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Fix This Park: Knott's Berry Farm

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Published: August 6, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Theme parks fans long have recognized a pecking order in the theme park industry. At the top, offering attractions and facilities of the highest quality (and, as a result, attracting the largest attendance) has stood Disney. One step below that stood the Universal, Busch and SeaWorld parks, which offered great rides and shows, but usually in facilities that were a notch less fancy than those built by Disney. Next came the regional amusement parks, such as Cedar Fair and Six Flags, which operated even more basic facilities, focusing on lightly or unthemed roller coasters and carnival rides.

But those divisions are beginning to blur, at least at the top of the industry. Disney took a huge step backward in quality with its Walt Disney Studios park in Paris and the original California Adventure, though it's now investing billions to reverse that course with top-quality projects such as Cars Land and Buena Vista Street. At the same time, Universal's working to close the gap from the opposite direction. With the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal's now building attractions at the Disney level. (Some of us might argue that Universal's Potter exceeds Disney's current standards.) SeaWorld's becoming more ambitious in its construction projects, too, with more richly themed environments such as Orlando's Antarctica and San Diego's Explorers Reef.

So what does this have to do with Knott's Berry Farm? Knott's once stood as Disneyland's near-equal in quality. In the 1950s and 60s, the parks operated more or less as a duopoly in the theme park business, with Knott's staying open on weekdays that Disneyland closed, and vice versa, in a not-so-subtle effort to share crowds between the parks. For decades, Disney's Imagineers have been drawing inspiration from Knott's attractions, most notably the Timber Mountain Log Ride that led directly to the creation of Disney's Splash Mountain. One can make a strong argument that many little kids in southern California in the 1980s preferred Knott's Camp Snoopy to Disneyland's New Fantasyland. Disney even considered buying Knott's in the 1980s and 90s, before deciding to develop California Adventure instead.

But Cedar Fair bought Knott's from the Knott family instead. And under Cedar Fair management, Knott's began to devolve into just another Cedar Fair iron park. Knott's closed dark rides, cut shows and started putting its money into roller coasters. It's once-industry-leading food quality suffered. It even obliterated its park entrance by paving over its lake and dropping a massive B&M inverted coaster on the site.

Knott's entrance

Then, in 2011, former Disneyland president Matt Ouimet took over Cedar Fair. And under Ouimet, who knew Knott's past and potential, Cedar Fair's began to change its approach to Knott's Berry Farm. The company invested more than a million dollars to refurbish the Log Ride with state-of-the-art animatronics, lighting and scenery. The food's improved, with new selections and recipes. And park officials aren't exactly hiding their desire to perform another Log Ride-like makeover of the park's Calico Mine Train attraction, too.

Inside the log ride
Inside the "new" Timber Mountain Log Ride

So as we talk about "fixing this park," let's acknowledge that Knott's already has started. It has made and is making changes that merit the attention of Disney and Universal theme park fans. But let's take it from there. What else could Cedar Fair and Knott's do to move this park out of the "iron park" echelon and instead challenge Disney, Universal and Busch Gardens parks for quality, theming and entertainment value?

Let's review what's already in place. Knott's Mystery Lodge remains one of the great theme park shows anywhere. The work of BRC Imagination Arts, whose artists have created many works for Disney, Mystery Lodge would make a fine addition to Epcot's American Adventure pavilion, if ever Disney wanted to tell more of the story of Native Americans. It should be a must-see for theme park fans.

But one attraction, even of the quality of Mystery Lodge, isn't enough to get theme park fans to buy a ticket into a park. They need more. The Timber Mountain Log Ride always was a nice ride, but after this summer's renovations, it's simply eye-popping. (Skip to 1:11 for the start of the ride POV.)

For the refurbishment, Knott's contracted with Garner Holt Productions, which also has created animatronics for Disney, among other clients. Couple the new Log Ride with Mystery Lodge, and now Knott's has two top-quality themed attractions to offer fans. If the Log Ride refurbishment drives attendance gains this year, it's likely we'll see a similar refurb of the Calico Mine Train. That'd be three top-quality attractions.

We're getting there.

Let's talk about food, the original foundation of Knott's Berry Farm. Two years ago, I visited Knott's with my son and we ate at the Ghost Town Grill with the intent that I'd review the restaurant for Theme Park Insider. But the food was so bad — nearly inedible with a funky smell and taste — that I killed the piece. Knott's attendance was falling and I didn't feel like wasting your time with a post knocking a park you weren't paying attention to anyway.

I revisited Knott's for the reopening of the Log Ride this summer and ate at the Ghost Town Grill again. What a difference!

Beef brisket sandwich

The Blacksmith's Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich, with cole slaw and sweet potato fries ($14.99), offered plenty of roast beef with a nice smoky flavor that elevated it far above a typical deli sandwich. The crunchy cole slaw balanced the rich meat well, and I ended up trading the sweet potato fries with my daughter for the tasty mashed potatoes she'd selected with her Calico Classic Cheeseburger ($13.99). The third side option was regular French fries, and we agreed those were the best of the bunch, perfectly crispy on the outside with just enough potato fluff in the middle.

