Knott's Berry Farm

Our First Visit to Knott's Berry Farm:

Janis and I took our first trip as a couple to the great state of California in mid-May 2011. Janis had been there a few times as a college student many years ago. My only experience in CA was back in 1998 when I was at Buffalo Bill's Casino in Nevada to ride the Desperado. The casino was close enough to the CA border that I decided to walk across the state line to a gas station and buy a lottery ticket, just so I could say I'd been to California. Prior to this trip in May 2011, I had no CA park experience and Janis had only been to Disneyland and Sea World San Diego. We were going to hit a total of four new parks.

On May 14th we went to Knott’s Berry Farm for the first time. Janis's brother lives just a couple blocks from Knott's, and several family members were with us to show us around. We have Kings Dominion platinum season passes, so our parking and admission were included with our passes. The park was very busy on this particular day with several local events going on at the park. We got to the park right at opening and headed for the CCI GhostRider wooden coaster. There wasn’t much of a line, maybe 15 mins at the time. The coaster was running both trains. We waited for the back car. The ride is very beautiful and very fast. Some people had reported to us that it has gotten very rough over the years. Neither Janis nor I found it rough. It wasn’t the smoothest ride, but the track had character that I personally look for in a wood coaster. This ride would be in my top ten if it wasn’t for the mid-course brake. The brake doesn’t just trim the ride; it nearly comes to a complete stop. That ruined what could be a great ride. The first half of the ride we were really getting into it and enjoying the rides' power, then STOP on the mid-course. To be honest, the ride does pick up a great deal of speed again even after the brake, but I can only imagine how fast it would be if the brake wasn’t on that hard. After doing some research, I found out that it was only recently that the park put the brake on that hard, it used to just trim the ride slightly. It's really a shame, too, because the best moment of the ride *should be* an incredible pop of air off the midcourse brake run that's now nonexistent.

Next we walked over to Silver Bullet, the parks B&M inverted coaster. It was only about 10:20 and this already had a really long line. I looked up and saw that one of the two trains was in pieces in the maintenance shed. So, on a busy Saturday in May the park decided to have a train in rehab. In my opinion that wasn’t a great choice, as the line was a full queue. It took us nearly an hour to get on the coaster with only one train running. The ride was average, at best. The newer model B&Ms seem to have all the forces taken out of their rides. There really was no feeling to this ride at all, actually kind of boring. The only thing interesting about the design was the opposite direction consecutive flat spins. When we got off the ride the line had increased significantly, so we moved on.

Two coasters were down for their annual rehab, the Intamin Shuttle loop Montezuma’s Revenge, and the Sierra Sidewinder<>. I was sad about both; the Sierra Sidewinder is a unique spinning coaster, and I have always loved Schwarzkopf shuttle loops. I guess that means we will just have to come back.

Next up was the Jaguar. This was running two trains. This family style coaster proved to be one of our favorites at the park. No, it’s not a thrill machine, but not all coasters have to be. This coaster was quirky enough to be interesting, including threading the loop to Montezuma’s Revenge along its course.

After a trip on the Jaguar we next moved onto Xcelerator, the park's Intamin rocket coaster. It was running two trains. I have never really been a fan of these gimmick coasters. The launch on this one was nothing special. It did have a little bit of an actual “ride” after the launch and typical tower up and down element, but not enough to make me truly like this coaster. It has trains similar to the ones found on Cedar Points Top Thrill Dragster. Xcelerator was built on the area where two former Knott’s coasters were located, the Soap Box Derby (steeplechase coaster) and later the Windjammer, a failed racing looper by Togo coasters of Japan. Personally I wish they still had the Soap Box Derby, as there are none left.

The next coaster we rode was the Boomerang, a standard Vekoma Boomerang model. Of course this being a shuttle, it runs one train and it was about a 45 min wait. This coaster sat on the sight of the former Corkscrew coaster, which was the first modern day roller coaster to turn its riders upside down.

Next it was over to the back corner of the park to ride the Pony Express. This was the first Zamperla Motocoaster we have been on. It was a “cute” ride, but very short, more or less it was a figure 8. Like so many other coasters that busy day, this was running one train. It slowly launches you from 0 to 38 mph. The unique thing about this ride was how you sat on the train; you ride it as if you were on horseback.

After we rode all of the major coasters (that were operating) it was time to take a break and get some food. We exited the park to eat at the famous Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. There were so many choices (all chicken, of course!) I ended up trying the chicken Alfredo meal, Janis had the chicken pot pie, and other family members with us had the fried chicken dinner, and we all shared a little bit of our meals so we could all try everything. The food is very good. Then of course, for desert we all had a piece of their world famous pie. Some of us had apple and some boysenberry, and there was even a combo pie that had a mixture of both.

