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A Day at Family-Friendly Knott’s Berry Farm

This article was first published in the Epoch Times on October 5, 2022.

On a sunny October day, Knott’s Berry Farm–now transformed into Knott’s Spooky Farm– revealed why it remains a family-friendly destination. In the Calico Ghost Town, costumed children collected sweets at trick-or-treat stations. Friendly ghouls mingled with families and gladly posed for photos. In America’s original theme park, the atmosphere was relaxed, and everyone seemed happy.

Children collect treats from friendly staff.

Humble Beginnings

It began, in the 1920’s, as a roadside stand selling Walter Knott’s berries. Then in 1928, Walter built a tea stand for his wife Cordelia. From there she sold her home-made jams, jellies, pies, hot biscuits, and sandwiches. One June night in 1934, Cordelia decided to try selling chicken dinners. She served fried chicken dinners on her wedding china to eight guests, and history was made.

The original Knott’s roadside berry stand, circa 1926. Photo courtesy of the Orange County Archives.

The chicken dinners proved so popular that guests would line up by the thousands to be seated in the Knott’s Berry Place restaurant.

The Knott’s Restaurant on Mother’s Day, 1944. Photo courtesy of Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

In 1940, to amuse his waiting guests, Walter constructed a western-themed ghost town. He brought in buildings taken from actual ghost towns existing in the United States. Other buildings were meticulously copied from the originals. The ghost town became the first themed area in Knott’s Berry Place.

The original 1868 Gold Trails Hotel, acquired by Walter Knott’s from Prescott, Arizona in 1940.

In 1947, the Knotts renamed their theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm. Today, Knott’s Berry Farm houses four themed areas which include family rides, thrilling roller coasters, theater, and entertainment. It is part of the Knott’s Berry Farm resort, encompassing a water park, hotel, and an amazing replica of Independence Hall complete with a Liberty Bell.

Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant

So, you might ask, is the fried chicken still good? Yes, it is. On weekends they serve all-day dinners with a variety of classic fare.

This tourist ordered the original menu-choice of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet kernel corn, tossed salad with boysenberry dressing, rhubarb, and buttermilk biscuits. They even included a slice of fruit pie! Everything was delicious, and I gladly took home the leftovers.

Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant is located in the California Marketplace, on the walk leading to Knott’s Berry Farm.

The Old West Ghost Town

The ghost town remains at the heart of Knott’s Berry Farm. Its attention to detail is so marvelous that you could spend all day there and not see everything there is to see.

This authenticity includes the Western Trails Museum. It has a terrific collection of items from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Be sure to ask the museum docent to demonstrate some of the exhibits; he or she will gladly do so. All the staff at Knott’s Berry Farm are kind and enthusiastic.

Don’t miss the Western Trails Museum inside Ghost Town.
A staff member explains how clerks used marbles to balance their Simplex cash register.

Fun awaits as well through interactive experiences such as panning for gold, or talking with the perpetually jailed Sad Eye Joe. Then there are the themed rides, such as the Calico Mine Ride, where animatronic miners with craggy faces delight passing riders. Thrill seekers love Ghostrider–”the longest, tallest, and fastest wooden roller coaster on the West Coast.”

Those who prefer calm seek the Bird Cage Theatre. Its facade-front was reproduced in 1954 by Walter Knott, from the original theatre in Tombstone, Arizona. Frontier-themed food and unique gifts make it fun to shop in the ghost town of Calico.

Comic Steve Martin got his start at the Bird Cage Theatre in Knott’s Berry Farm

Incidentally, the town of Calico was based on the real ghost-town of Calico located in Yermo, California. In the 1950’s, Walter Knott’s bought the town and restored most of its buildings. It is now a state historical landmark.

Camp Snoopy

Camp Snoopy is a wonderful section of the park created just for kids ages twelve and under. It is designed to look like a summer camp in the California High Sierras. Trees, decorative boulders, and a flowing stream make the area quite attractive. Children and their parents seem to enjoy the mellow vibes. Peanuts characters do meet and greets, and live entertainment is shown at the Camp Snoopy Theatre.

Camp Snoopy rides are designed for children under the age of twelve.
Kids laugh as they ride along with Woodstock’s Airmail.

Fiesta Village

In the 1960’s, Knott’s added the Fiesta Village theme area to the park. It was designed in tribute to California’s early Spanish heritage. During Spooky Farm days, skeleton statues honoring Dia De Los Muertos (Day Of The Dead) are on view. There are rides both mild and thrilling, as well as Mexican-American food for sale.

Montezuma’s Revenge is a thrilling coaster located in Fiesta Village.
One of several skeleton tributes to Dia De Los Muertos.

The Boardwalk

Knott’s originally created the Boardwalk area as a tribute to the Roaring 20’s, but in 1996 it was re-themed to look like a California beach boardwalk. It’s a surprising, yet attractive addition to the rest of the park with its palm trees and bright roller coasters.

The Boardwalk area of Knott’s Berry Farm
Riders scream around Hang Time, featuring a “vertical drop that is the steepest in California, gravity-defying inversions, and mid-air suspensions.”

Seasonal Activity

Throughout the year, Knott’s celebrates five different “seasons.” Though they were shut down during covid, everything is returning in a big way in 2023.

Right now, September 22 – October 31 daytime only, families can celebrate Knott’s Spooky Farm: a decidedly non-spooky and purely fun celebration of Halloween. On select nights however, the park transforms into Knott’s Scary Farm– a horror fest designed for ages 13 and up (ages 13 – 17 must be accompanied by an adult age 21 or over). Knott’s Scary Farm is a highly popular event for teenagers and young adults.

A garrulous ghoul entertains a family during Knott’s Spooky Farm days.

Upcoming for the end of 2022 and for all of 2023, Knott’s seasonal events will include a multi-weekend Peanuts celebration, a spring-time Boysenberry Festival, a summertime Ghost Town Alive, Knott’s Scary and Spooky Farm, and a Christmas time Knott’s Merry Farm. This year, Knott’s Merry Farm runs from November 18, 2022 – January 8, 2023.

For more information, please see the Knott’s Berry Farm website.

Whittles, the jolly prospector, greets a Knott’s Berry Farm guest.

 

4 Comments

  1. Dave Thompson Dave Thompson

    Thanks Karen, very informative.
    I knew the name, Knotts Berry Farm but didn’t know where it was or anything about it…I do now!

    • KarenGough KarenGough

      Hooray! I’m glad you enjoyed some virtual travel. Thanks for commenting David!

  2. Jeannine Jeannine

    What a fun park! Something for everyone. From your pictures, it looks clean and well-maintained. (Yet another reason why I need to head west.) I had no idea that the Knotts were famous for their delicious chicken dinners.

    • KarenGough KarenGough

      Yes, berry preserves and fried chicken dinners!
      And I hope you can come out west for a visit someday! Thanks for commenting.

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