Fun Things to Do With Your Family at Knott’s Berry Farm

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“When is the last time you were at Knott’s Berry Farm, Ma’am?”

This was the question that Kevin, the Butterfield’s Stage Coach driver, asked me when my family and I sat down to take the oldest ride in the park. It is a fair question and one that I am sure many answer with “not in a long time.” My husband is a Southern California native, with fond memories of going to Knott’s as a child with his family. I think it was somewhere in the ’80s where the race between the parks to get the newest, fastest roller coasters really began. While there are definitely no shortage of those on the grounds, we wanted to explore more than just thrill rides.

The LA area is crowded with theme parks for families but we wanted to know what makes Knott’s Berry Farm different.

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Denny’s kids activity form, entry for free Knott’s Berry Farm tickets. Photo: Melody Mooney

Here is a look at the day we spent there:

First we decided to eat breakfast at Denny’s restaurant. This is a tradition for us, when setting out on a local adventure. Denny’s is currently running a promotion that will get you twenty-five dollars off regular admission price, good for up to six people. Also, if you ask for an activity sheet, there is a contest to win four passes to the park. Dad helped Ella draw her cowboy.

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GhostRider looms over Ghost Town as the tallest, fastest and longest wooden roller coaster on the West Coast. On June 11, it reopened following a massive nine month restoration project that preserved this classic American wooden roller coaster. Photo: Knotts.com

BUENA PARK, Calif.– The year was 1920 when Walter and Cordelia Knott moved to the then-sleepy community to farm 20 acres of rented land. Today, that land is part of 160-acre Knott’s Berry Farm.

We were determined to see it all or most of it in our one day.

After many ‘are we there yets’ we reached our destination. Parking was easy but a bit far from the front gate. We knew the walk might require some carrying of our cowgirl on the way back. En route to the front gate, we passed by souvenir shops and western-themed stores. We also passed right under the newly renovated GhostRider Coaster. Front of the park entrance was easy and quick, with small lines and shaded areas. Through the gates we picked up our map and our family photos and set forth to explore.

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GRAND SIERRA RAILROAD in Camp Snoopy is a miniature replica of a steam engine locomotive Photo: Knotts.com

Ella really wanted to see Camp Snoopy first so we followed her along for the fun. There were quite a few rides available for her to go on, being under 42 inches. Once she is 44 inches, probably next summer, she will get to go on most rides there by herself. The lines were not very long, fifteen to twenty minutes, and there was lots of seating and places to park strollers. Also, there were easy to find bathrooms as well as many fun food choices.

Ella’s favorite ride there was the High Sierra Ferris Wheel. It is a replica fashioned after the Ferris wheels of the 1890s. What made it so much fun was the operator who stayed in character and made it feel like an old-time ride at a country fair.

Here is a list of the rides in Camp Snoopy:

  •  Charlie Brown’s Kite Flyer: “Fly a Kite” with Charlie Brown as campers soar above the land’s winding paths and babbling streams. *Ella’s review was she really wanted to go on a roller coaster.*
  • Rocky Mountain Trucking Company: Travel along a scenic highway in your very own semi-truck. This is great for lap riding smaller toddlers.
  • Grand Sierra Railroad: A miniature replica of a steam engine locomotive. It tours around Reflection Lake and across a real drawbridge. This is a ride that the entire family can enjoy.
  • Woodstock’s Airmail: Guests are seated on a bench seat and taken to a height of 20 feet. Once the guests reach the top, the ride vehicle will bounce until it reaches the ground.
  • Balloon Race: On the Flying Ace Balloon Race, guests board one of several brightly colored balloons that slowly rise into the air as the entire ride rotates. It is a ride that the entire family can enjoy.
  • Linus Launcher: Lie on Linus’ blanket and enter a classic Peanuts moment as Snoopy grabs the blanket and launches guest up to 10 feet in the air. Enjoy a Woodstock’s eye view of Huff and Puff, The Grizzly Creek Lodge, and all of Camp Snoopy below! Limit one adult per vehicle.
  • Flying Ace: World War I biplanes. As the ride rotates, the pilot can control a lever that maneuvers the plane up or down.
  • Huff and Puff: Individual cars propelled around a track by the rider.
  • Camp Bus: You can ride off to camp in a bus with Snoopy and the Peanuts gang. The bus lifts off the ground and goes in a circular motion rotating in two different directions. Ella loved this and asked to sit in the ‘Lucy’ seat, as she was dressed as Lucy for the day.
  • Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies: Tykes can climb aboard their very own all-terrain vehicle for an adventurous ride around the High Sierras. Six four-seater ATVs spin, bounce, and bump, while Pig Pen looks on from his center perch.
  • Timberline Twister: This is a children’s roller coaster. It is a bumpy ride, with many dips and turns, which travels through a forested area. This ride was uncomfortable for my husband and me. It feels like it was always intended for children only. If they want adults to ride with children under 44 inches, they need to modify the cars.
  • Rapid River Run: The raft travels back and forth on an upward curved track, while spinning.

