Knott's Berry Farm Visitor Guide - California

  • 01 of 08

    Knott's Berry Farm Visitor Guide

    At Knott's Berry Farm You Can Ride on a Stagecoach - or a Roller Coaster
    ••• At Knott's Berry Farm You Can Ride on a Stagecoach - or a Roller Coaster. ©2016 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Knott's Berry Farm theme park has an old-fashioned charm that some folks find enjoyable, with a large western-themed area to walk around in. They even have a full-sized steam locomotive train that you can ride. They also have several highly-rated thrill rides and a fun Boardwalk area with some great rides for the younger set.

    Most people go for the rides and to have fun with their kids or their friends. With ticket prices far below its competition, it's a great alternative if you're on a limited budget.

    What is There to Do at Knott's Berry Farm?

    Knott's Berry Farm is divided into six themed areas spread over a footprint that's easily walkable.

    You'll find a few dozen major rides at the park. The extreme thrill rides are mostly in the Boardwalk area. They include GhostRider, one of the longest and tallest wooden roller coasters in the world - a brain scrambling, herky-jerky ride. Camp Snoopy and the Boardwalk are the best places to go with smaller children, but...MORE you'll find things they like in other areas, too.

    Besides all the rides, a half dozen or so shows happen during the day. The indoor shows make good places to sit down and cool off. You'll get a schedule of them when you enter the front gate.

    At one of the newer rides, Voyage to the Iron Reef, the story line is an underwater battle with sea creatures who are determined to destroy the theme park. The creatures and their surroundings are designed with a steampunk look - think leather, gears, and brass. When my pal Monica checked it out with four kids aged nine to eighteen, 12-year-old Anson asked: "There was so much to look at, I didn't know what to shoot. Can we do it again and again?" Their entire group ended up riding it 3 times.

    Knott's Berry Farm Special Events

    At Halloween, Knott's Berry Farm transforms into Knott's Scary Farm, an event so popular that tickets often sell out in advance. The park offers a variety of other special events throughout the year.

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  • 02 of 08

    What's New at Knott's Berry Farm

    Calico Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm
    ••• Calico Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm. ©2016 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    New for 2017 "VR Showdown in Ghost Town" a free-roaming virtual reality experience. Players time travel to a futuristic Calico on a mission to defeat hordes of robots from destroying the town. 

    Opening in late Spring 2017 Sol Spin. This new thrill ride is over six stories high, with six spinning arms, rotating in all directions, sure to make you feel topsy-turvy.

    Introduced for the summer of 2016, the Ghost Town Alive show is back. It's a day-long, interactive experience involving dozens of characters and willing guests, who carry out tasks at the characters' behest. You might be asked to join a posse, or give Goldie advice about what dress she should wear to the dance. LA Times contributor Brady MacDonald reviews it in more detail in this article. Also in the fictional Calico, there's a new Calico Stage and Calico Park and fully restored Wagon Camp, the Calico Saloon and Panning for Gold attractions.

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  • 03 of 08

    Knott's Berry Farm Reviews, Ratings and Opinions

    Coast Rider at Knott's Berry Farm
    ••• Coast Rider at Knott's Berry Farm. ©2016 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Our Knott's Berry Farm Review

    We rate Knott's Berry Farm 3 out of 5 when compared with the other theme parks in the same part of California. However, many folks are willing to overlook its faults because of its much lower ticket price.

    The fundamental difference between Knott's and Disneyland (which both started around the same time in the 1950s) begins - oddly enough - at the beginning. Walt Disney set out to create a special place where families could all have fun together while Walter Knott just wanted to keep people entertained while they waited to eat at his wife's restaurant. That difference manifests itself today in Knott's old-fashioned areas and the feel that it's more a collection of entertaining things than a place with an overall theme and plan.

    Don't get me wrong, Knott's is pleasant and can be fun to visit. 

    Perhaps Knott's worst fault is simply that it's not Disneyland, which will always be number one for this baby boomer. That being...MORE said, if I had a family, a limited budget and lived nearby, I'd consider Knott's to be a great place to take them. It may also appeal to you if you prefer old-fashioned fun rides and shows.

