Published: November 4, 2011 at 2:33 PMI love Knott's but really think they need to improve their restrooms and changing tables.
Published: November 4, 2011 at 2:57 PMFor starters, take down the inaccurate first theme park sign. Santa's Candy Castle/Santa Claus Town was the first themed attraction. Santa Claus Land/Holiday World was first themed amusement park.
Published: November 4, 2011 at 3:28 PMPutting the restaurant inside the park says nothing about the quality of the food or the park itself. My problem with the restaurant is the horrible sides that come with chicken. The chicken is still good, but the sides are inedible. I think you're too harsh about the chicken inside the park, but I agree that they are not the same. The chicken tastes different.
Knott's needs to improve in several ways.
1. The general infrastructure deteriorated. The restrooms are horrible with black caulk and missing tiles. The concrete and asphault flooring is in terrible condition. The stores are in poor condition.
2. The stores especially at the entrance sells outdated merchandise. They seem to be on display for several decades. If they are not moving, dump them.
3. The rides need refreshing. Although they do a great job with the Haunt Fest, the attractions (log ride, calico mine train) look like a ghost town and haven't been touched for years. They need to reopen the dinosaur ride so there are options for kids.
4. Too much emphasis on thrills. I do think they overdid it with their coasters. There are some gems, but too many turkeys.
5. Camp Snoopy is great. My kid loves it, but there could be more family style rides for everyone to go on.
6. Parking is a mess. They way into the park haven't be changed for years.
7. Why is the water park so far away? Knott's is very poorly integrated. They don't take advantage of their large property by making sure everything fits. Everything appears scattered.
I'm sorry that Knott's or Cedar Fairs don't have $1 Billion to fix it. Despite DCA's poor debut, this will change by next year, thus leaving Knott's with even less options on surviving the competition.
Published: November 4, 2011 at 3:39 PMI enjoyed Knott's as a child. But over the years and ownership changes, the park has suffered and is very run down. Just as Disneyland upgraded the city streets surrounding their park, Buena Park might consider doing the same. If the outside looks great, Knott's may start to make improvements on the inside.
Published: November 4, 2011 at 5:30 PMThe single greatest improvement you could make to Knott's is to get rid of Cedar Fair. Despite allowing some of the admirable freshening of the Ghost Town buildings the corporate folks of Cedar Fair simply do not "get" Knott's Berry Farm. I have no doubt devoted long-time employees are doing everything they can to keep the spirit of the park alive they can only do so much against covering half of a small and quaint park with thrill rides.
The rides in and of themselves aren't the problem, they just shouldn't be at this particular park. Riding in the stagecoach across the barren ground surrounding Silver Bullet is one of the more depressing experiences around, a wonderfully unique and classic attraction all but choked out by a roller coaster. I appreciate what coasters can do. It is indeed easier to advertise a new major thrill ride on a billboard than a quaint and transportive attraction like a stagecoach.
For some reason generations of Southern Californians were able to fall in love with Knott's for decades without the help of large steel thrill rides. Knott's is unique and should define itself on its own terms, not those of Six Flags, Cedar Point, or even Disneyland.
I have long felt that Knott's would have been better served at becoming a Herschend Family Entertainment park than a Cedar Fair park. For those who aren't familiar Herschend operates several exceptional parks including Dollywood and Silver Dollar City (a park that in some ways feels like a spiritual cousin to the classic Knott's). With the possible exception of The Haunt, a decidedly un-family-friendly event, Herschend would have better managed what makes Knott's unique with adding new and exciting attractions. They aren't afraid of building coasters, but they build them sparingly and integrate them smoothly into the existing park. And Herschend parks aren't too shabby in the food department either (those skillets! that cinnamon bread!). Yes, I think Knott's would have done well as part of the Herschend family.
I'm hopeful that Knott's can change for the better, but I don't if we will see that anytime soon. I suppose that's just the way of things nowadays.
Published: November 4, 2011 at 6:20 PMThanks, Tim. I agree that Knott's as it was feels much more like a Herschend park than a west coast Cedar Point.
I think we all should keep in mind that Cedar Fair doesn't have the capital that Disney or even Universal does, so whatever it does with the park, it won't be a $1 billion-plus DCA-style makeover. Or a $100 million new mega-attraction. The feasible changes to this park will be ones that cost orders of magnitude less.
FWIW, I think attraction removal ought to be on the table, too. Taking Tim's comment one step further, I wonder if Knott's wouldn't be better if it shipped Silver Bullet and Sierra Sidewinder off to another Cedar Fair park and built a well-themed promenade from the park entrance to Calico Square, with a restored lake under the Silver Bullet footprint.
Published: November 4, 2011 at 7:16 PMI loved knott's growing up, but over the years it lost it's charm it once had. The park seems it's not upkept as it should be. There's no classic attractions it once had like KOD or Soap Box Racers. Lucily they haven't gotten rid of Log Ride or Mine Train.
Published: November 4, 2011 at 7:32 PMWhile I have never been to Knott's I find your commentary on the chicken interesting, Robert. Having been raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (Bread basket of the Confederacy) fried chicken is nearly an art form in these parts. The funny thing is, its not an expensive or extremely labor intensive entree to make. Honestly if the chicken is already broken down, the process of dredging and frying it takes maybe 20 minutes at most. And the fact of the matter is fried chicken keeps well in a warming/proofing cabinet. The major problem a lot of places have is they use directed heat to keep the chicken warm (heat lamps) rather than ambient heat. Cost wise, the difference between awesome fried chicken and crap fried chicken is the difference between frozen and fresh poultry.
I find it odd that fried chicken could be promoted as a specialty and then messed up so badly. But, as I said, here it's an art form and many people would base their good name on their recipe. It sounds like Knott's has done just that and failed miserably.
Published: November 4, 2011 at 7:37 PMI think it was the frying oil, honestly. The Ghost Town Grill just had an odd odor to it that day, while the original Mrs. Knott's restaurant smelled like good 'ol Knott's fried chicken. (I'm assuming that they fry the chicken on-site at the Ghost Town Grill. If that's not the case, then I need another theory.)
