8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620
Phone: (714)220-5200 www.knotts.com
The innovative Calico Mine ride
Knott’s Berry Farm
For an exciting day for the entire family, Knott’s Berry Farm is an ideal destination. Located in Buena Park, just off the I-15 in Orange County, Knott’s Berry Farm is situated just a few miles from Disneyland, but miles ahead of it in providing a unique family adventure.
Knott’s Berry Farm’s noteworthy features begin outside the gate. First to see is the replica of the Philadelphia Independence Hall complete with its own Liberty Bell. This replica of America’s foundation was completed by the park’s founder and namesake, Walter Knott, in 1966. I have been to Philadelphia and I would much rather visit Independence Hall in California, though faux, especially in the winter. Just outside the main gate is Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, the park’s star food attraction, which originally started drawing guests to this location in 1937, and still serves one-of-a-kind meals.
When my family visited Knott’s Berry Farm, the wait to get into the park was negligible, unlike the wait people regularly endure for admittance to Disneyland. The western theme of much of Knott’s Berry Farm is fun for the kids and feels perfectly natural for its location. Several historic buildings have been relocated to the park and preserved, including a schoolhouse with original books and furniture from 1875. History also comes alive and on display in the Western Trails Museum, Calico Saloon, Blacksmith shop, Ghost Town Jail, Pony Express Outpost, and the Native American Mystery Lodge. It can be difficult to savor these exhibits to the extent they deserve when kids are anxious to get to the rides, but they are worth at least sauntering through.
We started with one of the tamer rides, the Calico Railroad, an original narrow-gauge steam locomotive that transports riders on a nice tour of about half of the park. Next, we persuaded the kids to try the Calico Mine Ride, which was a slow-paced trip through a mine shaft complete with animated characters. The kids loved both rides.
If traveling with young children, the best place to spend time at Knott’s Berry Farm would be Camp Snoopy. Here I found a series of lesser-known mellow rides for the kids including Camp Bus, Charlie Brown’s Speedway, and Joe Cool’s GR8 SK8, where kids feel like they are riding a giant skateboard. The Log-Peeler is a mini-scrambler, and Lucy’s Tugboat takes young riders on a rolling excursion to 21 feet and back again while spinning through the sensation of an ocean’s current. Other notable rides in Camp Snoopy include the Red Baron, Rocky Road Truckin’ Company, and Snoopy Bounce, which is a huge Snoopy inflatable where kids can endlessly jump, sprawl, and leap. Woodstock’s Airmail is a child-sized version of the park’s Supreme Scream with a markedly smaller drop for younger guests. None of these rides had long waits.
Aside from Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, many other viable food options are available at the park including Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs, relocated from its original Hollywood location where it had been since 1939. TGIFridays and Johnny Rockets add to the choices, as well as several other western themed barbeques and steak houses along with Mexican and Chinese food options. Ice cream, candy shops, and bakeries are also plentiful.
After lunch, we considered the popular Pony Express, but the line looked as extreme as the speed so we ended up in line for the Ghostrider. The clackety-clack of the wooden tracks reminded me of a small wooden roller-coaster I went on as a child, so I thought the ride should be tame enough even for my timid ride palette. The actual length of the line was cloaked by the inside structure wherein the line snaked around and then travelled up a long staircase. When I saw the remaining line, after having already waited over a half-hour, I wondered why an old-fashioned wooden roller coaster would be so popular. My daughter reminded me that the Ghostrider rated a 5 on the thrill factor, which promised “aggressive thrills.” Promise was delivered. I have never been on another ride like Ghostrider in my life and months later my kids still talk about it. Over 4500 feet long and over 100 feet high, this ride had me screaming uncontrollably the entire time. Unlike most roller coasters where the brakes are applied to mitigate the edge, Ghostrider was roaring down the track at full speed for the entire length of the ride. The deafening noise and the intense vibration added to the sense of terror that left everyone laughing in the end. Not for the faint of heart, one trip on Ghostrider was enough for me for the day. Still, Knotts Berry Farm provides much more than just thrill-packed rides. This is a sweet and charming park for the younger set as well as those seeking thrills. Everyone had an outstanding day at Knott’s Berry Farm.