Chicken tenders and fries

Our only complaint? Cost. Sorry, as much as my son loved to devour his chicken tenders and fries (after grudgingly letting me try a few fries), there's no way a plate of chicken strips and fries should cost $15.49.

So while Knott's is making progress, there's still far to go before this park makes the jump to the next level. What should the park do next?

How about putting a new dark ride in the old "Kingdom of the Dinosaurs" space? Maybe a Snoopy vs. the Red Baron shooter?

Or how about a steel track treatment for the increasingly rough GhostRider, once one of the industry's best wooden coasters?

Or how about a thorough revamp of Camp Snoopy, ditching the scaled-down carnival rides in favor of more active themed play areas, such as those found down the coast at Legoland? (I hope that Knott's always keeps the Huff-n-Puff, though. That's an ideal kiddie ride — one that demand physical activity to make work.)

And, finally, how about some "addition by subtraction" and shipping that B&M Inverted, Silver Bullet, up the state to Knott's Cedar Fair sister park, California's Great America, which could use a big new coaster? (*Update, in response to comments: Okay, maybe not to CGA. Perhaps another Cedar Fair park?) That would clear space for Knott's to rebuild a themed entrance worthy of a top-quality park. Maybe Knott's could even bring its lake back.

What do you think? What does Knott's need to do to get your business, as a theme park fan? How would you fix Knott's Berry Farm?

Readers' Opinions

From James Rao on August 6, 2013 at 11:17 AM
Great article, Robert, and timely, as I have just finalized my plans for my fall SoCal trip, and Knotts made the cut.

As far as I am concerned, this Cedar Fair park is finally on the right track. They just need to keep moving forward with the current trend of restoring Knotts to its former glory. All the things you mentioned make a lot of sense, but first and foremost, the Calico Mine Ride needs the next Garner Holt refurb. Big time. And future attractions need to be Disney-on-a-budget and geared to the quirky nature of the park and to the family market.

So, during my trip this fall I will visit, DLR, SFMM, and KBF. I chose DLR because it rules by far. I chose MM because I want to re-visit the Coaster Capital of the World (sorry, Cedar Point). And I chose KBF specifically because of the recent reboot of the Timber Mountain Log Ride. I felt it was a must ride during my visit. Universal Hollywood became the odd man out as there just is not enough to do in that park to justify the huge price tag.

So, keep up the good work, Knotts, bring back the old time magic, restore Calico Mine Ride, and for goodness sake, please start playing theme specific music instead of out-of-place pop hits inside the park!

From Anon Mouse on August 6, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Knott's is 20 minutes away from house and I see it when I drive on the 91 freeway. Knott's Camp Snoopy is a plus. I took my daughter there a lot when she was two years old. She has outgrown it. I outgrown the iron rides. I can no longer handle the roller coasters and adult spinners as they are much too intense for me.

What they need to do is add that indoor dark ride. I always wondered why they had to remove it. There was no reason to take it away. It also needs a year round haunt attraction that will make up for the Haunted Shack attraction loss from many years ago.

Remove the short roller coasters. They have too many 30 second roller coasters. They take a long time to wait and you just get a short thrill.

Add more shows. Their shows are worth the visit, but there aren't enough. I especially enjoy the ice show, but the old seats and aging facility is due for a makeover. The Extreme show at the park center needs a plot and seats. The children's show needs more staging and larger cast.

Food still needs improvement. While the fried chicken is terrific at the entrance, everything else about it is terrible. The sides are too small. The salad is tiny and just iceberg lettuce. The corn is a waste and goes uneaten. Looks like corn from a can. The mashed potatoes are tasteless and the gravy must be from a jar. Thankfully, the biscuits are good.

The mall at the entrance needs an update. The stores need a major makeover. The merchandise displays seem to sell last year's clearance items and stuff from my grandma's attic.

Lastly, update the restrooms. They smell and the tiles are coming off. Water is constantly on the floors. Caulk has peeled off and are black with mold. Gross.

From Nick McKaig on August 6, 2013 at 12:04 PM
In order to compete, I believe that Knott's need to bring something relevant as well as new to the park. It's all well and great to invest in improving current attractions - it's always aggravating when I go to a park and top rides are in disrepair - but what really gets people excited is a relatable attraction from the modern world. The Harry potter section of Islands of Adventure is spectacular is almost every way, but far more important was that I grew up with the characters and cared about their story.

I don't believe that removing the Silver Bullet would be dollars worth spending. It would be far more valuable to invest in rebranding to bring characters and stories to the park that people younger than 50 can relate to.