    Knott's Berry Farm: Kid Tested

    My pal Monica took four kids aged 9 to 17 to Knott's to see what they think. This is what they had to say:

    • Porter (17-year-old skeptic) thought Knott's would be like a smaller regional amusement park near his home, but the loved the thrill rides.
    • Ari (15) who doesn't like thrill rides so much enjoyed Voyage to The Iron Reef best because it was ​exciting but she didn't have to go upside down.
    • Anson (12) loved his Fast Lane Pass so much that his Auntie Monica worried he was going to explode. He used it to do his favorite rides as many times as he could.
    • Mia (9-year-old daredevil) loved Xcellerator and was happy to wait longer just so she could ride in the front row.

    They all thought the park looked a little outdated. When they first arrived, it reminded them of the regional amusement park back home. By the time they ended their day, they all agreed that the roller coasters were awesome.

    Good and Bad at Knott's Berry Farm

    This is a summary of its good and bad characteristics, based on our visits and reading lots of online reviews.

    Good:

    • More thrill rides and big roller coasters than Disneyland
    • Public areas are clean and well-kept
    • Tickets are much less expensive than other area theme parks
    • Good if you prefer a bit of old-timey ambiance
    • Wide variety of activities, something for almost anyone

    Bad:

    • Employees are indifferent to visitors, at best
    • The best part of Knott's is the thrill rides. If your kids don't meet the height requirements, you may want to take them somewhere else
    • Reviewers at Yelp complain that the rides are often closed
    • Restrooms are poorly maintained, with floors looking grubby just 2 hours after opening
    • Bring a big supply of patience if you go on a busy day. Everything seems to move at half speed, from the Guest Relations window to the servers in the restaurant

    What Others Think About Knott's Berry Farm

    About.com Theme Parks: Arthur Levine says: "Not nearly as sophisticated as its high-profile neighbor Disneyland, Knott's is still a few notches above the average regional amusement park."

    Los Angeles Times Theme Parks blogger Brady MacDonald says: "The revitalized (Boardwalk) area feels like summer year-round."

    Tripadvisor: Reviewers give Knott's Berry Farm an average of 4 stars out of 5, with about 70% rating it very good or excellent. Among their comments: "Knott's remains a very affordable option." "A very pale imitation of Disneyland, though much more affordable." "Teenagers love it."

    Yelp: Hundreds of people have reviewed Knott's on Yelp. These are a few of the most common comments: "Food inside is mediocre and expensive." "The best part about Knott's Berry Farm is that it is still semi-affordable for families to enjoy." "Staff can also work on their customer service skills." Read a few for yourself, both positive and negative to get a broader perspective.

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  • 04 of 08

    Knott's Berry Farm Tickets

    Ticket Booths at Knott's Berry Farm
    ••• Ticket Booths at Knott's Berry Farm. ©2016 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    If you want to get Knott's Berry Farm tickets the easy way, the obvious thing to do is to just walk up to the ticket booth, buy tickets and go in.

    There's nothing wrong with that. You'll pay full price (of course), but the hassle/planning factor is low.

    If you get a little more organized ahead of time, you may be able to save some money, and time standing in line at the ticket booth.

    All the various (and sometimes confusing) ticket options, passes, discounts, and coupons are outlined in the Knott's Berry Farm Tickets Guide.

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  • 05 of 08

    Be a Smart Knott's Berry Farm Visitor

    Sierra Sidewinder at Knott's Berry Farm
    ••• Sierra Sidewinder at Knott's Berry Farm. ©2016 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Things to Know Before You Go to Knott's Berry Farm

