There are certain things you learn about your partner when you get married or move in with one another. For example, I learned that Laura does not agree with my long-held belief that the entire bedroom, living room, and bathroom are open space for tossing a pair of pants, a t-shirt, what have you. Turns out she thinks the closets or dressers are the only acceptable place for clothing. Laura taught me that no shower drain is a match for her incredible ability to clog it each and every time she washes her hair. I think there is sometimes more leftover hair in the shower when she is done with it then there remains on my slowly balding head.
But some things take more time to learn, and are often learned at the most inopportune of moments. For example while Laura could ascertain that I am something of a thrill ride and amusement park junkie, I was unable to discover she did not hold the same excitement for aggressive roller coasters until we were locked firmly into the Ghost Rider roller coaster at Knott’s Berry Farm. As the cart rumbled off at the start, I caught her praying, trembling, and perhaps throwing a curse word or two attached to my name into the empty air.
A few drops, twists, turns, screams, and belligerent words later, we arrived safely back into the station and I realized my dream of 40 roller coaster rides in one frantic day at Knott’s may not work out. Lesson learned: When I want to go to a new amusement park, find a friend or fly my dad in (after all, he passed on this obsession for roller coasters to me in the first place).
I think the answer is a resounding yes, and I’ll tell you why!
I’m a big fan of Knott’s Berry Farm for one very simple reason: For what you get, the price is right. When you travel to Southern California, you have a lot of amusement park options. Disneyland is of course the creme de la creme. Six Flags is on thrill ride steroids. And to be honest, I’m not quite sure what the hell the appeal of Universal Studios is, having visited numerous times and wondering what’s so enjoyable about the experience.
Knott’s is wedged in the middle of all of this, a small family friendly park with a few good thrill rides a stones throw north of Disneyland. So let’s talk about what’s good at Knott’s, what to avoid, and what to do in and around the park!
First and foremost, Knott’s is cheap, at least when you compare it to the other parks in the area. Below are the costs I can find on the web today. Of course there are discounts and deals to be found here and there, but if your strategy was to go and buy the tickets directly from the website of the amusement parks (which is almost always cheaper than buying in person at the park) here is what you would pay for one day at the time of this post:
Disneyland: $96 for entrance to one park. If you want to go to both Disneyland and the more thrill focused California Adventure, the park ticket price jumps up to $150
Six Flags Magic Mountain: $49.99 discount tickets online for certain dates. $69.99 at the park
Universal Studios: $87 for a one-day pass
Knott’s Berry Farm: $39 when purchased online
Knott’s and Six Flags are the clear winners on price for single day tickets, but they also win on annual pass prices.
Ride Guide for Knott’s Berry Farm
If you’re a thrill seeker, Knott’s won’t wow you the way Six Flags will, but it also won’t disappoint.
While each of the roller coasters we rode were entertaining, two stand out.
Xcelerator ultimately proved to be too much for Laura. Something about the 82 MPH launch and the 200+ foot 90 degree angle drop didn’t bode well with her. I’d been on the ride previously, and while riding solo is never as fun, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. The ride shoots you out of the gate and it’s over before you know it- lasting about 60 seconds. But man are those few seconds thrilling.
Suspended roller coasters are fun. If you sit in the very front, you often times can’t always keep track of just where the heck the track is and so every twist and turn is a surprise. The Silver Bullet at Knott’s didn’t disappoint. Reaching speeds of 55 MPH this one is less about the big drops (there’s one decent drop of 109 feet) and more about the twists and turns and 6 upside down flips.
Ghost Rider was good, just not great. It’s a long ride- lasting about 2 minutes. In true wooden coaster form it’s got a classic big drop and tons of fun in between drops. It hits speeds of 56 MPH and it reminded me I am getting old: It was bumpy as hell. I’ve still got a sore neck and yeah, I guess riding it 3 times maybe wasn’t advisable.
The straight shoot up and down rides don’t do much for me. The first time I did it was on top of a hotel in Las Vegas, and I guess once you’ve done it thousands of feet above the ground, looking down on the lights of the Strip, few rides of its kind will compete. This one isn’t bad- it takes you 252 feet into the air before not just dropping you down, but launching you down. The whole series of up and downs lasts 45 seconds and is a good adrenaline rush.