From Brandon Mendoza on August 6, 2013 at 12:13 PM
I gotta agree with Anon Mouse. The park needs less of the quick 30 second coasters, and more rides that take a minute or two to go through as well as dark rides. If they can continue to use the level of animatronics that they've added to the log ride and apply it to new rides and shows, I think Knott's could have something going for them.

The food definitely needs to be upgraded to the level of Disney or better.

And I think the park needs to find its identity. I just hope they don't become anything like Universal Studios Hollywood where everything is done on a budget and has bad jokes everywhere.

From 208.200.11.205 on August 6, 2013 at 1:01 PM
Much as I hate to say it, its the way of the business world. What you saw at Knotts in previous years is sadly being reincarnated, it appears, in at least one of the Sea World parks. Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been cutting back on operations over the last couple years including closing rides unannounced in mid-season, and terminating popular show and replacing them with less than optimal preformances. Even the quality of the goods in the shops, once high quality shopping, is slowing fading away becoming more and more 6 Flags-ish in nature. another forinstance can be seen in the quality and degree of elaboration of the the scenes and character make-up for the annual halloween event which has been dropping over the last years. Rumour has it that the budget for this years event has been dropped even more. Lucky, the food quality has remained to a high standard.

I, for one, am very willing to pay more to have a quality experience for myself and my family at any theme park. And, frankly, its very saddening for those of us who are long term fans of BGW to see it slowly start the fall from the standard that it has held for years. Lets how the new owners can realize what they have had.

From Russell Meyer on August 6, 2013 at 1:28 PM
Those 30-second costers that you speak of are some of the most unique in the country. Xcellerator was the protype that changed the coaster landscape. Siera Sidewinder is one of the most interesting coasters I've ever ridden, and Pony Express is a must because of the unique riding position (the only one I've ever riden, and I've been to just about every major park in the US).

Those 3 attractions are the least of Knott's problems. I'd also throw in that Silver Bullet probably is less of a problem than Robert makes it out to be. It's still a top-rate invert, but perhaps should have been given the "Talon" treatment that makes the Dorney Park invert "scream" by in near silence. It could also be improved by embracing its western theme by adding props, tunnels, or other elements to the course. Montu and Alpengeist are two of the best inverts in the world because they incorporate their themes into the ride. The costs to do this are minimal, but the payoff can be immense. If you want to get rid of some coasters, you could kill Montozuma's Revenge and Jaguar, but those two take up such little real estate, I'm not sure what difference it would make other than create longer waits for other rides/attractions.

We were at Knotts for a day in February, and the thing that always struck me about the park was its lack of destinctly themed areas with clean transitions. They have different names for some of the areas, but they're all essentially the same. You can walk from Calico Square into Ghost Town and never know it. Over half the park has the western theme at and south of the entrance, there's a 50's and Mexican themed sections in the back, and the kids area near the front. The western sections are very much like Dollywood, which embraces those theme through nearly that entire park. At Knotts, those western sections take up about 2/3 of the park with the kids area, Mexican, and 50's themed area encompassing the other third. I say, either embrace the western theme throughout or shrink it down to add additional themed areas.

As far as the food goes, we've only eaten at Mrs. Knotts, mostly because the in park food is just so overpriced. The adjacent mall also has a Pinks (also found at other Cedar Fair parks), which I found odd since they were charging theme park markups on food that you could get from the original restaurant around 30 minutes away (a must-eat-at establishment for anyone traveling to the LA Area BTW).

I think it's hard in this day and age to establish a brand in the theme park industry. Cedar Fair has found its niche by offering thrills for teens and coaster junkies, and asking them to try to compete with the best in the industry is a tall order. With USH's Evolution Plan getting off the ground, I think Knotts would be wise to stay in their niche, a happy medium between Disney and Six Flags. They can certainly spend a little more time and attention to theme and detail in their attractions, but to ask them to go all the way up to Disney or Universal standards could be a huge wasted investment. They'll get a lot of kudos from this website and other industry professionals, but I doubt making multi-million dollar investments in story-based attractions is going to bring an equivalent return. Ghostrider could use a retracking, but the Texas Giant incident along with California building codes may prevent them from make modifications to a coaster that already contains more than double the amount of wood than similar coasters in other locations. Creating a more unified theme for the kids area would be helpful, and perhaps just nixing the entire Mexican themed area.

From RoseAnn Felt on August 6, 2013 at 3:21 PM
A couple years ago I had AP to both DLR & KBF, so I was able to really experience the difference on a regular basis. To start KBF needs to literally clean up. One rarely sees trash in DLR, and their bathrooms are rarely not in pristine condition. Everything is so much dirtier and unkept at KBR. It diminishes the experience. They also need to really create an inviting, themed entrance. I think this is critical. When I walk into DL and enter Main Street there's a feeling that comes over me. Call it magic, call it nostalgia, call it what you may but the theming transports you and sets the whole tone for the day. I didn't get that feeling at DCA until the recent change to Buena Vista Boulevard, and I don't get it at KBF and won't get it until they create a themed entrance. I think that is more important than adding other attractions because it sets up your whole experience.
From Anon Mouse on August 6, 2013 at 3:51 PM
Russell: You'll be luck to get to Pink's in Hollywood in 30 minutes from Knott's. It is more like 45 minutes to an hour. And NO, I haven't been to the Hollywood location. Why visit a hot dog stand just to see it? I thought the prices are reasonable for a food experience. They hung up some celebrities photos with autographs. This is enough of the tourist experience that anyone should strive for.

