Knott’s Berry Farm originally started as a berry farm owned by Walter and Cordelia Knott in California’s Buena Park. In the early 1920s, the family sold berry products at a roadside stand by Route 39, later expanding to boysenberry products.
During the 30s Cordelia opened a small fried chicken dinner restaurant on their property to supplement the family income. By the mid-1940s, Walter constructed a replica ghost town to entertain the patrons that lined up to eat the chicken dinners.
For years, Ghost Town was free to the public, until 1968 when the family built several expensive rides to compete with its neighbor, Disneyland and started charging an entry fee. As Knotts Berry Farm evolved into a theme park, it added the Charles Shultz inspired ‘Camp Snoopy’ in 1983 to entertain kids and has since strived to become a theme park all family members can enjoy.
How Knotts Spooky Farm Started
As a way to attract visitors, Knott’s Berry Farm started its Halloween tradition in 1973 with entertainment evenings called Knott’s Scary Farm. The event was planned originally to feature fake, static figures from a local Hollywood prop house.However, Bud Hurlbut, creator of some of the rides in the park, decided to dress up in a gorilla suit and scare guests.
Though an exciting and iconic feature of Knott’s Berry Farm in the Fall months, Knott’s Scary Farm often proved intense for younger children. Thus, Knott’s Spooky Farm was started in the last few years to cater to children aged three to eleven.
Since we decided to attend both Knott’s Scary Farm and Knott’s Spooky Farm celebrations with our son who has autism, we spent the night at the Knott’s Berry Hotel.
Our experience with Knott’s started as we entered the Lobby of the hotel. Our son was excited to see Snoopy walking around and got to take a picture with him.
As it was around Halloween, they had some scarier zombie characters walking around for picture taking as well, in the weekend evenings.
Staying at the hotel proved to be a perfect choice for us since it is a less than a five-minute walk from the actual park. In fact, it also enabled us to take short, brief rests during the day and not carry many items with us into the park.
Right by the entrance near the hotel, visitors walk through the California market that includes the farm bakery, Chicken to Go, and Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. As we soon found out, Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant is the only place to sample the famous fried chicken with its original recipe from decades ago. The marketplace is also a good place for visitors to sample boysenberry drinks which one can get at the local Starbucks, and Icees at multiple stalls, of which our son couldn’t get enough.
Adults can try a boysenberry martini or boysenberry wine at the restaurant. The marketplace also boasts several stores for shopping for patrons of all ages. Guests can shop for food items to go, Christmas ornaments and a plethora of souvenirs.
The park is divided into four main sections.
The first is Ghost Town, the original area inspired by the town of Calico and built by Walter Knott.
The ‘Town’ features a couple of great rides like the newly revamped Ghost Rider, Silver Bullet, Timber Mountain Log Ride and Big Foot Rapids which can be perfect on a hot day when riders don’t mind getting soaked.
There is also the Pony Express and Screaming Swing attractions, which are both high-intensity rides. For little kids, the Calico Railroad, Calico Mine Ride, and Butterfield Stage Coach are a good fit.
What’s unique about Ghost Town are its interactive features where kids can learn about the early 1900s mining towns. Here, children can visit the Western Trail’s museum, blacksmith, old school house and even the Ghost Town Jail.
Our son got a kick out of chatting with Joe, who has been in ‘prison’ for over seventy years, and standing on Hiram McTavish’s grave to feel his “heartbeat.”
The next area over is Fiesta Village that is somewhat modeled after a Mexican village. It has some high-powered rides for the thrill seekers, like Jaguar, Montezuma’s Revenge, and some less intense rides like the Hat Dance and Merry Go Round. The Fiesta Village is also famous for its foods like the Carne Asada fries which should be on your bucket’ list of foods to try.
The Boardwalk section, like its namesake, has some of the most exciting trips and is geared for the older kids and young adults.
Here, you will find the high powered coasters like Boomerang, Coast Riders, Xcelerator, Riptide, and our son’s favorite Supreme Scream.
Along with the rides and attractions, it also features plenty of arcades and places to eat and or have fun, like Dippin Dots, Johnny Rockets, Laser Tag, and the Child’s Schultz Theater where guests can see shows several times a day.
By far the best section for the younger kids is Camp Snoopy, which has multiple low intensity themed rides like Rock Mountain Trucking, Flying Ace, Grand Sierra Railroad, and Huff n Puff. Camp Snoopy is also the area that you’re most likely to meet Snoopy for a brief selfie.
Knott’s Spooky Farm Halloween Celebration
Knott’s Spooky Farm features hands-on fun with live entertainment. The Spooky Farm is the perfect event for kids aged three to eleven. It takes place during the day, as compared to the adult themed nighttime Knott’s Spooky Farm.
The festive atmosphere starts right at the marketplace with ornate window stores and continues in the park with the different Halloween decorations, meeting friendly monsters and stopping at treating stations around the park.
Young children can participate in a costume contest in Camp Snoopy, have fun dancing in Camp Snoopy Theater, or navigate a maze patrolled by the Headless Horseman. They can also watch live shows featuring Peanuts characters in scary stories, which, of course, includes a story about the Great Pumpkin.
In Ghost Town, there’s a cute pumpkin patch that provides great photo ops for families to take holiday pics with the Peanuts characters.
We enjoyed the Dia de Los Muertos exhibit in Fiesta Village the best. The event showed death as a celebration of life, rather than something to fear. The exhibit is a great opportunity for visitors of all ages to learn about the importance of life and how death is commemorated in many cultures.
The Dia de Los Muertos activities included a mini puppet show, make your own bead bracelet and cookie decorating.
Before you leave, be sure to try a slice berry pie made with fresh boysenberries from the marketplace. With the berry pie washing down some of the original Mrs. Knott’s fried chicken, your family can experience the original Knott’s Berry Farm experience from back in the mid-1900s.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Knott’s Berry Farm is incredibly autism-friendly! After you enter the park, go to guest services and ask for a disability pass. Just like in other theme parks you can go to the actual ride, nd if it’s busy the staff at each attraction will write down a slotted time that you can come back.If the ride is not too busy, as we discovered, the staff was more than accommodating and let our son bypass the line and go right in.
- We loved the park because, unlike other famous theme parks, this one is a lot more manageable and smaller. There’s less walking involved, a lot more shade, and plenty of places to sit down to catch your breath.
- The park has free wifi. Need we say more?
- The signage in the park can be somewhat misleading. If you have an autism pass, you want to look for the wheelchair icon on the posted signs. Sometimes you have to walk around the attraction to the exit or different entrance to go for the ride. If the staff does not understand that you’re asking for an autism accommodation, just address it as a disability pass because they know this better.
- Make sure you download the Knott’s Berry Farm app on your phone because navigating the park is a bit of a challenge for people who don’t know the park well.