For those of you who have never heard of Knott’s Berry Farmbefore, you might imagine it as a fictional palace where you pick magical snozzle berries all day… but that’s probably just me. I can assure you though that the only thing you would be picking are the wind-chilled bugs from your teeth! That’s because Knott’s Berry Farm is an entertainment mega park with a wild west twang that houses a cornucopia of delightful options to satisfy every type of craving: games, rides for all ages, shows, shops, music, dancing, and historical experiences to name a few. My hankering was for a face full of miles-per-hour strapped into their various high-octane roller coasters and suspenseful thrill rides. I put my riding shoes on – a pair of Chuck Taylor Converse – and with spurs jangling, I entered the park for an adrenaline-inspired tour, escorted by an accommodating rep from Knott’s and my friend and cameraman Alex, to get a brand new face-lift of speed.
As we walked into the Boardwalk-themed area of the park, I was greeted by the delighted roars of patrons whizzing by in milliseconds, followed by the iconic grumble of coasters in motion. There were rides of all imaginative shapes and sizes, twists and turns, loops, colors and styles, and all were busy giving their riders the thrills they traveled near and far to come experience. I stood gawking at Boomerang, a scream factory that puts you head-over-heels six times in less than a minute, and then lets you do it all over again… backwards. My appraisal was interrupted by what sounded like a colossal splash and as I whirled around I caught geysers of water spewing up on all sides and over ecstatic riders, drenching their smiling faces. This is thePerilous Plunge, a water ride 34 feet shorter than the legendary Niagara Falls that sends boats down a world-record 115-foot water chute at a revolutionary 75-degree angle -- just 15 degrees from sheer vertical. As giddy as I was at wanting to dive head first into my experience, I decided that being wet for the remainder of my tour just wasn’t savvy. But I subscribe to the motto “go big or go home,” and what better way to go big than withXcelerator, Knott’s flame-emblazoned behemoth that gets up to 82 mph. I had to ride in the very front or I knew I would never forgive myself, so I stepped into the vanguard of this puppy and waited for take off. My anticipation was palpable as all the personnel made their safety checks to make sure everything was tip-top. I expected some kind of a warning before the start so I was looking around nonchalantly, drumming on the sides of the car, acting real cool and casual. Within a millisecond the coaster hydraulically launched us off the line at an electrifying top speed of 82 mph in 2.3 seconds, and I felt like a supersonic jet pilot taking off from its aircraft carrier as the G forces compiled onto my face and chest. It then led me through an exhilarating 205-foot ascent and immediate descent at a 90-degree angle, and in 62 seconds, which seemed like one flash of hyper-speed, I was back where I started, though I think I left my masculinity along with my screams somewhere back along the 2,202 feet of the course. Did I ride it again? Oh no doubt, three times in fact! Yet each time I couldn’t be prepared for that first launch. I imagine if I were a pebble in David’s slingshot, that’s what it would be like.
There were so many rides and attractions to see and so little time: Boomerang,Silver Bullet,Supreme Scream, and naturallyGhost RiderandMontezuma’s Revenge. I had a wave of nostalgia when I sawMontezuma’s Revenge, as it was this Aztec-inspired nail biter that first got me hooked on roller coasters years ago. The feeling was familiar but no less intense as I went from 0 to 55 mph in just 3 seconds through giant seven-story loops, once forward, then again backwards.
We then went on to Silver Bullet, walking along the way through winding roads sprinkled with games, ice cream stands, adults, families and teens alike, having to pause while the horse-drawn carriage and old steam-engine-style trains passed through carrying their park passengers. We finally arrived atSilver Bullet, Knott’s first suspended coaster that sends riders climbing to a height of 146 feet and soaring back down an initial drop of 109 feet. TheSilver Bulletwas by far the most acrobatic coaster for me, as you fly into a cobra roll and experience some seriously over-banked curves, and my fellow riders and I went upside-down six times, including one vertical loop of 105 feet. After, I needed a little rest and a Coke to ease the gurgling of my not-yet-battle-hardened stomach.
I kept hearing the name “Ghost Rider” everywhere I went – whether it be in whispered conversation or exuberant displays of approval – so that was going to be my next stop. My companions and I journeyed into historical Ghost Town, a re-creation of the old west. Hovering about the town, like a mythical mining project from some imagined realm, loomed Ghost Rider, the single-largest attraction in park history and one of the longest and tallest wooden roller coasters in the world. The stats and its intimidating size were enough to make me speechless with awe and to inspire my feet to dance a ditty for having the privilege to come upon such a rare treasure. I did have my suspicions about a roller coaster made entirely of wood though. It sounded like a termite’s paradise, but I had faith in this mechanical marvel. You enter the ride through a mysterious and spooky mine, and are then strapped into gold, silver and copper mining cars where you are then sent along 4,533 feet of twisting, unforgiving timber. And believe me, you FEEL this ride more than any other. Every beam, every second, you are rumbling and bumping at epic speeds and turns: one dramatic and awe-inspiring 108-foot initial banked drop, then 13 additional drops, sudden dips, banked turns and maximum G-forces of 3.14! When I pulled back into the station, body aching with pleasurable punishment,Ghost Riderhad made its way to the top of my list.
We checked out Supreme Screamnext, Knott’s ride where you are propelled 254 feet up in midair, your feet dangling beneath you like a wind chime in the breeze. The slow escalation of the ride adds to the building anticipation, and every second you climb higher you’re heart beats faster. By the time you reach the top, you are halted for a few brief seconds to marvel at a view of the entire park and beyond, but are then dropped going 50 mph like God’s YoYo bobbing up and down while you defy the laws of gravity.
It was time for us to go, and having ridden almost every coaster and thrill ride at least twice, I felt that I had earned the badge of Big Dog and knew that I could hold my head up high as I sauntered out of the park. I will be back for sure because Knott’s Berry Farm will always be the highlight of your week, whether with your friends, family, girlfriend, boyfriend, or a lone renegade of roll like myself.
Knott’s Berry Farm is located at 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park. For more information, log on toknotts.com or call 714-220-5200. And don’t forget to visitKnott’s Soak City Water Parksthis summer with locations in Orange County, Palm Springs and San Diego.