I consider the 30 second roller coasters to not include the Sidewinder and the Xcelerator, but they are Pony Express, the Boomerang, and Montezooma's Revenge. These rides are not worth waits longer than 30 minutes. The Pony Express is the worse in that it is just one spin around the track. The other two rides will do it backwards, which somewhat mitigates the short ride.

From Tayler Ann Morden on August 6, 2013 at 3:59 PM
boysenberry scent. I remember going there when i was young and i can still smell the boysenberry. Mmmm
From 198.228.216.159 on August 6, 2013 at 4:47 PM
They will get to the Mine Ride soon enough. Garner Holt did an awesome job on Timber Mountain Log Ride. The one thing that would be cool though maybe not likely would be a mondernized Knott's Bear-y Tales. I wish I can say the same for Haunted Shack but unfortanately it is one of the few Knott's can't bring back due to the issues that led to it's closure.
From Zack McDonald on August 6, 2013 at 5:59 PM
You didn't mention the new Boardwalk section they added this year. It looks great. GR is a great wood coaster and is very popular. Sometimes it rides a little rough but nothing like the two SF coasters that got the Iron horse treatment. They have GCI work on it sevreal times each year.

The park is in good hands.

From Tim Chatlos on August 6, 2013 at 6:45 PM
I have long felt that Knott's would have been a perfect match for the sensibilities of Herschend Family Entertainment. Dollywood and especially Silver Dollar City seem to have a similar spirit and history. I can't help but think that Herschend would have been able to maintain the atmosphere and vibe of the park while adding new attractions and thrill rides. Cedar Fair, during the first ten years at least, didn't seem to be too concerned with that balance. That is how things like Silver Bullet happened. It is a perfectly fine ride, no arguments there, but I would love to see it moved out to another park. I realize that is extremely unlikely but it would do wonders to the overall atmosphere of Knott's.
From Stevo B on August 6, 2013 at 7:56 PM
Knott's found its niche with the thrill park crowd, they just need to manage it better. I'm always amazed when they cram another ride into the park. If they weren't so land locked they could really embrace the thrill rides and move/add them to an area away from the older areas of the park, bringing back some of the charm to those areas. I always thought they could push the back stage area behind Big Foot Rapids farther down into the land along Western Avenue and give themselves a nice chunk of property to play with.

The park needs more diversity so adding new shows, possibly expanding Camp Snoopy and adding a few more family friendly dark rides would be a great step. I'm happy for the attention they have paid to the park and am confident they will continue the momentum.

Hopefully they'll take that big fat refund check they get for Windseeker and put it to good use.

From 108.207.76.76 on August 6, 2013 at 8:55 PM
I grew up not too far from Knott's and I have fond memories of how it was, and how it upgraded. During the 1970s, the park underwent a huge expansion with Roaring 20s, yet there was still Jungle Island and the lake across the street that were free. I loved that Knott's still put in thrill rides, but still kept the lake at the entrance. And I also remember the antique cars and street cars near the Knott's entrance.

There were a lot more rides in both Roaring 20s and Fiesta Village back then. The areas "felt" themed and there were enough rides to for both adults and children. I've always been bummed that my daughter couldn't drive the antique cars or ride the Soap Box Derby Racers or smell the boysenberries inside of Knott's Berry Tales.

By the 1980s, the park, I believe, began to lose some of its appeal, way before Cedar Fair came in. As much as I like Camp Snoopy's charm, I still dread that the both lakes by the parking lot and inside the park were eventually paved over. Jungle Island was turned into a picnic area. And when the great Knott's Berry Tales was replaced with the Kingdom of the Dinosaurs, I knew the park would never be the same.

That being said, I like that the park is finally bringing some new technology and old charm back to Knott's. The park is now more clean and the employees have been nicer.

With that said, this is what I'd love to see happen to Knott's.

-Upgrade Calico Mine Ride with new animatronics and effects

-Bring back Knott's Berry Tales or something like it. The ride cleverly used Disney-like fun with an actual look back at Knott's history

-Replace Big Foot Rapids with a newer water ride with superior effects and thrills

-Build another indoor attraction...perhaps Knott's version of a haunted house year 'round?

-Take out Pony Express. This is a long wait for a very short and uncomfortable roller coaster ride

-If Silver Bullet was moved, my daughter and I would be very sad because love it...but, if that was done, install a coaster that is better!

