TR: Knott's Berry Farm (05/02/2013)
Place: Knott’s Berry Farm
It had been 25 years since my first and only visit to Knott’s Berry farm, so I was looking forward to visiting again and seeing all the changes that had been made. Unfortunately, after hanging out at Disney, Knott’s to me seemed kind of “meh” at best. I arrived at 9:50 AM and the day started off on two sour notes as when I presented my Cedar Point Platinum Pass at the parking gate, the lady scanned it and said that it wasn’t a valid pass. So, I told her I renewed it online and that I have the e-mail receipt for proof and she said she’d scan it again. “Nope. It’s not a valid pass. That will be $15.” When I again stated that I had indeed paid for the pass, she told me to “take it up with Guest Relations”. I could already tell this was not going to be a great day.
After strolling through the Knott’s Marketplace en route to the entrance, I stopped at Guest Relations and told the fellow there about my parking situation. He scanned my pass and said “Your pass is fine.” I handed him my parking receipt and he refunded my $15. To be fair, the guy at Guest Relations was very pleasant and told me to have a good day.
As I walked into the park, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the Van Pelt siblings were all greeting guests. I wanted to get my picture taken with Snoopy in front of the Knott’s windmill, so I got in the small line of folks waiting to do the same. When it came my turn, Snoopy’s handler just walked away. I held up my camera as if to say “Hey, what about me?”, but she just went and stood under the windmill. Snoopy did strike a pose for me, so I snapped a picture of him, but now I am thinking that Knott’s already has two strikes. Granted, they are minor annoyances, but considering I hadn’t had any of those at all prior to visiting Knott’s (heck, even driving from Orange County Airport to my hotel when I arrived in California was a breeze), I was starting to get a bit irritated.
So, how does one become less irritated at a theme park? By riding coasters of course and that’s why I was at Knott’s in the first place. Stop number one would be Xcelerator, Intamin’s first cable launched “rocket coaster”. It took me a few minutes to find the entrance as apparently the big sign that said “Xcelerator Ride Entrance” wasn’t big enough for these old eyes. There was no wait at all, so I walked aboard and fastened my seat belt and pulled down my harness. I didn’t know that the ride launched directly out of the station, so that was kind of cool. The ride’s acceleration is insane as you reach 80 mph in 2 seconds or less before flying up the rides top hat. Up and over we went and instead of hitting the brakes like Top Thrill Dragster, the train travelled a figure eight section of track before returning to the station. My initial thought after riding was “That was ok.” And two weeks later, I feel the same way. It was just an okay ride. I still think that Hershey’s Storm Runner is the best of the Intamin rocket coasters that I have been on.
Since I knew that Sierra Sidewinder was another low capacity ride, I headed there next. This would be my first encounter with a Mack spinning coaster and maybe it was just the weight of my car, but I barely spun at all. The course was short and contained several tight spirals, but not once do I remember spinning around more than one full turn at a time. Coaster #2 of the day and two “that was ok” evaluations.
Next stop was an old favorite of mine, the Calico Mine Ride. A boatload of school kids were in line, but thankfully I was called up to ride in the train that was departing. Calico Mine Ride is a neat little ride with some dated special effects and animatronics throughout. The “Glory Hole” scene (snicker) is actually rather impressive for a non-Disney park. Near the end of the ride, the train picks up speed to avoid blasting in the mine. For some reason, I seem to remember a Styrofoam rock popping up back in 1988 and that the train went much faster than it did this time… but I guess after 25 years, it’s entirely possible I was just making it out to be better than it was. Regardless, Calico Mine Ride is definitely one of the better rides at Knott’s and one that I hope CF doesn’t remove as it is one of the lone remaining rides from the park’s past.
Since Jaguar was down (bummer), I struggled to find the entrance to Montezooma’s Revenge. I had ridden this back in 1988, but wanted to ride a Schwarzkopf Shuttle again since everyone seems to think so highly of them. Monte was also a walk-on, and I do have to say that the ride is rather intense for what it is. The launch is very sudden, the loop pulls some pretty good g’s, and the weightlessness on both spikes is a pretty cool sensation. For an old ride, Monte packs a punch. Coaster #3 and the first one that earned a higher score than “OK” from me.
Since Silver Bullet had been overlooked to this point, I remedied that by taking a ride. The ride looked impressive from the entrance plaza and I had high expectations going in. Somehow along the way, I came off the ride with the previously mentioned “That was ok I guess” opinion. Nothing really stood out. The drop was ok, the vertical loop was standard B&M fare, the cobra roll I did like as it seemed much smoother than the one on Raptor, and the rest of the ride just sort of meandered before a decent upward helix at the end. Of the B&M inverts I have been on (which isn’t a lot- Raptor, Talon, Alpengeist, Montu, both Dragon Challenges and Batman at SFGAm), Silver Bullet probably ranks near or at the bottom of my list. I also thought the station was rather small and packed, but that’s just my claustrophobia kicking in there.
