GhostRider

Review of the Wooden Coaster at Knott's Berry Farm

GhostRider Knott's Berry Farm coaster
••• Cedar Fair Entertainment Company

When the Cedar Fair folks (the coaster-crazy crew that runs Ohio's Cedar Point) bought Knott's Berry Farm from the Knott family in the late 1990s, one of the first things they did was what they know best: They built a kick-ass coaster. GhostRider combines the traditional charm of a woodie with the sensibility of a modern-day thrill machine, and it offers an airtime-filled, out-of-control (in a good, wooden coaster way), and exhilarating ride.

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 6.5
    • Typical wood coaster thrills, lots of out-of-your-seat airtime.
  • Coaster type: Wood, double out-and-back
  • Top speed: 56 mph
  • Height restriction: 48 inches
  • Height: 118 feet
  • Longest Drop: 108 feet
  • Ride time: 2 minutes

With its rustic yellow-pine track, "mine car" trains, and Old-West adorned loading station, GhostRider fits right into Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town area. Heck, it even has the word, "Ghost" in its name.

A meandering queue eventually deposits riders in a switchback rat-maze on the ground level of the "GhostRider Mining Company" boarding station. After inching back and forth, passengers climb a set of stairs up to the loading area for some more rat-maze line fun. Because GhostRider is such a (deservedly) popular coaster, be prepared for long waits in the queue, especially during busier days at the park. And then, be prepared for a great ride.

The train leaves the station, coasts into a ravine that passes the loading queue, and heads up the lift hill. The highlight of the ride is the initial, note-perfect, 108-foot banked drop. To appease neighbors and reduce noise, Knott's covered the drop with a metal canopy. While it limits riders' views a bit, the canopy adds to GhostRider's unique mystique and actually seems to amplify the intensity of the clanking train and the passengers' screams. I'm not sure what the park's neighbors make of it.

Ghostly Airtime

An abrupt left-hand turn at the bottom of the drop produces a twinge of airtime. The camelback hill that follows unleashes a torrent of airtime. GhostRider then meanders through a delightful series of twists and turns that produce some wonderful out-of-your-seat moments. The banked portions of the track generate lateral Gs that offer plenty of oomph, but make a relatively smooth transition (unlike other coasters where intense lateral Gs can border on torture). This is what great woodies are all about.

A word of caution about the lateral G forces: You had better enjoy the company of your seat mate. Despite the seat dividers, the ride's helices cause passengers to slide over into one another.

Built at the very edge of Knott's Berry Farm, GhostRider serves as a great calling card for the park. About a third of the ride actually extends outside the property. One of its turnarounds takes riders over Grand Avenue and into what used to be a parking lot. The trains zoom next to Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant and the shops on Beach Avenue.

Knott's says that the ride lasts two minutes, but it feels even longer. That's not meant in a negative way; GhostRider is a hoot from beginning to end.

Triumphant Return

Originally built by the gone-but-not-forgotten coaster mavens at Custom Coasters International (the manufacturer closed its shop in 2002), the ride maintains wild speed and energy until the final brake run back into the station. Known for their physics-defying voodoo, CCI coasters seem to actually pick up speed rather than limp through the final elements like many thrill machines. GhostRider is a prime example of the CCI magic.

When it first opened in 1998 and for a number of years after that, GhostRider was hailed as a great ride by coaster enthusiasts and more casual fans alike. As with many wooden coasters however, it did not age well and eventually became excessively rough. Fortunately, Knott's did not, er, give up the ghost. Instead, it closed the ride in 2015 for a much-needed makeover. The ride company, Great Coasters International, removed all of the track and replaced it, re-profiled some sections of track, and replaced the trains.

GhostRider reopened to great acclaim in 2016. The ride experience is much smoother than it had been in its final years before it was refurbished. It still has the characteristic wood coaster feel that park fans crave, however. The rear seat, in particular, now offers a gloriously intense, wild, and wooly ride. GhostRider is once again one of the country's premier wooden coasters.