Published: November 4, 2011 at 9:09 PMWe went to Knotts in '07 and haven't returned. The best thing about the park was that it was a chance to escape the Disneyland crowds and their boysenberry turnovers (OMG). Between the 14 and 15 year olds close to having sex while standing in line and all the foul language, I was pretty disgusted with the behaviors I saw. We enjoyed the park itself, for the most part, but the behaviors from this tweens that I saw is what I expected to see at Magic Mountain. Magic Mountain WAS Disneyland compared to Knotts: clean, lots of security, friendly visitors and staff.
Some of the attractions themselves reminded me of the hometown fair that we have here in Washington. Silver Bullet I think was new(er) at that time and was nice and smooth. I can't ever see myself going back there... unless it was to pick up a few of those boysenberry turnovers. Not sure what they can do to improve it.
Published: November 4, 2011 at 9:17 PMMy name is Enzo Buscemi and I live in Amsterdam, Holland. I’ve never been to Knott’s and after reading your little review probably will never go.
Published: November 4, 2011 at 10:16 PMI have been going to Knott's several times a year for longer than I remember. Although I do not think the park is horrible, it has definitely declined in quality since Cedar Fair took over. The park has transitioned from a theme park to a thrill park, and as a result it has become my least favorite major park.
The only way the park can improve is by returning to a theme park. Cedar Fair needs to stop building major thrill rides, and invest that money into theming instead. Sell off two or three of the park's coasters (Pony Express, Boomerang, and/or Silver Bullet), and use that money to help restore the old atmosphere of the park. Relocate Windseeker to its original location, replacing the Sky Cabin, and fix up Fiesta Village. Do an extensive overhaul of GhostRider so it runs smoother and does not require a near stop on the midcourse brakes. Upgrade the Timber Mountain Log Ride and Calico Mine Ride, but do so without destroying their classic feel. And last, but certainly not least, up the food quality about 500%. I will not eat anywhere inside the park except Johnny Rockets, as Knott's food is both very expensive and very low quality. The places outside the park are better, but if it is crowded I would rather walk down the street to McDonald's. By the way, the Chicken Dinner restaurant can remain where it is, as its location certainly doesn't hinder business and it has always been there, but I do think it could use an upgrade (perhaps close it for a few months during the offseason).
Once all of the above is complete, and not before, it is time to start thinking about new rides. The park is fine on the coaster department (especially if GhostRider was refurbished), but there is one exception...Boomerang needs a replacement. That ride is very rough and painful, and doesn't belong in a major park. As the ride has a small footprint, perhaps Knott's could look into something like a Gerstlaurer Bobsled coaster (high-intensity wild mouse) or a Eurofighter (Mystery Mine) that would thrill teens while being tame enough to be enjoyed by families and could be easily themed. The park also needs a replacement for Kingdom of the Dinosaurs. I don't really care what it would be themed to, but it needs to be a dark ride. Additionally, Perilous Plunge may need to be replaced or upgraded, as the ride suffers quite a bit of downtime. Finally, trade in Screamin' Swing for a full-size model that doesn't have an upcharge. It wouldn't hurt to rewrite the stunt show or revamp the Mystery Lodge either.
I know this couldn't be done immediately, but over a period of several years, I doubt it would be too expensive for Cedar Fair. Knott's is a nice park with great potential, but it needs to be utilized correctly. Unfortunately, I do not think this will happen. Now is when Cedar Fair needs to decide what they are going to do to Knott's: Try to maintain it as a theme park, turn it into a total thrill park, or sell it and let someone else try. They can't do it all, and I don't personally care too much which route they choose, but I hate seeing the park in its current state (attempt at both thrill and theme) and hope some changes happen soon.
Published: November 5, 2011 at 1:24 AMKnott's could be a great park, but boy have they made bad decisions over the years in a continuously downward spiral. As others have said, they need to concentrate on theme, and cede the thrills to Magic Mountain. They need to stop competing with MM because they will never win that battle. They need to offer a themed experience that one cannot get at Disneyland. Therefore they need to strengthen the feeling of being in a Ghost Town (which is actually better themed than Frontierland at DL), a Spanish village, a Snoopy town, a Roarin' 20's boardwalk, a Native American village, etc. Just the past week Knott's started pumping background music into the park but... it was 1980's pop hits. You walk through Ghost Town and hear Kool and the Gang!?!? WTF? They just don't get it, and they need to get religion on theme:
1) Sell off some of the themeless coasters and thrills like Boomerang and Perilous Plunge. They're very brief thrills that are too much like rides one can go on at the local county faire. Knott's needs to offer a better and different experience compared to the OC faire.
2) Get some dark rides! Bring back Kingdom of the Dinosaurs or Beary Tales. Those were both great and the show building for either of them is still unused. Also build a dark ride for Snoopy and the Peanuts gang. That's a great intellectual property that is under-utilized. Children, parents and grandparents all love Snoopy and Charlie Brown (who are also internationally renowned icons) Imagine a dark ride for them and seasonal overlays for Halloween and Christmas. That would mean repeat visits by families year after year... money in the bank for Knott's. And improve the dark ride experience at Calico Mine with an improved sound system. I can't understand anything the train operator is saying so the story of the mine is completely lost on the guests.
3) Upgrade Camp Snoopy. A lot of the rides are no better than what you find at a County Faire. The Timberline Twister coaster is awful, painful and boring. They tore down the Peanuts Playhouse and replaced it with nothing! Get some more interactive Peanuts activities like a Charlie Brown baseball field where kids can throw baseballs at targets or something. Get creative and use that Peanuts IP for more than a few cheaply themed spinners.
4) Upgrade the food, which has been undercooked when I've ventured to try it. Chicken that is raw on the inside, and corn on the cob that is still hard as stones. Make fresh jam pies! That's a no-brainer. Get rid of the Panda Express, which is god-awful Chinese food. There are plenty of Chinese immigrants who would could open and operate a great restaurant in the park, and be in theme.
5) If Knott's wants to survive, they need to concentrate on theme to the nth degree. If they keep concentraing on thrills in a misguided contest with MM, then their days are numbered, and eventually they will disappear. Just look at all the attractions around Knott's that have closed over the past few years including the old Wax Museum and Ripley's. The area is dying because Knott's as the area's anchor is deteriorating. Give the people a unique experience that they can't get anywhere else.