I trudged on over to Ghost Rider where I was again getting my hopes up as the ride looks very impressive visually and I had heard that parts of its layout were similar to the now-defunct Geauga Lake Villain. After a one train wait, I experienced yet another of Cedar Fair’s horribly brutal wooden coasters. Ghost Rider is a long coaster (or so it seems) and the pain starts almost immediately down the first oddly-covered drop. I honestly don’t remember all that happened. All I remember was being shook from pillar to post and not in a good way. On a side note, thank goodness the park was dead because there is no way I would have waited in that entire queue for this!
I walked back to the other side of the park to take a ride on the Sky Cabin, which was nicely air-conditioned and offered some decent views of the park and surrounding area. One thing is for certain though- Knott’s doesn’t have much in the way of shade. I seem to recall the park being much more wooded than it is today. I was the only person aboard the Sky Cabin, so I enjoyed the a/c and the view. I also had a flashback of the old Parachute Sky Jump from my 1988 visit. That was such a fun ride. As were the Wacky Soap Box Racers. And Kingdom of the Dinosaurs…
My final ride of the day would be Pony Express, and that was a dreadful way to be my last riding impression of Knott’s. Being a fan of Darien Lake’s MotoCoaster, I expected this to be along the same lines. Unfortunately, the only thing the two had in common was the launch. Pony Express has a completely dull layout that even the sad attempt at a tunnel near the far end of the ride couldn’t help. I guess speeding past the Old West painting on the side of the nearby building is supposed to be “theming”. Overall, Pony Express to me just flat out sucked. Whoever thought this layout was fun obviously did not ride the prototype. That is a MUCH better ride than this.
I had wanted to see Mystery Lodge during my visit, so that was my final stop. I had heard good things and also was looking forward to more air conditioning. At first, I thought all we were going to do was stare at a house covered in Indian drawings and listen to a story of Indian heritage as the first 10 minutes of the attraction involves sitting on the floor and doing just that. Thankfully, doors on the house sprung open and we were ushered in to the main theater. The show itself is unique in that one lone actor interacts with a bunch of “pepper’s ghost” effects that are quite well done. Birds, animals, feathers, and other shapes are formed from the “smoke” of the glowing “fire” onstage and the storyteller interacts with them perfectly. At the end, (spoiler alert!)……..the Storyteller vanishes leaving only his cane behind. It’s a fantastic effect and a really neat way to end the show. I walked out of Mystery Lodge thinking to myself that this one show saved my day at Knott’s from being a real downer. Knott’s should be proud of this attraction. Excellent stuff here. Unfortunately, video and still photography were not permitted.
It was now 12:30 and I was ready to leave Knott’s. I got a few new credits and felt like heading back to the hotel for a quick nap and then head back to Disney. As I headed back to my car, I decided to give Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Restaurant another chance. Back in 1988, I found the chicken to be bland and tasteless and not at all worthy of the hype and long lines the place gets so frequently. I ordered an all white meat chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and biscuits. The food was brought to my table quickly, which made me happy as I appreciate quick service when I’m on my own. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get all of the praise for the food here. The biscuits were decent, yet the chicken was still bland and tasteless. For something that’s supposed to be “world famous”, I guess I expected better. By the way, the last time I would see my waiter was when he delivered my food. I purposely slurped my empty drink in hopes of being heard, but to no avail. I was supposed to get a boysenberry sorbet with my meal for dessert, but that never came. I pushed my dishes and empty glass to the edge of the table in hopes of a check coming, but again, no dice. After 20 minutes, I gave up. I put $30 on the table and left. Strike 3 Knott’s, you’re out.
I left Knott’s with a rather negative attitude towards the place. The rides were all average at best, the service was poor compared to Disney, and I honestly feel that if I ever make it back to the Anaheim area, Knott’s will not be on my list of things to do. I took only a handful of pics (I didn't even feel like waiting for a train in many of the shots) so the link is attached below. I didn’t take enough video clips to really make a good video, though I may try to see what I can come up. I can’t say I regret stopping at Knott’s as I did get 5 new credits out of it. However, I think I had been spoiled at Disney for too long before I wound up in Buena Park.
As always, thanks for reading.
I've visited Knott's twice, and I still hold it in high regard. My first visit was in October of 2002. The second was in April of 2005. Hopefully, my third will be June of 2013. We'll see how it's changed for me over that time.
I get what you're saying about Xcelerator. I really liked it. I think it's actually the best of the Intamin rocket coasters that I've ridden. Perhaps my feelings have more to do with the novelty it was back in 2002. I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
My feelings about Xcelerator are part of why I thought Storm Runner was a let down. Maybe it's one of those things where you like the one that you experienced first.
