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  1. #1

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    It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    Here are my thoughts on my recent visit to Knott's. Kind of a wordy-essay thing. Thank you for reading.


    Having been born and raised in Orange, CA, the theme parks have always held a special place in my heart. Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm were a yearly treat my mother would bestow upon me and my brothers for a schools years worth of good behavior. These parks were built upon the imaginations of two great people name Walter, who took farms south of Los Angeles and created mountains and lands of past eras. My own family has also left its mark on both parks. My Grandfather was an immigrant from Mexico, and after working as a migrant worker, settled down in Orange County and worked construction jobs which landed him work in both parks. Disneyland was the holy grail of theme parks; it was the park that reminded me of its presence at night, when the booming of the fireworks would echo through the hills but for the most part, was unattainable. Knott’s Berry Farm was the historical park, where you could go and learn about California and the Wild West; the one we took school trips to, to learn about the gold rush and Native American traditions. And Knott’s was also the affordable park.

    After visiting Knott’s almost every year in elementary school with my family, my last visit was around 2002 when Perilous Plunge and Xcellerator made their debuts, and you could tell that the park was shifting gears. The constant commercials for the new ‘extreme’ rides and what my friends had told me about how the park had changed, kept me away until this past weekend. As an EMT my boyfriend gets free admission in December and January, and we decided to make the trip to the park instead of our usual weekend trip to the Disneyland Resort. Pulling up on Knott Ave, I started to get excited. It had been almost 10 years since my last visit to the park and even though I had avoided it, I couldn’t help but think of all the fun my brothers and I had here. We took the slight left turn, went under the tunnel to the parking lot (Oh! The tunnel! I remember walking through you tired out from a day of play!), paid our parking and parked. I excitedly led my boyfriend back under the tunnel and to the front gate, telling him stories of the fun and how exciting the ghost town and camp snoopy are. He warned me not to get my hopes up, because the park may have changed more than I was expecting, but really how much could it have changed? Just a few new thrill rides right?

    We took our first step into the park, where I remember being greeted by a fun water tower with a dancing cowboy and cowgirl on top, and on hot summer days, we would run through it to cool off. Well it was still there, maybe lacking the energy of children running around due to the cold January day, but the spectacle seemed to be caught up in a web of the steel pylons that make up the extreme roller coaster, Silver Bullet. And these obnoxious pylons quickly became the main theme of the day. Things were worse than I had imagined, and walking through the ghost town made me even more emotional, I was not prepared. The day quickly became not one of enjoying the sights of my childhood with my partner, but one of me telling him stories of the glorious past. Look, there’s the Native American stage, where dancing performers would wow us and tell us stories to the beat of the drums-now with a large metal pylon bursting from the ground not too far from the stage. The atmosphere was all off too, walking around a ghost town made from buildings plucked right out of the boom town of Calico in the California dessert, while listening to the Cranberries and Nickleback , and the screams andthunderous sounds of the coasters. The buildings looked tired, the life sized dioramas inside some of the buildings looked worn and forgotten. Luckily, as I was on the brink of crying, I heard an announcement for the Mystery Lodge show. One of my all time favorites! It surely must still be amazing!

    I dragged my boyfriend over and prayed in line that the show would still be everything I had remembered it to be. And luckily it was. It is a really great show, wonderful themes and such care were taken in making that show, and I am glad that at least one thing has lasted. Big Foot Rapids was closed, which was sad because it was one of my favorite rides, but still took the time to explain to my boyfriend what the ride was, and how fun it was, but what was that wooden shack thing intruding on the pristine landscaping of the ride? To my surprise (though I really should not have been surprised) it was a newer ride, The Pony Express, another steel intruder fitting with Knott’s new Thrill Park persona. Needless to say I was upset that a ride that looked like it wasn’t even that great, had taken up real estate in the Bigfoot Rapids. Whatever, let’s just move on. Here around the corner are the bumper cars and the snoopy theatre, still looking exactly the same, except more rusted. Everything was rusted, worn and unloved looking. I was growing weary of this place, it was not the place that I had enjoyed so much as a child.