    • Dress code is strictly enforced: shoes and shirts or blouses at all times. Profanity and pictures of illegal substances on clothing are not allowed
    • If you want to avoid standing in line at Knott's, you can pay extra for their Fast Lane wristband, which will get you onto the popular rides faster. It sells out during busy times, so advance purchase is recommended. Otherwise, bring something to entertain yourself and your kids in line during busy times.
    • Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant is outside the park entrance, and you can eat there (and get 3 hour's free parking) without paying to get into the park. Frankly, though, these days you can find much tastier chicken somewhere else.
    • There's a lot of asphalt and not much shade, making hats and sunscreen essential. Bring something to secure your hat while on the faster rides, or wear one you can stuff into a pocket.
    • Many Knott's Berry Farm thrill rides have minimum...MORE height requirements that range from 32 to 54 inches. Some also require riders to be at least 10 years old. Measure the kids before you leave home so they'll know what to expect.
    • If you want healthy snacks, you can find a few salads and healthier foods, but you may want to bring some snacks for yourself. 
    • Check traffic in the area before you leave for the park. On busy days, a second gate opens on the west side of the park, and there's a parking lot right across the street from it

    For Your Day at Knott's Berry Farm

    • If you have kids and a cell phone, you can register for the Kid Track program at Guest Services, which helps get everyone back together quickly if it's needed.
    • Get a paper map on the way in. There's also a map in the Knott's app, but users complain that it's slow to load and hard to navigate. If you take a photo of that paper map on your mobile device, you can have it handy no matter what. 
    • Theme Park Insider suggests this plan of attack for the Knott's Berry Farm thrill rides, starting as soon as the place opens: Start with Voyage to the Iron Reef, Xcelerator, then Montezooma's Revenge, Jaguar!, Sierra Sidewinder, Silver Bullet, GhostRider and finish with Pony Express. After that, you can fill in the day with the rest.
    • Adults with smaller children, take note. If you want to go on a ride with a height limit that your kids can't get on, go through the line together, tell the ride staff what you want to do. You'll be allowed to send one person in and wait at the ride's exit with the child. When your partner comes out, you can go in without having to wait in line.

    Special Needs at Knott's Berry Farm

    • If you have any kind of mobility concerns, you can get a Ride Boarding Pass which allows you to board busy rides at an assigned time without standing in line
    • Hearing assistance devices are available at the Information Center
    • A limited number of strollers, manual wheelchairs, and battery-powered wheelchairs are available for rent in the Ghost Town area
    • Guests can be dropped off in front of the gate, and marked parking spots are reserved for guests who have a state-issued placard or license plate for the disabled
    • Information for those with autism spectrum disorder

    The Knott's Berry Farm App

    Like many tourist attractions, Knott's offers a free app for portable smart devices. I tested it on an iPhone and found it somewhat useful, but with flaws.

    If you get the app for advance planning, it's a good alternative to their website, with hours by month (in calendar form), helpful information from Guest Services, directions to the park and a ride guide. You can even buy your tickets directly from your mobile device.

    I like their Car Finder feature. Knott's parking areas are big and they don't post lane numbers or lot names. It marked my car at the exact spot where it was sitting and made it easy to find at the end of a hot day.

    In the park, the app was helpful but not without flaws. It gives lists of places to eat, rides and so on and it shows you where they are, but doesn't provide menus or ride descriptions that would help you decide between Ghost Town Grub and Cable Car Kitchen. However, ti does include a "go here" function that shows exactly how to get from place to place.

    If you sign up for an account, you can get in-park wait times, which would be helpful on a day when the park is packed.

    The in-park maps it provides are hard to read. The expand, but not enough. You might be better off to use the paper map they hand out at the gate and use your mobile browser to access other information.

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  • 06 of 08

    Knott's Berry Scary Farm: Fun at Halloween

    Knott's Berry Farm at Halloween
    ••• Knott's Berry Farm at Halloween. ©2016 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

     

    Knott's Scary Farm is an Orange County tradition, the time of year when the theme park shows off its darker side. The fun starts after dark and continues into the wee hours of the morning on weekends.

    What to Expect at Knott's Scary Farm 

    Many of the regular Knott's rides are open, and they're fun to enjoy in the dark. Besides that, you'll find a lot of shows to choose from and should check the schedule when you arrive.

    The Knott's Scary Farm experience includes mazes, scare zones and shows, each with its own creepy theme. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, will also be back. Los Angeles Times theme park blogger Brady MacDonald summarizes them all and says: "Knott's has made the wise decision to trim the quantity of its mazes in favor of quality."

