What to know about visiting this California theme park, ideal for young families
When you think of venturing with the kids to southern California, your mind likely goes to Disneyland. While I’m all about the Mouse, my family wanted to give something different a try, so we opted to explore Buena Park, an entertainment district with Knott’s Berry Farm taking center stage.
My mom hadn’t been to Knott’s Berry Farm in nearly 40 years. It was the first amusement park that her grandfather took her to years back, so we invited her along for our adventure. In fact, we were interested to get her opinion on the area and amusement park, given the rich history of Knott’s Berry Farm. She was blown away!
Why go to Buena Park? Simple. It’s a gem. The amusement park is clean, organized, fun, and not overcrowded. The area really caters to younger families looking for some wholesome family fun.
Photo courtesy: Knott’s Berry Farm
What to do?
The hub of Buena Park is Knott’s Berry Farm (8039 Beach Blvd.). It’s a 160-acre amusement park and features 35 rides including roller coasters, family rides, children's rides, water rides, and historical rides.
Speaking of history, the theme park sits on the site of a former berry farm established by the Knott family. Around 1920, the Knotts sold berries, preserves, and pies, and then expanded to selling fried chicken dinners in a tea room on the property. Soon enough their “park” grew, adding restaurants and tourist attractions. In 1983, Knott's Berry Farm started Camp Snoopy, which launched the park’s association with the Peanuts characters.
We arrived right when the park opened and immediately were greeted by Peanuts favorites. We then made our way to Camp Snoopy, where my impatient kids barely had to wait in lines to experience rides catered to their size. It was shaded, clean, and simply adorable. Plus, there’s a cute outdoor stage where Snoopy and his friends do a number of performances, singing songs you’ll remember from being a kid (time warp!).
KidTripster Tip: Plan your day according to the age of your kids. Our focus was obviously on the little rides, so we spent the majority of our time in Camp Snoopy. However, there are other rides that accommodate young kids (3-years old and up) scattered around the park, as well. My son loved his first log flume experience!
For older kids (and in our case, my husband), Knott's Berry Farm features world-class thrills on a number of rollercoasters, including the Silver Bullet, California’s largest inverted coaster, and other high-adrenaline experiences.
Make sure to check out the train. It’s not the cliché amusement park ride that you’re used to; it’s real and really cool. Plus, there just may be cowboys who yell “hold ‘em up” during your adventure. And stop by the real stables to give the horses a “hello.” Yep, this amusement park is out of the ordinary and will exceed your expectations. Gate cost: Starts at $75. Tickets prices vary by age and date but are significantly less expensive if purchased online in advance. Online cost: Starts at $45.
KidTripster Tip: Check the park’s schedule for special events. Knott’s Berry Farm is known for it’s spooky Knott’s SCARY Farm in October, and there are other seasonal events that you can plan your visit around.
Bordering Knott's Berry Farm, Knott's Soak City is the ultimate, refreshing attraction in Southern California. In fact, it's the largest Orange County waterpark. All ages (even Mom and Dad) will love the array of slides, attractions, and the lazy river. For big kids, there are thrill-seeker slides and for the little ones, there's a toddler splash pad. Soak City tickets are sold separately from the Farm. Gate cost: Starts at $48. Tickets prices vary by age and date but are significantly less expensive if purchased online in advance. Online cost: Starts at $37.
If your kids have more energy to burn, Buena Park is also home to the Big Air Trampoline Park (8320 On the Mall). This venture is not your average jump hub; kids can jump off the walls on the Zero-Gravity Court, test their climbing skills on Martian Mountain, play above the rim on Space Slam, dip, duck, dive and dodge on Haley's Dodge-It, flip into hundreds of foam cubes on The Launch Pad, saddle up on The Big Bull, or battle their friends on Galactic Gladiators Battlebeam! It’s definitely designed for older kids, but there is a separate area for little guests featuring fun-size versions of the most popular attractions. Cost: $15/hours; $7 for additional hours.
Photo courtesy: Knott’s Berry Farm
Where to eat?
Buena Park’s Pirate’s Dinner Adventure (7600 Beach Blvd.) is really neat, especially for young pirate fans like my boys. Guests are entertained with an astonishing display of special effects, aerial artistry, swashbuckling swordplay, and dynamic duels, all while eating a three-course meal. The excitement takes place on board a replica 18th-century Spanish ship that sits in a 250,000-gallon indoor lagoon.
Upon entry, you’re assigned a color which helps aid in the seating process. Your color also corresponds to a particular pirate, whom you’re urged to cheer on during the interactive show. Adult meals consist of a salad, main dish (chicken and fixings), and dessert; there are also kids’ meals available. Cost: Youth (2 and under) Free; Youth (3-11) $36.96; Adult $61.95; vegetarian options are available. Yes, admittedly, it’s a splurge!
KidTripster Tip: Look for frequent Groupon deals to cut the expense.
KidTripster Tip: It’s loud. Luckily, my toddlers love anything with noise, but if you have a sensitive-eared, little one, you may want to sit this one out. There are also pirate “battles,” so I suggest explaining pretend fighting to your young kids prior to the show.
KidTripster Tip: Reserve your spot! The dinner shows book quickly, so make sure to secure a reservation. And if you’re celebrating something (like a birthday), let them know in advance.
Or dine at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. It’s a theme park staple, having first opened in 1934 with Mrs. Knott and her children serving customers in their tea room. The restaurant has grown over the years into one of the largest in California, but the classic fried chicken dinner is still made the same way using Mrs. Knott's recipes.
Every complete chicken dinner includes handmade biscuits, a side salad, cabbage or cherry rhubarb, three pieces of fried chicken, and mashed potatoes smothered with gravy. However, I ate dessert for dinner: the famous and ever-delicious boysenberry pie. And for picky eaters, like my darling boys, they offer a great kids’ menu. Reservations are recommended.
Photo courtesy: Pirate’s Dinner Adventure
Where to stay?
It makes sense to stay at The Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel when visiting the Buena Park. The large, convention hotel is steps away from Knott’s Berry Farm, so it’s easy and convenient for theme park goers.
While the hotel is on the older side, it’s still extremely well-kept and clean. I definitely recommend staying in one of the 16 Snoopy-themed rooms. Not only are they cute in décor, but the beagle himself comes and tucks you in! No joke, my boys had tuck in-service from Snoopy, and they have yet to stop talking about it! Make sure to have your camera ready for the photo op.
Also, I highly recommend starting your day with the breakfast buffet at the main restaurant, Amber Waves, which is totally kid-friendly. Snoopy makes regular visits here, dressed in different costumes and ready for pictures.
In addition, the hotel has a nice pool and splash pad for cooling off.
Room rates start at $130/night. Snoopy room rates (with tuck-in) run around $160/night for weekdays during January, February and March, and up to $275/night on weekends in July.
KidTripster Tip: The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to Disneyland and other local attractions.
Photo courtesy: Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel
The quaint city of Buena Park is located just 10 minutes from Anaheim, 20 minutes from the beach, and 45 minutes from Los Angeles. Shop Buena Park travel deals by clicking here.