I have been going to Knott's since my parents pushed me around in a stroller and I went there almost every other week as a kid but I hadn't gone into the park, or even visited the area, since 1992 so I was really scared at the prospect of going there in 2008, the era of Ceder Fair. I have MANY fond memories of that place, it's equivalent to Disneyland for me in terms of nostalgia and I didn't want to be hurt by seeing the park decimated by an unseen foe more than 2,000 miles away. I was really expecting to find my park in utter ruins by the time I got there.
First of all, I have to commend the employees of Knott's Berry Farm because they pour their heart and souls into the job. Everyone there was so friendly and went out of their way to entertain or make people feel good. My favorite was the bandits waiting outside the train when it was parked and they sang this birthday song that was SO funny. I can't remember the lyrics, but it sounded like it was going to be this long drawn out song, but it was cut off quickly and the lyrics mentioned it was really short. You had to be there, but it was a really funny moment! I know that everyone's experience is different, even the same person can experience different things on different days, but I have to say that I was more impressed with the crew at Knott's Berry Farm than Disneyland. I truly feel that Disneyland's CM reputation is running on previous momentum and although there are still some absolutely wonderful people working at DL, it just feels that overall the workers at Knott's just try so much harder. Again, I don't want to take anything away from the amazing CMs at Disneyland, but the general experience I got was just better at Knott's.
One difference between that park and Disneyland is the train. OMG, if you like trains, you'll be mesmerized by the behemoth that they have there. This train is so big and powerful, it literally rumbles the ground and you have to yell over the overpowering sound! I sat there for 3 times for around 10 minutes just waiting for it to take off. It was so amazing in this day and age with hybrid cars, lithium ion batteries and 500-HP computer-controlled cars to see something so simple and yet so huge. I mean, the thing runs off nothing but steam! There's no electricity, no alternator or generator, the only gas is to power the fire and it runs off nothing but water and fire. The engineer was great as well and took the time to explain the history behind the train. He even showed us the fire...it was massive! The engineers at Knott's take just as much pride in their amazing trains as the Disneyland CMs. There's even a rivalry between them, which I found to be quite amusing since they didn't know I am a huge Disney fan. He said the Disneyland Railroad is 3/4 scale, but I guess it was close enough. It's actually 5/8 scale and I'm glad it is because something the size of the Knott's Berry Farm train would be as big as the stations!
As I feared, when I first got there I noticed that the Marketplace had been completely untouched, however upon further inspection I noticed that it was only the front. The entire back section, including the pan for gold section, was wiped out, replaced by Ghost Rider! Now, this is not a mark on Cedar Fair, I heard it was the Knott family's decision to build it as a last ditch effort to "save" the park and the ride bankrupted them (hence, the buyout by Cedar Fair), but it hurt to know that that peaceful part of the park is now gone forever. Not even the *volcano* with the little devil is there anymore! But as painful as it was to see how much had been removed, it is quickly solaced by just how much has remained completely untouched. It was like being able to walk inside my memory, nothing has changed in the Marketplace for at least 25 years. The only change was complete removal, and although there are some minor changes here and there, overall it was identical.
I honestly don't know what to say about how I feel about the park now. It's *definitely* taken on a new feel but I don't know if I like it or not. There's a huge conflict between my old views of Knott's and the fun that I have there today. It almost feels like I'm betraying my decade of memories if I forget about the Knott's of yesterday and consider the current park to be the "true" Knott's Berry Farm. That seems to be the only way I could ever truly enjoy the new park, but it's hard to let go of the past since the old Knott's was so fun and memorable. It is a REALLY fun park, no doubt about that, it's just that it conflicts so heavily with my memories and nostalgia.
I thought the rollercoasters would detract from the area and make it look more like Magic Mountain, but they really built them well. There are new fun areas to stand in now that weren't there before. For instance, Perilous Plunge is something that I don't consider to be fun, but standing on the bridge and watching the thing drop right in front of you, and getting a HUGE wave of air a few seconds after it passes you is really something. I must've stood on that bridge for half an hour, just watching the boats drop. And there's one spot where Jaguar, Montezuma's Revenge and the Sidewinder all mix together to form an almost artistic sense of movement around the area. The tracks are so close together that you almost can't even tell which is which! I know Cedar Fair takes a lot of flak, so I just want to commend them for their attention to detail in adding Sidewinder so close to the other coasters.
