Grand opening of a Knott’s Berry Farm classic: The Reimagined Calico Mine Ride

Written by Andy Castro. Posted in Features, In the Parks, Knott's Berry Farm

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Published on June 13, 2014 at 4:48 am with 23 Comments

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!

About Andy Castro

Andy is a Southern California native, raised with Disneyland and a life-long fan of Disney theme parks and animation. Andy writes the weekly Dateline Disneyland column, which can be found every Monday on MiceChat.

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  • Disneyfan58

    We have always loved this attraction, can not wait to see it now.

  • eicarr

    I’m not the least bit excited about the Big Thunder refurbishment, but this has me amped about my next DL vacation. Knotts accomplished a level of immersive theming Disney couldn’t with Big Thunder and Rip Roaring Rapids. A dark ride in the old Knotts Bear-y Tales building will help Knotts regain my business on every DL trip again.

    • manifest

      During the grand opening ceremony, that was talked about. “More fun coming to the Boardwalk area in 2015″

  • Ravjay12

    It’s so easy to just rip something down in favor of newer and better attractions. I’m so glad that Knott’s has preserved this ride and made it better than ever! Was my favorite ride at Knott’s when I was a kid, and I can’t wait to ride it again! Well done!!

  • manifest

    Here is my review:

    I have not gone on an attraction this flawless since I was a kid. Everything about this ride is good and completely refreshing.

    This ride has always been Knott’s Ace in the Hole, but now it has become one of the top 5 dark rides around.

    You really have to see this one for yourself…

  • stamphead

    For some reason the miner doing the hydraulic mining intrigues me. Not sure why.

    • dlpostcardguy

      I agree. I think it’s because you don’t normally see an AA in water like that.

  • Conconhead

    How was the music in the Heaven room? I know that was a big point for a lot of fans.

    • Wendygirl

      It was great. They don’t start it right away. When you first go in, the room is dark and the “guide” says to the conductor to get some light on and that’s when the organ music starts. Very well done.

      • Conconhead

        Awesome! Thanks. Glad it’s still incorporated.

  • Dan Heaton

    This looks amazing. I rode this as a kid (I think) in 1985 but haven’t been there since. This is another reason to get over there in the future.

  • DisneyanaFan

    Back in the late 1980s while in college I used to be a ride operator on this ride. So glad to see it fixed up. Kind of sad, however, to hear that operators no longer will be given the tour. I still know most of the old spiel some 25 years later.

  • Wendygirl

    Was very impressed with this ride yesterday. Rode it twice and I have to say I enjoyed it even more the second time through! The first time I was seated in the back and the second time I asked to be seated closer to the front and was in the second car. I see the advantages of both but slightly preferred closer to the front.

    Garner Holt did an amazing job on this refurbishment. Adding this to the Log Ride just amps that whole area up! Thanks be to whoever for preserving this ride and keeping it from being torn down in favor of one of those big steel coasters Cedar Fair seemed so fond of putting in. To bad it was too late for the Reflection Lake area.

    Yes, there will be a dark ride once again back in Beary Tales/Kingdom of the Dinosaurs. Garner Holt did such a great job with these two rides here’s hoping Knotts hires them again to do the dark ride!

    • Conconhead

      Here’s hoping Reflection Lake may someday be restored. I was SO heartbroken when they put in a coaster and moved the chapel off grounds.

  • M69

    Much appreciated. Good to see this ride is now living up to its potential – with a finale that is improved while not too scary for the little ones. The POV makes it clear that the ride is impressive. Will be sure to ride nearer the back as advised.
    If the Guardian coaster / shoot em ride at CF’s Wonderland is the inspiration for Knott’s version in the old Barry Tales location, here’s to it honoring the original ride in some way (even if just being a solid dark ride attraction) and better than Guardian all the way around (looks awful).

  • Prof. Emelius

    This video literally brought tears to my eyes. When I last visited Knott’s Berry Farm in the late 90′s, I though the park was never going to be worth visiting again. So many great attractions had either been removed, or horribly neglected by that point. It brings great joy to my heart to see them putting love back into this great family park once again. I hope they hot a major boom in attendance this summer, which will motivate them to go even further down the road of returning the park to its former glory. The next thing they need to bring back is Knotts Berry Tales. I know it would be a much more ambitious project, because the original attraction no longer exists. But the infrastructure is still there. I think it COULD be done. Get Rolly Crump on board as a consultant. I really think this attraction needs to return. They also should restore the area as a Roaring 20′s themed land. But for now I would be ecstatic if they just brought the classic dark ride back in an updated and improved form.

    • dlpostcardguy

      I agree with what you stated. Can’t wait to ride this tommorrow. It looks amazing. An announcement that they are bringing back Berry Tales would be fantastic news!!! I am so hoping this is what they will be working on next. Really happy with the direction that Knott’s is taking. This park has a great history and so much potential. With the Knott’s team, Garner Holt and Rolly Crump’s input I really hope to see Berry Tales make a comeback. Not only would it provide a great ‘fantasy’ style family dark ride with memorable music and characters, it could provide some really cute walk around characters and merchandise for the park. Let’s hope!

  • daveinfontana

    Fantastic job. Will have to ride this again. Altho they should slow down during the blast sequence so as one can see what’s happening.

    • DarthSavage

      Agree to a degree, but I think the point of the train speeding up during the blast sequence is “to hurry up and narrowly avoid the explosion.”

  • Algernon

    I’m going!

  • Calicojoe

    Superb job on this ride. The opening ceremonies were fantastic. I had a chance to speak with Garner Holt, after I had rode the ride twice. I went back and rode the ride three more times!!
    There are a few spots in the ride where it would be nice to slow down, or perhaps stop for 15 seconds to see what you are in fact looking at. It was a major enhancement to install the animatronics, and almost a shame to whiz by with only a glimpse of what you might think it was. The train does not move that fast, however when it approaches the “Glory Hole” it keeps on moving to the point where a person cant visualize the scene very well
    I Realize there are time restraints on the Recordings, and perhaps the longer ride would mean longer wait times, but one more minute overall would not be that much I would imagine.
    If you are taking Pictures, or video, I would suggest to take the video, then ride the ride again, or perhaps Ride the Train first, then second time take the video.
    You might be surprised how much you missed the first time.
    Nice to see this ride intact. I know Garner Holt Hit it out of the park on this ride..

  • jcruise86

    Thanks for that excellent report!

    Forgive me for getting off topic, but I’d like to read more about the videos inflicted upon people waiting in lines for attractions. How bad and numerous are they?

    Knott’s is a great deal, and here again are some Knott’s Tips:
    http://micechat.com/forums/knotts-berry-farm-cedar-fair-parks/191682-updated-knotts-tips-please-add-more.html