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.
Things to Do
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 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 storyline 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.
In 2019, the old Bigfoot Rapids ride will re-open as Calico River Rapids with a new story, animatronics, and effects.
The exciting new rollercoaster Hangtime, the West Coast's first dive coaster opened May 18, 2018. Towering over 150 feet in the air, it features a negative-g stall loop, which gives riders the sensation of floating.
In 2017 the park opened "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. There's an extra charge to try it, which you can purchase using an arcade game card.
Also new in 2017 was Sol Spin. This thrill ride is over six stories high, with six spinning arms, rotating in all directions, sure to make you feel topsy-turvy.
Reviews, Ratings, and Opinions
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 feeling that it's more a collection of entertaining things than a place with an overall theme and plan.
Don't get us wrong, Knott's is pleasant and can be fun to visit.
Perhaps Knott's worst fault is simply that it's not Disneyland. That being said, if you have a family, a limited budget, and live nearby, Knott's is a great place to visit. It may also appeal to you if you prefer old-fashioned fun rides and shows.
Good and Bad
This is a summary of its good and bad characteristics, based on our visits and reading lots of online reviews.
- 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
- A wide variety of activities, something for almost anyone
- 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
- Writer 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.
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.
Be a Smart Visitor
- 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 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
- 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.
- 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
Like many tourist attractions, Knott's offers a free app for portable smart devices. It's 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.
A plus is the Car Finder feature. Knott's parking areas are big and they don't post lane numbers or lot names. The app marks your car at the exact spot where it's sitting and makes it easy to find at the end of a hot day.
In the park, the app is 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, it 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.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, TripSavvy believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.