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Thursday, November 24, 2022

Knott's Berry Farm Pt. 2

The Calico Mine Ride and Timber Mountain Log Ride were my two most anticipated rides at Knott’s. It was surreal seeing the iconic fa├žade of the Mine Ride for the first time, with the trains winding their way through the mountain.

This wheel bearing the name of Bud Hurlbut must be original or at least close to it, and it’s cool to know that you can still see the signature of a person who was so important to Knott’s history.
A few weeks after my visit, one of the trains had a bad derailment as it sped out of the finale scene. Luckily the ride reopened after only a few days.
As the train squeaked its way through this one-of-a-kind ride, I was amazed by how the interior felt modern thanks to the upgrades made in 2014 by Garner Holt Productions. The ride system, though, is wonderfully antiquated, all the way through to the flip-down seat on the car doors.
I love the rickety lift hill (which I’m sure has frightened many unsuspecting kids over the years… is this a roller coaster??) that ends in the awe-inspiring cavern scene. It's just as effective now as it had to have been decades ago.
The Timber Mountain Log Ride was by far my favorite ride at Knott’s. Riding it for the first time is one of my favorite memories of the entire trip. The first drop into the dark, waterfall-filled cave isn’t replicated in any video online, and I loved the catchy soundtrack added for the ride’s 50th anniversary.
I rode the flume three times, and this ride is pretty much worth the price of admission by itself!
One thing I found humorous about the Log Ride is the loud noise the log makes on the final drop, like an obnoxious zipper. No other log flume has that sound… if you know, you know!
The new Knott’s Bear-y Tales ride was enjoyable if a bit chaotic. I understand that darkrides that rely on atmosphere like the original Bear-y Tales are not as marketable today, but there are a few practical sets inside that go beyond the mayhem-filled screens left over from the former Voyage to the Iron Reef attraction.
The Thunder Cave sequence feels more vintage than anything else, and I think this scene may even be located in the same place as it was in the original ride, running along the back of the show building.
The exterior, queue, and surrounding area of the ride are all very well-themed. Knott’s did a good job of recreating a sliver of the old Roaring 20s themed area.
Coming out of the arcade that sits at the exit to Bear-y Tales, the neighboring gift shop has a great selection of merchandise on many niche subjects of the park’s history. I love that they use a former ride vehicle from the Wacky Soap Box Racers roller coaster as a display table.
The marquee of the Walter Knott/Charles M. Schultz Theater isn't real neon anymore, but it still dazzles at night. There weren't any shows here when I visited, but there was a roaming performer with a bike-mounted piano in front of the theater.
The biggest disappointment of my trip to Knott’s was that Montezooma’s Revenge had closed a few months earlier. I have always wanted to ride a classic shuttle loop, and Montezooma is the last one operating in America. When it reopens next year, it will be a completely updated experience, but it’s impressive that Knott’s was able to keep an old-school flywheel launch operating for more than 40 years.
The ride's loop had already been removed to be replaced when I was there in July, but the mouth of the dragon on the marquee was still slowly opening and closing, just to make me jealous.
Elsewhere in Fiesta Village, the Happy Sombrero ride is absolutely delightful, and the intricate paint schemes on the cars are really cool.
Jaguar! (the coaster with an unnecessary exclamation point) had the worst operations of any coaster I’ve ever ridden. A mass of people would come up the exit ramp, and the operator would say over the microphone that “we are boarding Fast Lane and boarding passes on this train.” The train would fill up except for two rows. “Opening gates.” BAM! The station gates would open. Four people would get on the train from the regular line. “Closing gates.” BAM! “Dispatch!” There has to be a better way to manage Fast Lane riders than that.
Xcelerator has been closed since March 2022, and it’s actually listed as “standing but not operating” on rcdb.com along with Montezooma’s Revenge. With the park recently investing in a full repaint, though, I can’t imagine that it will be removed any time soon.
The Dentzel menagerie carousel (meaning it has animals besides horses) was nice to see, especially given how Disney mutilates their carousels by replacing the legs of the standing horses. ;-) This patriotic Dentzel stander is similar to a figure I saw at the New England Carousel Museum, which I attached a picture of below. 
Though no two hand-carved carousel figures are exactly the same, designs were often copied from a master carver during mass production.
I made sure to not forget Independence Hall on the other side of the road, where we met up with a friend who knows a lot about Knott’s history. This musty old museum is a really peaceful respite in one of the busiest theme parks in the world.
It was sad that only a few people were touring Independence Hall on a day when the park was packed, but I'm happy that Cedar Fair continues to operate this important part of Knott's history.
I’ve been to the real Independence Hall and seen the actual Liberty Bell, but the version at Knott’s is way better, including the audio presentation in the assembly room. :-)
This is one of the last pieces of the original perimeter fence that Walter Knott built to keep out the "hippies," apparently!
I understand the hype about California sunsets now. I took this shot from the stairs up to Silver Bullet.
I love that they brought back the mission dioramas, a wonderful reminder of how Knott's used to be. I followed the story of their restoration on Yesterland.com with great interest years ago.
We did take a ride up in the Sky Cabin (in the background of this shot), and it was perhaps the only ride in the park with a short line. I took a bunch of pictures, but none of them are particularly worth sharing because of the fogged-up glass.
The dramatic lighting on the Mine Ride and Log Ride really helps this old rockwork shine.
That concludes our whirlwind trip of the rest of Knott's Berry Farm. I may have skipped some things, but I only included the best pictures out of the several hundred I took. Sorry to keep you waiting, but in the next post, we'll finally reach the happiest land of them all, Disneyland's Fantasyland.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Knott's Berry Farm Pt. 1