-Theme "Boardwalk" with something more charming.

-Improve the over priced Chicken Dinner Restaurant with much better food, please. I've gone a couple times and the food was awful. The food used to be reasonably priced and it tasted good with good service. The restaurant is the reason why Knott's is here today.

From 107.219.189.242 on August 6, 2013 at 9:24 PM
My family visited Knott's Berry Farm maybe every other year until this past December, when we bought annual passes. It's true that Knott's cannot match Disneyland's level of theming for attractions, but it's a fun place to spend the day with the family nonetheless.

Besides the newly refurbished Log Ride, we enjoy the Peanuts ice skating show during the summer and holidays, the new family rides in the Boardwalk section (especially the unusual Surfside Gliders ride), the new Boomtown acrobatic show, the authentic stagecoach ride, family coasters like Jaguar, and little things in Ghost Town like the one-room schoolhouse and live restoration of the old California Mission models.

I don't agree about Mystic Lodge. While it's interesting to see the show and the theming is excellent, we don't feel that it's a top attraction in itself. I agree that it could be marketed a little better, though.

Things I would like to see changed/improved:

1) More special events like this year's spring Berry Bloom, which was fun for kids and adults alike.

2) Improve the theming in areas like Boardwalk and Fiesta Village. I remember the old Roaring '20s area to have been really well themed, with the rides supporting the 1920s theme. Most of the Boardwalk today feels like a county fair midway, with big open areas of concrete, carnival games, and unthemed thrill rides.

3) Bring in a new dark ride where Knott's Beary Tales and Kingdom of the Dinosaurs were located. Spend enough money to make it look well-done, not done-on-the-cheap.

4) While I would have preferred coasters like Silver Bullet and Pony Express had not been built in their present locations, I understand that they attract young people who like thrill rides, and don't think they need to be removed (but no more tearing up the charm and history of the park to add thrill rides). At the same time, the rides should be appropriately themed. For example, Sierra Sidewinder should have fake mountains or some sort of mountain backdrop to fit into the high Sierra theming of Camp Snoopy.

From 76.173.47.125 on August 6, 2013 at 9:53 PM
CGA already has an inverted coaster, Flight Deck, so they wouldn't need Silver Bullet. Also, they just opened Gold Striker, a new coaster, this year.
From 76.225.148.126 on August 6, 2013 at 10:23 PM
Could not agree more Robert. My first job was at Knotts Berry Farm as a 16 year old who lived in the next city over. I hadn't been back much until this year (almost 10 years later) when my girlfriend bought me a pass. The park has taken on a Cedar Point mentality with cement and coasters reigning supreme. The redo to the log ride was so refreshing. After I worked at Knotts I worked for Disney for many years in both California and Florida but when I started at Disney Matt Ouimett was the president of the park. I remember standing at the greeter position of the Main Street Opera House and watching him get down on his knees to pick up a soda cup under a bench in Town Square. If there is anyone for the job it is Matt Ouimett. What a lot of people don't realize is that Knott's is the most visited and biggest money maker for Cedar Fair. Cedar Point is a seasonal park and rakes in a fraction of what Knott's does. Unfortunately the company does what it did best at its midwest counterpart... build roller coasters. The midwest and northeast audience doesn't have Disneyland and Universal in their backyard. Knott's does. Themed entertainment is the key to it's resurrection. Knott's is a key example of a park guided by the "operations" department. Mid-level management makes big decisions. One that I personally remember was during Silver Bullet's construction. The park had to choose the color scheme for the attraction when ordering it from B&M. They had not yet decided on the name for the attraction and chose the "ketchup and mustard" color scheme you see today. You will not find anything "silver" colored on that ride. It was evident that the decisions were made by a clueless management team, not a creative team like you would see at Universal or Disney where these decisions would have been made before a coaster manufacturer was even approached. I really hope this park can be saved and I think there have been some good signs from the food to the in-park entertainment I've seen recently. But EMBARRASSING blemishes on the park like "Pony Express", "Sierra Sidewinder", and "Windseeker" are too expensive to fix easily.
From AJ Hummel on August 6, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Knott's is my local park and I visit approximately once a month. Fortunately, Cedar Fair is finally doing the right thing, and the 2013 additions (Timber Mountain Log Ride upgrade and new Boardwalk area) are the best added since the mid-90s. I would say the following should be done (in order or priority):

1. Reduce food prices to a reasonable level. There is no reason it should cost $16 for a burger, fries, and a drink. Although the food quality has significantly improved in the past couple years, I still leave the park to eat because of the insane prices.

2. Refurbish the Calico Mine Ride. It is good as it is now, but it could be great if given the same level of treatment the Timber Mountain Log Ride received.

3. Add a new dark ride. Even a Sally shooting dark ride would be an excellent addition to the park, and if they want to keep promoting themselves as a theme park Knott's needs more than one dark ride.

