With the current state of theme park closures in Southern California, Knott’s Berry Farm has lead the way for offering guests to enter their theme park gates and offer a safe environment to enjoy a wide range of food options. The “Taste of Knott’s” food festival is an expansion upon a previous experience called “Taste of Calico” in which only Ghost Town was available to the public along with shops outside the main gate at the Marketplace. Opening Knott’s Berry Farm in this manner offered the private businesses within the Calico area to continue operating very similar to other third-party vendors and businesses at Downtown Disney and Universal Citywalk.
Upon arriving at the theme park property, only the Marketplace parking lot was available for guest parking options. The Passenger Drop Off area near the main gate was blocked from Beach Blvd access and all cars were routed to enter the property from Crescent Ave. Before entering the main gate area, guests were directed to a nearby room where temperature monitors were in place for safety. Social distancing announcements, signs, and hand sanitizer locations were available throughout the park.
While theme parks resumed operations in Orlando, Florida on a limited basis, theme parks in California have suffered the longest continuous closures in the world. Theme park enthusiasts who primarily stay local have not had the opportunity to step foot inside of a theme park for nearly half a year. To enter Knott’s Berry Farm for the first time in 2020 was surreal and a simple reminder of the challenges our society currently faces. Nonetheless, walking the streets, hearing the sounds of families navigating, and being in the presence of very helpful and supportive staff was something to be compared to over 6 months ago.
With the additional areas of Fiesta Village and the Boardwalk added (Camp Snoopy and the Charles Schultz Theater area remained closed), we decided to take a stroll past Supreme Scream to try the Slow Smoked Brisket Sandwich with BBQ Sauce and Cabbage Slaw. An excellent sandwich on a soft roll with just enough kick to the Cabbage Slaw to make you reach for your favorite soda. The start of our event tasting was just the right size to open the door to other food venues. While queue lines seem to be the longest in the Fiesta Village area, much of the park wait times were under 10 minutes with many lines pulsing down to no wait at all.
Next, we pressed toward the Boardwalk area, passing an empty queue for Hangtime and the soon-to-be-new Bear-Y Tales attraction, we weaved our way around to the Pony Express to try the Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwich with Onion Strings and Arugula and the Mrs. Knott’s Famous Chicken Slider with House Aioli. Both servings came with crinkle chips and offered some of the most surprising tastes of the event. The Portobello Mushroom Sandwich was particularly a hit being a healthier option and the Mrs. Knott’s Chicken was delicious and moist as usual.
Onward to new culinary adventures we decided to pick up a sugary dessert in Ghost Town with the French Toast Churro Sticks with Buttercream Caramel Dipping Sauce. While the churros were not a favorite choice of the night, we continued to press on toward Ghostrider for something different and unique with the Boysenberry All-Beef Meatballs and the Boysenberry Smoothie. The Meatballs have been a fan favorite and continues to be a main highlight of the night. The meatballs are warm and soft with just the right amount of sauce to compliment the palate. The Boysenberry Smoothie was cool and refreshing with a Knott’s twist on a typically abnormal Southern California evening with a high humidity factor for the likes of any Florida enthusiast.
As day turned into night, we still wanted to sample some other options available in Ghost Town. The Shrimp Po Boy with Shredded Lettuce was a filling choice. The fried shrimp were evenly placed and the sandwich mirrored the bun from the Brisket Sandwich. All in all, a good choice if you are not feeling full from the day’s activities. The Tater Tots with Shredded Cheese ended our nights with the heaviest and greasiest option of all.
Taste of Knott’s is a great way to spend the afternoon or evening with a much calmer experience to theme park fun. For some, this event is a great opportunity to slow down and take things in. While this type of operation is not the main goal for theme parks, an event like this taking place in a similar fashion may never happen again. Admission price for a tasting card to the Taste of Knott’s is $30 per adult and $15 for children ages 3-11. Each tasting card offers entry into Knott’s Berry Farm and five choice options while all drinks and items not on the tasting card are an additional cost. With SeaWorld San Diego soon to be reopening the theme park gates with a similar food festival event, it will be interesting to see what other theme parks will follow with the same idea in California. For now, its Knott’s Berry Farm which takes the lead.