We could have stayed in Camp Snoopy all day but the park was calling to us. As we moved on, we could not resist lining up for the Timber Mountain Log Ride. Since opening in 1969, the Log Ride has been one of the most elaborate log flume rides in the US, taking guests through an 85-foot-high by 330-foot-long mountain range themed to a nineteenth-century lumber camp. In 2013, the Log Ride reopened after an extensive revitalization, including the restoration of classic scenes, upgrades to ride figures, and new special effects to thrill guests and keep this classic attraction for a new generation of fans. I got our whole ride on a GoPro camera. Forgive my thumb in the pictures for the first part. This was my first ride and go!

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Baby Changing Station in Ghost Town area Photo: Melody Mooney

Important note to all parents of little ones,there is a devoted baby changing area in the Ghost Town area, stocked and with lots of space for potty trainers and diaper changers alike. It’s a good place for breast-feeding and tending scraped knees and juice box demands.

This year Knott’s Ghost Town is celebrating its 75th anniversary with a new interactive entertainment experience, Ghost Town Alive! Guests play a role in new stories and adventures unfolding daily in the old west town of Calico. Plus, for the first time, the doors to the legendary shops and buildings around Ghost Town are opening to allow guests to explore locations like the Sheriff’s Office and Barbershop.

There was something in this area at every corner. We saw a stage show and had popcorn at the Calico Saloon. Taking a trip over to Boot Hill cemetery, we found the grave of Hiram McTavish. Standing on it we felt his heart beating deep underground. This is said to bring us good luck the rest of the day.

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In January 2014 the attraction closed for a comprehensive five month restoration by Knott’s Berry Farm’s design and production team. Photo: Knotts.com

The last ride we took in that area was the Calico Mine Ride. This was Knott’s first major ride. It opened in Ghost Town in November 1960 and was quickly recognized as one of the world’s most immersive “dark rides,” designed by industry pioneer Bud Hurlbut. It carries riders aboard ore cars, through dimly lit tunnels of a working gold mine. The winding journey took us to underground lakes, waterfalls, caverns filled with thousands of mysterious formations, chambers filled with steaming, bubbling pots and geysers. At several points in the trip, we found ourselves along the rim of a sixty-five foot-deep and ninety-foot-wide scene filled with dozens of animated miners trying to strike it rich. We could really see how the ride influenced other designers who went on to create things like Pirates of the Caribbean and Small World.

My friend and Public Relations contact set us up with a great agenda to see some of the highlights in the Ghost Town area. Though we did not admittedly get to all the below mentioned stops, we did as many as the attention span of a five-year-old would allow.

Here is the list:

GHOST TOWN ALIVE LOCATION FACT SHEET ASSAY OFFICE

The Office is an information hub for Ghost Town Alive!

Maps with lists of activities are distributed as well as The Ghost Town Gazette Newspaper, which features the day’s latest gossip and serves as a guide to the overarching storyline.