Knott's could be a great park, but they need to turn it around fast. In the early 80's, Knott's sold as many tickets as Disneyland. While that will never happen again, there is no reason why Knott's could do much better if they concentrated on theme and experience.
Published: November 5, 2011 at 4:36 AMKnotts in its hayday was a fantastic place. Wnoderful food lush landscaping. And tons of thigs to do besides rides. Enter Cedar Fair. Like the biggest compatition Six Flags lets take a regional theme park remove any of what made it great to begin with. And lets not forget fill it with more thrill rides then we can count. Remove all shows, fill it second rate merchandise. Charge for everything under the sun. And think weve done a great job....Alas the bean counters they all need to go on Undercover Boss
Published: November 5, 2011 at 6:27 AMWe as a family enjoyed Knotts when we went a few years ago while on vacation out west (We live in Florida, which of course is the theme park capitol of the world).
We did both Disney parks in Anaheim as well and obviously Knotts can't compare to them.
But that said, the entry price was very inexpensive (especially with a coupon from Carls Jrs I think) and it was more of a 'day experience' that an all day & night or multi-day experience like a Disney Park which was a nice change (reminded me a little of a Cypress Gardens on steroids or the old Boardwalk and Baseball park....which isn't a bad thing).
It fills a niche.
I agree about the restaurant food. We ate at the chicken restaurant and none of us really enjoyed the food (especially for the price). Would not consider ever going back because of the food.
Our teenage son did all the thrill rides as he's a coaster nut (and enjoyed most of them), while we as a family did the 'tamer rides' and attractions which we also enjoyed. The lines/wait times were very bad at some rides though and could be improved (especially the high log flume ride which seemed to take forever, due possibly to the lengthy 'strapping in process') and it wasn't even a crowded day when we went.
This may sound stupid, but the one thing we all found very disappointing and very strange, was that there was no place you could buy, eat or even see a boysenberry anywhere in the whole park (including the restaurant and bakery/gift shop). Yes, you could get jams or pies, etc. made with them, but no actual berries? No one in the restaurant or stores could even tell us what they looked like! For a park (and company) that was founded because of the boysenberry, we found that to be incredible.
Perhaps the problem is they have forgotten their roots and what they started out to be?
PS....we did get some fresh boysenberries at a roadside fruit stand outside Sequoia National Park later on the same trip and they are delicious (and look a lot like a redder 'black berry') for those that don't know.
Wish we could have had some at the park where they were invented!
Published: November 5, 2011 at 6:50 AMIt has been a loooong time since my last visit to Knotts Berry Farm, but reading through these comments, and knowing what I know from my theme park travels, Mr. Chatlos (and a few others) are spot on: Cedar Fair needs to go. The company cannot do good food. They cannot do good narrative theming, and they absolutely cannot and will not change. So until CF leaves and a true THEME park company moves in, Knotts will continue to be somewhere between a good theme park and a good thrill park, making it an all around mediocre experience. And honestly, mediocre is the worse place to be.
Published: November 5, 2011 at 12:23 PMMy grandparents lived across the street from Knott's and I spend many a summer day in the '60's and '70's at the park (anyone remember Jungle Island?). Even up until the mid '80's my cousins and I would venture over to goof around and enjoy some fun and food (the candy parlor had the best black licorice I've ever tasted). It's so sad to see the state of the park today. I agree that Cedar Fair has not celebrate the rich history of Knott's, but rather transitioned it into a low rent amusement park; rides, food and all.
If it were me I take a hard look at the moment they transitioned the Gypsy Camp into the Roaring Twenties - it was an exciting time for Knott's - and understand how that brought an new level of excitement while maintaining the overall warmth and charm of the entire park. That was probably the last time there was even a hint of a master plan for Knott's before they turned the corner and just started plopping down thrill rides.
Published: November 5, 2011 at 2:35 PMI agree, as long as it remains in Cedar Fair's hands it will likely continue to deteriorate into a third rate thrill park lacking any theme, that's their niche. Last time I was there, late last year, I took my niece and nephew to Independence Hall for a history lesson (they're home schooled). I couldn't help but wonder how long it will be before it gets cannibalized by the water park.
Having practically grown up in Buena Park (my mom's family lived there) I spent many a day at Knott's. For years I think I bought my mom's christmas present at Virginia's Gift Shop. Unless the big toes who make such decisions decide to revisit their target market for the park I don't think we'll see any charm going back in, rather more intertwined steel and scream rides taking over. I suspect the ghosts of Walter and Cordelia have long evacuated.
If it were up to me I'd think about reengineering it back to it's heyday right around the time they added the Roaring 20's area. And I'd definitely work on plussing up the food selections - love the idea of moving the chicken dinner restaurant into the park! And yeah, what about that space formerly occupied by Beary Tales/Kingdom of the Dinosaurs?
Sadly I think it's all for not (no pun intended) and one of these days we'll be driving by saying, remember when Knott's used to be there.
Published: November 5, 2011 at 4:17 PMBased on one of the comments above, I'm going to amend my suggestion to include landscaping a boysenberry patch in front of Mrs. Knott's Chicken Farmhouse Restaurant. Great idea. There need to be berries in the berry farm.
I also endorse the idea of revamping Camp Snoopy. That land was trailblazing for its time, but has been surpassed by better themed play areas for children at other parks. Knott's should rebuild Camp Snoopy to make it the best theme park childrens' area once again.
Here's what I would do: Send designers to go visit Legoland California, Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland and the Shane's Inspiration play area in Griffith Park. (All local trips, no need for huge expense there.) Learn from those examples in building a new Camp Snoopy that's based upon the ideas of a themed play area such as TSI, with kid-powered attractions such as at Legoland California in an environment that's accessible, like Shane's Inspiration.
Use only top-quality building materials, again, so that the area feels real to the children playing there, and that it will hold up under heavy use. Use varying textures and visual designs to keep it interesting.
I'd keep the Huff n' Puff someplace, but add other kid-powered attractions along the lines of the Kid Power Towers (or Lumberjack Lifts at Dollywood) and a Sky Cruiser-like pedal ride circling the camp. Also add a Fun Town Fire Academy-like contest where families must play together to finish the task.
