Southern Cal Showdown: SFMM v KBF

cmingdayton's avatar

Hello All,

A chance may present itself next winter for my family and I to fly out and meet some family in Las Vegas in December 2018. With this, an opportunity to visit an amusement park in Southern California is in the discussion. Obviously, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm are the first parks to come to mind. The Disney parks have somewhat been ruled out, and Universal I suppose is still in the mix. I believe it is going to come down to one park or the other. I was faced with I similar dilemma last summer when choosing between Holiday World and Kings Island. I posted a topic there for HW v KI, and got some helpful responses from the CoasterBuzz faithful. I was hoping the same thing could happen now. Here is what I am thinking:

SFMM: Would be absolutely incredible with all their attractions! This would be by far the biggest scale amusement park I have attended. My problem: would I be able to get through everything in one day? The park seems massive, and I do not know if I would ever return. Would I only be able to get half or three fourths of the credits?

Knott’s: I have heard great reviews around this park. Their theming, atmosphere, and overall guest experience appears to be top notch. I believe I would be able to get all the credits in one day. My problem: Compared To SFMM, how does it compare?

I have never been to a park in the winter time, so I do not know if all the rides would be open. The weather most likely would be nice compared to the snowy Midwest weather I am accustomed to.

If I could hear some thoughts from you all that would be great. I think both parks are a win either way. Also if you think Universal should still be strongly considered, please say so!

Thank you!

Cole Mingo

(AKA Barry Allen and Niles Crane amalgamated).

Is there a reason Disney has been ruled out? Those parks are my personal favorite in the area having been to all the majors, also December means Christmas which means Haunted Mansion Holiday, Small World Holiday, Christmas Parade, Fireworks, World of Color and Decorations which are all amazing. Disneyland is the best theme park I’ve been to.

SFMM is a roller coaster park, there are very few other rides or shows worth doing there, if you want to just ride coasters, go there. KBF is an extremely unique park, half of it is a for real Ghost Town and the other half is a typical CF park it’s a great park, with two amazing dark rides (mine ride, log flume.). What are you looking for in a park? If it’s mainly about the coasters, go to SFMM if you prefer theme parks, go to Disneyland, or Knotts.

Universal Hollywood is nice, but other then the studio tour and Water World, every ride there is the same or better in Florida along with a dozen more attractions.

2022 Trips: WDW, Sea World San Diego & Orlando, CP, KI, BGW, Bay Beach, Canobie Lake, Universal Orlando

ApolloAndy's avatar

Don't forget Knoebel's. ;)

In all seriousness, if you go to SFMM it is possible to do everything in one day without a flashpass if you go open to close and don't need to stop too much. If you want to actually enjoy your day and get everything done, flashpass is probably a good investment.

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TheMillenniumRider's avatar

I did SFMM with a flashpass in one day with many rerides. Six Flags has my favorite implementation of FoTL pass of all the parks. It isn't horribly expensive for what you receive either. Without flashpass if it isn't jam packed then it should still be easy to get all credit plus some rerides in the same day.

If only one day is available for park time, I would skip Disney until you can devote a few days as both those parks are amazing, vastly superior to the Orlando counterparts. KBF is also an awesome park, but SFMM certainly has the edge on coasters.

My opinion:

We took a trip out to LA two years ago in January I believe it was and went to all those parks… SFMM, Knotts, Disney and Universal.

Our day at SFMM was incredible, it was completely dead. We only had 5 or 6 hours, given the park was only open like 11-5pm that day or something like that, but we did everything with plenty of time to spare. Weather was a bit on the chilly side, but it was no problem being from Ohio… Used to it!

X2 for example, we got to stay-on. There was no wait at all. We rode it around eight times or so, a few on the GCI and one or two laps on everything else in the park. We had everything done within 2-3 hours, believe it or not. All was open except for Superman (down due to construction for the new coaster). We had a fantastic time. If you luck out with a day like this, doing everything will be no issue what-so-ever. Not sure if the lack of crowd is the norm in the off-season or what, but SFMM was actually a really fantastic park. Employees were friendly and operations were solid running multiple trains on everything even though it was dead. If it is busier the day you go, just get a Fastlane. It will be worth it to experience everything.

