knott’s, the true heart of the park lies in the two classic attractions at the center.
The Calico Mine Ride and Timber Mountain Log Ride were so revolutionary when they were built in 1960 and 1969 respectively, that Walt Disney himself was impressed by the theming and storytelling taking place. Both still operate today and were actually refurbished between 2013 and 2014.
Both of these are located in the original themed area of Knott’s Berry Farm, Ghost Town. In this area, guests can watch the town blacksmith work, ride a stagecoach, and have an encounter with train robbers. There is really nothing quite like Ghost Town in modern theme parks. During the summers, Knott’s has begun the annual event called “Ghost Town Alive”, which sees “living characters” walking throughout Ghost Town, having simulated shootouts, giving guests tasks to do, and holding parties in the town square.
The park’s other four areas; The Boardwalk, Fiesta Village, Camp Snoopy, and Indian Trails, offer thrilling roller coasters, entertaining shows, and educational experiences. While the park is in no way perfect, for not having a Disney level budget, it is a great park and should not be missed on your next visit to Southern California.
Like Disney and Universal, Knott’s offers seasonal events that add a special feeling no matter what time of year you visit.
Knott’s Boysenberry Festival
The berry that started it all, the boysenberry takes precedent in the spring, with special food booths and merchandise being the highlights of the festival. While the food offerings change every year, some that have been featured in the past are boysenberry elote, boysenberry meatballs, and boysenberry bratwurst. The king of all boysenberry treats, however, is the Fun Bun. This deep-fried cinnamon roll is topped with a boysenberry cream cheese topping, and is a can’t miss.
Knott’s Scary Farm
The original Halloween haunt, Knott’s Scary Farm has been terrifying guests since 1973, and has led to similar events such as Halloween Horror Nights at the Universal parks and Fright Fest at the Six Flags parks. While some of the mazes and scarezones carry over through the years, they are usually updated and improved, scaring even the most seasoned Scary Farm goers. If those of you who frequent HHN miss “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure”, Knott’s Scary Farm has you covered. “The Hanging” is a pop culture parody show that sees the most egregious offender from the past year being hung by the sheriff of Calico.
Knott’s Merry Farm
Around Christmas time, Knott’s is given a touch of seasonal spirit, and transformed into Knott’s Merry Farm. Some of the highlights of Merry Farm include a Christmas overlay of the Timber Mountain Log Ride, Santa’s Workshop meet and greet, and two Christmas shows at the classic Bird Cage theater in Ghost Town.
Why You Should Visit
Many people who come to California visit Disneyland, maybe have a day at Universal Studios, and then head home. My goal is not to stop you from visiting these amazing parks, but instead to consider adding Knott’s to your vacation. Ghost Town has been lauded by experts for jumpstarting the theme park industry. The roller coasters are world-class. Camp Snoopy is one of the best kid areas of any theme park. Knott’s Scary Farm is a must for any haunt fan. There is truly something for anybody at Knott’s Berry Farm. Next time you are heading to Disneyland, make sure to stop by “The Farm” for some fresh, family fun.
The Future of the Park
In recent years, Cedar Fair has invested millions of dollars in Knott’s Berry Farm, in the hope to make the small park competitive with its neighbors, Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood. This has involved the refurbishments of the Timber Mountain Log Ride and Calico Mine Ride, along with the additions of many family attractions and entertainment options throughout the park. In May 2018, Knott’s will open its first major thrill addition in fourteen years, HangTime! This Gerstlauer Infinity Coaster will be first dive coaster in the western United States. This roller coaster will feature a 150-foot climb, straight up, and a “beyond-vertical” 96 degree drop. This investment shows that Knott’s is still looking to please thrill seekers, while also appealing to the families that flock to Disney and Universal every year.