    Some parts of the park are designated "Scare Zones" with theatrical fog creating a mysterious atmosphere and costumed monsters popping up when you least expect it.

    Get scared faster: For an additional cost,...MORE Fright Lane With Skeleton Key gives priority access to 10 mazes, and a Skeleton Key that unlocks a secret extra room in 5 mazes.

    Rating Knott's Scary Farm

    The long lines and crowds we experienced during its first week tell us that lots of people like Knott's Berry Farm Haunt. In past years, some thought it a little too tame or corny compared to Universal, but they have been upping their game in the past few years.

    LA Times' theme park guru Brady MacDonald says he found the mazes at Haunt 2015 to be "solid and well-executed, the shows at their raunchy best and the scare zone monsters in terrifying form." You can check out his whole review here.

    I'm not a fan of mazes, super-scariness, and fake blood - and I miss the way it was a handful of years ago. It may have been a little corny, but it was good fun and didn't take itself too seriously.

    For kids aged 3 to 11, Knott's offers Camp Spooky Treasure Hunt during the day. It's designed to be fun and not frightening.

    Tips for Knott's Scary Farm

    • If you buy Knott's Scary Farm tickets in advance online, you can avoid waiting in line and save money, more than $22 even if you order the same day and more if you buy 3 days in advance. However, they say the event seldom sells out, and tickets are still available most evenings at opening time.
    • Add-ons include a Fast Lane pass good for all day and night, a Fright Lane Pass for front-of-the-line access. If you love their fried chicken, you can also get a "Pre-Scare Boo-fet" at Mrs. Knott's restaurant and pay for your parking in advance.
    • The characters are scary enough, so you don't need to be. No costumes are allowed.
    • Unlike daytime policy, no re-entry is allowed for Knott's Scary Farm, so be sure you've got everything you need before you go in.

    Details About Knott's Scary Farm

    • Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, late September through October
    • Cost: Separate admission fee. Extra parking fee
    • Location: Buena Park
    • How Long: About 3 to 4 hours
    • Best Time to Visit: Knott's Berry Farm Haunt is busy throughout the run, but weekdays during the first weeks are your best bet
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  • 07 of 08

    Knott's Merry Farm: Christmas Celebrations

    Knott's Berry Farm Christmas Tree
    ••• Knott's Berry Farm Christmas Tree. ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    During the Christmas holidays, Knott's embraces the season with a transformation to Knott's Merry Farm. Their celebrations include holiday-themed shows, a holiday crafts market, and of course a visit from Santa Claus.

    Especially in the Calico Ghost Town area, you'll find lots of holiday decorations, poinsettias, and red-and-green tinsel. The mood music is traditional seasonal songs but played on traditional instruments like banjos and fiddles. The ghost town's streets are lined with a traveling caravan of small shops.

    The effect is decidedly old-timey, with no fancy special effects. The old-fashioned tree lighting is accompanied by traditional carols.

    Afterward, you can enjoy an artificial snowfall that nevertheless enchants the kids (and adults releasing their inner kids). 

    You can find details of the season's activities on the Knott's Berry Farm website.

    Tips for Knott's Merry Farm

    If you want to see all the shows, go on the weekends. Mid-week, only a few of...MORE them are offered.

    Time your visit to be in the park in the late afternoon to see the tree lighting ceremony, then walk over to enjoy the snowfall.

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  • 08 of 08

    Details About Knott's Berry Farm

    Enjoying a Ride at Knott's Berry Farm
    ••• Enjoying a Ride at Knott's Berry Farm. ©2016 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Knott's Berry Farm Address:

    8039 Beach Blvd
    Buena Park, California, CA
    714-220-5200
    www.knotts.com
    • Cost: Ticket prices and discounts, parking fee
    • Allow at least half a day
    • Best Time to Visit: Any time is fine, but many rides close when it rains and it can be very hot in mid-summer

     

    As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary tickets for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, TripSavvy.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.