I think visually Silver Bullet has one of the better layouts - my favorite part being the overbanked turn leading to the cobra roll. I can't think of too many B&M inverted overbanks...
But I remember being slightly under-impressed when I got one ride on it in 2005. Perhaps if the train carried a little more speed through that course, it would be held in higher regard.
I'm sorry you missed out on Jaguar - that's a pretty cool ride.
You're spot on about Montezuma's Revenge. It's pretty intense for what it does, and the spikes are a lot of fun.
Ghost Rider... I still have it in my Top 10. It was incredible in 2002. It was still very good in 2005. That's the last I remember it. I have a feeling that if I ride it again, it will drop out. Such a shame too, because 2002 Ghost Rider was pretty awesome.
I may have to check myself, but I believe it was Pony Express that was the prototype, not the version that is found at Coney Island and Darien, even though Darien's opened first. From what I understand, Knott's hardly paid anything for it. I could be wrong...
I'm glad you were able to get back to the park. I'm in the same boat as you. I feel like I need to get back there one more time. But after that, I won't worry about returning for a while.
Was Coast Rider not open yet?
* This post was modified at 5/15/13 7:23:31 PM *
Coaster to Park Ratio: 4.94 / Steel to Wooden Ratio: 2.56 / Wooden Coaster Percentage: 28%
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I loved Xcelerator but I love any launch (except Pony Express - how could such a great concept go so terribly wrong?!). I thought Ghost Rider was tolerable but I rode front seat after all the reviews I heard prior to my trip. In the back I'm sure I would have hated it and it is the longest coaster ever - that thing never ends (I suppose proving your point that you even want it to!). Too bad the Log Flume wasn't up yet - if you thought the Calico mine train was good you would have LOVED the log flume (although not sure what it's like redone).
I think your problem was just going to Disney and having too high expectations. Even when I went with the family the first time way back when we did Disney, Universal, Hollywood, Knotts, Sea World, San Diego zoo, (we even drove over the border to Tijuana for the day before the drug lords took over) and they all have their place but I'm not sure you can really compare them to one another. They are all so different. I don't think you can/should compare any other park to Disney (especially Disneyland) or you'll always be disappointed. That's why it costs 1 million dollars to get in compared to 1/2 price on a can of Coke at the other parks - there's a reason for that! :-)
The only coaster that I didn't like was Ghostrider. All of the other coasters were great to okay IMO. Mack spinners are the most haphazard coasters ever concerning differing experiences; Unfortunately Sierra Sidewinder spun just enough to keep me awoke, with four aboard the car and all. I enjoyed my first motocoaster Pony Express, I guess that I'm in the minority; I'll even go on and say that it was my fav family coaster in the park (maybe an 'alive' version of S. Sidewinder would change that in the future; the new CoastRider isn't unique enough, sorry been on a facsimile). Jaguar! was a nicely themed family coaster. I absolutely loved Zooma, awesome old school fun. Calico was great also.
I thought that both Silver Bullet and Xcelerator were very good, although I can see how people think that SB was kinda had a commonplace exp, and thinking Xcel is a tad overrated; I got spoiled early with two of the tallest coasters in the world, so it's hard going 'uphill' concerning experiencing these other Intamin launched rockets.
Boomerang was pretty smooth for that type esp considering it's age. Again, thanks for the TR.
* This post was modified at 5/16/13 1:04:53 AM *
* This post was modified at 5/16/13 7:00:30 AM *
I always seem to have a pretty good felling after going to a Cedar Fair park. I generally prefer them over Six Flags by just a bit. Was your "negative attitude towards the place" largely because of the rides themselves? Generally, CF workers seem happy.
I honestly thought Knott's was just "meh". I didn't hate the place by any means, I just didn't think it was that great compared to my visit way back in 1988. My main complaint was the customer service I received. If these are "happy" CF workers, I'd hate to see the unhappy ones. It was like the exact opposite of Disney, where you are truly made to feel like a "guest". Knott's does have some good rides, but that's the thing. To me, they were just "good". As I mentioned in my TR, Mystery Lodge was the best thing I saw at Knott's. That was truly an outstanding presentation.
To do a little comparing, my visit to Cedar Point this past Friday was perfectly fine. The employees all seemed to be content and pleasant. The ride ops were doing a fantastic job of getting guests through the lines and not once did I encounter anything negative. Full TR to come.
And I believe someone mentioned that Pony Express may have been the prototype Zamperla MotoCoaster ride. I am not 100% certain, but I seem to recall reading that Darien Lake bought the actual prototype from Zamperla when they installed theirs back in 2008. I have been known to be wrong though! :)
And finally, by popular request (well, by one person's request!), here's some cobbled together video footage of Knott's. There's just a few rides to be seen as I didn't stay long, but if you're interested, here it is: