On a sunny October day, Knott’s Berry Farm—currently transformed into “Knott’s Spooky Farm”—reminded us why it remains a family-friendly destination.
In the Calico Ghost Town, costumed children collected sweets at trick-or-treat stations. Friendly ghouls mingled with families and gladly posed for photos. In America’s original theme park, the atmosphere was relaxed, and everyone seemed happy.
Humble BeginningsIt began in the 1920s as a roadside stand selling Walter Knott’s berries. Then, in 1928, Walter built a tea stand for his wife, Cordelia. From there she sold her homemade jams, jellies, pies, hot biscuits, and sandwiches.
One June night in 1934, Cordelia decided to try selling chicken dinners. She served fried chicken dinners on her wedding china to eight guests, and history was made.
The chicken dinners proved so popular that guests would line up by the thousands to be seated in the Knott’s Berry Place restaurant.
In 1940, to amuse his waiting guests, Walter constructed a western-themed ghost town. He brought in buildings taken from actual ghost towns existing in the United States. Other buildings were meticulously copied from the originals. The ghost town became the first themed area in Knott’s Berry Place.
Knott’s Chicken Dinner RestaurantSo, you might ask, is the fried chicken still good? Yes, it is. On weekends, they serve all-day dinners with a variety of classic fare.
This tourist ordered the original menu choice of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet kernel corn, tossed salad with boysenberry dressing, rhubarb, and buttermilk biscuits. They even included a slice of fruit pie! Everything was delicious, and I gladly took home the leftovers.
The Old West Ghost TownThe ghost town remains at the heart of Knott’s Berry Farm. Its attention to detail is so marvelous that you could spend all day there and not see everything there is to see.
This authenticity includes the Western Trails Museum. It has a terrific collection of items from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Be sure to ask the museum docent to demonstrate some of the exhibits; he or she will gladly do so. All the staff at Knott’s Berry Farm are kind and enthusiastic.
Fun awaits as well through interactive experiences such as panning for gold or talking with the perpetually jailed Sad Eye Joe. Then there are the themed rides, such as the Calico Mine Ride, where animatronic miners with craggy faces delight passing riders. Thrill seekers love Ghostrider, “the longest, tallest, and fastest wooden roller coaster on the West Coast” according to the theme park’s website.
Those who prefer calm seek the Bird Cage Theatre. Its facade was reproduced in 1954 by Walter Knott from the original theatre in Tombstone, Arizona. Also, frontier-themed food and unique gifts make it fun to shop in the ghost town of Calico.
Camp SnoopyCamp Snoopy is a wonderful section of the park created just for kids ages 12 and under. It is designed to look like a summer camp in the California High Sierra.
Trees, decorative boulders, and a flowing stream make the area quite attractive. Children and their parents seem to enjoy the mellow vibes. Peanuts characters do meet and greets, and live entertainment is shown at the Camp Snoopy Theatre.
Fiesta VillageIn the 1960s, Knott’s added the Fiesta Village theme area to the park. It was designed in tribute to California’s early Spanish heritage.
During Spooky Farm days, skeleton statues honoring Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) are on view. There are rides both mild and thrilling, as well as Mexican-American food for sale.
The BoardwalkKnott’s originally created the Boardwalk area as a tribute to the Roaring 20s, but in 1996 it was re-themed to look like a California beach boardwalk. It’s a surprising yet attractive addition to the rest of the park, with its palm trees and bright roller coasters.
Seasonal ActivityThroughout the year, Knott’s celebrates five different “seasons.” Though they were shut down during COVID, everything is returning in a big way in 2023.
Right now, from Sept. 22 to Oct. 31 in the daytime only, families can celebrate Knott’s Spooky Farm: a decidedly non-spooky and purely fun celebration of Halloween. On select nights, however, the park transforms into Knott’s Scary Farm—a horror fest designed for ages 13 and up (ages 13 to 17 must be accompanied by an adult age 21 or over). Knott’s Scary Farm is a highly popular event for teenagers and young adults.
Upcoming for the end of 2022 and for all of 2023, Knott’s seasonal events will include a multi-weekend Peanuts celebration, a springtime Boysenberry Festival, a summertime Ghost Town Alive, Knott’s Scary and Spooky Farm, and a Christmastime Knott’s Merry Farm. This year, Knott’s Merry Farm runs from Nov. 18, 2022 to Jan. 8, 2023.