There should be no machine-driven rides in the new land - only kid-powered attractions and play areas. Then promote the new Camp Snoopy with the slogan "Kid-Powered Fun!"
Published: November 5, 2011 at 9:12 PMI'll offer another (and I suspect unpopular idea - it's even difficult for me to suggest). Since the charm of the park is hanging by a thread anyway and given the profile of the rides in existence maybe you blow out Camp Snoopy entirely and expand Fiesta Village making way for more thrills. Young families have other options so why not go heavy into the rides that appeal to the target market Cedar Fair seems to be aiming. I honestly don't think CF is interested in Knott's family friendly past anymore and I don't see them selling the park anytime soon. Given a lot of the comments I've read I don't think the true demographic of their visitor base is heavy on pre-teen and younger, and I'm not sure they want it to be. You look at the cost of purchasing third party thrill rides and demand for a particular price point, I'm guessing they think that the young adult market makes the most sense for the park and it fills a niche.
And I'll go another step, while I like the idea of putting the chicken restaurant inside the park maybe you rebuild it in the parking lot of the hotel facing Crescent Avenue in grand 1930's farmhouse style, berry patch and all. I would guess that the restaurant still has a fair amount of customers that don't visit the park. Maybe giving it a higher profile with easier access would preserve some of the Knott's heritage.
For those of us who are holding onto past memories of what Knott's once was, it may be time to let that go. Honestly, I rather see it evolve into something else that to standby and watch it slowly deteriorate.
Published: November 5, 2011 at 10:11 PMIf Six Flags Magic Mountain didn't exist, then as a business decision (not a nostalgic one) I'd support Knott's going to thrills exclusively. But MM blows away Knott's in the thrills department. If I want coasters and thrills, I go to MM, period. Knott's is caught in a tough position to be sure, but I think accentuating theme and history is the key to its future viability and profitability. Theme is where the money is, which is why Disney and Universal's Harry Potter land make huge, huge bucks. Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks barely tread water. Unlike Six Flags and other Cedar Fair parks, Knott's has a good foundation and history to build on to compete on theme and make a tidy profit. But Knott's decision-makers have made one bad decision after another the past few decades. For a park that puts on a world-class haunt every year, it's criminal Knott's doesn't have a year-round Haunted Shack like they used to. Knott's is a perfect example of stealing defeat from the jaws of victory.
Published: November 6, 2011 at 11:56 AMI might be crazy, but I'm sure I read that Disney was interested to buy the park early on after the original owners died, but the family was concerned that Disney would mess up the theming and original concept of the park and sold it so some one else.
Published: November 6, 2011 at 3:18 PMDisney looked into buying the park when it first started thinking about a second gate in Anaheim. (Remember Westcot?) The numbers worked out for Disney, but the Knott family was concerned that all traces of the Knott name and influence would be obliterated under Disney management. (I've also heard that it was simpler - that Cedar Fair offered easier and more favorable terms than a potentially more complex deal with Disney.)
Whatever the reason, the Knotts decided to sell to Cedar Fair instead of Disney. But, yes, Disney definitely was in the mix to buy KBF at one point.
Published: November 6, 2011 at 4:55 PMIf only Knott's would have gone to Disney (or nearly anyone else). Cedar Fair is generally pretty good at what they do, but what they do and what Knott's should be are too very different things. I am cautiously optimistic that new CEO Matt Ouimet will recognize why millions have loved Knott's through the years and make decisions accordingly. Still, he will have to make some significant changes to the very DNA of Cedar Fair to really make a difference. I'm not sure if he'll have the time or resources to do that.
Published: November 6, 2011 at 8:22 PMI would agree when Cedar Fair initially took over Knott’s they were confused about the audience, but not so much in recent years. The recent additions to the park have been family oriented and I believe that Matt Ouimet really gets Knott’s, so the future should be great.
The idea of making the park focus on food is probably one of the worst ideas ever. Disney already proved that doesn’t work with California Adventure. Three full-service restaurants that opened at that park in 2001 are all gone today.
Knott’s already has pretty good theme park food if you ask me. The corn dogs, cheese on a stick and funnel cake near the Log Ride are great. The tacos and taquitos in Fiesta Village are pretty good. I still like the Ghost Town Grill and the BBQ near the schoolhouse, and outside the gates you get Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner restaurant and the bonus of Pink’s Hot Dogs. I can’t complain about Johnny Rockets or Panda Express either. Both may be chain restaurants, but the food is good in both.
Robert your problem with Mrs. Knott’s Chicken is the fact that you didn’t go to the actual restaurant. I don’t care what they call it in the park. The only place to get Mrs. Knott’s Fried Chicken is in the Chicken Dinner Restaurant. I still dine at the restaurant and it’s the same as it’s always been – fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, chicken noodle soup, and boysenberry pie.
Your idea of relocating the restaurant behind the front gate is terrible and would kill the restaurant. Are you aware that they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner daily and brunch on Sunday? Are you aware that the restaurant is open outside of the theme park’s regular operating hours the majority of the year? Most of the customers who visit Knott’s to dine only in the restaurant would be offended by your proposal. Also, what about the historical significance of the restaurant itself?
For those who've recently dined at the restaurant and been disappointed, then you can probably blame our changing taste for restaurant food. When Mrs. Knott’s opened dining out was more of a special occasion rather than a regular occurrence. Comfort foods like fried chicken were more appealing at the time due to the nature of the jobs, but today most of us work at a desk versus in a field and Mrs. Knott’s competes with thousands of other restaurants, many with more complicated and complex menu items. Food has really evolved over the years.
Ultimately, I really don’t get why Knott’s needs to be improved per say. I don’t think there is a problem with the park. Knott’s draws more attendance than Six Flags Magic Mountain and ranks well overall for a regional theme park in comparison to others around the country.
Many of the original attractions I enjoyed as a child still exist today. The Ghost Town is second to none for a theme park. Halloween Haunt is still a very good Halloween event. Camp Snoopy remains an exceptional children’s area and the park now has some pretty good thrill rides like Supreme Scream, Xcelerator and Silver Bullet. I’d love to include the once great GhostRider, but it doesn’t deserve credit due to how it’s run and it needs some major track work as well.
