Assuming it is a Sunday, which trip would give the best experience for our family?
My son (10) and I both like thrill rides and will ride anything (well, he chickens out when it comes to Sheik-ra at Busch lol). My wife hates thrill rides and prefers dark rides and shows, plus the general 'experience' you get walking round a theme park.
I really cannot decide between Six Flags thrills (and 90 miles of driving) and Knotts more low key fun on our doorstep (and relocating hotels isnt an option by the way).
-You say you and your son are thrill seekers but your son gets nervous on SheiKra. There is no way he would get on some of the insanely intense coasters at SFMM, but Knott's offers very thrilling rides that seem much more friendlier. Xcelerator is a great experiene launching you 82 mph up a 205 foot top hat, and you can purchase a video of your experience. Plus let us not forget Silver Bullet, an AWESOME B&M invert along with 9 other thrill-pleasing coasters (let us not forget the steepest and former tallest water ride Perilous Plunge along with Supreme Scream, a 300 foot tall S&S Drop Tower which is an amazing experience).
-Your wife enjoys shows and perhaps less thrilling attractions? Mystery Lodge is an amazing, award winning show that has mystifying special effects, Snoopy On Ice is always fun to watch, and now new at Knotts, a wild west stunt show/musical always leaves both kids and adults with smiles on their faces, and a light display at nighttime in Camp Snoopy has been very successful at Cedar Point and should be amazing here as well.
-Lastly, your wife (and I am sure your son and you would not mind this either) enjoys an overall atmosphere and feeling from entering and walking around a park. This park is amazing for that. Camp Snoopy has neat little trails with nice theming, the Boardwalk area sends you back to the 50's, Indian Trails and Ghost Town both provide little experiences along the way, from indian dances to cartoonists!
So, if this persuades you to go to Knotts, I would be happy to provide some tips for getting through the park swiftly yet leisurely and pleasurably.
It does sound like a better fit as my wife has already grumbled about 'six flags is all coasters; what will I do', my response of 'hold the camera bag' didnt go down well for some reason :-)
Any touring tips you can give (PM or posted) will be appreciated. We are staying a block from Disneyland so should be able to get there at 'rope drop'...
Don't forget to make reservations for dinner at Mrs. Knotts Chicken in advance. It's famous for a reason, and the line goes out the door if you didn't reserve early.
You will most likely notice Xcelerator start making test runs. Anyway, after Supreme Scream, either ride Xcelerator if it is open after its morning test runs, or head to Perilous Plunge and then come back to ride Xcelerator.
Now, head right for the Log Flume which will have just opened by now. Next, head for Bigfoot Rapids, barely beating the crowds coming in to cool off the heat, followed by Pony Express.
After this, any other coasters or rides are ones that always seem to have shorter lines (Montezooma's Revenge, Sierra Sidewinder, Jaguar)
Also, like said above, do reserve a table at Mrs. Knott's Famous Chicken Dinner Restaurant just outside the park. Just make sure not to miss Mystery Lodge which is an amazing show with mystifying special effects leaving you to wonder, "how did they do that?"
A couple of other must-sees for your wife (and you and your son would probably enjoy them, too) are the authentic one-room schoolhouse and the museum! (A museum inside a theme park? Yes! It was filled with all sorts of interesting stuff!) Oh, and across the street from the park is an exact replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It includes a multimedia show about the Declaration of Independence, and a replica of the Liberty Bell.
One last tip: I don't know if they do this all the time, but when we were there, near the park exit they were selling whole pies for $5.00! Inside Mrs. Knott's Restaurant (which we also recommend), a slice of pie is around $3.50, so you'd be crazy not to buy a whole pie for just $5.00. We picked boysenberry, since that's KBF's specialty, and it was delicious! Just buy one on your way out of the park and take it back to your hotel. What the heck, have pie for breakfast the next morning! :-)
If your wife likes dark rides and shows, she won't really be getting anything extra by going to Knott's over Magic Mountain. Neither park specializes in the entertainment OR dark ride area... In fact, if she likes family coasters, Magic Mountain would probably be a better option with Gold Rusher and Ninja, which are in my opinion better than Sierra Sidewinder, Jaguar, and Pony Express at Knott's.
