(This is a really long and personal trip report, so I've italicized things I feel I most important, and bolded attraction names)
This was my first trip to Knott's Berry Farm in more than a year, and I went hearing horrible rumors from local newspapers and magazines about its historical delipidation and a rollercoaster boom.
I arrived with my roommate, comp'ed tickets in tow, at 9:45 am, figuring we'd beat the main rush. But we had to park in a lot to the right of Beach, in a dirt lot with some grass and trees across the street from Knott's. No tram, no underground mural, lewd honking from drivers, and still $9. That's ridiculous. Parking is $10 at DL and there's a nice tram and a covered parking structure with good security. This lot was right off the street. Anyone could have walked up. Plus, it was in direct sunlight on Saturday. It was 90 degrees F on Saturday. Ouch.
Walked the block to the park, where I discovered that the bronze statue of the 49er above the Knott's sign is actually made of foamcore or plexiglass. Some of the "bronze" had been broken off in places. We walked right in with our tickets, with no bag check, which made me a little nervous, and the first place we headed to was the Silver Bullet. My roommate didn't ride, but I waited ten minutes to, and I must admit that I was sorely disappointed. I'm a big roller coaster connoisseur, and I felt that for the spins and turns it made, it moved WAY too fast to be enjoyable, and a la Goliath at Six Flags, I nearly blacked out at one point from the sheer speed. I know I'm not getting old; I guess it's just built for their "main audience", i.e. 12-15 year old kids from youth centers and field trips and day care centers.
Next, we headed to the Fiesta Village, and in the 10 o clock hour, we rode La Revolucion (this is a new installation here, but a fairly common carnival ride. It felt safer than something at the county fair, but it was just as unenjoyable, and like Silver Bullet, created just to try and get the 12-15 set to dare each other to ride it. That mentality is so... well... 12-15.), Montezooma's Revenge, Jaguar, Wave Swinger (which no longer has an original, "Fiesta Village" inspired name), and the Dragon Swing. I don't think anyone shows up to this park before noon.
After this, we headed across the train tracks, and my roommate went to snag a Dippin Dots while I rode Supreme Scream (can you tell she's not a big thrill fan?). I loved it, and got a side facing the park, which was really beautiful, and enjoyed it just as much as the first time I rode it. I will keep returning to Knott's no matter what so long as they KEEP THIS RIDE! It's SO THRILLING. And it reminds me of the old parachutes... The Knott Tower is still there, but it doesn't do anything but occasionally send a Sky Cabin up and down. But nothing can replace my memories of shrieking and clinging to the bars of the parachutes, praying we wouldn't just fly off the cords in our little metal cages. Course, Supreme Scream helps me cope!!
After I got off, I found out my roommate couldn't get Dippin Dots because they didn't accept debit/credit. We are both so used to DL's willingness to take our money in whatever form that we didn't think to bring much cash. We found that only sit-down restaurants and shops take credit, and none give cashback. So, we went to the 50's Diner on "The Boardwalk" and got a kid's bucket of chicken tenders, a massive amount of fries, and some 8 oz kids drink for $7.99. Rip off, compared to DL kids meals, even with the free plastic bucket and "collector's cup". And enough fries to feed five. No reason to give kids that many.
After this, we rode the Timber Mountain Log Ride, probably our longest wait in the park, at 25 minutes. It appeared that the water had just been changed. Also, the bridge over the flume at the loading area had been completely rebuilt with some very cheap wood. If you're going to fix it, just spend the money. Now you'll have to replace it every year. But the money spent on this minor refurb did not extend to the wooden woodsmen in the ride (I can hardly call them anamatronics!!) Many of them were not moving at all, and one or two were missing limbs. Most of the taxidermied animals were gone excet a bear, and it looked like the "moon" effect from Kingdom of the Dinosaurs was placed in the outdoors scene. The ride was overfull and we got drenched. And while I normally hate getting this wet on rides, with the weather as hot as it was, I appreciated it.
After this, we decided to walk through Ghost Town. Unfortunately, yet unsurprisedly, we found it to be an ACTUAL Ghost Town. The only places we saw people were in the shops that sold candy. The old museum was deserted except for us and the nice old woman attendant, who was submitted to the menial labor of moving "pennies in a bottle" from one box to another. I was as fascinated with the artifacts as I was as a child, but it seems like the children of today are unimpressed.
