Knott's Berry Farm is one of those quintessentially Californian, weird-ass entertainment destinations. In addition to its eponymous berries, the park, which opened in 1920, probably is most famous for being one of the first theme parks of its kind (at least on the West Coast) and serving as inspiration for Disneyland (and all subsequent Disney parks).
Like the nearby Disney parks, Knott's is full of arcane lore, gobbled up by thousands of Southern California theme park aficionados. The park celebrated the 75th anniversary of the famous Ghost Town area in 2016, and this summer it holds Ghost Town Alive, which is kind of like Westworld except that you can't shoot the actors.
The Knott's mythos is rife with charming, quaint and actually relevant pieces of local history (for example, Mr. Knott's contributions to the conservative movement in California and Orange County). Here are some of the more interesting bits.
8. It all goes back to the berries — and fried chicken.
You're probably familiar with the fact that Knott's started off selling berries. It also specifically popularized the boysenberry. Since berries were something of a luxury, the business felt the pinch during the Depression, and “pivoted” to selling fried chicken. The attractions were added later to occupy the guests waiting for chicken (and, presumably, boysenberry pie). Now, ironically, the crowds take food breaks while waiting in line for the attractions. It's still perhaps the only place to get a boysenberry latte.
7. The Peanuts Playhouse is (supposedly) haunted.
In 1983, Charles Schulz's beloved Peanuts IP was merged into the Farm and the gang was given its own land, mostly geared toward younger children. The Peanuts Playhouse — where several live shows happen daily — is rumored to have all sorts of bizarre (albeit mild) paranormal incidents reported by staff, like lights turning on and off, weird sounds and other classic ghosty stuff.
6. The park has pushed the boundaries of the roller coaster industry.
Knott's is more than just immersive environments. This place also has gut-flipping coasters for the adrenaline-junkie set and has been trying to stay at the forefront of the industry for going on 50 years. Corkscrew, for example, was the first roller coaster in the world to do a full inversion (i.e., go upside-down). And it does it twice.
The park was also the first place in the world to feature a launched roller coaster, which means it has some sort of awesome hydraulic power that I won't pretend to comprehend. That premiered at Montezuma's Revenge, still on the grounds today.
5. A ride called Kingdom of the Dinosaurs used to be a big deal.
There was once a very rad dark ride called Kingdom of the Dinosaurs. But, like the creatures themselves, it's no longer extant. (It was open from 1987 to 2004.) In one particularly meta 1980s commercial, a couple of kids sit in front of a TV watching a commercial for the ride, basically crapping their pants about how cool (and, frankly, scary) it looks. In their defense, dinosaurs rule, even animatronic ones. Check out the ride-through above or the aforementioned original broadcast commercial.
4. Knott's was home to two popular dance clubs for teens in the '80s and early '90s.
Studio K (LMFAO) and Cloud 9 were among the first all-ages dance clubs anywhere in America. Though they closed in 1991, we hear “celebrity DJs like Richard Blade” bumped plenty of electro, boogie, pop and freestyle and that they're still remembered fondly today. In the spring of 2011, 20 years after the clubs closed, Knott's hosted a Cloud 9/Studio K reunion party but put the kibosh on future get-togethers, according to OC Weekly.
3. The park used to be free.
The park was free until 1968. That's wild. Knott's isn't free anymore, but it's cheaper than Disney.
2. Walter Knott is one of the reasons Orange County is so conservative.
I mentioned this up top, but it probably bears some explanation. Walter Knott had a part of his park devoted to handing out anti–big government literature and was a friend of Reagan and Nixon, among other California conservatives. He was the founder and longtime leader of the California Free Enterprise Association (their aim: “Sell Americanism back to Americans” — yikes!). Walter died in the early '80s and the Knott family sold out its rights to the park in the late '90s. The Knott family, incidentally, was drained of money by a Ponzi scheme in the 2000s. Three cheers for free enterprise!
1. Knott's actually acknowledges Chinese-American history in the Old West.
There are Chinese animatronics in the excellent Calico Mine Ride. But there's also a Panda Express in the Wild West area, too. There's no way this happened by accident, is there? It's either some well-intentioned (but oddly expressed) nod or a bad joke, right?