4. Clean up the ride selection. The park doesn't need five family coasters...Pony Express should go, and Jaguar should as well unless the height requirement can be reduced to the original 42 inches. Boomerang is not a very good coaster and should be replaced with another small footprint thrill coaster. GhostRider could use a topper track treatment (not the full I-Box job done on Texas Giant, as GhostRider is good but rough). Silver Bullet can stay (and Robert's suggestion would be terrible as CGA already has a B&M Invert: Flight Deck), but it needs to be themed well to blend in to the wild west theme of Calico Square. The remaining coasters are fine as they are. For non-coaster rides, the park needs to get Windseeker working properly or give it the ax. The other non-coaster rides are mostly good, but a few new and modern attractions would be great.

5. Overhaul Camp Snoopy. Replace some of the older rides with interactive or unique attractions. Take out Timberline Twister and put a new kiddie coaster in. A Vekoma Junior Coaster and a Splash Battle, along with one or two new kiddie spinners, would make this the best kids area in the chain.

Finally, Cedar Fair needs to be sure not to compete directly with Disneyland or Six Flags Magic Mountain. To be successful, Knott's needs to be a cheaper alternative to Disneyland with attractions that will entertain every member of the family. It needs high intensity thrill rides just as much as family-friendly dark rides, but it can't neglect one side and cater only to the other. As long as the park doesn't focus exclusively on thrill rides or exclusively on family rides, it will be successful.

From 108.254.214.130 on August 7, 2013 at 1:11 AM
The food prices may be high, but the season passes are dirt cheap, so I'm willing to give them a break. As for a new dark ride, maybe they should copy Disney's never built Western River Expedition. That would be awesome!
From Brad Jashinsky on August 7, 2013 at 8:37 AM
For the first time in 15 years I purchased a season pass to Knott’s this year due to the Timber Mountain refurbishment and the general overhaul of the park’s theming. The park still has a lot of room for improvement, but Knott’s is finally back to having a sense of place in the majority of the areas that make the park an enjoyable place to spend the day. Here are a few ideas for improvement:

1. Hire better employees by boosting wages and improving employee-training procedures. I don’t expect Disneyland quality cast members, but knowledgeable and cheerful staff is essential for a family park. The walk-around performers and restaurant staff have always been helpful and welcoming, but in my experience the majority of the ride attendants are slow, inexperienced, and on their smart phones.

2. As Robert and many other commenters mentioned, add a dark ride back into the Kingdom of the Dinosaurs building and make it interactive. The entire 1920s area could use a refurbishment and/or a new theme. If they expanded the western theme to that area the dark ride could be themed to a stagecoach adventure across the country.

3. Bring down the prices of food from the counter food stands. No matter the quality, no one wants to walk-up to a window and pay $16 for a burger and fries. On the other hand, I think the table service restaurants are a decent value for the high quality food they serve. Food from a table service restaurant at Disneyland is 2x-3x as much.

4. Remove Boomerang, Riptide, and Wipe Out to make room for a dark ride that is themed to Snoopy and the Peanuts going to the beach in the 1950s. It could be rethemed during the holidays to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

5. Let’s pretend Knott’s finds 200 million dollars of gold treasure buried on their property. With this 200 million dollars, they should remove Pony Express and turn Bigfoot Rapids into a Western River Expedition dark ride the extends into the backstage area.

From Eric G on August 7, 2013 at 10:31 AM
Russell Meyer - The supports on Silver Bullet are filled with sand just like Talon at Dorney Park. Both are equally as quiet.

Pinks may be a Los Angeles landmark, but the food is disgusting. Anyone who knows anything about Hot Dogs will go to Portillo's over Pinks any day.

Robert I couldn't disagree with you more regarding your comments about Silver Bullet destroying the park's main entrance. Silver Bullet is an outstanding ride and did nothing but enhance the entrance area. It's 2013, not 1976. Knott's needed to move forward with some bigger attractions.

While some of the early Cedar Fair additions and changes were poor choices the recent ones like Pony Express, Xcelerator and Silver Bullet were great additions to the park and each have themes to match the surrounding area.

From Robert Niles on August 7, 2013 at 11:12 AM
I think it's important to note that Knott's/Cedar Fair doesn't have access to the hundreds of millions of dollars that Disney does. So it needs to follow a more modest path forward. From everyone I've spoken with at Knott's, it seems clear to me that the Mine Train is the next step in that path.

But what then? I think there's a more lucrative future for Cedar Fair in having Knott's go after Disney's market than going after Magic Mountain's. Just look at the difference in attendance and income for those parks. Getting a share of Disney's market as a lower-priced alternative represents a lot more potential income than becoming the Orange County version of Six Flags.

That's why I think Knott's should look toward an additional dark ride, and a Camp Snoopy refurb as next steps. And bringing down food prices to Disney's levels, too. It's hard to beat Disney as a value proposition when you're charging more than Disney for a cheeseburger.

