Christmas is an interesting time at theme parks in California. We want the same traditions year after year, but also new changes and replacements. It’s hard to choose what things you want to keep the most as every person has a different set of opinions of what needs to stay.
I’ve learned that over the years. Every attraction is someone’s favorite thing in the world.Knott’s, if anything, is a park of roots and traditions; and their Merry Farm is a key part of that. The entire park is transformed and gets into the spirit of the season in ways that have to be seen to be believed. Each shop is stocked differently. It’s rewarding to browse and see what you can find.And no matter how much effort I spend to recap what we did on our most recent visit, there will be something I forgot to mention or experience. It’s really not something you can finish in a single day, and that’s a real accomplishment for a holiday overlay at a theme park.On the entertainment front, you have the mainstays and the newcomers. This year, in the Birdcage, in addition to A Christmas Carol, they’ll also be alternating that play multiple times a day with Marley’s Wings, a follow up to the classic story. The entire cast involved in this is truly stellar, no matter who is playing that day. Stick around after the performances for photos with them, too.And in the Charles M. Schulz Theater, once again you’ll be able to watch Merry Christmas Snoopy, the amazing ice show that packs the house during every performance. I’m not joking when I say to get there early. It’s basically the crown jewel of the holiday season at the park. Between all the costume changes, classic music and amazing talent on display, it’s just a fantastic show all around.If that wasn’t enough, Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies still have their show in the Birdcage in the evening, after the plays wrap up. And they have a finely-tuned holiday show that also fills up every show. You might even get some Elvis or The Beatles for a little bit.Then there’s also the Christmas show in Camp Snoopy titled A Peanuts Guide to Christmas, a tree lighting ceremony, a twice-nightly Snow and Glow show inside Ghost Town, and Christmas Carolers wandering the streets. Oh, and the Christmas show in the saloon! It’s really daunting!
Even the old schoolhouse gets redecorated appropriately. While many of the younger guests are on some kind of break from lessons, that doesn’t mean learning has to stop. I just want to go off on a small tangent and point out how every character that works the schoolhouse has their own methods of teaching their particular passion. In other places, you’d often find a constraining script that had to be followed. That freedom is part of what makes this engaging. It’s genuine.
And finally, the newest addition this year is the show on the Calico Stage, Home for the Holidays. While the description says it has a lot of the “best-loved perennial holiday tunes”, there were quite a few numbers in this performance that caught us off guard. I counted nearly 20 performers on stage at one time during the show and they’re all singing and dancing perfectly.
Set during 1915, it’s the story of a traditional family and neighborhood coming together for the holidays, and the set design is fantastic. I don’t want to spoil too much, but there are some large transformations halfway through that really shook things up.Beyond that, of course, there’s the big man himself in the Christmas Cabin. There you can meet Santa, get a photo and have a ton of treats.
They have everything from hot chocolate to milled wine available inside the cabin. It’s really cozy inside and amazing to think how just a few weeks prior, it was something completely different. But it’s not just the cabin. The entire park is in the spirit. It’s infectious, seeing it all around you. I really don’t want to sound cheesy, but on some of the chillier nights, it still feels really warm around with all of this.
During the weekdays for the first two weeks of December, admission to this area is free, as is tradition. Check Knott’s website for details.Watching the carving is an attraction all its own. There’s also something relaxing about the smell of freshly carved and burnt wood. It’s easy to find. Just look for the big wooden shed with the glass safety window.Even beyond the dedicated locations, all around the park you’ll find exclusive holiday treats like at the Ghost Town Bakery, opposite the exit of Ghost Rider.There just isn’t enough room to show everything they offer. You have to see it for yourself. And the prices are incredibly reasonable, especially if you have an annual pass.And if you keep a sharp eye out, you might even find a useful recipe card around with a callback to one of the Knott’s family members.
It’s all too easy to stock a theme park with multiple shows that are all just an excuse to parrot familiar Christmas songs and repeat them ad nauseam. Knott’s avoids that, and all these shows feel distinct and worthwhile. And if you’re trying to figure out the schedule for all of this, relax. It can seem like you must try to tackle all of these seasonal activities but trying to pack this all into one day almost defeats the purpose of the season. Take your time. Rushing from one place to another, treating it like a checklist of “This is how we must enjoy Christmas” is just going to stress you out.
You’re at a theme park to relax and, especially during the holidays with all the other stress around, you deserve a break from all of that. Take it in. Get the refillable hot cocoa mug. Decorate a cookie. Get a photo with Snoopy. Sing along to some songs if you feel like it.
Tickets are available at https://www.knotts.com/ and 2020 Season Passes include a free visit anytime in 2019.