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If you’re enchanted by Disneyland, you might wonder why anyone would spend a Southern California vacation day at another theme park, but Knott’s Berry Farm offers a terrific way to spend a day — especially for thrill-seeking teens.
Based on many visits over the last four decades, here is the ultimate guide to planning a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm, including when to go, where to stay, how to minimize wait times and ways to save some money along the way.
Knott’s Berry Farm Basics
Knott’s Berry Farm is a 57-acre theme park located in Buena Park, Orange County in California. The closest airport is John Wayne/Orange County (SNA), located about 20 minutes away.
It’s separated from that other SoCal theme park (Disneyland) by a 15-minute drive on the 5 North freeway. What you might not know is that Knott’s Berry Farm was California’s first amusement park (it officially opened in the 1940s), located on what started as an authentic berry farm in the 1920s.
Overview of Rides, Shows and Character Meet-and-Greets
Over the years, the addition of a ghost town, roller coasters, unique rides and shows has made Knott’s a quirky mix that works for many families taking in Southern California’s best attractions. Just like at Disneyland, there are original details, such as the figures posing on benches with my kids, that Knott’s regulars will “get” and newbies will likely shrug at.
Who Will Enjoy Knott’s Berry Farm?
The theme park is owned and operated by Cedar Fair, which also runs Great America (in California), Cedar Point (in Ohio) and King’s Dominion (in Virginia). Knott’s aims to please a broad range of visitors. The Camp Snoopy area of the park is ideal for toddlers and preschoolers. Thrill-seekers appreciate the daring roller coasters, such as HangTime that has the steepest roller coaster drop in the state. The large ghost town suits history lovers. Even foodies are appeased with home-style dining and a heavy focus on Knott’s favorite fruit: boysenberries.
Having visited Knott’s Berry Farm many times over the last 40 years, I find the park aimed at families with upper-elementary-aged kids and teens. The park is great for those who meet the height restrictions for the many roller coasters, its strong suit (many are 48 inches and up, but some are as high as 54 inches).
What’s for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers at Knott’s?
When not inside the Camp Snoopy area, families with younger children may find that the little ones will be relegated to the stroller. There just aren’t many rides for the very young elsewhere in the park. But this is not to dissuade you from visiting, even with toddlers and preschoolers. With 12 total rides, plus live shows and character greetings, Camp Snoopy offers plenty for younger kids.
There are other things to do at Knott’s Berry Farm that smaller kids will still enjoy (did I mention all the boysenberry treats?). Knott’s also has a Parent Swap program that operates like the Rider Switch at Disneyland. Parents with children who are too short to ride a particular attraction can still stand in line together as a family. When they reach the front of the line, the first parent takes a ride (either alone or with other children who meet the height requirement). The first parent then “swaps” places with the second parent and waits with the younger child(ren).
When to Plan a Visit to Knott’s Berry Farm
If you’re aiming to avoid crowds at Knott’s Berry Farm, plan on a midweek, off-peak vacation. The park is packed during summer, spring break and three-day weekends. Basically, any time that California kids are out of school is going to be busy. Special-event days can also bring in extra crowds so take note of these on the site calendar before planning your trip.
Knott’s offers some fantastic seasonal offerings throughout the year, highlighted by the annual Boysenberry Festival. This popular event celebrates all things boysenberry with 75+ foods for sale throughout the park. The festival is included with park admission and includes some boysenberry-themed shows and entertainment.
Save on Tickets
Families on a budget will appreciate the comparatively low ticket prices at Knott’s Berry Farm. While single-day passes at other area theme parks run around $100 each, a day pass at Knott’s costs between $53 and $64 when purchased online ahead of time. Children 2 and younger enter the park for free. There are also discounted tickets available for active and retired military members. Fast Lane, much like Disney’s FastPass, is available for an additional cost per person.