    We made our way to the heart of the Thrill side of the park. It was crowded, not so much with people, but with a web of steel supports. The air thick with a cacophony of sounds, shudders, and screams. I grew weary of the area and we quickly went on Jaguar (a childhood favorite) and made our way to camp snoopy. I felt like nothing had changed! The same old stuff from over 10 years ago! And look! They still have the Huff and Puff ride! Oh man! That was the highlight of my childhood and of that day. Sadly, it seemed like the caves were closed off and no longer in use, and the feeling of being in a forest was gone due to, yes, even more new screaming coasters. We had made the full circle around the park. I was weary, wasn’t there a lake in here before? What happened to the white chapel along the water? Why are the teepee’s trapped under the steal too? And you can’t enter them anymore? Why is this silver bullet ride so damn MASSIVE? Hell! That ride seems to be everywhere! So many questions, so many hurt feelings. It was all really silly of me to be feeling like this. I mean for the past decade I had known about the selling of the park from the Knott family to the Cedar fair people, I had seen from the freeway how the skyline of the park had changed. From the parachutes tower with the big ‘K,’ with Montezumas revenge peeking out back in the day, to the mangled mess of steel, more similar to what you see when you drive by Six Flags Magic Mountain.

    The temperature was quickly dropping. We had only been in the park about three hours but it felt like I had been walking around all day. Who knew getting emotional over a theme park would make you more tired than the actual theme park. I told my boyfriend that we would go home after we ride the Calico Mine Train. I remember that one being fun. And it was just as I remembered it, tired looking of course, but the whole park has that tired feeling to it anyways. Towards the end of ride, we felt rain drops and sure enough, when we got off the ride, it had begun to drizzle.

    Now this next part may sound cliché but it summed up how I felt after my short visit here. The drizzle was getting a bit more aggressive and the sun had gone down, but I had to make one last stop. There used to be a graveyard around here in the ghost town. With funny things written on the headstones, and a beating heart, we would play around these graves as kids, being kind of afraid that maybe there were real bodies in these graves. Now where was it… Boot Hill! That sounds about right, there was a cemetery on boot hill, the last thing I wanted to visit before leaving. I skipped up to the entrance; it was dark, barely even lit, a bit eerie. And right there, in the middle of this beloved fake graveyard, the one thing that been inescapable all day, and steel pylon. Right there, emerging from the ground almost taking up a grave, desecrating what I felt was the last holy place in this poor tired, confused theme park. I didn’t think anything could have upset me that day, but this one took the cake. The drizzle was on the brink of becoming a full on rain, I took a quick walk around the graves, it was much too dark to decipher what they said, and it seemed like the beating heart grave was no longer beating. I took a deep breath, touched one of the headstones, said a quick prayer/farewell (mind you, I am not a religious person) and walked away. My boyfriend was waiting for me at the entrance of the graveyard; he hadn’t even entered, but had left me to grieve on my own. He grabbed my arm, told me he was sorry and we quickly made our way out of the moist, cold park, through the side exit gates, across the street, under the tunnel and into my waiting warm car.

  2. #2

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    Nice read. I cant comment much as I have not been to Knotts since I was, like 11 years old.

  3. #3

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    The beating heart does still, usually, work
    Mike



  4. #4

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    this is why my wife and I didn't bother with Knott's AP's. We did it with the kids for a year and watched as things at that time were sliding. The old Snoopy's Playhouse was left to rot until it was finally demolished (it smelled like a boy's locker room inside). The wonderful Camp Snoopy Bridge is no more. Everywhere you look it's steel, screams, and pop music. Even the last little traces of what was a wonderful unique park are slowly vanishing.
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  5. #5

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    What a great post, and it really sums up my feelings about the park.

    I love Roller Coasters, and most of them at Knott's are "ok" with Xcelerator and Montezooma's Revenge being the best (IMO).

    But a park can't just be about Roller Coasters, and sadly, much of Knott's is just that.

    It's probably true that if you look at a map from the 80's and a map from today, you may see "more" rides. But then again, maybe not since there are no longer the parachutes, Beary Tales/KoD, etc.

    But back then, even though it wasn't as "thrilling", you could easily spend a full day at Knott's and not felt like you'd seen everything.

    We were there a few weeks ago, and within 3 hours we were done. This is more typical of Knott's with us this past decade.


  6. #6

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    Quote Originally Posted by sir clinksalot View Post
    But back then, even though it wasn't as "thrilling", you could easily spend a full day at Knott's and not felt like you'd seen everything.

