photo of Knott's Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm resort in California. (� Knott's or Peanuts)

What to do in Knott's Berry Farm

Before there was the land of the Mouse, there was Knott's Berry Farm. During the Depression, enterprising farmers Walter and Cordelia Knott of Buena Park, California, began serving chicken dinners from their roadside berry stand to make ends meet. By the late 1930s, the diner had become so popular that lines formed, and in 1940, Walter Knott started building an Old West "ghost town" attraction, complete with Wild West buildings, gold panning, and carnival rides. As time went on, the park continued to grow, but it wasn't until 1968 that a fence went up and guests were charged admission. The park now blends its down-home roots with modern thrill rides and flashy, family-friendly entertainment.

In Ghost Town, the "heart and soul" of the park, you'll find many of the original Old West buildings moved here in the 1940s and fifties. Rides like the Calico Mine Train and Butterfield Stagecoach feature authentic historical equipment. The Wild West Stunt Show is a family favorite, and the Timber Mountain Log Ride, where guests ride in hollowed-out logs through an 1880s sawmill before taking a heart-leaping plunge down a 40-foot waterfall, is regarded as one of the best flume rides in existence. Other themed areas include the BoardWalk, Wild Water Wilderness, and Fiesta Village.

Fans of classic thrill rides will love the famed wooden roller coaster GhostRider and the Screamin' Swing, the world's first air-powered swing. Those looking for the latest and greatest can step onto the Silver Bullet, a suspended roller coaster with a 109-foot drop and six upside-down loops, or the Xcelerator, the first-ever hydraulically launched coaster (it goes from 0 to 82 miles per hour in less than three seconds to a gut-wrenching 20 stories up).

There's plenty of fun for little ones at Camp Snoopy, a six-acre park within the park designed especially for kids ages 3 to 11. Knott's also offers gentler attractions like an old-fashioned carousel and the Mystery Lodge, a mystical multimedia performance that has had audiences scratching their heads for years.

Knott's is located on Highway 39, which used to carry the majority of traffic between Los Angeles County and the beaches of Orange County. But now the area is heavily developed, and Knott's sits in the middle of a shopping, dining, and tourist complex with a Medieval Times, Pirate's Dinner Adventure, and several chain stores. But though Knott's has evolved over the decades from an eclectic roadside attraction into your typical suburban theme park, much of the original charm of America's first theme park remains.

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