Knott's Berry Farm theme park has been a Southern California institution for many years now. Like its name implies, it started as a farm in Buena Park the 1920's owned by Walter Knott. During the Depression, Knott's wife Cordelia reluctantly decided to sell fried chicken dinners to make ends meet. Within a few years, the wait for one of Cordelia Knott's dinners was several hours long. To entertain these crowds, Walter began to build a ghost town in 1940, using buildings relocated from real old west towns such as Calico, California and Prescott, Arizona. No one knew it at the time, but a theme park was born. Additional attractions were gradually added such as a train ride, a pan-for-gold area, and the Calico Mine Ride. In 1968, Knott fenced the property and began to charge an admission fee.
Interestingly enough, when Disneyland was built in nearby Anaheim in 1955, the two attractions were not seen as direct competitors, due to the different atmosphere of each. Walt Disney actually visited Knott's Berry Farm several times, and often hosted the Knotts at his park.
The Knott Family sold the 160-acre park in 1997, and as a result the attractions have gradually become more focused on thrill rides. However, with its Old West ambiance, Knott's Berry Farm remains a solid (and less expensive) alternative to Disneyland. Like most California theme parks, you should avoid visiting during summer months, weekends, or any other time kids are out of school. Winter is generally the best time to visit to avoid crowds, though rain can close certain attractions. Here are some other things to keep in mind:
Tips for Visiting Knott's
It's not a bad idea to arrive at the park several minutes before it before it opens.
Plan to go on the most popular attractions first thing in the morning before the lines get too long. Currently these are: Silver Bullet, Pony Express, Ghost Rider, Perlious Plunge, and Xcelerator.
Shady areas are hard to find here, so on sunny days, bring a hat and/or sunscreen. Also, think about a way to secure your hat while on the rides.
Unlike Disneyland, Knott's does not have a FASTPASS system per se, so during busy times, you might want to bring something to amuse your kids. Or you might...
Consider buying a Fast Lane Pass (if you can afford it). Unlike FASTPASS, this is basically a wrist band you wear that basically lets you cut to the front of the line on 12 of their most popular rides. Currently they cost about $35, and only sell a limited quantity each day.
Get a map at the park gate - it has ride height requirements printed on it. Look at this before standing in line for a ride.
Shoes and shirts/blouses are required at all times. Profanity and pictures of illegal substances on clothing are not allowed. This dress code is strictly enforced.
Knott's Berry Farm is seperated into 6 themed areas. Listed here are the highlights of each...
Or Calico Square, is the oldest themed area of the park. With great Old West atmosphere (saloons, gunfights, stuntshows, steam trains and more), it is re-creation of an 1880's California Boom Town. The rides to catch here are the Timber Mountain Log Ride, Calico Mine Ride (dark ride), Ghost Town Calico Railroad (watch out for train robbers), GhostRider (one of the longest and tallest wooden rollercoasters in the world), and Silver Bullet (inverted, looping roller coaster).
Inspired by Spanish California with authentic music and food. The best rides here are Montezuma's Revenge, and Jaguar.
A tribute to seaside fun zones across America, this colorful area celebrates Southern California's beach culture. If you don't mind getting wet, then Perilous Plunge is a can't miss ride. Likewise, if you don't mind heights, you need to go on Xcelerator and Supreme Scream.
Wild Water Wilderness
California's longest man-made whitewater river. Go on Bigfoot Rapids for a more leisurely water ride, and check out the Mystery Lodge for a mix of high-tech wizardry and Native American storytelling - a unique and mystical experience.
Celebrating the cultures and traditions of Native Americans. There are no rides here - but shows, entertainment, history and crafts.
A great place for the little kids. Inspired by California's High Sierra, this six-acre Kid's Mecca holds more than 30 attractions - not to mention Snoopy. If your kids aren't too little, try out the Sierra Sidewinder. Other good bets are the Charlie Brown Speedway and the Rocky Road Truckin' Company.