Sure there are attractions I miss like Knott’s Berry Tales, Soap Box Racers, Haunted Shack and the Parachute Jump, but with the exception of the Haunted Shack, Cedar Fair is not responsible for their demise (FYI, Kingdom of the Dinosaurs needed to go and it’s too late to bring that ride back as the space has been gutted to a shell).
Lastly, I’m tired of people blaming teenagers today. The way teenagers act at theme parks today is no different then how they acted in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, etc. Kids really aren’t any different. Making out while in line isn't something this generation invented.
Published: November 6, 2011 at 11:04 PMBut why not have an entrance to the main restaurant from inside the park? Knott's needs to upgrade their game in the food department big-time. And bringing chains in is not the answer. I can eat at Panda Express (though I would never want to) or TGIFs anytime, anyplace. Knott's should keep these types of eateries to a minimum in the park, and accentuate what they are ostensibly famous for: chicken dinners with the traditional trimmings and berry everything for drinks and dessert. Give the guest a special experience and they will come back. This is so simple yet Knott's fails at it in a serious decline.
Knott's used to sell as many tickets as Disneyland did back in the early 80's. But then the principals died, and Knott's kids were either not interested or did not understand theme, and started to rip out the heart of the park. Cedar Fair just continued this downward spiral. Knott's still sells more tickets than Six Flags MM but for how long? The myopia of the Knott's management over the past 30 years has been very frustrating to watch. We all want to see a great Knott's experience that honors its unique past while looking toward the future.... but if their next project is to build yet another coaster then they just don't get it. What a shame...
Published: November 7, 2011 at 8:11 AMI'm an outsider on this topic, but it seems the problems that Knott's faces aren't unlike the ones at several other parks around major cities. Cedar Fair's style hasn't done much to help Knotts. The extra attention to coasters and thrill rides is ok, but they've ignored everything else for too long now. While it's easy to pin the responsibility on Cedar Fair and say they have to go, the fact is that they aren't going anywhere. Better to use this collection of well informed and intelligent fans to offer up ways to improve things. Another thing to keep in mind about Cedar Fair is that Dick Kinzel will no longer be running the company after this year. His replacement is a former Disney executive named Daniel Ouimet. I expect that he'll bring some different perspective to the picture.
In the big picture, I see things shifting a bit in the industry. The roller coaster is and always will be the king of the park. However, the coaster wars that started 20 years ago are dead and gone, and while they brought about some truly magnificent rides and lots of attendance and revenue, many parks have taken their eye off of everything else, either because they didn't have the money, or because they just weren't paying attention. Now we have parks full of gleaming, magnificent steel and wooden monsters that tower over half landscaped grounds, half themed areas, food stands that serve inedible food, shops full of unoriginal and uninteresting product, and other attractions that have been slowly stripped of their personality...all in the name of maintaining and adding to the coaster collection. This model has merited some success, but guests and their tastes are changing, and that's because culture is changing.
Amusement/theme parks today are catering to an entirely different animal than they were 20 years ago. This is the age of impatience, the age of 24/7 technology, the age of entitlement, the age of impersonal communication, and the age of "I need to be entertained, occupied, and/or psychologically stimulated every hour I'm awake". The evidence is in our Iphones. Take a good look next time you are in line or in a public place. When I was a kid (not so long ago), we accepted our place in the long line and struck up conversation with random people around us. Now all people do is pick up their phones and play the latest mind numbing game, send massive amounts of texts with no useful information to their friends, or visit everyone's favorite online crackhouses...Twitter and Facebook. Personal interaction with other people (who are part of the atmosphere of the park) is no longer the distraction of choice.
What does that mean? It means that the park has to work that much harder to keep the average guest's attention and to keep them happy and engaged. If a person is uninterested in their surroundings, they disengage and retreat to their electronic devices. The problem with parks like Knott's is that the ability to engage their guests is limited to the 3 minutes the guest is on the ride. According to the Knott's visitors here, the food isn't great, the look of the park isn't that great, rules aren't enforced well, and the ride collection appeals mostly to teens and young adults...who absolutely epitomize the description in the previous paragraph. That said, Knott's and many others are set up for mediocrity in the long run. There will always be a group of people out there that are drawn to a low price, but after they've gotten in for cheap, they still have the same expectations as everyone else, and they won't be reasonably met because Knott's and others aren't designed to meet them.
My advice to Knott's and other amusement/theme parks like them is this. Abandon the narrow focus on thrills. There are two schools of thought here...theme and thrill. Somewhere in the middle is where these parks need to be. At the park, absolutely everything should be part of the show from the minute people walk through the gate. Focus your attention on the smaller stuff. It's understood that money doesn't grow on trees at Cedar Fair, but there's more than enough to fix many of the things that are broken if the company starts treating them as part of the show rather than a just a source of income or an extra expenditure. Food, restaurants, and shows can be every bit as much of an attraction as the new roller coaster is if the money is invested in them. Landscaping and nice scenery absolutely matters because it keeps guests engaged and the park eyesore free. It shouldn't be just a line item on a budget. Good attractions that draw families also draw money and diversify the customer base. They don't have to cost Disney money, they just have to be entertaining. In a good park, none of these things should be ignored or become expendable items, and they've become just that at too many of them. From what I can see, the jury is now out on Knott's and they need to change.
There was a time during the mid 20th century when a very coaster heavy amusement park industry was decimated, mostly because people found new forms of entertainment and were enthralled by new technology. In short the parks didn't adapt to a new culture and were outclassed by television and the rise of the automobile. That same fight is here again, only this time it doesn't just exist outside the gates with the internet, video games, and TV, it also exists inside the gates in the form of that little device in our pocket...capable of producing all three of those things. These days the park has to scrap for all the attention it can get from it's guest even when they are in the park, and that no longer can be done only with sporadic 3 minute bursts of adrenaline. Roller coasters still matter greatly, but they can no longer fight the battle for the guest's attention (and money) alone. The time has come for the parks to raise the bar in other areas too, as quality will always trump low price and will matter even more in the future. I'll leave you with a quote which should be chiseled in stone on the headquarters of every company, in the mission statement of every park company, and on the wall of every manager.