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Note to Readers: This listing is currently awaiting updating since Soak City has been purcahsed by Seaworld and is now Aquatica. Ever since the original twenty acres was purchased in Buena Park in 1920, Knott’s Berry Farm has continued to grow and expand. Owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company since 1998, Knott’s Berry Farm now also boasts three water parks in Southern California in addition to its main property. One resides next to the original property in Buena Park, another in Palm Springs, and a third in Chula Vista. I took my family to the Chula Vista Soak City on a warm, late summer day, and found it to be an excellent place to cool off. While hard to compete with the world-class attractions and creative rides of the original Knott’s Berry Farm, Knott’s Soak City has a variety of water slides and other water activities that provide cool relief from the searing Southern California heat. Parking is $9.00 for a car or van and the park is open from July to late September. Be sure to check their website for exact dates.
The Wavepool is a shallow wading area with gently simulating waves surrounded by a mock western-themed village. The Wavepark was a popular destination this day, as was the Sunset River raft ride. My family and I drifted on large inner-tubes around this Lazy river a few times, pausing around the waterfall for a new soak each round.
The La Jolla waterslide was the best slide I experienced at Soak City, since no inner tube was required and the line moved fairly quickly. When we got to the top, we found four chutes and as soon as an open chute was offered, one of my boys was off and through the chute before I could comment. My other kids soon accessed chutes and suddenly we were all hurling down at what seemed an incredible speed, winding though several sharp twists and turns. One of the slides was a straight shot, which looked dubious to me, but my daughter reported that it was “awesome fun.”
Many of the rides required climbing up steep steps amidst the hills, and some of the lines for the waterslides were long. Some visitors found out the hard way that certain color-coded inner-tubes were only allowed on certain rides, sometimes after waiting in a lengthy line. This factor apparently was the cause of the large number of inner-tubes which filled the canyon below the back sides of the rides, probably from disgruntled guests who had spent 45 minutes waiting in line only to be told they had the wrong inner-tube. Inner-tubes are available for rent, and after discovering how challenging it sometimes was to match the corresponding rides and colors, I would suggest renting the tubes to make the most of the visit. Also, get to Soak City early enough to reserve a deck chair by the Wavepool as a place to plant your towels and other items. Lockers are available, as are cabanas.
On the day of our visit, several rides were closed, which limited our choices and increased the wait time for the remaining rides, so the slides we did experience were few. We also found “brief interruptions” in service while waiting in some of the lines. While this park was not as smooth and flawless as Knott’s Berry Farm, Knott’s Soak City was still a pleasant jaunt on a warm day. The beachy 70's music heard throughout the park is relaxing, and the scope and variety of water slides and attractions is impressive. Of course the adult eye is ever more critical. My kids thought that Soak City was fantastically fun and can't wait for the park to re-open for the next season. In the end, this is all that matters.
The Palm Springs Soak City, albeit smaller, is extremely family-friendly, clean, and well-organized. If you are in the desert with kids, be sure to hit this fun and pleasant destination. It is a prime desert attraction with its abundance of water structures for cooling off in the scorching sun. My kids felt that the water wasn't freezing cold, but set at just a nice, refreshing temperature.
The Palm Springs Soak City's version of The Lazy River is a similar 600 ft. ride called Sunset River. Mellow and slow-paced, my kids leisurely floated around and around the meandering water path.
The Riptide Reef is a unique feature of this water-park. It is a huge wave pool that blasts thundering waves every few minutes for the kids to catch and ride on their inner tubes.
Kahuna's Beach House was hard to pry my kids away from at the end of the day. It is a four-story interactive funhouse with water slides, hose jets, and water curtains. A thousand gallon water bucket periodically dunks the whole area with cool water!
The Pipeline Point is at the top of a hill and consists of three different styled slides so kids can decide if they want to slide in an enclosed tunnel or open-styled, once they climb to the top.
The park accommodates thrill-seeking teenagers as well as tots. The Tidal Wave Tower is a steep slide the height of a seven story building. For the younger set, the Gremmie Lagoon has two small slides and a splash pool for toddlers.
As with the Chula Vista Soak City, bringing your own food into the park is prohibited. The park does offer old standbys such as hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, and of course cold ice creams.
The park does have a limited number of shade structures and trees that provide shade, but cabanas are available for rent. My family enjoyed a cabana with cool mist and it was very private. In the heat during our visit, 105 degrees, this cabana was the way for the parents to experience some relaxation here.
In the summer, this waterpark is offering Dive-in Movie Nights where kids can float around on tubes while watching age-appropriate movies. Popcorn, cotton candy, and ice cream are sold on these evenings.
The service here is friendly and the cool water feels great in the blaring heat. Its smaller size makes this waterpark feel less overwhelming for the younger kids than the huge sprawling parks. This Soak City is quaint and very kid-friendly, not to be missed by desert travelers!