  • LAUNDRY Hop Wing is out of town and needs the Guest’s help to keep operations going. Several “To Do” lists have been placed about his shop with tasks for the Guests to complete.
  • BARBER SHOP Guests can hear the latest gossip of the day and have a mustache applied. The various styles represent characters found in the old west: Bandit, Prospector, Lawman, etc. Ghost Town citizens react to the mustache wearing Guest based on their mustache type
  • SHOOTING GALLERY Guests may participate in duels to settle feuds and disagreements between citizens (additional fee required).
  • DRESS DESIGNER/TEXTILE Guests use tin templates to create and color dress designs, fabric swatches to add to pre-printed dress designs mounted on the wall, help operate an actual loom, help the store’s spinner and the owner design a dress for her famous sister to wear at the town’s celebration party. This is also a possible Merchandise location (think princess store: Boas, feather head dresses, etc.).
  • BLACKSMITH Visit a working blacksmith shop, have a custom horseshoe made, as well as receive info about the latest happenings in town.
  • SHERIFF’S OFFICE Guests can play in an ongoing card game, help the Sheriff by drawing wanted posters for criminals on file, and participate in catching outlaws as a part of the Sheriff’s posse.
  • JAILHOUSE Visit with the oldest resident of Ghost Town and mention a few key words to unlock a few of the town’s secrets. *If you tell Sad Eyed Joe your child’s name he will say it while talking to them*  Ella, who is five, was kinda freaked out by this.
  • PADDYWAGON Parked near the Sheriff’s Office, this cell serves as a photo opportunity for Guests until put into use by the Lawman or Deputies.
  • POST OFFICE/TELEGRAPH This is a center of activity on Main Street as this is where the working telegraph is located. Guests may send and receive telegrams for Characters or for themselves. They may help the Post Master by decoding telegrams. They may pick up mail for Characters or write a letter that may be placed in a Character’s mailbox. They can also help the Pony Express Rider deliver packages and stay on time.
  • NEWSPAPER OFFICE Guests may use press to create and etch their own copy of the town newspaper. Guests may also be sent by the Editor to gather quotes from town characters for the next addition of the “Ghost Town Gazette” that is printed and distributed several times throughout the day.
  • BARN Guests may interact with stable hands and live farm animals. Guests may also listen to a musical act that performs on a small outdoor stage as a part of the Town’s Celebration Festivities.
  • VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT WAGON This mobile wagon has several of hands-on levers and pumps for the Guests to explore as well as a few leaky hoses that offer a bit of relief from the summer sun. The wagon can be rolled into action each time the Volunteer Fire Brigade bell is rung. As a part of the Town’s Celebration the wagon is used for a few Fireman’s Muster games and activities.
  • SCHOOL HOUSE School is in Session. This building also serves as a locale for town meetings and other civic functions. We did a Facebook Live feed from the School House and Ella got a special meeting with the Teacher, Ella Mae. She showed her the proper way to curtsy and asked her about kindergarten.
  • TOWN HALL This is the Mayor’s home as well as the gathering spot for elections and other politically based functions. Guests can take part in Town politics by voting, campaigning, drawing a campaign poster, and even registering as a Citizen of Calico.
  • BOOT HILL HIDEOUT This is the Mayfield Gang’s not so secret lair. The hideout features photos and paper clippings of past successes and misses. There are several lists featuring tasks that must be completed to join the gang, plus and itinerary of the Gang’s events for the day. There are also instructions on how to perform the Mayfield’s “High sign.”
  • BANK Here residents can have their gold value assessed, they can obtain deeds, receive a loan for a game of cards in the Saloon. They may also help send telegrams, collect notes in the Citizen’s safety deposit boxes, and help crack the code to the missing vault combination.
  • SALOON Play a game of cards, see a show, have a drink, listen in on the Mayfield Gang’s latest scheme. The Saloon show content will feature brief up to date narrative mentions.
  • DEPOT Here Guests may send and receive telegrams, help Citizens pick up deliveries from the train, mingle with members of the Mayfield Gang, be deputized by the Railroad to keep a look out for train bandits.
  • JUDGE ROY BEAN’S The legal center for Calico. Guests help characters settle disputes, participate in character wedding ceremonies, or get hitched themselves. Our favorite ride we could all go on was definitely Timber Mountain log ride. This was actually the first water ride, created before Disney rides like Pirates of the Caribbean. The line was about 25 minutes and there are lots of interactive things to do while waiting, such as logging scenes, waterfalls, wishing wells, and even a snack store.
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Voyage to the Iron Reef was a fun family interactive ride. Photo: Knotts.com

One of the fun things about re-exploring a park is finding new rides by accident. While looking for the Hoedown we wandered into the Boardwalk area, finding instead the new 4-D ride Voyage to the Iron Reef. The line was about thirty minutes long and we had no idea what we were in for. Jumping into our steampunk-like car, which could seat up to four, we put on our 3-D glasses, grabbed our freeze rays, and joined the battle.

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Mrs. Knott gave the world her fried chicken, and Mr. Knott the boysenberry. That beautiful berry can still be found in all sorts of concoctions to take home with you. Photo: Knotts.com

Toward the end of your day, don’t forget to make time for a sit-down meal at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. At $21.95 for the whole dinner, including pie, it’s got to be among the biggest theme-park dining bargains in all of the United States! Plus, it’s pretty darn delicious. The restaurant was just renovated this year after a long closure.

Our day ended well past bedtime and seeing the park lit up at night was worth it. Though we tried, we could not accomplish our goal of seeing the park in a day. As I always say to Ella: always leave something for another time. It was agreed upon that Knott’s is to be a yearly trip for us. We hope you get there to enjoy the fun too!

Knott’s Berry Farm Theme Park prices at the gate:
$72 Adult
$44 Children

*There always seems to be discounts online and at retailers like Ralphs and Walmart*

Parking: $18, $23 for RVs.