I will give Knott's credit for its fantastic log flume, Timber Mountain Log Ride, but Magic Mountain more than makes up for it by offering two log flumes, plus Yosemite Sam's Sierra Falls (a fun raft slide).
If you and your son like thrill rides, you will get bored very quickly at Knott's. Magic Mountain offers so much more I won't even bother making a list. I can spend a full day at Magic Mountain and still want more, but get bored at Knott's after two hours.
Now, don't take the statement wrong David. I would go to SFMM over Knotts in a million years. But for this family, it is not the right park for them just yet. ;)
Second, even if his son was scared to ride SheiKra (and that could have been a while ago) and might be scared of X2 or Goliath, SFMM still offers so much more than Knott's, in basically every way.
However, if you are looking to visit the most thrilling park, I'd visit SFMM just based on the variety and number of coasters.
but again, I am not trying to criticize SFMM. Like I said, that is my favorite amusement park in the world so far. It has thrills and theming all around, but it just doesn't have the top notch rides Knotts has.
So James, I have to explain SFMM actually has a lot more theming than you think, featuring a bunch of wilderness style buildings in that section and amazing architecture themed around Gotham. And let us not forget Terminator's theming.
And Knotts is definitely thrilling, having the only real launching coaster of the two parks, Xcelerator, in my opinion a much larger and smoother B&M invert, Silver Bullet, the word's steepest and former tallest water ride, Perilous Plunge, and one of the most thrilling, and tallest, drop rides in the world, Supreme Scream.
So basically, yes, SFMM is AMAZING, I would die to go there again. But Knott's has more to offer for the ENTIRE family (including the mom who does not seem to like roller coasters or water rides), whereas most people find themselves spending time only on roller coasters at SFMM since the rides there other than the coasters aren't really all that "top notch".
Please don't take this going against you, it is just I so not feel SFMM would be the right choice to making EVERYONE in this man's family happy.
EDIT: And James, they are staying onsite at the Disneyland Resort, proving Knott's to be an even better opportunity due to proximity.
I think you're overhyping the niceness and amount of things to do at Knott's. It's really not much...
Plus, you forgot La Revolution and Perilous Plunge, along with a bunch of other smaller rides in Camp Snoopy and Fiesta Village.
To end the fight over SFMM and Knott's, here are the numbers:
Thrill Rides: 7
Family/Children Rides: 16
Water Rides: 5
Thrill Rides: 4
Family/Children Rides: 23
Water Rides: 3
Knotts wins barely. So it is a very close race, but you notice what Knotts lacks in coasters and thrill rides, it makes up for in family rides and dining, all something for the entire family.
Plus, a 5 minute drive versus 1 hour or more drive faced to a tourist family, they will generally choose the shorter drive.
So I say Knotts, and then come back and spend a day at the very, very amazing Six Flags Magic Mountain when you and your son can enjoy all that it has to offer without too much pain for the wife! ;)
EDIT: Oh and did I mention, you dont have to climb up a "mile high" hill to get to the best rides at Knott's?
One thing to keep is mind, Nick, is that theming is more than just adding a few props and special effects to a ride. True theming is all about decoration AND (more importantly) narrative. If you are not telling a good story, then you are just putting lipstick on a pig. Having said that, I would give Knotts the nod in theming, but not by much. And neither park is even in the same league as Disney.
You're right, though, if they are already at Disney, Knotts may be the best option due to proximity. However, I would drive the extra 25 miles and go to Universal Studios over Knotts. Plenty for the whole family to accomplish there, IMHO.
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney California Adventure
Universal Studios Florida
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Hollywood