From Eric G on August 7, 2013 at 12:44 PM
Knott's can lower their food prices when they raise their gate prices to Disney levels and eliminate all the discounting.

Your value proposition argument is lost when you take into account the considerable difference in price at the gate.

From Anon Mouse on August 7, 2013 at 1:59 PM
Knott's needs to take a page from Disney in learning how to better monetize its best assets. The food is one thing they fail to capitalize on by not having better variety and lower affordable prices. The drinks are priced much too high. It forces me to use the drinking fountains. There is not enough street vendors and the cash registers are awfully slow. They need more single item quick stops. The slow lines prevent me from buying a snack or a fried chicken meal.

The merchandising is poor considering it has many quaint areas that increase desire to spend money. The bad merchandising mix and the terrible store displays inhibit spending.

You would think the Halloween and Christmas time festivities would increase spending. It isn't so good. I hesitate on wasting my money on buying the stuff they're selling. They should do simple things like selling holiday foods and ornaments. Their holiday food and jam packages are priced over $20 and I wonder why should I buy that.

From 108.43.172.60 on August 7, 2013 at 8:29 PM
Robert makes a good point about Cedar Fair's financial resources. But I brought up the attractions and themed areas to illustrate that Knott's, once family owned, still built Roaring 20s in the 1970s. This was an example of using limited resources to create a great themed area with a mixture of family and thrill rides. It was a huge expansion and really brought the park into the modern theme park age.

If memory serves, they added the Corkscrew, the parachute drop, the observation ride, the motorcycle ride (which I think turned into the Soap Box Derby), Knott's Berry Tales, and at least two carnival rides. The theming was wonderful, unlike the Boardwalk. Why couldn't Cedar Fair, with a little ingenuity, do a blockbuster expansion/re-imagining of some parts of Knott's?

The new additions to the Boardwalk area do nothing for me as a visitor. That being said, I do like that Cedar Fair and Matt O. have really stepped up to fix the park.

I realize that the company may not have nearly the finances as Disney (I wouldn't expect them to). Yet they have still invested millions into roller coasters at Cedar Point and I'm sure for their other properties. They even managed to buy other parks, if I recall.

This is a huge wish list, but I hope that Cedar Fair brings back Knott's to not only its former glory, but into something for the future.

From 71.119.199.49 on August 7, 2013 at 9:30 PM
I am a new season pass holder to Knott's which is about 45 mins from my house. I have been going to Knott's since I was little in the early 80's. Knott's has improved dramatically in the past couple years after really loosing its way. The food is better, the park is looking cleaner and is getting some much needed upkeep. They are replacing wood on the ghost town buildings and on Ghostrider and repaving the walkways. I really wish we could find a way to add more ride or show based themed attractions to Ghost Town. The Log ride upgrade is a definite success and they need to do the same for the mine ride asap. The boardwalk area in the back also looks wonderful and my kids go on those 3 rides over and over when we visit. I agree the food prices need to come down a bit but the food quality and selection is getting better all the time. They really need to clean up the bathrooms, they are smelly and dirty and run down most of the time. Some things I would like to see in the future: Re-theme Bigfoot rapids and refurb it, get rid of the rust / water stains. Maybe add a Peanuts theme to it, like Race for your life Charlie Brown. Add some figures and audio. Bring the parachutes back. I remember seeing those from the freeway as a kid and getting so excited, they were a great family ride. Put a dark ride in the old KOTD / Berry Tales building. Either peanuts related or a re-imagined Berry Tales. The whole Roaring 20's / boardwalk area has a split personality, decide on one. I think the boardwalk should just expand to the railroad tracks by the bumper cars, theme it all to the Boardwalk. The new fountain area looks nicewith all of the flowers and is a step in the right direction though. Revamp Camp Snoopy with updated rides. Some newer rides just need paint jobs and light bulb replacement. Fix the arcades. they currently have old broken down outdated games, i know some people want nothing to do with arcades at a theme park but when you have small, video game loving kids looking to escape the heat in the summer, it is disappointment to see the junky games with broken down change machines. Fiesta village needs some help too, the buildings and rides are really aging, either fix it or gut it and start over. Paint them, fix the cracks etc. I really dislike how Indian Trails keeps shrinking and is now basically down to a small stage and a couple of teepees jammed in behind some buildings next to some Silver Bullet supports. Move Indian trails including the performance stage back by Mystery Lodge and expand it and lets give more respect to Native American heritage and their cultural significance in the old west. Is this list too long?
From 107.219.189.242 on August 7, 2013 at 10:24 PM
I forgot one other thing: the replica of Independence Hall, which is on the other side of Beach Boulevard and is a free attraction, has seen much better days. I remember taking a school field trip there in the 1970s (not to Ghost Town or any part of the paid park, but JUST Independence Hall). Back then, Knott's really paid attention to the building and show about the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

When we went there earlier this year, I remember one or two employees in the gift shop, and we were the only ones sitting for the show. The show is badly dated, and could use some reimagining for the 21st century. It doesn't need any expensive animatronics to be interesting-- maybe with a short documentary playing inside the current theater, while keeping the sets. Or with the amount of space inside the building, a small museum-style exhibition could be created, maybe through a partnership with a local Orange County organization.