"The bitterness of low quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory"
Published: November 7, 2011 at 8:36 AMIs Knotts even a park anymore?
But that doesn't mean you can change.
In other words, please, please former Disney CEO, DON'T LET ME DOWN!!!
Published: November 7, 2011 at 8:59 AMThe main thing that disappointed me was that I didn't know I'd be charged for parking while staying at the Knott's Resort. They did NOT tell me this when I checked in (I didn't even know to ask either) nor did I see it posted on the website. Now, it might be there somewhere on the website but I didn't see it. I think they should tell guests that they WILL be charged parking but even better if they didn't charge guests for parking at all. If I'm paying an exorbant amount of money to stay there (out of all the hotels in that area) then they should give me something in return besides a small, only adaquate, room...like free parking...maybe give guests a passcard to get in & out of the parking lot or one to put on the dashboard to say we're hotel guests so we won't get charged parking. I think it's pretty rediculous to charge hotel guests a parking fee. I know a hotel in Atlanta that does that. They didn't used to but now they do. Pretty selfish & rediculous IMO, especially in these hard times. Every little bit of money we can save to have a good time helps. I could've had $10 extra dollars to spend in the park but instead, that was $10 less I had to spend as I had to pay for parking in the lot of the hotel I was staying in. They also offered to checkout via the tv in the room but when I tried to do it, it wouldn't let me...I had to ck out at the front desk. Why have a service like that if I can't use it. So not only do guests have to spend a LOT of money if they stay at the resort, they hafta pay room fee, parking fee & park fee. Why not have a package deal...like a weekend getaway type thing, one price gives you free parking & deeper discount tickets to the park along w/a discounted room fee. If they need money, work WITH the guests, not for themselves in increasing or adding fees to US, the people that choose Knott's over other attractions.
Published: November 7, 2011 at 9:19 AMOther than eliminating the parking fee for hotel guests, how about making the food more affordable. $16 for a burger & fries??? C'mon, that's a bit steep. Lower food prices, you'll have more food sales & happier, less hungry guests. Eliminate parking fee for hotel guests, you'll have happier guests & they'll have $10 more to spend in the park...why should I have to pay an extra $10 to park at the hotel that I'm actually staying in. I didn't even know I was going to be charged til I tried to check out & found out via the tv checkout...which wouldn't let me ckout, I had to go to the front desk. Have some type of transport system from the parking lot(s) that are further away from the park entrance to shuttle parkgoers to the entrance...THAT was a VERY long walk for some of us who have trouble getting around but want to enjoy the park. It seemed to take forever to get to the entrance & was so exhausted plus my knees were hurting to where I had to stop & rest a while before I could go in & when I DID get to go in, we had to stand for 30 mins in a crowd before they let us in to the ride lines...why make us stand there even longer (in a crowd no less) when we could get in line & wait for the ride(s) to open, is it REALLY that much trouble to let us get in line? Why make us stand in a crowd that will trample each other to "get there first" or try to beat ea other to the ride (figuratively speaking of course) once the rope is let down to let us in? Seems it'd be safer to just let us wander the park, even if the ride lines are not yet open. For those of us who've never been to the park, we could've been wandering the park & seeing where everything was to know where to go once the lines opened or we could be buying souvenirs or something while waiting for the rides to open. While some things may not be changed, I think if they at least lowered food prices & allowed people to wander the park, even before rides opened, will be very helpful. Lower food prices = more sales. Let people in once we get into the park, letting us wander around = less crowd control issues..simple.
Published: November 7, 2011 at 10:14 AMPerhaps the obvious problem with Knott's is the limited space they have to work with, which results in rides being built (practically) on top of each other. It just seems a bit crazy to me. While the log ride remains one of the best flume rides on North America, some of the major attractions are very short, common clone rides and, quite frankly a waste of time to ride (i.e. Pony Express, Boomerang).
My suggestions include a major overhaul of Ghost Rider, which was the best woodie in America when it opened. Also, the park should install some dark rides, like a haunted house or even a new fun house. There needs to be a boat ride. How about a motion theatre or other type of ride simulator? As for the next roller coaster, no more short clone rides, please! The park should consider a record long steel coaster that makes a complete circuit around the park's perimeter.
Published: November 7, 2011 at 10:32 AMCedar Fair had a good third quarter.
"Cedar Fair's 3Q profit rises with park attendance"
There could be hope in the future.
Published: November 7, 2011 at 11:14 AMSome of you discussing this obviously haven’t been to Knott’s and some of the complaints (resort parking fee) are petty as they're inline with the hotel industry and other properties in the area.
Example, comments from Tony Perkins “But why not have an entrance to the main restaurant from inside the park?” or “Knott's used to sell as many tickets as Disneyland did back in the early 80's.” or “Knott's should keep these types of eateries to a minimum in the park (referring to Panda Express and TGI Fridays)”. Have you been to the park? I’d say, no.
Published: November 7, 2011 at 11:41 AMThis article is true; Knotts needs a lot of improvements. But that's all that's true; the rest of this article falls on it's face. So just down the street is Lego Land? What street?? Lego Land is at least an hour away from Orange County. As far as the Six Flags comments; yes Magic Mountain has the most impressive coaster count but again, it's at least an hour away from Orange County and they've been operating under the Six Flags name since 1979 vs. Knotts has been under Cedar only since 1998. So should Knotts not even bother with thrill coasters??? And which Knotts coasters are being compared to CA Screamin?? Yes, CA Screamin is better than Boomerang, Jaguar, and Montezuma, but no where near as thrilling as Xcelerator, Silver Bullet, and Ghostrider. Knotts is also a small park and for that, they are definately trying to stay competitive by opening up new thrill rides. Magic Mountain didn't just open up with the 17 coasters they have now; they built up to it, just like Knotts will. If anything, I would suggest Knotts continue with the thrills and move forward with the rumored Giga Coaster.
