Knott’s Berry Farm
Buena Park, California, USA
“Cedar Fair does theming… and they do it well”
When talking about theme parks in Greater Los Angeles, people tend to put a focus on Disneyland, Universal Studios and Six Flags Magic Mountain. This isn’t wrong; these are all legendary amusement park destinations and they all deserve a visit. However, it’s a shame that Knott’s Berry Farm seems to be overlooked from time to time. This Californian Cedar Fair resort is located in the city of Buena Park, just a few miles from Disneyland and California Adventure. Knott’s Berry Farm offers a hotel, a theme park, a water park and lots of berries.
Like many American amusement parks, Knott’s Berry Farm offers a good amount of roller coasters. Ten of them, to be precise. One of the most striking rides is Silver Bullet. It’s often considered as one of the weakest B&M inverted coasters, but I don’t agree. True… the first descent should have been slightly steeper, but every other element is pure perfection. In my opinion, a ride doesn’t have to be overly intense to make an impression. And that’s what I love about Silver Bullet: it’s not extreme, but it is incredibly fun and smooth. And just watch that beautiful colour scheme…
I was here with a first timer, which made it necessary to ride every single coaster credit. That’s why we visited Camp Snoopy for Timberline Twister (a very cheap-looking kiddie coaster) and Sierra Sidewinder, a short but intense spinning coaster. Afterwards, we headed to the Mexican section for Montezooma’s Revenge (a classic Schwarzkopf shuttle loop, still delivering loads of fun) and Jaguar. This is probably the world’s longest Zierer Tivoli Coaster, but not the best. The trains aren’t comfortable and the ride isn’t smooth at all. This stunning station building is actually one of the few things I like about Jaguar.
Pink rides aren’t necessarily tame rides. Knott’s Berry Farm’s famous Xcelerator remains one of the best roller coasters in California. The launch is extremely powerful and the rest of the layout provides great thrills. Xcelerator became a little rougher over the past few years, but that didn’t make the ride less enjoyable. This is one of those coasters I could ride all day long.
Let’s continue at The Boardwalk. This area isn’t overly themed, but it’s got a good vibe and the ride selection is interesting. The least impressive coaster is undoubtedly Coast Rider, a standard Mack wild mouse. The leg restraints are horrible and the vehicles are braked almost constantly. Knott’s management should pay a visit to Europa-Park, where Matterhorn Blitz proves that a similar ride can be fun and nicely decorated.
The Boardwalk is also home to the park’s latest addition: HangTime. This Gerstlauer Infinity Coaster was opened in 2018 and it looks impressive. The ride is 45 metres tall, it features a beyond-vertical drop and a total of five inversions. Honestly… I didn’t hate the ride, but didn’t love it either. Just like nearly every other Gerstlauer creation, it’s not entirely smooth and the layout feels rather unnatural. This could be a great coaster design if it were built by B&M, Intamin, Vekoma or Mack. Gerstlauer is just one of those few manufacturers who don’t seem to get it right. They should stick to family coasters and leave the thrill machines to others.
Knott’s became famous because of its Ghost Town and this area is home to a legendary coaster. GhostRider was originally built by Custom Coasters International in 1998. It was popular, but it became considerably rougher over the years. One of my friends once described it as ‘falling down the stairs’ and that was actually very close to the feeling GhostRider evoked. A major refurbishment (carried out by GCI in 2016) has made the ride experience a lot more enjoyable, though. The layout got retracked and trains were replaced by GCI’s characteristic Millennium Flyers. The result is simply incredible. If you ask me, GhostRider has become one of the world’s best wooden coasters. Great Coasters International has once again proven that it’s worth the company’s name.
A lot less spectacular (but nonetheless great for younger visitors) is Pony Express. Zamperla coasters are never earth-shattering and that’s not any different in this case. The decoration looks nice, but it’s a short and uninspiring ride.
Halloween is a big deal at Knott’s Berry Farm and decorations are added throughout the park. Some attractions are even adapted to the season. The Timber Mountain Log Ride Halloween Hootenanny is a surprisingly good overlay with special music and additional audio-animatronics. This is a great log flume with a large dark ride section and it becomes even better during Halloween time. Don’t miss it if you visit Knott’s in the Halloween season.
Timber Mountain Log Ride features a sizeable dark ride portion and there’s another big dark ride just across the street. The Calico Mine Ride opened in 1960 and it became a true classic in the world of dark rides. It didn’t become outdated, though. Calico Mine Ride was refurbished several times and it still provides a spectacular ride experience with some good-looking scenes. The Knott’s Berry Farm website describes it as a Legendary Attraction and that’s not exaggerated.
Knott’s Berry Farm has a limited surface, but the park offers a ton of attractions. This obviously includes the coasters and water/dark rides mentioned above, but there’s more. Children are spoiled at Planet Snoopy, while the Boardwalk and the Mexican area offer quite a few flat rides. One of the most unusual experiences at Knott’s Berry Farm is Mystery Lodge. This is a live action performance with decent special effects. Don’t expect anything out of this world, but Mystery Lodge’s atmosphere is wonderful.
WORTH A VISIT?
Knott’s Berry Farm is an awesome place. I’ve got the impression that it’s often considered as a mediocre amusement park close to Disneyland, but it’s more than that. The park offers a great variety of coasters and there are lots of flat rides, family attractions and dark rides. Furthermore, the theming is decent and the park offers some good entertainment. Knott’s Berry Farm doesn’t transport you into another world like Disney does, but it’s an outstanding amusement park nonetheless. Searching for a way to escape the magical (very busy) Disneyland bubble for a while? Knott’s Berry Farm is the place to go.
Is Xcelerator the best launched roller coaster in California? Did you try one of Knott’s boysenberry specialties yet? Do you agree that HangTime should’ve been a B&M Dive Machine? Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.