Don't try to understand Knott's Berry Farm; just enjoy what you can
Tuesday Park Visit:
After half an hour waiting in a queue more like a darkened holding pen, I was getting steamed. Announcements squawked over a loudspeaker every few minutes, but neither I nor my 11-year-old daughter could make out a word. With no posted waiting time, nor a theme park employee anywhere in sight, we had no idea how much longer we'd be waiting.
Welcome to Knott's Berry Farm, the most incomprehensible theme park in America.
Natalie and I ended up waiting an hour and 10 minutes to ride GhostRider, after park employees mercifully added a second train on the track. (GhostRider can run three.) Still, two trains gives Knott's 1998 CCI wooden roller coaster an approximate capacity of 800 riders an hour, placing it light years ahead of many other attractions in this capacity-starved park.
While Natalie and I were waiting, waiting and waiting for GhostRider, my wife and son cooled their heels across the park, serving nearly an hour in the queue for Joe Cool's GR8 SK8, an Interactive Rides Sky Skater that we calculated was putting through fewer than 100 riders per hour.
If one looks past the thrill rides with less capacity than Jessica Simpson taking the MCAT, one can find amidst them a park filled with little details that can make a theme park visit magical.
Such as Mystery Lodge, a Native American storytelling show with effects that would be right at home in Walt Disney World's Epcot. (No surprise, as the show's the work of the same creator who produced Epcot's Impressions de France, my all-time favorite theme park movie.)
Image courtesy BRC Imagination Arts
While Natalie and I enjoyed Mystery Lodge, Laurie and Brian discovered Knott's Ghost Town Magic store, where park magician Robert entertained and confounded Brian with a variety of impressive tricks.
So which is Knott's? A over-crowded thrill park? Or a well-detailed theme park filled with personal touches and storytelling?
Well, it's both. And that's what makes this park so hard to comprehend. The worst guide map in the industry doesn't help matters, either. While Knott's map details every minor shop in the park, it ignores dozens of attractions, listing just one ride in the park's Camp Snoopy kids' land.
Getting around Knott's never was easy. The park lacks the intuitive hub-and-spoke layout that Walt Disney employed up the street at Disneyland. Themed lands at Knott's, such as they are, don't blend from one into another, either.
Walking through Knott's is like walking through a theme park boneyard. The mighty Bolliger & Mabillard inverted coaster, Silver Bullet, lords over the park, its support beams impaling the old Indian ceremonial dance stage and cutting off the remaining fragment of the pond where Walter Knott's steamboat once sailed. The delightful 1969 Log Ride, prototype for Disney's Splash Mountain, stands smack next to unthemed carny games, with a Wipeout across the way, and the theme-less Supreme Scream drop ride standing over all.
Given the confusion, perhaps it is fitting that the park's most famous restaurant isn't in the park at all. After reuniting, we four got our hands stamped to exit and walk over to Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant... for lunch.
The fried chicken is fine, not as tasty as others. But the chicken noodle soup, more stew than broth, delights. And if you can beat your table mates, grab one of the crustier biscuits, which taste more like fritters than the tasteless pucks of dough you'll find from the Colonel.
And, of course, we enjoyed Knott's Boysenberries in every form - jelly, pie and punch. Not too tart, not too sweet, just well balanced flavor each time.
After our late lunch, we returned to the park for the Knott's classics, the Log Ride and the Calico Mine Ride. Funny how the park's oldest rides seem to have the fastest moving lines. Two classic joys amid the modern metal.
Ultimately, everyone said they had a great time. But I when I pressed for specifics, no one could quite say, exactly, why.
That's Knott's. You very well might enjoy it. But don't bother trying to understand it.
This place is very quickly becoming a very wrecked park with not the values its used to have. I think this park is turning into Southern California's new Magic Mountain and MM is getting much better even though it lacks theming you expect Six Flags to be that way and it has enough roller coasters to support their values. While Knotts throws a bright red and orange piece of steel over their scenic lake, I think Silver Bullet is the main reason for this down fall but, I don't want to point fingers just hope it gets better.
Robert, I must agree with you on the confusion part. The first time I went to Knott's, I felt like being at a State Fair running from ride to ride with no real sense of direction or theme. But don't get me wrong, the rides there are great. I love Ghostrider, Xcelerator, Timber Mountain Log Ride, and even Montezooma's Revenge.