Published: November 7, 2011 at 11:47 AMFirst, bring back beary tales and soap box racers. They took those major parts of my childhood away from me. Beary tales was perfect. Secondly, the theming of Bigfoot rapids blows. Redo it and theme it as race for your life Charlie brown similarly to Popeye in Florida. Thirdly, sell to herschund or anyone but six flags or cedar fair. Virtually all of their parks are identical. Lastly, put me in charge of the park. I vow to return it to it's former glory.
Published: November 7, 2011 at 12:25 PMI'm not sure if Eric G is being facetious, or works for CF/Knott's PR and is astro-turfing the site, but I have obviously been to Knott's numerous times over the past few decades.
Mrs. Knott's Chicken Restaurant has its entrance outside the park. There is a counter service for the chicken in the park, but the food there is very poor quality.
It is a fact that Knott's sold as many tickets generating as much revenue as Disneyland in the early 80s. Ask around and many people will be able to verify it, and I believe it was also stated in the recent book, Knott's Preserved, which is the definitive history of the park. I know many Gen X-ers who grew up in SoCal and preferred Knott's to Disneyland as kids. Tijuana Taxis, Jungle Island, Haunted Shack, Kingdom of the Dinosaurs were all great favorites added to a then-fresh Camp Snoopy, Calico Mine Train, Timber Mountain Log Ride and a couple of thrills like Montezuma's Revenge to round things out. And then there was the great Ghost Town. And then what the hell happened? First the Knott's children were clueless, and then they sold to CF who compounded the cluelessness.
It is a fact that Knott's has licensed out more of its eateries in the past few decades with TGIFs (outside the park), Pink's (outside the park), Johnny Rockets and Panda Express. When you've staked your heritage to a large degree on food (chicken and berries), then you should play up that angle with excellent eateries and not bring in so much stuff that is in the local mall.
I have found on numerous boards that when Knott's gets called out for its decline, there is always one person who jumps in to defend Knott's in a very knee-jerk and personal manner. Please don't astro-turf this site, it's disrespectful of your guests.
Published: November 7, 2011 at 1:13 PMWhere did I write that Legoland (get the name right, BTW) was "just down the street" from Knott's? I wrote that if I wanted a great kid-focused theme park experience "I'm driving down the road" (Interstate 5) to Legoland. The hour's drive is worth it for the superior experience over Camp Snoopy, which to me is an even more damaging point against KBF.
Beyond that, though, thanks for the great comments, everyone. I think Knott's fans and management should be encouraged that people still care enough to comment and share opinions on improving the park. That ought to provide some hope for the future, showing Knott's management that there is a foundation of support here... if they care to commit the resources to build upon it.
Keep the ideas coming!
Published: November 7, 2011 at 3:00 PM“It is a fact that Knott's sold as many tickets generating as much revenue as Disneyland in the early 80s.” – Tony Perkins
THAT IS ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE. In the early 80s attendance at Disneyland far exceeded Knott’s best year. Throughout the 70s Knott’s Berry Farm consistently drew about three million visitors annually. In 1979 attendance slipped to an estimated 2.8 million and at the peak, Knott’s drew about 5 million visitors through its gate in 1989. That’s the best the park has performed.
In comparison, Disneyland drew an estimated attendance of 14.4 million in 1989 and an estimated 13 million in 1988.
Yes, Knott’s was ranked the 4th most attended park in the US behind Walt Disney World (Magic Kingdom & EPCOT), Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood in 1989, but it has NEVER sold as many tickets as Disneyland.
I want to add one more fact. Since Cedar Fair purchased Knott's attendance has remained flat at about 3.5 million. However, attendance at Six Flags Magic Mountain has declined more than 20% in the same period dropping to about 2.45 million last year.
Last comment - someone stated "The article is true." The article is an opinion, not a fact, even the author would back that up.
Published: November 7, 2011 at 3:30 PMMy two cents:
Published: November 8, 2011 at 10:59 AMLegoland is a niche product. Knott's attracts another crowd. For Knott's to succeed, it needs a lot of money and a new licensed property. Six Flags abandoned its licenses. I wonder why. Maybe it wasn't worth the effort.
To amend my previous list.
1. They need more dark rides. They need 2 or more such rides. One needs to feature Snoopy and Charlie Brown.
2. They need to reduce their roller coasters especially the super short ones. Knott's have plenty of decent roller coasters. They have too many worthless ones.
3. They need more shows. Their ice shows are the best. They need another large and modern theater to host other shows.
4. Add a new flume ride and a new family boat ride. Water rides are worth adding to theme parks.
5. All their rides need a refresh. New paint and tuning. The show theater needs a much needed rehab.
6. They need a pernament open air show stage near the Log ride. This area can benefit from seating and shade and with moderning staging equipment.
7. They need a evening show area. They should carve out an area for such a show.
Published: November 8, 2011 at 1:09 PMNever been to Knott's but much could be said about Carowinds (another Cedar Fair Park) in Charlotte. Originally opened as a "theme" park devoted the Carolina's. The entrance was a grand southern plantation house (fitted with antique furniture). The shops were made to look like colorful Charleston, SC buildings. There was a section that paid homage to the days of royal rule when the land was a colony (a huge theater showed a large screen film of the history of the carolinas-- it's now an arcade). A section featured native american teepees and canoes (Catawba Indians). My favorite was the area that looked the it was straight from Walton's Mountain with the general store and "Harmony Hall" theater.
Carowinds is now a generic amusement park. Cedar Fair has actually made improvements. I hope for the better.
Published: November 8, 2011 at 5:32 PMKnott’s has never been exclusively focused on the 2 to 12 year-old crowd so I think LEGOLAND isn’t a great example.
One of the issues with Knott’s is the unrealistic expectation many of their customers have thanks to their neighbors down the street – Disneyland Resort.
It’s a fact that Knott’s doesn’t have the luxury of ample space to expand like some parks. Some of the ideas here are impossible to produce like a permanent open-air show stage near the Log Ride. Where? They have an outdoor theater already in the very limited space, but Knott’s isn’t short of entertainment venues. They have the Wagon Camp Theater, Charles M. Schulz Theatre, Calico Square Saloon, Birdcage Theater in Ghost Town, and outdoor stages in Ghost Town (Log Ride), Fiesta Village, Indian Trails and Camp Snoopy. How many more do you need?
