Theme Park of the Week: Knott's Berry Farm

March 13, 2022, 2:12 PM · It's almost time again for Knott's Boysenberry Festival - the annual food event that celebrates the fruit that put the berry in Knott's Berry Farm.

The festival kicks off next weekend, and we previewed some of this year's new food items last week. But this week, we want to celebrate Knott's Berry Farm as our Theme Park of the Week.

Knott's Berry Farm enjoys perhaps the most unique history of any major American theme park. The property really did begin as a berry farm, owned by the Walter Knott family. During the Great Depression, Walter's wife Cordelia began selling chicken dinners on the weekends to make ends meet. The dinners proved popular, so Walter created a "Ghost Town" of relocated and recreated frontier buildings to entertain diners while they waited for their tables.

The Knotts' berry farm, chicken dinner restaurant, and Ghost Town became popular Orange County attractions, but Walter feared that the opening of Disneyland just down the street in 1955 would mean the end of his family's business. When Walter and Cordelia returned from visiting "the other Walt" and saw their parking lot jammed with diners - so the legend goes - they knew that business only would get better.

And so it did. Knott's expanded its Ghost Town, adding Bud Hurlbut's Calico Mine Ride in 1960. In 1968, the park opened what is now the Timber Mountain Log Ride and began charging an admission fee. Five years later, Knott's created the hard-ticket theme park Halloween event with the debut of Knott's Scary Farm. Then in 1975, Knott's opened Arrow Dynamics's prototype Corkscrew, the first modern inverting steel roller coaster. (You can find that coaster today at Idaho's Silverwood.) In 1983, Knott's continued to innovate with the debut of Camp Snoopy - the first single-IP dedicated children's area in a major theme park.

These days, Knott's Berry Farm is the most-visited theme park in the Cedar Fair chain. Its top ride, according to Theme Park Insider readers' annual survey, is the CCI wooden coaster GhostRider, which was retracked by GCI in 2016.

The Timber Mountain Log Ride and Calico Mine Ride lead our readers' picks for Knott's non-coaster attractions, with the interactive dark ride Knott's Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair joining that line-up last year.

And, of course, Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant continues to serve millions of diners each year in the California Marketplace just outside the park's gates. Knott's Berry Farm might not be the biggest attraction - or even the most popular theme park - in Orange County anymore. But it remains a beloved Southern California favorite.

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If you are inspired to visit Knott's this year, our travel partner has discounts on tickets and special events on its Knott's Berry Farm tickets page.

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Replies (4)

March 13, 2022 at 4:58 PM

I've been waiting for an article on Knott's so we can finally talk about that Giga. Does anyone else who has seen the rumors and leaks think that it has the potential to be better than Fury 325? I honestly think it's the coaster that CA needs. The last huge outstanding coaster that the state got was in 2001 with X (at least in my opinion).

If Knotts does get that Giga right alongside Ghostrider, it'll probably be the best coaster one-two punch at a park in the nation or at least one of the best.

If anyone doesn't know about the rumored Giga, heres some videos-

March 19, 2022 at 1:48 AM

Nice little synopsis of the park's history, Robert.

A couple of clarifications: although the park did put up fences around the property in 1968 due to security concerns when a female employee was accosted by what Walter Knott deemed as bad elements, both the Timber Mountain Log Ride (originally the Calico Log Ride) and the Fiesta Village themed area opened in 1969, not 1968. This and many of the additions during the 1970s and 80s were due to the leadership of Marion Knott, who successfully modernized the park.

Partly in response to Knott's roller coasters which opened in the 1970s as well as newly-opened park Magic Mountain (1973) in neighboring Los Angeles County, Disneyland in Anaheim added 2 new roller coasters in the second half of the 1970s (Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad) as well as completely refurbished its existing Matterhorn Bobsleds in 1978.

March 19, 2022 at 1:50 AM

Also, after the success of the Chicken Dinner Restaurant which resulted in huge lines, Walter Knott tried his hand at a few other amusements before deciding to build Ghost Town in 1940-41.

The volcanic rock garden and George Washington's fireplace still remain in Knott's Marketplace area (although they have been closed to the public since the pandemic), while fondly-remembered attractions like the Volcano and Volcano Devil have been removed. Because these attractions were successful, Walter Knott decided to build something on a larger scale, which was the Ghost Town tribute to his forefathers.

The same energy led to his last major project on the property, which was a full-scale replica of Philadelphia's Independence Hall across Beach Boulevard, which opened in 1966. Walter Knott had very strong conservative ties especially in his later years, including to the John Birch Society.

March 14, 2022 at 10:42 PM

Wait a minute you mean to tell me this park is visited more by folks than Cedar Point? My god if Knotts pulls of a Giga Coaster! That would be huge and really get folks to start respecting this theme park. I know AJ here has responded to a few of my comments asking why Six Flags has yet to put in a Giga Coater. I think he said it has to do with cost, but if Knott can pull this off, just WOW!

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