Knott’s is a beautiful park, a bit more “rich” in terms of theme and experience. However, if choosing between SFMM and Knott’s, you will have to decide what is more important to you. If you want coasters, SFMM no contest. Knott’s is wonderful though, but I would choose SFMM over Knott’s personally.

You ruled out the Disney Parks, but I ask this… Have you been to the Florida parks by chance already? I don’t care for the Florida parks much at all, but found Disneyland and California’s Adventure to be far superior, which may be unpopular opinion. The parks in Cali are just more ”cozy” and the experience felt far more complete to me. I actually look forward to going back to Disneyland next time in LA… If you never been to Disney at all before, I would highly recommend going.

Same thing with Universal…. Have you been already in Orlando? Now with Universal, I would say Orlando has the superior parks. We had a good time, but since many of the rides and experiences repeat, it’s smaller and there was a bit less to do (especially compared to the Universal/IOA combo in Florida), I would skip this one over the other park options. But if you never have been to Universal before, then it is worth considering at least based on your time and what else you have planned. To choose between Disney and Universal though, at least in LA, I would go with Disney.

Tekwardo's avatar

In 2012 I drove out to LA from Vegas one morning and got to Knotts at opening, was there a couple hours, and around 2pm drove to Magic Mountain (no traffic and it took me 50 minutes) and stayed till closing. Knotts had an ok crowd but no major waits. It cooled off at MM and there were more employees than patrons. Rode everything I wanted till 8pm.

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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

I was in Vegas for business two weeks ago and took the opportunity to go to LA and visit both parks. I was able to pick up a cheap flight on Delta, around $50.00, and fly to LA, from there I took a Lyft to Six Flags Magic Mountain. I got there late on a Monday afternoon, approx 3 hours before park closing. I checked into my hotel first The Hilton Garden, they advertised that they were affiliated with the park and offered a shuttle between the park and the hotel online. What was not mentioned was that the shuttle stopped operating January 1st of the year. The hotel was okay, and pricey about $200.00 for one night and not worth it at all. Food was not good, and the first room they gave me had be smoked in so I decided to change rooms. Walked to the park. The walk takes about 20 minutes going, and is all up hill. It had rained earlier and the park was not crowded. Even thought I was tired I decided to hit some rides and reserved the Platinum pass for the next day. The only GREAT ride I did that night was Full Throttle. The fast pass is only good for their best (read most popular rides) once. Had I not been so tired I would have hit all of the premium coasters that night and again the next day. The best coasters in the park are Twisted Colossus, rode this twice. Great. Full Throttle is very good, also rode twice, both in the front row, very fun but short. X2, I only rode once. It looks like a wing coaster, but rides like a 19th century wooden coaster that needs new tracks. Not a fan. Goliath is an amazing ride, rode this 4x, various positions on the train. Just a wonderful ride. Scream was all right but has the support with the high foam pieces on both sides of your head, got off with a headache from all the banging around. Ride I was most looking forward to was Escape from Krypton, but after riding Top Thrill and Kingda Ka this ride was a huge let down, IMHOP. Viper has seen better days. Tatsu was really great, but I only rode it once, reason being it's at the top of the mountain and the shuttle was not working. That climb sucks. Park is also not laid out very well, and for someone not familiar with it, I ended up crossing and recrossing my steps wasting a lot of time. Ninja, horrible coaster, old Arrow swinging car ride, similar to Iron Dragon at Cedar Point. Rides very rough, and because you climbed the mountain, the lift hill is the end of the ride not the beginning. The batman was good, better than the one at Great Adventure. The Riddlers Revenge is a standup, and I don't know about you but I hate these.

