On Thursday, Knott’s Berry Farm officially reopened its classic Calico Mine Train after a major six-month renovation, restoration, and enhancement project. The top-to-bottom refurbishment included the addition of 46 new Audio-Animatronics figures along with dozens of new historically-accurate animals, the addition of new state-of-the-art lighting and special effects, restoration of the ride vehicles, and more. Today, we take a look at this newly re-imagined classic which now ranks among the best dark rides in Southern California.

Get a closer look at today’s update! Click on any photo in today’s blog to see a larger, high-resolution version.

Re-Opening the Calico Mine Ride

Knott’s Berry Farm hosted a grand reopening ceremony for the classic Calico Mine Ride Thursday morning in front of the attraction for season passholders and invited media. The ceremony started with some opening remarks from Knott’s Communication Manager Jason Soyster on the importance and history of the Mine Ride.

A representative from Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva’s office presented Knott’s with an award

Animatronics wizard Garner Holt and Garner Holt Productions’ Director of Creative Design Bill Butler spoke about their work on the Mine Ride and the importance of the attraction on theme park history.

Darrel Anderson, grandson of Walter and Cordelia Knott spoke briefly about his memories of the Mine Ride and spending time in the park as well.

Finally, the time to reopen the ride had come and a miner from deep inside the mine came out on a train to do the honors.

The miner got the crowd ready, teasing us with stories of the treasures waiting inside…

…finally, with a blast of some dynamite, the Mine Ride reopened.

Below, a clip of the reopening blast:

Some fun Calico Mine Ride ephemera given out at the grand reopening.

Calico Mine Ride:
A Re-Imagined Classic

Inside the Mine Ride, the Knott’s Berry Farm and Garner Holt collaboration really impresses. The attraction has been given attention in every corner and around every bend of railroad track and it really shows. But don’t think that the attraction was changed just for the sake of change. Knott’s has stayed true to the ride’s original educational intents, presenting a historically-accurate depiction of what a large mining operation like this might have looked like. Indeed, the ride is both educational and a whole lot of fun.

Inside and out, the attraction is a brilliant example of themed design, with gushing waterfalls and the first themed, hidden switchback queue weaving through the mountain side.

Naturally, riders load into newly restored mine trains for their trip through the mine.

Our friendly engineer. Engineers no longer live-spiel the ride-through — instead, the ride now comes with three different pre-recorded spiels, so you may hear a different one each time you ride.

Throughout the ride, there’s a ton to see, with great scenery, numerous miners, and new special effects. Below, the devil’s paint pots:

After the Devil’s Paint Pots, riders get their first look at the famed Calico Glory Hole, which features an amazing number of miners (as well as a mule!) working hard. We gave you an up-close look at the Glory Hole miners in a recent edition of In The Parks — click here.

The underground lake is always impressive and now features some new miners, including this one doing some hydraulic mining.

Meanwhile, miners toil away in every part of the mine…

Good thing the canary is still alive.

Up at the top of the mine, the cavern scene with its over 8,000 stalactites and stalagmites has been lovingly repainted and restored and it looks incredible.

Outside of the “Heaven Room,” miners are starting to strike it rich —

The train takes a rickety trestle out of the mine before heading back inside for an explosive finale.

The big finale of the ride is, of course, the classic big mining explosion that we just narrowly escape from before heading back to the station. This effect has been thoroughly re-imagined and is better than ever. State-of-the-art projection mapping and fog effects transform the room into a live blasting zone that our train zips out of, bringing us all to safety.

The effect is best viewed from the back of the train.

Disney fans may note some similarities here, but the Mine Ride had an explosive ending way before Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ever did and the projections and fog effects are a great way to bring the ride’s classic ending up to today’s standards.

Below, a full ride-through of the restored and enhanced ride.

Overall, the Calico Mine Ride has never looked better. The ride was already a great example of brilliant early themed design and it just needed some TLC to bring it up to today’s standards. Luckily, Knott’s recognized this and did just that — and then some. With all of the new animatronics, the excellent show lighting design, great new and restored special effects throughout; this ride is now easily one of the best dark rides in all of Southern California. My first impression after my initial ride-through was that Calico Mine Ride now ranks alongside the best of the best: Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Subsequent rides didn’t change my first impression — this attraction is that good and is worth making a visit to Knott’s Berry Farm to see for any theme park fan.

Congratulations to the teams at Knott’s and Garner Holt Productions for a truly impressive job well-done. I know there’s some dark ride space at the Farm, and I’m hoping that you can turn your attention there soon! I can’t wait to see what’s next for Knott’s.

But wait, there’s more! Don’t miss out coverage of the reopening of the refreshed Camp Snoopy at Knott’s Berry Farm — Click here!