Knott’s Berry Farm in Beuna Park California is “America’s first Theme Park”. With a history dating all the way back to 1920, Knott’s has managed to evolve with the times whilst still featuring some old favourites that have been staples of the park for over 50 years. Offering a great day out for everyone in the family, this is a perfect park to visit if you’re in the area to give you a break from the craziness that has been the Disneyland Resort since the 60th anniversary. A quick, cheap Uber from our resort dropped us out the front of Knott’s Berry Farm, a park that delighted and surprised us all with its strong selection of rides, great variety of entertainment and a welcoming atmosphere built by some amazing team members all with a great respect for American History.
Family Rides (8/10)
Knott’s Berry Farm has a great selection of rides everyone in the family can enjoy together. Being a park under the Cedar Fair banner the main children’s area, Camp Snoopy is themed to the Peanuts characters. It contains a great selection of family favourites such as an old-school ferris wheel, kiddie coaster and even a miniature Steam Train “The Grand Sierra Railroad”. Whilst these rides are great for Children and can be ridden by adults as well, the real place for family fun that everyone can enjoy together is Ghost Town. This section features a ton of guest favourites including the 58-year-old Calico Mine Train, that is still taking guests aboard Ore Cars on an exciting adventure into the dimly lit tunnels of a gold mine. Whilst in the area make sure you don’t miss a ride aboard the Calico Railroad, an authentic early 1900s steam train, but be warned there are some notorious ghost town bandits who like to patrol the trains looking for their next victims! Some other highlights for family fun throughout the park include the horse-drawn stagecoaches as well as the interactive shooter dark ride – Voyage to the Iron Reef.
Thrill Rides (8/10)
If you manage to go on a day when everything is open, Knotts has a great selection and variety of Thrill Rides, from some of the best coasters in the state to some truly great flat-rides. Our day started out with our most thrilling experience of them all, Silver Bullet a B&M inverted coaster that was a lot smoother than expected and ended up being a great start to the day. Unfortunately, the two rides I was looking forward to experiencing the most were both closed on our day of the visit, GhostRider was down for a few days for maintenance and XCellerator had been closed for months before we visited. Some of the other rides that were open included Pony Express, which is probably the best motorbike-type coaster I’ve ever ridden, as well as some old but still reasonably fun classics in Montezooma’s Revenge and Jaguar! This collection of coasters is joined by a decent selection of off the shelf flat rides including Supreme Scream and Sol Spin. The parks strong selection of Coasters are about to be rounded out even nicer with the recent opening of Hangtime, which was still under construction when I visited earlier in the year.
Ghost Town really does feel alive and genuine with all the traditional craftsmen demonstrating their specialist arts such as blacksmithing, wood carving and glass-blowing. I would love to head back to the park during Summer when Ghost Town Alive is on, bringing to the park new experiences with bandits, cowboys, robberies and much more, building a story that you yourself get to become the star of. Whilst your in Ghost Town make sure you drop by the town Jail and talk to Sad-Eye Joe, who has been locked up there since 1940, you never know he may even need your help to break him out! If you have Children as well make sure you drop by Camp Snoopy at any point through the day for the chance to meet all their favourite Peanuts characters.
Knott’s Berry Farm really surprised us with the great variety of entertainment on offer especially for a quiet Friday in January. Throughout the day there was a great number of entertainment options spread throughout the park. My personal favourite was the Wild West Stunt Show that features a crazy cast of characters performing some true Frontier Feats of Wonder. There is also some strong native American History to be found in two shows on property with the magical Mystery Lodge as well as some live Native American Dancing shown throughout the day. If you are looking for entertainment aimed at the adults in your group make sure you catch the Calico Saloon Show which features the musical mis-matchings of Cameo Kate and Dakota Dan, though be prepared to arrive early if you want a seat because there is very little room to move once inside the Saloon.
The staff at Knott’s are to be applauded, every staff member we came across seemed to have a genuine interest in us as guests as well as a real love for the park and all its history. A nice quiet day like this gives you a chance to interact with the staff members and for them to treat you as more than just bodies moving through their store or attraction. A special shout-out to the man in the information booth right by the Calico Jail, he was especially helpful and kind showing a real interest in where we were from and what had brought us all the way from Australia to his park.
