I went to Knott's Berry Farm the day after Christmas and once again had VERY mixed feelings about the place. First of all I want to commend all the staff members that go out of their way to make people's day better at Knott's. Some of their employees just don't care, but most of the people I encountered were incredibly friendly and helpful. They not only give Disneyland CMs a run for their money, they are pretty much on the same level in some cases. It's ultimately the employees that make a park fun and the jokes and fun gags I saw were genuinely amusing.
However, make no mistake that this is still a Cedar Fair-run company and that means seeing another treasured memory carelessly stomped out of existence. This time it wasn't that bad, it was the Peanuts Playhouse, and although I have no use for it anymore, it was heartbreaking remembering the days I'd run around and play in it as a small kid. Cedar Fair is actually much like Michael Eisner, it took a beautiful thing with a long and wonderful history and saved it from blinking out of existence, while at the same time gutting it of all character, charm and anything that really mattered. Cedar Fair has destroyed Knott's in every way possible, but I'm just glad it's still there, more or less.
Out of the demolitions, I was originally very upset that they dug up the graveyard to put in Pony Express. I am still quite upset at the new "graves" as they look like they were made of some kind of cheap wood from the local Home Depot, but Pony Express was SO worth the sacrifice! It's a small ride but is so fun. Sitting in the front is amazing, it's the closest feeling of flying you'll ever feel. The open-air feeling just makes this coaster one of my favorites! To give Cedar Fair credit, Pony Express is (finally) one coaster that was finally actually worth the sacrifice.
When it came to Ghostrider, I had mixed feelings about that too since it looked like a good ride but took up a huge amount of Knott's. I can't really tell you much about my ride because I honestly couldn't see anything. My eyes were rattling out of their sockets and everything went pretty blurry. But this ride is NOT fun, it's rough as sin and uncomfortable as anything I have experienced... including medical examinations. Normally I wouldn't care and shrug it off as a coaster I'll never ride again, but this one took a HUGE chunk out of my beloved California Marketplace and that cannot be forgiven. It also changed the skyline and character of that formerly quiet corner forever and now I wish they would just tear the whole thing down.
I'd like to thank my fellow Micechatters for helping me piece together the broken pieces of my memory. I inquired about the old steak house and the other stuff I thought Ghostrider killed and you guys filled me in. I found Auntie Pasta's and remembered where the old Pan for Gold was from memory, and I think I actually stood in the exact spot where it was. In any case, thank you guys who explained to me the fate of the Steak House and the location of all the old stuff.
Right before closing time I went to the Chicken Restaurant, which was absolutely *packed* during lunch, and ordered the obligatory chicken dinner and boysenberry pie. I can't go to Knott's without getting a chicken dinner... it's like going to Disneyland without taking the full grand circle tour. I ride the train completely around Disneyland as a gesture of respect to Walt Disney, just like I eat at the Chicken Restaurant at Knott's to honor Walter Knott and his wife. I am really big on staying true to one's roots, just like the Disneyland started with the trains, Knott's started with that restaurant so I support it and will continue supporting it as long as I visit Knott's.
By the way, that chicken dinner is AMAZING. It's pure comfort food like corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, pie, soup, and salad. I cannot even put into words how great the fried chicken is... it's not greasy at all and is so tender and tasty. It just feels like you're back in the 1940's or 50's, like nothing has changed at all. Kind of ironic in a park that squashes a different memory every time I visit.
I don't know how Walter Knott did it, but he seemed to have a highly creative mind. He didn't seem to have the resources of Walt Disney or the intention to actually build a huge theme park, but somehow this park (in its pre-1997 incarnation) ranks as #2 right behind Disneyland in my book. Walt Disney gets a HUGE amount of attention, and rightfully so, but I really feel that Walter Knott doesn't get his due. He saved our history in ways that no one even thought of and it's only because of him that Calico and Knott's Ghost Town provide a living history of an era that would've been swept away by the industrial revolution. The West is so uniquely American and Walter Knott realized this, his park is as much a living history lesson as it is a theme park.
The best part is that I saved $22 just by wearing Penn State's school colors. Now, I have no idea who Penn State is and I had to look up their colors on Wikipedia, but they got me in for $30 so I guess college football actually does have some place (albiet very tiny place) in my life. It wasn't actually a Penn State shirt, it was from a manufacturing company that just happened to have the right solid navy blue and white trim. I "conveniently" covered the logo with my jacket and hid another shirt underneath so I could take off the "Penn State" shirt once inside the park, but it was so freezing outside I ended up just keeping 2 layers of shirts. It should be noted I could've gone with the USC colors just as easily, I have absolutely no preference, but I'm just not a burgundy-and-gold type of guy.
Overall I had a nice time, kind of the same type of fun you'd have at the local zoo or carnival. But for $30, that kind of fun is perfectly acceptable. Every non-Disney park I visit in Southern California just reminds me how special and ultra-detailed Disneyland is. There are so many exposed pipes, lights, wires and bare walls/ceilings in rides in other parks that Disneyland's rides are truly immersive by comparison. I haven't been to Disneyland since August 2006 due to financial reasons (not because of the recession but because of college), and one glorious day in the near future I'll return back home to Disneyland and marvel at the world of difference. Until then however, Knott's will contine to be my home away from home.
For next time: Silver Bullet... I chickened out for the THIRD time (but got all the way up through the queue this time) and will give it another go next trip. I am a VERY skittish rollercoaster rider but I know I can handle this one, it's just my brain that gets going and it's very, very frustrating. Xcellerator gives me no problems because I know I can't handle it and I don't even try. But Silver Bullet is just barely inside the threshold of being doable for me and *nothing* is more aggrevating to me than giving up. It's not a matter of "fun" anymore, it's Mount Everest and I'm going to conquer it because it's there. Next time.