Another flume ride or a boat ride? They got rid of the boat ride in Camp Snoopy, but how many more water rides do you need? They’ve got a flume ride, shoot-the-chutes, and rapids ride.
My point in shooting down these ideas is the fact that they’re not new or original or they overlap what the park already offers. I feel that many Knott's critics are blind to what exists in the park.
Here are some ideas I'd like to see explored. I would like to see the park expand with a new ride in the GhostTown. The facades offer the opportunity to access back of house space, giving the park the room they need for a new ride without eliminating something that already exists or building over existing rides. I think story with a scary theme or if you wanted to make it more family friendly maybe a Western story. The ride experience should focus on a story and effects, not thrills. It could be a dark ride ride system, but I’d almost like to see the park revive an “Old Mill” style boat flume ride instead.
Another attraction idea I have would be to revive the Haunted Shack in a new form. Use the Vekoma MadHouse ride. Have the pre-show open with a story about the odd happenings that occur in this shack. Guests move to the ride where the fun happens. If you’ve been on Houdini at Six Flags then you know what to expect.
One more ride I'd love to see Knott's build is a family-junior size wooden coaster. Place it in the northeast corner of Camp Snoopy. Replacing Timberline Twister and move or eliminate anything else.
Published: November 8, 2011 at 5:49 PM"How many more do you need?"
Goodness, I need to spell it out for you. They need large capacity show stages. The Birdcage has very limited seating for very very small productions. I remembered seeing the shows where there were only 2 to 4 actors. It was 20 minutes of dullness. This stage is gone, closed forever. The Calico Square Saloon is standing room only in the bar. Barely 30 people can fit in. The Charles M. Schulz Theatre is where many wonderful childrens shows are presented. There is one or two singers and a few characters. There are hardly any staging. The Wagon Camp Theater for the stunt show. There are only 2 shows a day when they bother to have shows.
Many good shows were at the outdoor stage of the Log Ride, but it suffers from a lack of production values. Only the ice show has higher production values.
"Another flume ride or a boat ride?" Yes, they do need it. The "shoot-the-chutes" is virtually closed in the winter. That leave the Log Ride and the Rapids ride. They must bring back the boat ride in Camp Snoopy.
"My point in shooting down these ideas is the fact that they’re not new or original – AND – I think some of you are blind to what the park already offers."
I'm well aware of what they have and it is lacking. Originality can be achieved from new concepts, but there is only so many different ride vehicles. They overdid it with the coasters.
You want a dark ride, but that is only one ride. You offer the Vekoma MadHouse. Okay, its original. But if you want another coaster, they must get rid of an outdated coaster. Do you realize they already have many family roller coasters? Get rid of the one where the station is the pyramid. That coaster is horrible. For a steel roller coaster, this ride is shaky and bumpy.
Published: November 8, 2011 at 7:12 PMI noticed a post regarding Cedar Fair's third quarter results. Is it possible that Cedar Fair is happy with Knott's performance? I know there is always room for improvement but it's possible their vision for Knott's is meeting expectations.
Published: November 9, 2011 at 12:36 PMLarge capacity show stages? For what crowds? When is Knott's so consistently busy to justify a large show stage? They already use the enormous Schultz theater for exactly that purpose during the summer and Christmas season. Even during the busier periods they rarely fill the show venues.
Ask yourself - Why doesn't Disney show Fantasmic seven-nights a week in the off-season? Same reason Knott's doesn't always have all shows performing every day. It's hard to justify spending the money on a costly entertainment production when 1,500 people are in the park. If creating such an extravaganza would quadruple their attendance on those days we wouldn't be having this discussion.
I hope you realize that Southern California's climate is on the cold side for water rides. That's why they're closed or totally unused for much of the year.
I think the previous poster nailed it. I too believe that Cedar Fair is pleased with Knott's performance. When you add the Soak City waterpark (second-gate) to the picture attendance at the property is up versus when they purchased it. What I don't understand is why "theme park fans" crap on the park so much and think the park needs some heroic fix. Well I sort of do - you can blame the proximity to Disney.
Published: November 9, 2011 at 2:29 PM"Large capacity show stages? For what crowds?"
When they do have large crowds. Duh?!!! This means summer, holidays, and the Halloween Haunt. Theme parks are seasonal, but Disneyland managed to fill their parks for most of the year. Knott's will have a harder time, but this does not mean they cannot and should not have an outdoor stage. I'm not talking about a lot of money do this.
If you have to worry about filling it up, then you don't realize that it does fill up like when the ice show does during the Christmas season. It fills up nicely in the summer, not to capacity, but to a decent crowd.
This discussion was about achieving a good theme park. Knott's should improve its venues. It's not like Knott's will never have shows at Calico Square. They will continue to have shows there. Some money should go to having a permanent show stage instead of its current configuration of build up and tear down. That stage looks tired.
Yes, California is cold in the winter, but I'm talking about a family boat ride that's largely indoors like Small World. The Log Ride and Rapids Rides are rides designed to make you wet. A boat ride can give you a sensory and stage experience. I know you're so opposed to it, which is rather ridiculous since Disneyland is not short of these boat rides like Small World and Pirates of the Carribean.
As for Cedar Fair quarterly results, this is a good trend, but it does not mean that Knott's should not have improvements. After visiting this year with my annual pass, I can appreciate its offerings. The problem is the park needs to greatly improve in light of the competition. Despite DCA's problems, it is a much better park than Knott's. Soon DCA will leave Knott's in the dust after Carsland opens with its Cars attraction. How can anyone appreciate Knott's if they don't even bother?
Published: November 9, 2011 at 11:21 PMDisney's California Adventure left Knott's in the dust the day it opened - February 8, 2001. You can't compare Disney parks to regional theme parks. There is no comparison.
Now I understand what you mean by a flume ride. I don't consider It's A Small World and Pirates to be flume rides, since the ride system is secondary and just a means to transport the guests through the attraction. The attraction is really a show. Yes, I would like to see Knott's create a new attraction based on a story or theme. I suggested one (not the Haunted Shack) earlier using a classic Old Mill boat ride. However, I don't really care what ride system they use.