^ Someone hasn't been to Halloween Horror Nights!
Knott's could really be an awesome theme park again, it's got such nice history and thematic touches in Ghost Town with a couple of classic rides hanging on like Calico Mine Train and Timber Mountain Log Ride (along with a new one like Mystery Lodge). Knott's also has a great stagecoach and an amazing steam train that puts Disney to shame... problem is that the scenery they travel upon has been trashed. But the Cedar Fair mentality of little theming and putting up coasters anywhere without aesthetic is ruining Knott's as a THEME park. Granted the Knott's children already started the demise before CF took over, but CF has only brought Knott's down further. I wish an eccentric billionaire would buy out the park from CF and bring it back to some semblance of its former glory. It deserves better.
I'm not sure where you are getting your numbers. Ghostrider at full capacity is 1600 pph, Silver Bullet is 1300, Xcelerator is 1330, Montezuma's Revenge is 1344, and Jaguar is 1800. Doesn't seem like they issues with capacity to me. Most parks would love to have stats like that.
I can deal with an hour wait when a coaster is running capacity. It's a slap in the face to your customers when you've got an hour wait and running one train (as Knott's did for a while this morning on GhostRider, Xcelerator and Silver Bullet). That's just unnecessary.
The last time I went to Knott's Berry Farm, the
When I went to Knott's it was luckily not as bad or nearly as confuing. But I had to wait in ghost rider for about an hour and a half too while it broke down twice! But I did "study" the whole park and its layout for about a month and was finally familiar with the layout. But I still pretty much had to ride whatever I walked by and there were too many pathways to know exactly where you are going. But then again, like you said, the rides are a pretty good quality and the theming is actually a nice touch to the park!
They should move that Mystery Lodge show to EPCOT's World Showcase stat!
Knott's is better enjoyed when wandering aimlessly, taking in attractions as you get to them rather than trying to follow an agenda. Their original layout lends to this; it has nothing to do with current ownership. I prefer to go on a weekday when the park is normally almost empty (not during spring break) and just soak it in.
I agree with your statements about Knotts. When we went in 2007 as part of our Disney trip, I was so disappointed. There seems to be no flow to the park as far as layout. I found that all the stuff people said about Magic Mountain was actually taking place at Knotts. The "cast members" at the attractions kind of stood there, not policing anything, not even smiles on their faces. The tweens (12-13) were in line with their boyfriends/girlfriends making out like crazy and my 10 year old son and 10 year old niece were totally creeped out by it... as was I.
Knott's has always been the poor cousin to Disney. It was the preferred stop when I was a kid since it cost much less to go. The parking lots were grass covered with chickens running around. There was no entrance fee, you just had to buy tickets for the rides from booths near them. We would put pennies on the train tracks and see how high a stack we could make and still get a flattened coin. The boxing museum and Mott’s miniatures, the haunted shack, models of the California missions were in inset displays along the walkway. We would bring a sack lunch and eat in the covered wagons that are part of the stage area near the entrance.
I never understood the logic behind running one coaster train. Most new rides have at least 3 available, 2 at the very least. Does not running a train really cut costs? Wouldn't you rather have people out walking on the midway rather than them being stuck in line. After all, it's out on the midway where they spend the money and get the old spending per guest number up. Note to park companies. The more I'm out on the midway, the better the chances that I will buy something. Run at least two trains please.
The one time I visited Cedar Point, on a Thursday in mid-August four summers ago, it was one train operation throughout the park. No coaster line under 90 minutes, and Dragster and MF were both over four hours. Haven't been back to Cedar Point since.
Our family went to Knotts only once back in 2006 and we really enjoyed it. But as you said, all for very different reasons.
Perilous Plunge is the flume ride. There was a fatal accident there in 2001, where a woman fell out from the ride, so they are quite fastidious about the restraints.
GhostRider has three trains, but it cannot run with three. It doesn't work and hasn't happened except for a few trial runs in spring 1998. The park experimented with adding an additional brake to the brake run and kickers to move the trains through the brake run and loading station, but it didn't work and the ride runs best with two trains. In reality the ride is a few hundred feet too short.
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