Redeem Chase Points: You can purchase tickets at Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Pay cash and earn points or use your Ultimate Rewards points to redeem for tickets at a rate as high as 1.5 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
In our search, we had the choice of purchasing weekday passes good for Monday–Thursday for $51.70 or 3,446 Ultimate Rewards points per ticket. Or you can pay a bit more per ticket for one that is good for entrance any day ($54.05 per ticket or 3,603 points).
Buy at Costco: While Costco doesn’t sell tickets to Knott’s Berry Farm, it does sell the Go San Diego eCard, which includes entry to the theme park along with a bunch of other family-friendly attractions. A two-day eCard costs $112.99 for adults (13+) and $97.99 for kids (3–12). A four-day pass costs $214.99 for adults and $187.99 for kids. If you buy the four-day pass by May 31, 2019, you’ll also get $10 off each ticket purchase (up to 10 tickets). The Go San Diego eCard is also valid for entrance at Knott’s Soak City, Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, Air and Space Museum and more (even kayaking, biking and snorkeling at La Jolla). Note that SeaWorld admission is not included in this pass.
Parking Fees: Daily parking is $20 per vehicle so consider booking your hotel nearby (there are plenty to choose from). Then ride-share or walk to save on the parking costs.
Dining Package: Knott’s also has a way for families to save on dining. The All-Day Dining deal is a reasonable $31.99 per person, per day. Each guest can eat on the plan every 90 minutes at participating restaurants inside the park. Food options for this deal are kid-friendly items such burgers and fries, pizza and chicken tenders. Outside food and water bottles are permitted at Knott’s Berry Farm, a potential saving on snacks.
Get a Season Pass: If you plan to visit more than once in a season, price out a season pass as a yearlong pass is around $100.
Disneyland is great about offering immersive rides, shows and attractions that are enjoyable for all ages, young to old. Most of the park offerings at Knott’s Berry Farm are geared for particular ages or categories and don’t have the same broad range of appeal. However, Knott’s does have something in the park for all ages.
Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers: The Camp Snoopy area is the major focus for this age category. There are kid-friendly character greetings and live entertainment featuring the Peanuts Gang, including Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Of the 12 rides in Camp Snoopy, there are some that adults can do with the kids (like Camp Bus and Grand Sierra Railroad).
Other rides are strictly for the kids and have height restrictions (such as Huff & Puff and Woodstock’s Airmail). If you have children with an age gap, your older kids may be too tall to ride with their younger siblings. Be aware of the height requirements posted at each ride and online; it can be a bit confusing.
Thrill Rides: Elementary-aged kids and teens will like the wide range of coasters spread around Knott’s. Highlights include rides that are unique to Knott’s Berry Farm, such as Xcelerator, Ghost Rider, Silver Bullet and Hangtime. There are also classic fair-type attractions like Supreme Scream (a tower-drop ride) and Coast Rider (a “wild mouse” coaster).
Beyond the Rides
History Buffs: The Ghost Town section of Knott’s offers a unique perspective and is one of the original sections of this theme park. Families can pan for gold (this experience isn’t included in all ticket types), visit a real Old School House or watch the blacksmith make horseshoes. Family rides include the Calico Mine Ride, Butterfield Stagecoach and Calico Railroad. The Timber Mountain Log Ride is a classic (it predated Disneyland’s Splash Mountain).
Foodies: Knott’s Berry Farm began its life as a theme park because of the popularity of Mrs. Knott’s fried chicken restaurant. (Mr. Knott brought in attractions to entertain guests while they waited to eat.) Dining at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant is an absolute must! The meal is delicious (and big, so prepare to share). As a plus, the restaurant is located outside of the park gates, so you can eat there without going inside the theme park.
Unlike the themed restaurants at Disneyland, the rest of the dining at Knott’s Berry Farm is typical amusement park fare. However, anything boysenberry is a standout so consider the funnel cake topped with berries, boysenberry ICEE float, boysenberry soft serve or the boysenberry pie.
