Knott's Ghost Town comes alive for its 75th anniversary
June 9, 2016, 11:10 PM ·
Knott's Berry Farm celebrated the 75th anniversary of Ghost Town today with a media event showing off its newly retracked Ghostrider roller coaster, the Ghost Town Alive interactive experience and the newly refurbished Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant.
Let's start with Ghostrider, the once-beloved wooden coaster that dominates the land. Time had not been kind to Ghostrider, which - like many woodies - had grown so rough over the years that many fans had just given up riding it. So Knott's owner Cedar Fair called in Great Coasters International to retrack the ride. GCI also subtlety changed the profile of the track in a few places, further helping to smooth the once-jarring ride.
With a fresh, newly profiled track and no trim brakes, Ghostrider now flies. The cars still drop from the station, curving in front of the newly reopened "Pan for Gold" near the queue's entrance. From there, it's a quick pull up the main lift before Ghostrider drops you into a swift collection of turns, hills, and airtime moments. There's hardly a moment to catch your breath as the ride takes you out and back and out and back again, before finally braking and returning you to the station.
But Ghostrider's not the only fresh attraction worthy of your attention in Ghost Town this summer. Knott's has transformed the town of Calico into an interactive experience, creating a daily narrative for the land and populating it with characters looking to draw you into the day's events.
We met a deputy sheriff, fresh in the middle of a shave, who recruited us to translate a Morse Code message he'd received. He directed us to the Calico Post Office for help, where the postmaster set us up with a translation key. Here's how it went:
You can find many other interactive opportunities such as this throughout the land. Those rascals from Mayfield are trying to take over Calico, and the sheriff is recruiting help to make things right again. Whatever you end up doing, everything comes together for the big hoedown in the evening, when the people of Calico - including you - are invited to celebrate the end of another day.
Even if you don't want to play along with the characters, stop into the newly refurbished Calico Saloon for the Calico Saloon Show, which runs just under 20 minutes and plays five times daily.
Local theme park fans who still haven't forgive that park up the street for shutting the Golden Horseshow Revue will find a worthy substitute here, with its cheerful host and can-can girls. And the refurbished saloon is a delight. Grab a drink at the bar and head upstairs for the show. (And unlike at the old Golden Horseshoe, you can have a beer with this show.)
We've written about how theme parks are transforming from well-decorated collections on rides to narrative platforms, within which visitors can participate in ever-changing stories based on a land's theme. Ghost Town Alive might be the best execution of this concept yet — Knott's has flooded the land with characters and opened previously chained-off spaces throughout. The event gives the land an energy it's never had before, transforming it from a static exhibition space into something that fells much more, well, alive.
Finally, Knott's has reopened the attraction that started it all — Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant.
Gutted and completely rebuilt, Mrs. Knott's restaurant is serving the same recipes that Cordelia Knott started serving more than 75 years ago, but in a refreshed space that still feels homey while functioning much more efficiently. There's a full bar and expanded waiting area, not to mention dining areas that feel comforting without feeling worn.
And the food? Well, we helped ourselves to a provided buffet and thought the chicken and fixin's as good as ever, including the Boysenberry pie.
Ghost Town Alive will run only through the end of summer, but the refurbished Ghostrider and chicken restaurant are here to stay.