Get Out of Town!
What's Old is New Again - Revisiting Knott's Berry Farm
December, 2009 - Issue #62
I think I was in first grade the first time I visited Knott's Berry Farm. My dad took me as a reward for my grades in school. We rode the Log Ride, ate sugary snacks and toted around large stuffed animals my dad won on the midway.

Things have come full circle. Almost.
My wife April and I made the pilgrimage to Buena Park with our four kids recently to recognize their own academic achievements.

We too rode the Log Ride and ate sugary snacks. But there were no midway games as part of our day. I would need reconstructive shoulder surgery if I tried throwing enough baseballs to win a prize for each of the kids.

Knott's has, of course, evolved in the three decades since I first had fun there. The venerable parachute ride has given way to bigger thrills like Supreme Scream and Xcelerator. But the things that make Knott's so charming are still there.

Where else can you ride in an authentic stage coach, then climb aboard a working steam engine? We did both, and the kids were a little jumpy on the train after braving cheesy jokes and gunplay that highlight the Wild West Stunt Show.

They were rigid, with their hands in the air when the train robbers made their way down the aisle and ordered everyone to reach for the sky. Fortunately, we weren't high on their list of priorities. "They don't have any money," one of the robbers said to his partner. "Look how many kids they have."

The other thing that made the kids nervous was the Log Ride. They were full of questions as we piled into our log, Drew and Laurel in front, with Brooke and I in the back. I knew the big drop at the end would give them a scare. But I had no idea the dioramas of forest creatures and busy lumbermen would creep them out. But after passing through the first tunnel, Drew clapped his hands over his ears and ducked for cover in the log.

"It was really scary," he reported to April after riding, and Brooke confirmed his assessment. Later, all three said it was their favorite ride.

What scared me was Ghostrider, a towering, old-fashioned wooden roller coaster on steroids. Laurel and I sat in the very back seat. And although she was tall enough to ride, she was so skinny that the lap bar and seat belt stopped short of being tight on her. I wrapped her in my best fatherly grasp as we hurtled down the first hill and didn't let go. She was barely visible in the picture snapped by the automatic cameras. It showed a terrified father putting a headlock on what looks to be a wisp of hair.

Camp Snoopy, the kid-focused area of Knott's, was the highlight of the day. Even little Amber was able to go on some rides. We went straight there after arriving at the park and the older three rode most everything. It seemed that the more boring Mommy and Daddy thought the ride was, the more they liked it. At the end of the day, the last ride they just had to do again was Huff and Puff. That's the one where you ride in your own mini mine cart and you have to push and pull on the bar to propel yourself around the short track.

Fortunately that ride doesn't come in a grown-up version. I was already exhausted from a full day at Knott's as we headed for the exit. Like the kids, the fun and excitement had worn me out.

Things had come full circle again.
Eric Harnish lives in Newhall.

A Day at the Park
Knott's Berry Farm


Parking: Autos, $12; buses and RVs, $17

Admission: See website for latest
prices and special offers.

Getting There: Head south on Interstate 5. Exit Beach Boulevard. Turn right. Continue three blocks south to park.
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