For a long time, Knott’s Berry Farm was popular for the wrong reasons. They weren’t noteworthy for being the first amusement park in America, as they should be. Unfortunately, they had a reputation for being the cheap park with rollercoasters that happened to stand in the shadow of Disneyland. It felt like they were catering to teenagers and begrudgingly set aside a little of the park for families. However, it is evident that they have spent a lot of time cleaning up the park and investing time in their staff. The recent incarnation of Walter Knott’s roadside attraction on Beach Boulevard is a welcome one and a noticeable change from how it was operating a few years ago.
Since Animated Meat packed up its global headquarters and moved to Orange County, I’ve made a few visits to Knott’s Berry Farm. Up until recently, it hurt to go there. There was so much potential for the place but it consistently fell short of the mark. The crowds were massive and the park seemed to be incredibly understaffed. It looked beat up and tired. It just didn’t feel like anyone cared about the guests’ experience. While the price of admission was cheaper than one to Disneyland, that was really the best they had to offer. I remember a time a few Decembers back when I looked at a cutout of Snoopy and thought, “Come on, man. You and Charlie Brown are better that this”. I swore the park off and It wasn’t until I was given a free ticket this spring that I even bothered to return. I’m really glad that I did.
The change is noticeable in the air at Knott’s. It’s an undeniable vitality that seems to have corresponded with the park’s seventy-fifth anniversary. It’s almost like that scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas when the Peanuts gang spends a little time and effort in dressing up Charlie’s tree after realizing it wasn’t so bad in the first place. Someone has decided to give the park the love that it deserves. That amounts to a superior visit for the guest and in my case, a better chance that I will return.
The staff really makes an effort to make each guest feel welcome. This comes in the form of costumed actors who tell an ongoing story in Ghost Town, to a friendly clerk in a gift shop, to a ride operator who takes the time to offer to take a photo for this author and his daughter after her first ride on Ghost Rider. In a very Disneyland way, management is visible, each armed with a trash pick up tool. I am happy to report that the park is a clean and amicable place to go.
The first amusement park in America is finally getting the treatment it deserves. Gone are the days of the five cent disturbance because they aren’t just catering to teenagers anymore. It really feels like someone cares about the place and wants the people who walk through the gates to have the best possible experience. There is a mix of rides for the little ones over in Camp Snoopy, thrill rides for the older folks, and some places to explore in Ghost Town that add a little magic to the visit. It all adds up to a move that takes that grand old park in the right direction.
This was written based up visits on March 10th, July 3rd, and July 13th, 2018.