We were quite stuffed after our meal, so we decided to just walk around the park, taking some time to look around at its different offerings. The Ghost Town section is really cool. It's authentic, since it actually is a relocated ghost town that Walter Knott bought and had moved to the site piece by piece. There was a "grave" you could stand on, and feel the "heartbeat", and a "horse thief" (animatronic) sitting in jail that you can interact with, and a even a real stage coach ride. We then got on the park's wonderful train ride. Before going to this park I had no idea it had a train of this kind. The engine and cars are from the 1800’s and used to run up the mountains in Colorado before being moved and restored to become a Knott’s Berry Farm attraction. The train was absolutely beautiful; it reminded me of the wonderful train at Dollywood. The cars were enclosed with stunning woodwork and made you feel like you were traveling back to the 1800’s to experience how travel was like. They have two "train robbers" who pass from the back car all the way to the front car during the journey, interacting with guests - very cool. One of the cars is a dining car and on special occasions the park will sell dinners on the car while riding around the park multiple times. If I was a local, I know I would do that a few times a year.

Up next was a Knott’s original ride, the Calico Mine Train. This turned out to be one of my very favorite rides at Knott’s. As you can imagine from the name, it’s a dark ride. You board an old mine car style train and are taken through a fake mountain looking at scenery based on an old mine. At the end of the ride the train has to pick up some speed to outrun a mine blast. If you are a fan of old style (campy) dark rides, then you will love this. I personally wish more parks had something like it.

Our next ride was the parks log flume; I have to say this is the best standard log flume I have ever been on. It was long, and heavily themed and best of all, you don’t get drenched, just a little splash here and there to let you know you were on a water ride.

After our flume ride it was getting dark, so we went and rode some of our favorite coasters again so we could get a night ride or two on them. Ghostrider was very good in the dark. We hung around a few minutes after closing to shop for our park souvenirs.

The next morning was a Sunday. We didn’t have to be to our cruise ship in Long Beach until 1pm, so we had about two and a half hours to play at Knott’s Berry Farm again. We were one of the first to enter the park. We headed straight for the Silver Bullet so we could get another ride on their inverted coaster; we were on the first train out in the front row. Then we just made our way around the park getting stay-on rides on many of the parks coasters. Janis and I even got a rare coaster credit for adults; we got to ride the park's kiddie coaster, the Timberline Twister. The ride op actually let us go twice. As we left the coaster another ride op came over and fussed at the first one saying we were too tall and she wasn't supposed to let us ride. We didn’t know, we just walked up and got on. Oh well, at least we got another credit! We finished our time at Knott’s the same way we began the day before, on Ghost Rider. We got over 20 coaster rides in the two and a half hours we were there Sunday morning, compared to our 11 coaster rides we got all day Saturday. We were unsure about going back on Sunday because we didn’t want to be late to our cruise ship, but going to the park was one of the best decisions we made, and we made the ship with no problems.

Overall I will rate Knott’s Berry Farm a B. The park was clean; the employee’s were very nice and helpful. We didn’t eat food in the park; we only ate at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Restaurant, so it’s not fair to rate the park on its food since that restaurant is technically outside the front gate. The coasters were average at best, nothing really spectacular. GhostRider could have been a top ten woodie, but with the mid-course on so hard, it will not make my list. Ride operations are what bring the parks rating down slightly. They had two coasters down for annual rehab. When you have two rides scheduled to be down then the rest of the coasters should be running at full capacity. Silver Bullet and Pony Express had one train in pieces for rehab. I believe they could have scheduled that a bit better. Some of the parks themeing was very good. The park's Ghost Town section was incredible. From what my brother in law told us, it was written in the contract that Cedar Fair could not touch the ghost town section for 100 years.

If you find yourself in the L.A. area, make sure you take a day and spend at Knott’s Berry Farm, there is a lot to do and I think you will have a good time as we did.

Danny Biggerstaff

Danny Biggerstaff CoAsTeRDaN

The Pony Express train that is in pieces is the one that was standing in the station when the other one failed to negotiate the first hill and rolled back into it a few months back (and the brakes failed to stop it). As far as it's estimated time in rehab, your guess is as good as mine. Knotts doesn't have your "normal" rehab schedule as Summer is not really their busy season. They make the bulk of their revenue during Halloween Haunt AKA Knotts Scarry Farm.

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