There are some dark points to Cedar Fair that I had always been aware of that I saw in the park. First of all, the Boothill Cemetery was always a favorite of mine. That new ride is going in that area and they've already torn up part of the cemetery! I was so depressed and angry when I saw one of the markers completely uprooted and laying on the ground, it's underground concrete base still intact. This was a historical and very special place for me and they treated it like it was a parking lot or something, tearing it up like it didn't mean a thing. Sure, it's a small area, probably long forgotten by kids but it was what made Knott's special and unique. A portion of it's already gone, and I have no doubt they'll rip the whole thing out in time, but it's no more than a side thought barely even worth the time in its current state now. And I didn't think Kingdom of the Dinosaurs was any big loss, but sitting there at the base of the old building just brought back so many memories and it saddened me more than I could've expected. I went into the old arcade just to ease the pain, but the exit ramp to the ride is still there! I actually saw the exit and it was so depressing seeing the lonely exit with almost no one around except me. I could practically feel the old energy and vibrancy it had back in the day, but it's all gone now.
There is just simply no comparison to this park and Disneyland in terms of upkeep and cleanliness. Some of the rides (XL-erator) were so badly faded it made you wonder if they had ever been re-painted. And there were lots of broken things that needed to be repaired. I know we complain a lot about how "bad" Disneyland has gotten when it comes to vandalism and burnt out light bulbs, but seeing other parks just makes you appreciate the incredible amount of work it must be to keep Disneyland so pristine. And it's not just Knott's, it's every other park like Universal Studios and Magic Mountain. It takes a LOT of work to maintain a park.
When I first heard about a TGI Fridays going into the Marketplace, I was furious. I really thought Cedar Point had lost its mind putting a chain in that place but it wasn't bad. It's across the street and it doesn't stand out at all. In fact, it's a welcome addition when the Chicken Restaurant is packed. And you can see Ghost Rider from the windows which is cool since you tend to forget you're at Knott's Berry Farm inside the restaurant. It's actually a weird feeling because it looks like every other TGI Fridays so seeing Ghost Rider and the park outside is like a different world. The Panda Express is kind of unnerving because it shows that Cedar Fair wants to load the park with more chains instead of unique Knott's places. I don't mind chains inside amusement parks, in fact I prefer chains at places like Magic Mountain since I know what I can get there, but when it comes to theme parks like Knott's I really don't like it. Even the Fry Cart at Disneyland gets me frustrated whenever I see it.
Part of me feels that Knott's has to move on and Cedar Fair is the one to do it. The world has changed so much in the past 15 years and the old Knott's would slip into oblivion if something was not done. Cedar Fair, overall, has done a terrific job of blending the old with the new. Rollercoasters and thrill rides are simply the price we must pay for "progress". I would love NOTHING more than to go back to the old days at Knott's, but it's just not possible in the 21st century. Right now all we can do is watch Knott's get brought up to the present and reminisce with the old and classic rides I hope they never take out. I really feel that Cedar Fair has brought more energy to the park, while at the same time keeping the classic rides. However, considering the HUGE size of the rides they've decided to keep, it's entirely possible that Cedar Fair cares *nothing* about keeping the old rides and it's just a matter of the logistics of knocking down a huge ride like the Log Ride and Calico Mine Train. After what I've seen, I've decided to give Cedar Fair the benefit of the doubt and go on their side. I wish Knott's didn't have to change, but it clearly isn't Cedar Fair's fault that the world has moved so quickly into the high-speed information and technology era. I could be wrong, Knott's could probably still be fun today in its 1992 state, but it just couldn't survive financially and that's where Cedar Fair has rescued the park.
If you're worried about the park being destroyed by Cedar Fair, I strongly recommend still going. There's still a LOT left of Knott's and if you enjoyed the old Knott's, you'll still find a lot to love about the current park if you keep an open mind and realize that it's not the same park it was 20 years ago. I know that I'd hate it if I had gone every few years over the past decade, but after such a long absence from the park, it's great to see what I've been missing all these years.