    We were there a few weeks ago, and within 3 hours we were done. This is more typical of Knott's with us this past decade.
    What bothered me most was the removal of history. Things like the Berry Stand, the chapel, and the missions. I remember being the 4th grader tasked with building a CA Mission... and wanting it to be "better" then Knott's. Little things like that are what I miss most. The Cordelia and the Walter K, one on the bridge the other in the middle of the lake. Sure there weren't as many thrills "back then" but the place had history, it had an identity beyond just steel and screams.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


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  7. #7

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    I went to Knott's back in July for the first time since '99. While it was ok to visit after all these years, I can't say I would be heartbroken if I didn't go back. The real highlights for me were riding the Calico Mine Train and Timber Mountain Log Ride. They're classics and they're fun. The park lacks a lot of green, so the heat was worse here. You really treasure shade if you find it. Food was overpriced for the quality you get. The food prices were higher than Disneyland and the quality was lower than Disneyland. The park could use some cleaning. The restrooms need help!! They're at the same level if not lower than a rest stop you find along the interstate...

    The park seen last summer:


  8. #8

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    What bothered me most was the removal of history. Things like the Berry Stand, the chapel, and the missions. I remember being the 4th grader tasked with building a CA Mission... and wanting it to be "better" then Knott's. Little things like that are what I miss most. The Cordelia and the Walter K, one on the bridge the other in the middle of the lake. Sure there weren't as many thrills "back then" but the place had history, it had an identity beyond just steel and screams.
    thanks for the feedback guys!

    and yes, the loss of the history i think is what got me down the most. for me, its telling of history was the parks identity; and in a sense, helped showcase our identity as californians, OUR history. (and i mean even charles schultz made california his home so the peanuts gang arent even out of their element in the california theme. xD)

  9. #9

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    I work there during Haunt and, even though I'm still a huge fan of the park (maybe like the love you have for a three-legged asthmatic dog that just won't give up?), I can't argue with any of the points you bring up. It's a shadow of its former self.

    If you haven't already, you may want to turn this post into an actual letter and send it to Knott's management. They need to hear this (oh, man, especially the part about the music).

  10. #10

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    I live in Orange and grew up in Huntington Beach and although I didn't go to Knotts that often as a child, I do have fond memories of the place. AND I agree with about 95% of what was said here.
    The only thing I think I disagree with is your comments about Pony Express. With this roller coaster, Knotts put some effort into it. MUCH, MUCH more than they have with any of their other coasters. They tried to preserve some history (by not removing the graveyard), they themed it 1,000% more than ALL of their other coasters and it fits into the overall theme of Knotts.
    I especially agree with the comments about the price and quality of food at Knotts. Although on my visit in Dec 2010, the food wasn't horrible, it was VERY expensive. EVERYTHING there is VERY expensive. But when you let everyone in for free (or almost free), you have to make it up somewhere else.
    The thing that frustrates me the most with Knotts is, it doesn't take 100 of millions or billions of dollars to make a quality theme park (and we ALL know that Cedar Fair doesn't have that kind of capital). Legoland is a good example of this, but they try harder than Knotts does. Sometimes I think that Knotts is an elaborate haunted house that operates as an amusement park sometimes. Because Knotts Scary Farm is the ONLY time that Knotts puts any effort into anything.
    My one ray of hope is Matt Ouimet is now the new CEO of Cedar Fair and has said that Knotts is the crown jewel of the Cedar Fair chain. Let's hope that he can bring back some of what made Knotts a special place. Although I think that the BIGGEST and BEST change would be to remove Silver Bullet, but that will probably never happen.

  11. #11

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    Thanks for the trip report. I share many of your feelings and observations - it's mostly about the loss of what used to be, not so much about what's offered now. Fact is, without all those intruding steel beams there probably would be no Knott's anymore. People like us would still go, but a handfull of purists don't pay the bills. That said, the classics like Timber Mountain, Calico Mine and Montezooma are still the best attractions they have. Ghost Rider has become painfully inrideable, Pony Express is a 30-second mini thrill, Perilous Plunge is a big, huge waste of space that loads way too slowly, chains like Jonny Rockets and Panda Express replace former original ideas, and so many tiny details from the past are obliterated. I should point out, though, that those dusty life-sized dioramas you viewed have been recently refurbished and some of them actually look great as compared to 10 years ago. Nonetheless, I understand your frustration, which probably began the minute you walked through that tunnel from the parking lot and noticed the colorful painting had been covered up. (and when was the last time a tram ran in that parking lot?)

    I still go, but as others have said, it's roughly a 3 hour trip to see the ice show, ride the old favorites, mourn the locations where former great things stood, ride log ride and calico, and then go have fried chicken.