I was looking forward to my first visit to Knott's Berry Farm almost as much as Disneyland. It was a crowded day at the park that many consider the oldest in America, but I was not disappointed. Since I learned so much about Knott's before ever visiting, I was able to appreciate it all the more.
Ghost Town was bustling because of the annual Ghost Town Alive event, which meant that there were a lot of roaming actors.
You can't forget the minor attractions that gave Knott's its start, like the quaint blacksmith shop. I wonder how old the paint is on the sign?

Though there aren't many wide-open spaces or shaded areas, the landscaping at Knott's was excellent. 
Of course, I had to get my picture with the most legendary duo of Ghost Town, Handsome Brady and Whiskey Bill.
Another icon of Ghost Town is the Catawampus, not to mention the newly-hatched baby Catawampus!
The independent vendors who run some of the shops in Ghost Town were all really nice. I didn't know that there are old tickets and mementos stuck in the glass of the Bottle House. If you ask, the cashier might use a pair of tweezers and show you some of the treasures.
Market Street is probably the most peaceful part of Ghost Town, as it sits away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds.
Even with Ghost Town Alive taking up many of the buildings, there are still some real gems of peek-ins, like this one of a gunsmith.
One of my favorite memories of the visit was getting a Sarsaparilla and soft pretzel from the Calico Saloon. Though there wasn't a show playing inside the saloon, my dad and I sat outside and enjoyed the atmosphere.
Though "newer" than Bill and Brady, Marilyn and Cecelia are still older than Disneyland. My reflection photobombed this shot!
The Boot Hill tombstone that still has a "beating heart" is such a delight. If you don't know what I'm talking about, your life isn't complete yet. ;-)
I missed the hoedown. :-( But seriously, seeing iconic views like this for the first time almost felt surreal.
The Western Trails Museum is a rare piece of "old Knott's" that I hope never goes away. I'm guessing this diorama was sold as a souvenir of the old Chapel on the Lake.
There are countless authentic trinkets from the old west in the museum, but the collection also includes a lot of Knott's ephemera. I appreciated it all.
Does anyone know where this sign used to hang? I love how you can tell it was hand-carved.
As a first-time visitor to Knott's, I had to undergo initiation by greeting Sad-Eye Joe.
 My dad's name is also Joe, so he was looking forward to seeing Sad-Eye. I can't remember what we talked about, but I would love to have the job of providing Joe's voice (my dad or the statue??). Do they have the same person play Sad-Eye Joe all day?
GhostRider was the lone wooden coaster I got to ride on this trip, but it was definitely one of the best I've ridden. It is frustrating that Cedar Fair's highest-attended park has a signature coaster with such a low capacity. The ride operations at Knott's are probably the worst I've seen at any park, mostly due to Cedar Fair's overly stringent safety rules and some confused employees. It was so crowded on the day we visited that I was faced with the option of either waiting in hour+ lines for every ride or buying a skip-the-line wristband, so I coughed up $114 for one, and I can't say I regret it.
The 90-minute wait for the Butterfield Stagecoach did not seem appealing, so this ride will have to wait until next visit... whenever that is. It is impressive that the stagecoach still runs after so many decades. I didn't notice if there was more than one vehicle running, but that line had to be painful.
The Ghost Town and Calico Railroad can't compare to the Disneyland Railroad in both speed and scenery, but I appreciated it for its history.
This picture is one of my favorite memories of an already incredible trip. I was enjoying my train ride when I heard a familiar voice behind me. So I turned around... and saw Tony Baxter sitting just a few seats away! He was nice enough to take a photo after the ride. When I told him my family was visiting Disneyland, he said that he was thinking of going there but thought it would be too difficult to get reservations. For Tony Baxter?!
My mom dropped my dad and me off at the park in the morning, but she accidentally took the wrong I-5 exit when coming to pick us up at night, ending up in northern Anaheim. (She thought she remembered where she was going and didn't need the GPS.) My dad was not amused.
I was happy that Knott's and Disneyland were open late, as most of my local parks never returned to pre-pandemic hours. Any park is a completely different experience at night.
Nighttime in California also felt different than it does at home. Ghost Town was particularly special, with a live band adding to the atmosphere.
I rode GhostRider a second time at night, and it's certainly one of the best nighttime rides I've experienced. While I was going up the lift hill, I could see the Disneyland fireworks going off in the distance behind Independence Hall. I had to wait thirty minutes even with the Fast Lane wristband, but the wait was worth it, as this was a perfect way to end our day.
In the next post, we'll look at the two most famous attractions in Ghost Town as well as the rest of the park and Independence Hall!