That night I left Magic Mountain and took a Lyft to Knotts Berry Farm. Got there before closing, picked up my pass. Rode that night and all the next day. Best rides are Ghost Rider, rode it 5x. Fantastic wooden coaster, that never seems to slow down. Silver Bullet was good, but a little rougher than I like, rode 2x, I've been on much better inverted coasters (like Great Bear), Xcelerator is an amazing ride. Rode 4 or 5 times, line is bad even with the fast pass, it's also short, felt like about 25 seconds, but very fun. Someone on Ghostrider recommended the Sierra Sidewinder to me, said it's not a kids coaster, but it's in the kids section. This was the ride that made my buy the fast pass, I waited about 35 minutes. It was okay, not worth the wait. They also have a unique launch coaster called the Pony Express, where you sit on horseback. It's not terribly exciting, but it's unique and fun for that reason. Rode Montezuma's revenge it was okay. It's an in and back. They were running dummy weights on the new Hangtime my first night there, park employee at hinted it would be opening very soon. so maybe you'll get lucky. I stayed at the Knotts Farm Hotel onsite, and it was about $100.00 a night, and much nicer than the Six Flags Hilton Garden. The restaurant "Amber Waves" was not great. Ate the next day at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner - which was pretty good and worth checking out.

You can do both parks in two days, with fast passes. no problem. Have a great trip.


Last edited by Mike Sterling,

I can understand why the Disneyland Resort not being on somebody's list. We used to go fairly regularly, even had passes. But it has gotten to the point where it was a battle every time you went there no matter what day of the week or what time of year it was. When you are young the bumps an bruises don't matter that much, but now days it's just not worth it. Now with a substantial portion of California Adventure being reworked that gate isn't worth the price now either. That said, yes we'll probably brave entry to check out Star Wars, but not until the initial wave has subsided.

I'm partial to Disneyland, and I would choose to spend my day there, but if that's not an option, here's what I would do:

Universal- Vastly inferior to the Florida resort with many rides that are exact copies. The studio tour is neat, but not neat enough to make it a good pick, IMO.

SFMM: Obviously the choice from a coaster perspective. There's really nothing other than coasters, however. A Flash Pass would definitely help with peace of mind if nothing else. You might also consider holding off if only because Six Flags season passes are super cheap, so your likelihood of visiting if you ever go back to SoCal is fairly high.

Knotts: A better park than SFMM, but other than Ghost Rider and maybe the new Hang Time, the coaster collection is decidedly mediocre. There are of course wonderful classics like the Mine Ride and the Log Flume and some great entertainment. Ghost Town is really cool, especially if they are running Ghost Town Alive. Knott's is a very nice park, nicer than SFMM, it's just not really a destination for great coasters.

sirloindude's avatar

I don't know that I'd call KBF underwhelming on coasters. It's not SFMM by any measure, but I actually thought Xcelerator and Silver Bullet were genuinely quite good. I rode Ghostrider pre-renovation, and while I enjoyed it, it seems the current incarnation is quite spectacular, so I'd put KBF up for consideration.

Of course, then you're just right down the street from DLR, and I don't know that I'd be able to resist that. ;)

Last edited by sirloindude,

13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones

Tommytheduck's avatar

Silver Bullet is a top tier Invert. One of my favorites, and to my knowledge, I've ridden every B+M Invert model in the US. Keep in mind that I'm kinda a wuss and like them less intense, and this one is as smooth and graceful as they come.

Xcellerator is hands down better than TTD, or Kingda Ka. Because it actually does stuff after the tophat.

The Ghostrider refurb is incredible! I was just there last month and thought it was as good as I remembered it when it was brand new. I rode it a few years ago and thought it was aging poorly, so it's practically a brand new coaster.

Oh, and easily the best traditional Log Flume (Read, not at IOA) around. Absolutely worth it, even if you're not into Log Flumes. (We barely got wet.)

My 2 cents. I'd still advise SFMM if you're looking for pure coaster count, and they have some great ones. But if you're looking for a more rounded experience, KBF is a great choice. And they have one of the better FastLane programs I've seen, but I'm by no means an expert. You enter almost every ride either through the exit, or directly into the area where you choose your row.

Last edited by Tommytheduck,

I could spend all day at Knott's only riding the mine ride and the log ride.

Dave Dragon, go Dave Dragon, and the Star Force Five!

Tekwardo's avatar

Funny you say that lol. My last trip to SoCal for a week we spent three days at Knotts. It wasn’t intentional. But the park is soooooo good.

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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Which is why the misses and I have annual passes. I have to go to LA at least once a month on business, and we stop at Knotts on the way back to San Diego.

janfrederick's avatar

I LOVE the Pepper Trees. Guess I'll be booking for Charmland too. Xelerator is so fun. LOVE the Calico Mine Ride.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza

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