In the graveyard, we got our "good luck" from the heartbeating grave. I went to look at the old sculpture of the 49er in the river, sifting sand to look for gold, and found him to be in horrible disrepair. He was falling apart, and you could tell he was made from wood. The paint was completely faded. I almost felt it would look better if it wasn't there at all, then I realized that no matter how delipidated he got, I wanted him there, to preserve some of Knott's rich history. Panning for gold cost a whopping $5. We opted out. We walked over the back bridge, and saw yet another new fence, built from the cheapest wood materials. When we rounded the bend, I was horrified to find that the candle shop was all closed and boarded up, and falling apart, literally. At least the window display was still there.. but when I walked up the street some more, I saw that they had put it in where the "ladies shop" was. Now dipping your own candle costs $9.99 for a very limited selection of candles. When I was a kid it was $3-$7, depending on the size of the candle you picked. Needless to say, it was deserted.
The glass blower's shop was beautiful as always, and retains some of the charm which Disneyland's crystal shop doesn't have, because they create the pieces on site at Knotts. We saw a man working on starting a new piece, linking shorter pieces of glass together to make long pieces. Someday, I will buy my mother her crystal, hand-made at Knott's Cinderella carriage like she always wanted.
We headed over to the old schoolhouse, which I was ecstatic to find still in place. An old man sat at the schoolmaster's desk, and he didn't seem very optimistic about the schoolhouse staying there much longer. "Oh," he said, "Kids don't want history nowadays, they want rides. They'll probably put another roller coaster here fore long" Truer words we never spoken, and it made me very sad. In the whole fifteen minutes we spent inside the schoolhous,e reading the posters and sitting in the desks and soaking in a probably soon-to-be-extinct part of California theme park history, no one else entered the schoolhouse. Nobody.
We walked through the Gun/cigar shop, and the man working there said it was probably his busiest day. But again, we were the only ones there in the entire seven minutes or so we spent inside.
Outside, a woman was making lace!! This was a nice touch, and I was awestruck to finally see an attention paid to history, no matter how small it was. I don't know whether she was getting paid, but there was a mom and her daughters there, and they were as impressed as we were at how meticulous making something as delicate as lace is.
We looked through some of the old windows that told California's history, and they were all filled with cobwebs and dirt and no lighting. If you remember the old cabinet California mission models towards the end, the condition is very similar. At least the sound still worked. The Chinese man sang his silly song while he did laundry. But the wooden figures take on a very eerie quality without any lighting on them. Looking at those things as a kid is probably where my odd fear of wax figures originates from.
I was delighted to see that the old man in the prison who talks to the people who visit him was still running. My roommate's parents had never spooked her in this way like my parents had, and so I sent her back, but she didn't stay long enough to get the joke. I was thrilled to see this still running, the man in the front still calling out names in the very back, to awed kids who don't know what's going on. Then again, these kids are so jaded now that maybe they DO know. But it awed me when I was little.
Leather shop was still there, ladies shop was moved to the front, but like Disneyland, most of the shops have become very generic, all offering similar merchendise. Apparently Knott's has a large Red Hat Society population, because many stores had related merchandise, including Victoria's Gift Shop.
The Bottle House was still there, and still empty. Mostly I think because few people come to Knott's to buy $80 mocassins.
The Geode Shop was pretty busy, as always, but I'm a little bored of it, since they haven't added any new pieces to their collection or even moved any of the pieces in at least six years. After this, we left.
I guess I got what I expected. All the history was unkept and ignored, almost intentionally destroyed from lack of maintenance. All the roller coasters were in top shape, and the kids from their youth centers just loved em. But I am not impressed. I don't want Ghost Town to be a real Ghost Town.
Ironically, I've heard that when the Knott family wanted to sell their theme park, Disney made an offer, but The Knotts refused, because they were worried that they would change the park too much. I guess you reap what you sow, because Cedar Fair is quickly destroying everything that made Knott's more magical for me as a child than even Disneyland.
When I was a kid, I panned for gold. I dipped candles. I ate funnel cakes. I opened a geode. I stood on the "lucky grave". I didn't believe that there really were 10,000 buttons on the wall in the museum in Ghost Town. I rode the stagecoach. I remember when the Wilderness Scramble was inside of a room and "underwater". I wanted to get married in that Chapel. I learned Indian prayers inside of the old "Indian church". I sat inside a tepee.
I want that Knott's Berry Farm back.
I grew up at Knott's Berry Farm. More than I ever did at Disneyland. I think I must have visited at least three times a year. I think I'm going to be visiting very often in the next year, because I'm watching everything I love about it fading away, and I don't want to get caught off guard.
I didn't get to ride Calico Mine Train, and I feel like I need to return to do this immediately, because I feel that it is on its last legs. I didn't check out the area near Kingdom of the Dinosaurs. I didn't ride the train. I didn't ride a stagecoach. I found out that the Wedding Chapel was not destroyed, but just relocated across the street, near Independance Hall. I did cry a little at everything I felt that I had personally lost on this trip.
Knott's Berry Farm
Saturday, May 22, 2005.