Ghost Town is the most spectacularly themed Western area I’ve ever experienced, it doesn’t just feel like you’re walking around a fake Theme Park version of a Western Town but truly makes you feel as if you’ve stepped foot into the living breathing Wild West.
Whilst Ghost Town is the real stand-out area in the theming there are bits of pieces of theming spread throughout the other areas of the park to give them a little bit of flavour such as the Mexican themed Fiesta Village and the seaside pier themed Boardwalk. These areas are also joined by the always well-themed Camp Snoopy children’s area.
Luckily this was one of the parks where the merchandise selection pleasantly surprised me. There was a great variety of merchandise including a plethora of ride specific merch for the big rides including the favourite of all enthusiasts, stat shirts. The Ghost Town section of the park had a really strong selection of specific Calico merchandise as well such as some really nice wooden engraved pins and engraved drinking glasses.
Whilst you’re looking around for that perfect item to take home just be careful, a lot of merchandise seems to be quite store specific, making some items hard to find in different stores throughout the park. So if you see something you must have, maybe grab it whilst you can to save yourself hunting for it later in the day. Also if you just run out of time in your day to do some merchandise shopping, there’s a nice big gift store in their Downtown Disney type area “The California Market”. This store features a “best of” selection of merchandise throughout the park so there’s surely something there to take your fancy.
Knott’s is a great value theme park to visit for the day, it’s easy to find online park tickets for under $50 and if you wish to upgrade that ticket to a season pass it won’t cost you that much more with season passes only cost around $100 with monthly payment plans available as well. If you are visiting the Southern California area and basing yourself around the Disneyland Resort, Knott’s Berry Farm easy to access being only around $10 each way in an Uber which will drop you right off at the gate saving you the hassle of parking.
Once you’re in the park everything is around the expected theme park levels of price gouging such as $5 for a regular soda, luckily a lot of the merchandise is quite affordable and some items are significantly less than I expected to pay for them such as this nice Calico Ghost Town glass mug which I picked up for around $12.
The park has a great local small town park atmosphere, with the guests really made to feel right at home. This park seems to be mainly catering for Southern California locals and not directly trying to compete with the Disneyland Resort down the road. Attending on a Friday in January meant the park was extra quiet with very few tourists around. Most groups of guests we saw at the park were school groups on excursions and every one of them was polite and respectful. From what I understand this park does get busy throughout the weekends and the summer but there seems to be plenty of quiet days at this park during the down season which is perfect for internationals to visit and get everything done in just one day.
Like a lot of local Theme Parks in America, Knott’s contains a number of franchised restaurants throughout the park including Panda Express, Cinnabon and our choice for lunch on the day Johnny Rockets, though having a giant Milkshake sitting on my stomach did make me choose my next few rides carefully for the afternoon. We saved the best food choice for last though, after our massive day of excitement we sat down to Mrs Knott’s Chicken Dinner, which has to be some of the best Fried Chicken I’ve experienced anywhere in my life. However, if you don’t have time to sit down to eat, make sure you drop by the take-out Chicken-To-Go to get your Mrs Knott’s Chicken fix piece by piece.
Originally being a berry farm, Knott’s still has a lot of berry-based food and merchandise for you to try including a delectable ton of Boysenberry items. If you’re looking for a nice take-home souvenir for your family, I recommend the Boysenberry Chocolate, which was delicious though you may only want to have a small square at a time due to its richness.
Luckily for guests, it’s easy to find your way around the park, it’s simple layout and well-designed maps make it easy for you to quickly get between rides and attractions of your choice. Make sure you download the Knott’s park app as well for up to date information on wait times, show schedules and more.
Knott’s Berry Farm truly is a great day out offering something for the whole family to enjoy. Even on a day with two of their major thrill rides closed we still managed to have a spectacular time, which would obviously be even better if everything was open. So why not add an extra day onto your Disneyland Resort trip and head just a few minutes down the road to experience all the Knott’s Berry Farm offerings you won’t find anywhere else.
Knott’s Berry Farm gets a score of 74/100