Find yourself in a sticky situation? Have no fear, the #FunBun is here! Available at Ghost Town Grub. Enjoy the LAST day of the #BoysenberryFestival today from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. pic.twitter.com/bscVs2QYdM
— Knott’s Berry Farm (@knotts) April 28, 2019
Take the Fast Lane: If riding all of the fastest coasters at Knott’s Berry Farm is top priority, consider purchasing a Fast Lane wristband. The wristband offers unlimited access to popular rides like Sierra Sidewinder and Jaguar. The cost for Fast Lane is about $70 per person and is added on top of the admission price. Fast Lane can be purchased directly on the Knott’s website or at the park. There are some definite pros and cons to consider before purchasing Fast Lane.
Pros for Fast Lane:
- A huge time saver for thrill seekers; guests using Fast Lane may have a five-minute line wait instead of 30+ minutes.
- Unlimited line-skipping for 13 rides.
- Knott’s limits the number of Fast Lane wristbands sold each day so wait times with this feature remain low.
Cons for Fast Lane:
- Cost of Fast Lane is more than the cost of admission.
- Only two of the rides available with Fast Lane have no or low height requirements.
- Not available for use in Camp Snoopy, one of the busiest areas of the park.
- Wristband is assigned per person and cannot be swapped within families.
Other Ways to Minimize Lines: Knott’s Berry Farm can definitely be a “one-day park” with some strategy, even without Fast Lane. Use the Knott’s Berry Farm Mobile App to see wait times for rides, show times and event listings.
Knott’s Berry Farm generally opens at 10am, which allows plenty of time in the morning to get up and line up to be one of the first in. Aim to arrive 30 minutes before gates open to knock out a ride or two before most other guests catch up. This will allow time to park, walk to the gate and have your bag inspected at the security checkpoint.
The Camp Snoopy area will be very busy about an hour after opening. Definitely hit this area first if you have little kids and then tour the rest of the park and return to Camp Snoopy later in the evening. It will be considerably less crowded about an hour before park closing. And of course — measure your kids in advance so you know what rides to prioritize.
In addition to the popular Boysenberry Festival, here are a few additional special events that happen through the year at Knott’s Berry Farm:
- The fall season brings two Halloween-themed events. The first is Knott’s Spooky Farm and it’s offered during the daytime hours and is included in park admission. This family-friendly event includes trick-or-treating, entertainment, non-scary rides and Dia de los Muertos celebrations (included with park admission).
- Adults and teenagers flock to the park after hours for Knott’s Scary Farm, a special ticketed Halloween event. Costumed actors, spooky mazes and frightening entertainment make this an event that’s not for the meek (requires additional special event ticket).
- Knott’s Merry Farm (included with park admission) during the holiday season includes themed shows, nightly snowfall and meetings with Santa during regular park hours. Of course, the holidays are a busy time of year at SoCal theme parks and the crowds will be heavier.
— ThrillsByTheBay (@ThrillsByTheBay) October 13, 2018
Where to Stay
The Knott’s Berry Farm is a decent hotel in an ideal location that’s a five-minute walk from lobby to front gate. Rooms are ordinary but some are oversized with sleeper sofas to accommodate families of up to six people. Younger kids will like the (slightly pricier) Camp Snoopy area of the hotel that features rooms with Peanuts decor, stuffed Snoopy toys and even a bedtime visit from Snoopy.
This hotel can often be found on Hotels.com, which means you can book via Hotels.com/venture with your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to earn 10 miles per dollar on your hotel stay, which is up to 20% back in total rewards.
Using Marriott Points
If you’ve got Marriott points to spend, there are three Category 3 properties from 17,500 points per night:
- Residence Inn La Mirada Buena Park: A 15-minute drive from Knott’s Berry Farm, we like this hotel because each room is a suite with a door separating the bedroom(s) from the living areas that also usually have sleeper sofas. All guests also receive a hot breakfast daily, evening drinks and food on certain nights of the week, and Wi-Fi.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites Anaheim North/Buena Park: Located less than two miles from Knott’s Berry Farm, we like the hotel for its free breakfast and suite options — some of which even have two bathrooms.
