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Not-Disney: Knott’s Berry Farm

Guest Post Alert:  Hi, everyone — I’m Kevin!  Careful readers of this blog already know me as Shelby’s husband, or “that guy in the background who’s holding up Theo in some of the pictures”.  Since I’m not Shelby, I’ll be writing about something that’s not Disney: Knott’s Berry Farm.

Knott's Berry Farm front gate

People who live in Southern California are stewing in year-round amusement parks.  Within a few hours’ drive, there are FOUR major choices: the Disneyland Resort, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios, and Six Flags Magic Mountain.  If that’s not enough, there are smaller local parks, like Adventure City in Anaheim or Castle Park in Riverside.  (Growing up in that atmosphere, imagine my surprise when I moved to San Jose after college to find that there was only one local park  — Great America — and that it was CLOSED much of the year for something called the ‘off season’.)

With all of those choices, as a kid, I went to Knott’s most often.  I think that there were three big reasons:

  1. It was cheap.  Not only were normally-priced Knott’s passes cheaper than Disneyland, it seemed that every other can of soda came with a $5 off coupon, or that there was always a grocery store running a discount-ticket promotion.  This made it much easier to wheedle a birthday or Christmas trip to Knott’s — and bring a friend along!  Later, when I was working on summer camp staff and getting paid a $250 ‘honorarium’ for the entire summer, there was no question which park we were going to for our end-of-summer blowout.
  2. It was my Mom’s park.  Growing up before the park was fenced (in 1968, to keep the hippies out — yes, really) and charged an admission fee, my Mom had fond memories of riding her bike to Knott’s and paying a quarter to ride the cool indoor rides on hot summer days.
  3. There were lots of things for kids to do.  When I was little, there was an admission-free ‘lagoon’ across the street from Knott’s — you could pay a pittance to ride a merry-go-round, a miniature steam train, or take a paddlewheel boat around the lake.  In the center of the lake was an adventure playground, with all kinds of imaginatively-carved wooden animals and play structures.  In 1983, Knott’s built Camp Snoopy, a kid-oriented, Snoopy-themed section of the park that was Valhalla for a Snoopy-loving kid like me.  (And — ahem — they simultaneously bulldozed the lagoon to make up for the parking lot that they lost when they built Camp Snoopy.  You can’t have everything, I guess.)  We collected a double set of McDonald’s Camp Snoopy glasses.  I salivated in front of the TV commercials until I got my chance to go for the first time.

Years later, we go to Knott’s for the same reasons.  It’s still cheap — next year, when Theo is 3 and no longer gets a free ride, we can buy a family set of Knott’s passes for the cost of one Disneyland annual passport.  Knott’s is now ‘my’ park, with years of warm fuzzy memories.  And while Theo frequently wakes up asking to “see Snoopy” (that is, go to Knott’s and see Snoopy), he’s never asked to go see Mickey Mouse.

But yet, Knott’s leaves me feeling conflicted.  For while on trips to Disneyland, Shelby often gets to listen to me complain about Disneyland tearing out the Skyway and the Motor Boat Cruise, Knott’s is screwing with my memories on a far grander scale.

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