Planning a trip to Southern California?
When I was growing up, my closest cousins seemed to go to Knott's Berry Farm in Southern California all the time. They told me all about the thrilling coasters and fun things they did there, and I have long wanted to go. My husband felt the same way. There's a funny rumor in his family that they are related to the founders of Knott's Berry Farm. We haven't actually found a connection yet, but it added to our interest in this classic California theme park.
Knott's Berry Farm hit the top of our list when my husband and I made a weekend trip to for the opening of the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Disneyland. We had an extra day, and it was the perfect opportunity to visit Knott's Berry Farm. The park is just 7 miles from Disneyland, and tickets are a lot less expensive, so it's an easy addition or alternative to Disneyland in Orange County.
I heard that Knott's Berry Farm might be a let-down after Disneyland, and it's true that nothing compares to Disney. However, we found Knott's Berry Farm to be updated and clean, with fun things to do for all ages. We also found that Knott's Berry Farm's big coasters are a lot more thrilling than anything at Disneyland, so it's a good park for the adrenaline junkies in your family.
Here's what you need to know to make the most of your day at Knott's Berry Farm.
Theme parks are all about the rides, and Knott's Berry Farm has a lot of good ones. I don't love big coasters quite as much as I used to, but I was excited to try a few of Knott's Berry Farm's stomach-wrenching thrill rides. There are also a number of fun family rides and rides just for children.
Ghostrider is one of a dozen thrill rides in the park. It is Knott's big wooden coaster and it's one of the best I've tried. It's big and fast and smoother than I expected.
Timber Mountain Log Ride was also a favorite. We rode it twice. I suspect that Timber Mountain – which has been at Knott's since 1969 and refurbished somewhat recently – was an inspiration for Splash Mountain at Disneyland.
Camp Snoopy is cute. It's where you'll find all the rides for younger kids. I was really tempted to buy the yellow Charlie Brown t-shirt in the Peanuts gift shop.
Knott's Berry Farm has lots of shows to choose from. We saw the Wild West Stunt Show, Mystery Lodge, Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies and Ghost Town Alive! and thought they were all well done and really fun for families.
Ghost Town Alive! is fascinating. It's more interactive theater than a show and it plays all day through the summer on the streets of Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town. Actors dress in period costume and park guests are encouraged to take part. We observed Ghost Town Alive! later in the day and some guests were really getting into it. We helped vote for a new mayor.
Shows do fill up on busy days, so it's worthwhile to arrive a little early for a seat. Ten or fifteen minutes early should be plenty, unless you have a big group or want to sit front and center.
Knott's Berry Farm was built around a restaurant and we made sure to eat dinner at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant. The famous chicken dinner is large. It comes with four pieces of chicken, salad, sides and a slice of pie for a little over $20. We weren't hungry enough to order two meals, so we asked to split one meal and our server cheerfully brought an extra plate.
Inside the park, we found Johnny Rockets, Panda Express and lots of counter service restaurants with typical theme park fare. We love to eat, but found that one chicken strip basket and fries was big enough for both of us at lunchtime. That meant we were hungry enough to share a gigantic Knott's funnel cake with boysenberry topping and soft serve ice cream in the afternoon. It was so good!
Is Fast Lane worth it?
Fast Lane is a skip-the-line pass for Knott's Berry Farm's most thrilling and popular rides. You'll pay about $60 extra for a Fast Lane wristband.
We visited Knott's Berry Farm on a holiday weekend and got a pretty good idea of how long lines can be. For the first two hours the park was open, Fast Lane didn't give us a big advantage because wait times were short anyway. By late afternoon, waits for Ghostrider and Timber Mountain Log Ride were 1-2 hours and Fast Lane was AWESOME.
Fast Lane is available for 13 rides – mostly big coasters and water rides. We found that Fast Lane cut our wait times to under 15 minutes per ride. We often walked right on, even in the busiest part of the day.
We rode Timber Mountain Log Ride in the afternoon with a father and his young son who also had Fast Lane wristbands. As we climbed out of our log, the boy asked to ride again and the attendant put them right back in another log. We walked away from them and passed two teen girls with Fast Lane wristbands. I overheard them say that it was worth every penny.
Consider purchasing Fast Lane if you want to spend most of your day on popular thrill rides – especially on weekends and other busy days. If you are visiting Knott's Berry Farm with young children or you don't have an iron stomach, then you should probably skip it. Arrive when the park opens and ride a few big rides while lines are short, then enjoy the rest of the park later in the day.
Outside the park
Knott's Berry Farm has some fun and interesting attractions outside the theme park that you should consider. The first is Soak City, Knott's water park. I haven't tried Soak City, but it has nearly a dozen slides and water features that look fun for families. It is not adjacent to the theme park, but is a short walk away.
You'll also find a brick-by-brick replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which is always free and open to the public. It is located near Soak City.
California Marketplace is where you'll find Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant and several unique gift shops. It was fun to wander through these and pick up souvenirs for our kids at the end of our day at Knott's Berry Farm.
Disclosure: Knott's Berry Farm provided us with complimentary theme park passes and Fastlane for the purpose of review. I received no additional compensation for this article and all opinions are my own.
Good to Know
Where: 8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, California
When: Year-round. Knott's Berry Farm is open every day except Christmas Day.
How Much: Theme park tickets currently start at $45 online. The least expensive individual tickets are currently available on the Knott's Berry Farm website, depending on which day you visit.
You should also check Get Away Today Vacations, where they have a low price guarantee on ticket/hotel vacation packages and individual ticket prices do not vary by the day. If you are planning a Disneyland trip with Knott's Berry Farm and a hotel, Get Away Today is probably your best bet for the whole package.
Gate prices are $75 for a single day, so it pays to plan ahead! If you plan to visit Knott's Berry Farm 2 or more days in a year, a season pass may be your best bet.
How Long: One full day in the theme park was just right for us. You might consider two days if you want to do the water park too.
Amenities: Dining, restrooms, gift shops, lockers… all the usual theme park amenities. Knott's Berry Farm does not allow food in the park, except baby food and special dietary situations. Water bottles are OK. Day packs are OK too. Unsecured shelves are provided on rides where you can't take them with you.
How else can I help?
Want the best price on your Southern California vacation package? We use Get Away Today. They partner with dozens of hotels near Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland. If you find a better price on the same hotel and ticket package, they’ll beat it by $10.
Save $10 on any Southern California vacation package at Get Away Today when you use our exclusive coupon code: Tips10Trips.
Read more about our partnership with Get Away Today here.
Need a hotel recommendation? We booked the Holiday Inn Buena Park through Get Away Today. It is just down the street from Knott's Berry Farm and offers a free shuttle to Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland. Click HERE to read my review.
Want the best price on your flight? John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana is the closest airport, but there are several airports in the region so it's not always the least expensive flight. Visit my Air Travel page to get tips for finding the best price for your flight.
Need help getting around? We usually drive our own car in Southern California, but do consider alternatives if you will be spending most of your time in theme parks. Traffic can be awful and parking can be expensive. We used a combination of shuttles and Uber/Lyft for this trip.