Knott's Berry/Scary Farm Trip Report

Neon Cactus

Old Run Disney Addict
Joined
Feb 10, 2016
Hi. Just got back from my first trip to Knott's in two years. It was a bit of a crazy trip. It started with needing to use miles on Alaska Airlines for a free ticket and LA being the best option to do that. So I decided to spend a weekend in LA, go to Knott's Halloween Haunt and then Disneyland and fly home the next day. And then, my job wanted me to go man our booth at a conference in Vancouver and it just happened to be the same weekend. The good part was that I would still be able to keep my Friday plans at Knott's and then fly up to Vancouver on Saturday, and then fly back to Dallas after the conference. It's an easier flight from LA anyway. I grew up about an hour away from Knott's and my parents would take us during the day while the Halloween Haunt season was going, but never for the actual Haunt at night. A friend of mine used to go and when I got older, I was finally able to go and I've been hooked on it ever since. I've done Fright Fest at Six Flags and I've done the earliest version of Universal's Halloween Horror Nights, but nothing comes close for me, so I try to get back here every so often. This year was a little different because I ended up buying an annual pass. When I was considering going to the Halloween Haunt, I saw that their annual pass for next year was $197 for the Cedar Fair platinum pass and it allowed for one visit during 2019, which would be the daytime visit. So I figured I would need four park visits to make it worth it. But I also saw next year, Knott's is celebrating their 100th anniversary. I'm a sucker for theme park anniversaries, so there's a better than average chance I will make it out for that day. They also have their Boysenberry Festival in April, so I'm going to see if the airfares will be good and allow me to go for that. There's also a Cedar Fair park in Kansas City, which is a day's drive from Dallas, so I can likely make a trip there. What sealed the deal was finding out the Cedar Fair just bought the Schlitterbahn waterparks in New Braunfels and Galveston in Texas, which I will definitely go to. So now I have the Knott's AP.

I have a basic strategy on my Knott's visits during the Halloween Haunt. Even though I have to buy an extra ticket, I always go during the day and ride all of the rides that are not "haunted". So when I come back at night for the Haunt, I can focus on the mazes and entertainment.

I was on the earliest flight of the day, a 6:15 AM flight that landed at 7:40. I like early flights because the plane is already there and there's less chance for a delay. I sleep well on airplanes and we landed early at LAX. Fortunately I beat the new ride share system by a few days and was able to get a ride curbside. I waited less than 10 minutes and was on my way. I was a bit worried about traffic, since it was 8 AM on a Friday morning, but my driver got me to the hotel in Buena Park in just over half an hour. I was excited at first because right across the street from the hotel was a Farrell's, the great ice cream palace I also grew up with. But sadly, it was closed and it was just the building. Since it was just me and I was going to barely be in the room, I was looking for cheap and I stayed at the Buena Park Inn. If you're staying with the family or on a romantic getaway, I wouldn't stay here. But if you're on a solo trip, want to be close to Knott's, don't really care about amenities and want a cheap price, it was actually perfect. It was about a 10 minute walk to the front gate. I got there at 8:30 and the park didn't open until 10, so I had some time to kill. The hotel didn't have a room available but they did hold my luggage in their office. I hadn't eaten yet, so I started thinking about breakfast. My go-to place in LA is always Tommy's Original Hamburgers, the best chili burgers anywhere. There was one a few miles away and I thought about having it delivered, but while several of them are open 24 hours or at least long hours, this location didn't open until 9 and I thought if it took too long for delivery, I'd miss the park opening. So my next thought was to go check Mrs. Knott's famous chicken restaurant. They have breakfast sometimes and it's very good. Except they didn't have breakfast that day. They didn't open until 11. That left Knott's bakery. They opened at 9, so I waited.

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If you're familiar with Knott's, you know all about the boysenberry. If you don't, it's the reason for the park being there. I usually go for boysenberry overload when I'm there. So breakfast consisted of a donut with boysenberry frosting and Knott's boysenberry punch. The souvenir stores were open as well, so I walked through there and looked at all the boysenberry items: syrup, butter, salsa, bbq sauce, and more. Around 9:30, I went to the park area. It was quick to get through security and then wait for the park opening. Right before park opening, they played Whitney Houston's version of the Star Spangled Banner and then the park gates opened. My usual first ride would be their main coaster Ghost Rider, but since I knew I'd be riding it that night, I went towards the back of the park towards the rides that were newer to me. First up was their newest coaster, Hang Time, which ultimately was not the best choice. There were no crowds there initially and there were only two of us in the car and I was in the front row. Hang Time is a very poor choice to ride immediately after breakfast. The initial hill goes straight up 90 degrees. Luckily you have the restraint and a seat belt because I was not holding on. My hands were on my pockets to make sure my phone, wallet and keys did not fall out. And my stomach did not like going straight up. Then the car crested the top and paused there with the front row angling down. And now the food was sloshing to the other side of my stomach. The track curves inward so you actually descend at more than 90 degrees and then there was a series of several loops. I'm very lucky that I have a strong stomach and don't generally get motion sickness, but even so, I had a headache and felt awful by the time we got back in there. So of course the next thing to do would be to ride another coaster, another new one to me called Coast Rider. It's not nearly as crazy as Hang Time, and is more like a mouse, with a few switchbacks. I handled that fine, but my headache was getting bad and my stomach wasn't feeling great, so I decided to take a break from coasters for a while. They have one of the classic glider rides so I did that. Then I went to another new ride for me called Voyage to the Iron Reef. It's one where you go in and shoot at a screen to get points, and it was air conditioned and slow, so it was a nice break. It had been in the 50s in Dallas and I was getting 50 degree temperatures in Vancouver after today, but that day at Knott's, the forecast was 96 degrees.

Then it was time for some mellow rides. I went to ride the stagecoach. One of Knott's classic attractions is a stagecoach around the perimeter of the park pulled by horses. Lines can get long for it, so it's ideal to do it early.

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There was a short line, but it only took about five minutes to get on. After that, I went to their other classic Ghost Town rides, the log ride and the Calico Mine Train. Both nice and long and nice and mellow so my stomach had time to get settled. The log ride was decorated for Halloween and it was a lot of fun.

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After that, I decided I should probably have real food, so I went to the Boardwalk BBQ. Knott's has always had a good variety of food and good quality and the bbq was pretty good and having a nice regular meal helped me feel better. Then I decided to go jinx some roller coasters. I went over to the Mexico section of the park to Jaguar, which is a pretty tame coaster. Right as I was getting there, the ride broke down. So I went to the next one, Montezuma's Revenge. This was put in the park when I was a teen, so it's still a sentimental favorite of mine and still fun. So I got in line and there was no wait for the next coaster. It's pretty basic. It launches straight out of the station and goes into a big loop and then up a hill until it slows, then it drops down, does the loop backwards, goes back through the station to another hill and then comes down that hill into the station and stops. Except when it stopped, it didn't stop where it was supposed to. So they shut the ride down. It didn't look like a major issue, so I decided to wait. The maintenance crew came and basically just pushed the car back to where it was supposed to be, then made a couple of adjustments and we were ready to go in under 10 minutes. Still a lot of fun. So after I got off of that ride, I went back to Jaguar and just as I got there, they were reopening the ride, so I got in the front row with no wait and we went through the ride and then the brakes stuck with our car just out of the station. So they had to go get their maintenance team back and we were stuck out directly in the hot sun for almost 10 minutes. By this time, it was around 1:30 and I was going to be able to check in. So I rode the Voyage to the Iron Reef again, checked out the park's Halloween decorations and then left the park, walked back over to the hotel and checked in. Fortunately, there was a drug store on the corner and I got a big bottle of water to drink on the way. I got a nice quiet room and was able to take a nap before the night's festivities began.

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NEXT: KNOTT'S SCARY FARM
 
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Neon Cactus

Old Run Disney Addict
Joined
Feb 10, 2016
PART 2: KNOTT'S HALLOWEEN HAUNT

If you've never been to Knott's Halloween Haunt, it should be on your bucket list. Knott's has been doing it for years and they take it very seriously. The level of art and design in their mazes is incredible, even when that art is gory and disgusting. The Halloween Haunt is not for young kids or the faint of heart and if you hate being scared, I don't advise you to go. The Halloween Haunt is a separate ticketed event. There are four basic elements to it: Mazes, Rides, Scare Zones and Shows. Mazes are their bread and butter. They spend a long time planning these and designing these and they are truly scary. Admission to the mazes is included with the Halloween Haunt ticket. You do have the option to get the Fright and Fast Lane which is $100 and gives you priority access to all of the mazes and several of the attractions. Rides are their typical rides with no special Halloween decoration but are still open. Scare Zones is also what the Haunt is famous for. The biggest is their Ghost Town area. They have fog machines that can make it difficult to see, but walking around in the fog are dozens of scare actors in gruesome makeup, some with rattle cans and they are well trained to sometimes sneak up on you to scare you and there are the sliders, who run and then slide with pads shooting up sparks on the ground. The scare zones became so popular that they have three other scare zones throughout the park. When I first started going in the 1980s, the "monsters" were able to touch guests. We'd be walking through fog and one would sneak up, shake this rattle can near your ear and touch you on the shoulder and it was truly scary. There were even some that would hide in the trees and then jump down next to you. Now, they are no longer allowed to touch guests, but they still do a great job at scaring them. And then there is the entertainment. This changes over the years. One of my favorites that they no longer have was a hypnotist who would get volunteers from the audience, hypnotize them and then make them act out on stage. For many years, they had a show with Elvira and they've also had Weird Al Yankovic a couple of times. This year, their main show is a puppet show created by Brian Henson that is like an Improv act using audience suggestions. They also had magic acts in a theater and a DJ dance party in another area.

One thing I highly recommend is the pre-scare dinner. You get a buffet dinner and are able to go into the park early. The dinner is held in one of their restaurants inside the park and then you are also able to start going through the mazes half an hour early. You also get a special entrance. I've done it several ways over time. I've gone without the pre-scare dinner and on popular nights, it has taken as long as 45 minutes just to get into the park and by that time all of the mazes have long lines. One year, I stayed at the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel and they have packages that include tickets, a t-shirt and a pre-scare dinner at the hotel, where you still get in early. But I'm picky, the dinner was ok, but the hotel for some reason didn't have Boysenberry Punch. So the next time, we booked the regular pre-scare dinner that's in the park. I get my punch and the dinner is much better. It's $34 and you get a big variety of food including their famous fried chicken, carved prime rib and pork loin, butternut squash soup, peel and eat shrimp, chili, and a whole selection of sides, along with plenty of great desserts. This year we also got a refillable cup that we could continue to refill the rest of the night. As you eat, several of the monster characters roam around, talking to you, mocking you, and having fun. It's well worth the cost.

I'd been going since early morning and after being dehydrated, getting an hour's nap felt good. So I woke up and walked back over to Knott's. The Halloween Haunt is open from 7 PM to midnight but I had reservations for the 5 PM pre-scare dinner. I always get the first one of the day because then you don't ever have to wait for seating. If you have a later one, you sometimes have to wait for a table and people generally aren't in a huge hurry to leave since they can't get into the park yet. My friend who lives in California was going to come but his house was being threatened by one of the fires, so he wasn't able to make it. So it was just me solo that night. Check in is very easy. They scan your ticket for admission and the pre-scare dinner, and if you have the Fright and Fast Lane ticket, they give you a wristband there also. I've never done that before because we usually go in late September or early October and it's not usually that crowded. But going on a Friday night the week before Halloween, I thought it might get crowded so I splurged for it this year and, as I'll describe later, I believe in this situation, it was worth it. Then you have the option of getting your picture taken with a monster before being escorted to the restaurant.
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Then it was on to the buffet and I had deliberately made sure not to eat much that day so I could get my money's worth. For $34 and with the interaction with the monsters, plus getting into the park early, it's worth it.

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Once we're done eating, you wait in a small section of the park. One of the bonuses is it's the section where their top roller coaster Ghost Rider is located and the past few times I've been here, they open it up early and did so again. So while we were waiting for our early entry, we got an extra ride on Ghost Rider. It's a great coaster. It used to be an all wooden one and the first time I rode it, I couldn't wait for it to end. It was so bumpy that it gave you a headache and sometimes a backache to go with it. They kept the outer wooden structure, but replaced the wood track with a steel track and it is now much smoother and a great coaster and one of their most popular. At 6:30, they opened up a small section of the park with four mazes and we were able to go back there. This is where the Fright and Fast Lane started to become worth it. Early on, the lines aren't too bad. But the park is open 5 hours and by 9:30, these mazes had 75 minute waits to get in each of them. And there are 9 total mazes in the park. One maze, Infected: Special Ops is kind of like laser tag meets a maze. You get the laser tag rifles and there are zombies coming after you with sensors around their neck and you have to shoot them to get through. It's so much fun. The first time I went, it had a 90 minute wait. I waited less than 5 minutes with the Fast Lane. Definitely worth it. I came back later and the line was over 2 hours long and they started mixing the Fast Lane line in further down, so it was more like a 45 minute wait, so I decided not to do it again. But most of the other mazes that had 60-90 minute waits, I was able to walk in.

I started with the mazes for early entry. They had a new one called Waxworks that was very good. Knott's will sometimes use the same theme for several years, making a few changes to keep it fresh because they get a lot of repeat guests every year. The next maze was one of these called Paranormal Incorporated and the premise is you're going to watch a show of supernatural hunters in an old sanitarium. The effects are outstanding. I did one other one that wasn't all that great and then saw that the park was about to open to everyone. I went back to the log ride first because it wasn't included in the fright lane and because of the Halloween decorations, it gets long lines. So I did that with no wait. When I first started coming to the Halloween Haunt, they had monsters in the ride that would scare you as you went through the ride. The first year I was there, they had one hiding at the top of the big drop and I got scared and stood up in the log as it was going down the hill. They don't have the actors in the ride anymore. And the mine train used to also have scare actors in it and they don't decorate it for Halloween anymore.

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Once I did the log ride, I went to mazes toward the back of the park. There was one called Dark Ride that was really good, supposed to be an old carnival dark ride where the operator went crazy and killed people. One of the downsides to going to haunted mazes solo is when you're a 52 year old male, you don't get a lot of attention from the monsters. Knott's definitely was better than Six Flags Fright Fest in at least trying, but the payoff just isn't as great. So when I'd go in the mazes, I'd try to make sure I was near a group of younger people, especially girls. Because that's who the monsters go after and if they scream and run, that just puts a bigger target on their back. There was another samurai themed maze near there so I did that and then headed over to Ghost Town and the two big mazes. There was an origin maze of their famous Green Witch. Usually the Ghost Town maze is one of the best. It was long but I didn't think it was great. I went over and did the Special Ops maze and shot zombies and then at the front of the park is their 9th maze. With the Fast Lane pass, it was still before 9 PM and I'd done all 9 mazes plus the log ride and Ghost Rider. By 9:30, the wait for each maze was at least 60 minutes and most were longer than that. As crowded as it was that night, there is no way that anyone could get through every maze in five hours. Even when they are open until 2 AM, it would still be tough to do. So if you are ever going closer to Halloween, and especially on a Friday or Saturday night, I'd definitely consider the Fast Lane if your budget can handle it.

I went through several of the mazes again and ended up leaving about 11 PM, since I had to be up early to fly to Vancouver. I'd never been there before and it was beautiful. I'm getting ready for the Dopey Challenge so I went for a run to Stanley Park and their totem poles (which I call the EPCOT totem poles since they have replicas in the Canada pavilion). So I'll leave this post with a couple of pictures of Vancouver. But if you like good, gory, scary mazes, I highly recommend Knott's Scary Farm.

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