Is it a Farm? Is it a theme park? Is it a restaurant? Yes, to all of those, and more besides! Because the Knott family knew what they were doing when they arrived in what is now the city suburb of Buena Park in 1920 and established, yes, you guessed it, a berry farm.
Over the years, this 160-acre destination has steadily grown from a humble family business to one of America’s top 10 theme parks, including its own water park (Soak City), a hotel, an old-time General Store, and the iconic finger-licking deliciousness of Mrs Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant.
We have been fans for more than 30 years, but hadn’t been back for a while until we attended the recent IPW travel convention in nearby Anaheim. Knott’s Berry Farm opened its doors to all of us conventioneers one evening, and we had an absolute blast, so it only seems fair to highlight our Top 10 attractions from the experience.
At the heart of the park’s western-styled Ghost Town area is this authentic cowboy saloon, complete with strolling characters straight out of the mythical Wild West. Belly up to the bar and order yourself a ‘whiskey’, but be aware the local sheriff may call in to check things out for himself!
There’s tall, there’s really tall, and then there’s this monstrous drop-tower ride that looms over the impressive Boardwalk section, offering a fantastic panorama of the whole Buena Park area – IF you can keep your eyes open when you reach the top, 325ft straight up. It’s a hugely intimidating feeling as you ascend slowly for a 50mph free-fall drop, but it’s a massive thrill (says Simon – while Susan took the photos!).
Knotts Berry Farm is renowned for its live entertainment as well as its rides, and this is an area to bring the kids (especially the ‘older’ ones who grew up with the Peanuts cartoon characters, as we did) for lots of character interaction and meet-and-greets, plus the Camp Snoopy Theater, where the series of musical shows and revues are sure to tickle your funny bone.
Ready for more big-time thrills? This is where you go next, also in the Boardwalk area, which has 10 of the park’s 40 rides. This fast-launch colossus sends you from 0 to 82mph in 2.3 seconds (that’s as fast as a McLaren P1 – and it’s still only the seventh-fastest ride launch in the world!), then straight UP 205ft, with a corkscrew twist, then straight back down again, into a series of great, swooping turns. All together now, say it with Simon – “Woooffff!”
Staying in the Boardwalk, and the high-adrenaline rides, this complex steel behemoth is an exhilaratingly smooth take on the dive coaster (and the only one of its kind in California). At just over 150ft, it teeters on the edge of a vertical drop before plunging riders into five quick-fire inversions, including a cobra roll and Immelmann loop, for an experience that is sure to thrill fans of the similar ride SheiKra at Busch Gardens Tampa.
Calico River Rapids
The newest attraction at Knott’s Berry Farm is this elaborate white-water raft ride, which is guaranteed to provide a quick way to cool down when it’s hot! It also features animatronics and clever story-telling sections, as well as the obligatory dynamic water effects, on a wild expedition of exploration in the “uncharted territory” of Calico, albeit it is fun for all the family.
Mrs Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant
You knew we couldn’t spend time here and NOT recommend the iconic meal-time opportunity, didn’t you? And this really is a Knott’s Berry Farm signature experience, a family tradition dating back more than 80 years and featuring plenty of farm-fresh goodness still served up in the down-home style of yesteryear. (We recommend the chicken, by the way! The boysenberry cocktails are pretty good, too.)
Every good theme park needs a train ride, and this is a family classic that has been a Knott’s staple since 1952. An authentic early 1900s narrow-gauge Denver & Rio Grande Railroad engine, it pulls replica coaches and is great fun for a slow steam around the rear half of the park. Oh, and watch out for bandidos – there’s a very good chance the train may get held up!
While the Ghost Town area is mainly about the Wild West and all things John Wayne-like, it does have two pretty substantial modern rides, and this is the biggie, a two-minute whirl along 3,125ft of track to maximum effect. There are six inversions, including two corkscrews and a Zero G Roll, it hits a top speed of 55mph and a height of 146ft, with a biggest drop of 109ft. Fans of Montu at Busch Gardens and Kraken at SeaWorld Orlando will definitely like this. We certainly do.
Calico Mine Ride
You simply can’t visit Knott’s Berry Farm without a ride on this legendary attraction, which opened in 1960 and has been a firm family favourite ever since. Taking passengers on a vivid tour of on old western gold mine from the 1850s, it features more than 50 life-size animatronics and a whole lot of rollicking cowboy-style adventure. Twisting tunnels and sudden caverns make for a captivating story of old-time underground gold-digging and, while it is a fairly sedate journey (it’s not as dynamic as Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, for instance), it does offer a seven-and-a-half-minute ride with a surprise explosive ending!
Have you been to Knott’s Berry FarmWhat were your favourite attractions? Come on over and tell us about your experiences on the friendly ATD forums.
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