- Courtyard Anaheim Buena Park: This hotel is just down the street from Knott’s (20-minute walking distance). Roomy layout, even in standard rooms.
If you need to bulk up your Marriott points balance, here are some great card options.
Using Best Western Points
SureStay Hotel Buena Park Anaheim: Just a mile from Knott’s Berry Farm, this basic hotel fits the needs of families who just need a place to sleep from 12,000 Best Western points per night. Complimentary breakfast is usually included though not currently offered because of hotel renovations.
Using Hilton Points
Hampton Inn & Suites Buena Park: At 40,000 points Hilton per night, this is a solid all-around choice. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi and a hot breakfast daily to all guests. (If your family is in a hurry on its way to Knott’s Berry Farm, grab an “On the Run” breakfast bag (available Monday–Friday).
If you’d rather stay at a full-service hotel, consider the Hilton Anaheim with redemptions ranging from 20k to 50 points per night. No matter which Hilton hotel you book, spend some time learning which Hilton credit card is best for families.
Using IHG Points
There are some excellent IHG properties nearby as well: Holiday Inn Buena Park-Near Knott’s (from 25k IHG Rewards points per night) and the Holiday Inn La Mirada (from 20k points). If you have the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you can even get the fourth award night free, giving you plenty of time to explore the area.
Using Hyatt Points
There are no Hyatt locations directly in Buena Park, but there are a few options in nearby Anaheim:
Hyatt House at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center: 15,000 World of Hyatt points per night
Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center: 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night
Both of these hotels offer free breakfast, but be aware that you have to book direct to score free breakfast at Hyatt Place. If you need to top up your Hyatt balance, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points on a 1:1 basis or earn points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card. You can also use the annual account anniversary award that comes with the Hyatt credit card to book either of these properties.
Using Radisson Rewards Points
Radisson Suites Hotel Anaheim – Buena Park: From 28,000 Radisson Rewards points per night. My family of six has stayed in those hotel and enjoyed the separate bedroom, free on-site parking, free Wi-Fi and a complimentary shuttle to both Knott’s and Disneyland.
A “luxury” hotel isn’t to be found in Buena Park. For a higher-end overnight, consider looking in nearby Anaheim.
Is a Side Trip to Knott’s Worth Your Time?
For families looking to add to their vacation in Southern California, Knott’s Berry Farm is a worthwhile day trip. Knott’s is definitely not a destination location with the same pull as Disneyland, but it’s still great fun once you are in the area. Families with kids at least 48″ tall will have the most rides to choose from and families on a tighter budget can definitely take advantage of the lower costs of visiting Knott’s and the surrounding area hotels.
Because of the affordable tickets (and season passes), along with the teen-pleasing roller coasters, Knott’s Berry Farm attracts many local teens on school breaks and weekends. Line jumping and teenage shenanigans are frequent during these time periods, so take heed. With judicious use of Fast Lane during busy seasons or avoiding those time periods with careful scheduling, families may avoid any issues and make great memories at a classic theme park with modern attractions.
- Southern California’s 10 Best Amusement Parks and Attractions
- Tips for Keeping Your Family Safe at a Theme Park
- 9 Things Families Should Know Before Visiting Disneyland
- 10 Tips for Visiting Disneyland With Toddlers and Preschoolers
- The Best Restaurants at Disneyland in 2019
- Skip the Lines at Disneyland: 10 Line-Busting Tips for Less Waiting and More Playing
- What’s New in 2019 at Universal Studios from Coast to Coast
I highly recommend saving one of your SoCal vacation days for Knott’s Berry Farm. It’s cheaper and less stressful than the high-speed, highly scheduled days at Disneyland. Once you embrace the odd mix of themes (Old West Ghost Town, Boardwalk, Camp Snoopy and Fiesta Village), you can just relax and enjoy Knott’s for what it is — a theme park with a little something for everyone. Just don’t forget to save some room for a boysenberry treat.
Featured image courtesy of author
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