Hit Them Since You’re Already Here
A short ride that hits speeds of 50 MPH, Boomerang is a classic short course coaster that sends you on the track forward and backward.
Again, good, just not great. The coaster does shoot you out of the gate as you reach 55 MPH but it’s a super short run, and 35 seconds later you’re done.
Visiting With Kids
Laura and I don’t have kids yet. So looking back, it might have been creepy to see two childless adults wandering around the children’s zone of Knott’s Berry Farms on Halloween. So it goes. But we wandered through Camp Snoopy and we both had the same, we’re going to be really thrifty (read: cheap ass) parents: We’re keeping our kids away from Disneyland as long as possible. With the prices Knott’s provides, the entertainment for the young ones is more than adequate. I counted 20 some rides that were kid friendly, not to mention a good number of family friendly shows and characters from Snoopy and the entire Peanut’s Gang wandering around the park taking photos.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Disneyland, I just don’t love what it does to my bank account. And I love Six Flags, but family friendly isn’t a title I’d give that park anytime soon. I think Knott’s is the perfect place for a young family.
What to eat
There’s two approaches to this: In the park and outside the park. All the rave is about Mrs. Knott’s Chicken. It’s a restaurant technically just outside the park gates but here is the great thing with Knott’s: You can get a stamp to leave the park and return later. With that in mind, the options open up. Me, I’d do one of two things:
1. Walk past Mrs. Knott’s Chicken, no matter how good the biscuits might be, and go straight to the cooler I put in my car to have an affordable meal at the park.
2. Walk out the Grand Ave. exit of the park, head to La Palma, turn right, and walk three quarters of a mile to Portillo’s. What started as a small hot dog stand in Chicago has grown into a Chicagoland area establishment with great dogs, killer Italian Beef, and good cheese fries and more. There’s only five locations outside of Chicago, and two of those are in California. If you go, the order is simple, but dangerous: Italian Beef dipped, no peppers, with a side of cheese fries. I won’t be doing you any favors on calorie counts, but you’ll thank me after you have the best Italian Beef you’ve had outside of Chicago.
If you MUST eat in the park
The park has a deal that would make Portillo’s look like the healthy option: A $29.99 all you can dine plan–with a catch. You can get one entree and one side, but once you order, you have to wait 90 minutes before you get another meal with the deal. It works at a limited number of participating options in the park and drinks aren’t included though they do have a $14.99 refillable souvenir bottle available for $9.99 if you buy online with unlimited free refills on your first park visit.
Or you could add some weird trivia to your visit and go to the largest Johnny Rocket’s in North America, located right in the park.
If all else fails, seriously just get the hand stamp, walk just outside the park, and try Mrs. Knott’s Chicken.
When to go
Earlier I mentioned that Laura and I didn’t exactly see eye to eye about roller coasters. I would describe the rides as thrilling, she might use a word like harrowing. If you’re like Laura and want to spend as little time as possible on the rides, go during the summer- it’s a great time to wait in line!
But if like me, you have aspirations of 40 rides in one day- go on a weekday in October, just not at night when it turns into Knott’s Scary Farms. In the evening, Knott’s turns into a decidedly not family friendly park, complete with frightening haunted houses and horror movie characters roaming the park amidst fog machines jumping out to scare you.
But if you go during the day, you get lines like this at Silver Bullet:
If you scroll up to the photo I posted of Silver Bullet, you’ll also notice something unusual: The ride is nearly empty. The longest Laura and I waited for any ride was 4 minutes and 22 seconds, no joke. After one hour in the park, we had been on five roller coasters. One hour! We managed to get everything done we wanted to do and cut out of the park early, heading to Urban Seoul, one of our favorite places to eat in Orange County and getting back to LA before traffic even started up.
Knott’s is cheap, family friendly, and has just enough thrill rides to make it action packed as well. If scary Halloween events are your thing, Knott’s Scary Farms is not to be missed. If no lines are your thing, visit in the off season on a weekday. The food options around the park aren’t bad, and for the price, you can’t beat spending a day at this fun but small amusement park in Buena Park!
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