I don't know if the Knott family stipulated in the contract that Independence Hall remain free of charge, but it's a shame the way the attraction was been run down. I think the building can be a tremendous asset if the park values it and treats it as such.

From rick stevens on August 8, 2013 at 12:29 AM
I have been going to Knott’s since the early 60’s. It started out as a transplanted Ghost Town and slowly added rides. There was a Diorama walk that showcased the Missions of CA. Admission was free, but you had to pay for each ride. I miss Mott’s Miniatures, the Boxing Museum, and I agree that Virginia’s Gift Shop is a shadow of what it used to be. The Mine ride was a favorite and is in great need of refurbishment. I agree that they have too many rides crammed into a small space, but no one has mentioned the abysmal water park across the street. That is prime real estate that should be re-themed. One thing they still do great is Knott’s Scary Farm. This said, if they could transfer some of the enthusiasm from the shows to the everyday workings of the park I think they might do better. One of the distinct things I have seen is that most of the shows deal with voice over’s and lighting and no real animatronics or live action shows. Disney was a once a year luxury, Knott’s was an affordable alternative that you could go to more often. As stated in earlier submissions, they need to go back to some actual themes and get away from the “compete with 6 Flags” attitude.
From 76.174.34.87 on August 8, 2013 at 8:44 AM
-Finish re painting Xcelerator

-Give the Topper Track treatment to GhostRider.

-Remove Pony Express

-Remove WindSeeker

-Remove Boomerang

-Remove CoastRider

-Remove Screamin Swing

-Add themeing to Silver Bullets queue

-Add a Dark Ride To the old Kingdom of The Dinosaurs Building.

-Add a dark ride (or two) in the space vacated by CoastRider and Boomerang.

- Add Trees and landscaping in the space vacated by Pony Express and Screamin Scream.

-Update Mystery Lodge

-Update Mine Ride.

-Add more trees to the park

-Lower food prices. Seriously, they are insane, even for a theme park. I can't remember the last time I ate at this park.

-Add Themeing to Big Foot Rapids.


From 71.42.118.10 on August 11, 2013 at 9:47 AM
What I didn't like about KBF is the resort hotel. The room was quite small, as was the bathroom. Checkout was supposed to be avail on the television but it didn't work when I tried it. Also, the #1 thing on my list is that they charge hotel guests for parking...why????? I'm already paying a LOT to stay there, why is it necessary to charge me for parking too, especially when I didn't know about it til I went to check out & found that I owed $10..for parking! They could AT LEAST notify us travelers in writing on the website before making the reservation that we'll be charged for parking...utterly rediculous & completely NOT customer oriented place. A parking pass slip on the dashboard is sufficient to let security staff know who's a paying hotel guest & who isn't...no need to charge additional funds for parking as far as hotel guests are concerned!

As far as the park is concerned. I didn't think it was necessary to have us wait at the main area that you go into the park (past the gates) til opening. We were blockaded by a large chain across the entryway with staff standing behind it to make sure no one entered before the time. Why can't we just go on in & at least walk around til things are opened? I think it's silly to force patrons to just stand there for a LONG time in a group before letting us in. First of all it's HOT outside & we're getting sunburned, not to mention thirsty & tired from standing in one place...not good for people who need to sit down as there's no benches to rest while waiting, at least none that I saw..People trying to get in front of others (cutting) to be first ones in to get to the rides, etc...totally unnecessary. We can just as easily go to our fave rides & stand in the line waiting for the ride to open or browse the stores at least. Doing this will make for happier patrons IMO. We can at least have the railings to lean on while waiting for the ride to open.

I'm sure there was more to my issues w/the park & hotel which I'm sure I mentioned in my trip report but that's about it for now.

From Eric Fisher on August 11, 2013 at 11:44 AM
To 76.174.34.87: Why not just destroy it and start over? Your suggestion borders on that. This was a true theme park purchased by a company that specializes in iron parks. They did what they know. If the Knott family had sold to Disney the park would have been very different today. There might have even been a monorail between the parks. And the Imagineers would have had another toy box to play with.

But let's deal with what is. Cedar Fair may have been late in recognizing the uniqueness of Knott's among their holdings, but they appear to be heading in the direction the Knott family took. Don't forget that the park went through a down period - and Cedar Fair rescued the park from that. Give them credit. Let's see what they have in mind. I agree on at least two more dark rides. But another coaster will draw in crowds - which will justify the dark rides. This will be fun to watch. And experience.

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