    Please do write a letter - the worst offense in my opinion as Koutesu said is the fact that food prices are higher than Disney. Are you kidding? I realize they are trying to make up for the lower admission price by gouging us once we're in the gate, but don't think that tactic goes unnoticed.
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  12. #12

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    I felt like most of you were seeing into my heart. I remember back when I was in high school & the few years after, that my friends would joke & say they were sending my mail to Knott's as I was there all the time. (I'm going to date myself by saying - this was in the late 70's.) We would just hang out there (the way we do at Disneyland now) & hardly ever bought tickets for the rides. We could buy general admission & occasionally an entire book of tickets, and just have the greatest time. We even did the haunt back in those days. Before the mazes & the masses took over. Wolfman Jack and then eventually Elvira were the headliners....

    Disney became more important to us & they'd started offering annual passes. We bought those & that's where we'd end up. Knotts was changing & we were feeling like it wasn't our park any longer. The times we did go, we ate at the buffet (they used to do a different cuisine every month for brunch) and then just walked around the park, maybe riding the stagecoach, the log ride or even the train, before we left. We started going less & less, then it became years between visits, then even more years in between.

    The last time we were at Knott's was probably 5 years ago for Veteran's day. We had scored some very discounted tickets, and had planned to spend the day. After about 3 hours, we were done, got some ice cream and sat planning the rest of our day. We decided to head to Disneyland & I remember thinking that it was probably our last visit to Knott's. What I remember as a teen, and young adult,will always be with me, but Knott's will never be that way again.

    I remember Gypsy Camp, & seeing the country western groups like the Oak Ridge boys or Statler Brothers at the John Wayne theater. I remember the boxcar racers & the Bird Cage theater & I remember just walking through Ghost town and loving the whole area. We didn't even have to go into the park proper to enjoy ourselves. I loved Knott's Beary Tales and it hurt big time when that was taken out. I even remember thinking how much I'd love to be married in the chapel. And I'd always point out which missions I'd been to on vacations with my family.

    There are some things in life that are true and "you can't go home again" applies in this case. I'll just keep remembering the Knott's of my youth and leave the coasters to someone else.

  13. #13

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    I know exactly how you feel. My own earlier comment was that it looks like they dropped Magic Mountain on top of Knott's and flattened it. Those damn coasters are everywhere, looming like metal giants, ruining the once quaint ambiance of almost every spot in the park.

    When I was young, my family used to go to Knott's all the time. I knew it like the back of my hand. When I returned, years later, after the major changes, my lasting impression was walking towards that underpass which leads from Calico Square to Fiesta Village. First, there was the shock of seeing the underpass itself. When I was last there, it was a quaint, Spanish-themed overpass for the stagecoach. All of that was gone, and it looked more like a modern box now. But that was nothing compared to what I saw when I emerged from the underpass. The once quiet, tranquil Lake of the Reflections, with its weeping willow trees, paddleboat ride, and quaint white Church of the Reflections, had been erased from the face of the earth, replaced by yet another giant coaster, sitting where the lake once was. I never quite recovered from that shock. I realized that Knott's would never again be the place that I used to know so well.

    Oh there are moments, in Ghost Town, when I can almost recapture the original flavor of Knott's. But it isn't easy.

    Recently, I tried to relive a bit of my Knott's past by going to the old Wagon Camp, where there used to be Western singers around a campfire. Now, it's overshadowed by another giant coaster, with its roars ruining the Western ambiance that used to exist there. And the music has been replaced by a an incredibly silly stunt show that was so pathetic that virtually every adult in attendance quickly left (if they didn't have young kids to keep them anchored there).

  14. #14

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    My comment and response is in four words: Remove The Silver Bullet. It destroyed a lake with a tug boat and an evening show spectacular. It caused the chapel to be moved across the street right next to Independence Hall. I love Knott's and I think they could do better with a coaster around the lake (kind of like Jaguar! and Montezuma's Revenge) instead of destroying it and displacing the rest of the park.


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  15. #15

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    Re: It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, and here are my thoughts

    We just visited Knott's on Friday, and I had not been there since about 1978.

    After a whole day exploring the park, I was all fired up to come home and post on MC all my opinions, loves, critiques, dislikes etc., but after a week at the DLR, a day at Knott's, and 400 photos, I don't have the energy to do it.

    The opinions I've read here seem to sum up my feelings as well, but if I may, What the bloody hell is with the horrible #%$#&$#!% music all over the park?!?!

    I found myself walking around the Ghost Town taking pictures and trying to soak in the atmosphere, but I was constantly pulled back to reality, and wondering why the #%$! I was hearing Huey Lewis and Brian Adams!!!!!!

    Sad, really sad.

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