Let’s have a sidebar for a second.
In all my years writing for this site, I had established a pattern for the topic of the articles I’d end up writing. The longer it went on, the more focused it became. This year has thrown predictability out in the streets for a wild ride that I hope remains a once-in-a-lifetime situation. So it’s been a bit of a dry spell for me, with no Halloween events to cover, no refurb updates on Jurassic World, and not much going on outside of the parks, either.
I’m not sure what the right balance of risk versus reward is, and everyone has handled this in a different manner. It’s been a learning experience for everyone about what can and can’t be done, along with what should and shouldn’t be done. I hope we’re coming to an acceptable compromise as we learn more every day.
Personally, I’ve played it as safe as could be for the last half a year. The riskiest thing I’ve done has been going to the supermarket during lunchtime and buying a pair of shoes at Downtown Disney once. (I’m not someone who buys shoes without trying them on, and boy, was it difficult to find a shoe store that was open!) Hopefully, that will give some perspective to this article.
Okay, sidebar over.
Following what seemed like a trial run with A Taste of Calico and A Taste of Knott’s, the third consecutive food festival of the year has made its way to Knott’s. (Well, there were also the tasting cards during the amazing Peanuts Celebration, but I hope you know what I mean.)
Running from September 25th through November 1st, the vast majority of the park is open, provided you buy a tasting card for each person in your group. While all the rides are taking a break, and many of the restaurants are temporarily dark, Knott’s has brought an impressive amount of life to the park.
And you can contribute yourself, since costumes, within the rules, are allowed.
About now, the park would have been finishing their 100th Anniversary summer event and just beginning their Spooky Farm and Scary Farm Halloween events. This ends up being a combination of the two Autumn-themed celebrations in a way that can really fit that theme-park-sized hole in your heart right now.
Regarding the food, I have never seen a tasting card so gigantic. Both sides of the giant foot-long laminated card list all the locations and their offerings. And you aren’t limited to only getting the listed items. Regular food and drinks are still available for purchase if 5 items isn’t enough to get you through your day.
It would be impossible (Or just a bit excessive) to cover every single item listed, so we’ll just say everything we tried was a home run. The cheeseburger mac & cheese (Which we should explain is mac & cheese with ground cheeseburger mixed in, as opposed to a cheeseburger with a mac & cheese topping) was the big hit. I found plenty of other folks who ended up trying it as well. It’s a great starter, especially if you were waiting to get in the park and want something to kick off the day.
Nearby, the coffee hut has an acai bowl, which is best described as a PB&J in a bowl, and a boysenberry smoothie. Both of those were fantastic.
We also had to get the graveyard funnel cake, which drew long lines. We’d recommend going by a location near the log ride for a shorter line.
And there’s also a hot cheeto corn dog, and a side of nacho cheese dip, which was fantastic. When they say it’s a pecan crumble bar, they mean it. It gets messy!
It’s hard to say what the ‘taste’ of Fall-o-ween is, as some items were “spooky” themed like the MAD Shirley Temple, or the BLOOD Orange Lemonade, and others are boysenberry twists on classics. But maybe that’s what Fall-o-ween is all about. Regardless, we had zero trouble finding something to eat.
Beyond the food, Knott’s really pulled out all the stops. I feel like that phrase has lost a bit of its punch, but they really did. Traditionally the park is split in two. Spooky Farm is a low-key daytime event, with some characters around Ghost Town and a trick or treat bit in one of the lands, along with a themed show in one of the theaters. Then at night, all hell breaks loose, with just every inch of the park alive with things to do. This is comfortably in between the two events.
The spirits of Ghost Town did make appearances, though at a safe distance. The Scare-iff was inside his station. Nosy Rosey was leaning out a window above the Glass Blower. Judge Barry Plotz stood at a roped-off City Hall. And what’s more is that they were out for the entire event, as opposed to disappearing after the sun went down.
It was nice to see the characters, especially as new ones made appearances on the Boardwalk and Fiesta Village as stilt walkers. Knott’s always is pushing this entertainment into every inch of the park.
Further, Ghost Town had a lot of new details around. Sarah Marshall’s home, next to the gun shop, appears to be possessed. Peek in and see what mischief she appears to be causing from beyond the grave. Speaking of graves, the graveyard has new life at night, too. With a half-dozen different animated characters telling their story on a nearby wall.
Fiesta Village had some new gigantic skeleton figures around and the DJ was still spinning tunes, although the dance floor was now social-distanced tables for dining. Our favorite was the skeleton near the bathrooms trying his best to hold it in.
While Ghost Town has normally been the home of the handmade-goods stalls, this year they’ve materialized in Fiesta Village near Jaguar. It works well there and gives a hint of what future events might do.
It really can’t be said enough how many seating areas are available in the park. The entire lake was lined with benches. While the trend in recent years has been for theme parks to shy away from seating, encouraging movement, this is a very welcome change that I hope finds a way to keep many of these around.
I can’t imagine any other time in my life I’ll be able to eat a funnel cake while on the wooden planks of the boardwalk. It’s given us a new way to look at how space is taken up at the park.
If you do need a break from your mask, which is understandable, Mystery Lodge has been rebranded as a “RELAX ZONE”, hopefully temporarily. Inside, the queue has been fully stripped, allowing for a few spots for you to rest far away from other groups.
All the traditional Halloween decorations can be found around the park, in some fashion. You can tell they made the best of a sucky situation. There are no mazes or scare zones to be found, but you’d be surprised where certain things have ended up. And that leads us to the other big half of the event.
Camp Snoopy’s Trick or Treat Trail!
The kids’ cards include one pass through the trail, while adults can purchase a bag for themselves, if they’re so inclined. You can also walk the trail just to see the decorations for free, too.
And it’s worth it. Of all the things shared online during the opening weekend, it was the trail’s decorations that were by far the most popular. The rides were seated and staffed with skeletons. Every scare zone at Scary Farm had representation. Some animatronics we hadn’t seen were in top form; even the band from the Halloween Hootenanny on the seasonal log ride overlay made it out!
Getting a chance to look at so many of these props up close during the day time is a rare treat. This also is a chance to bring up the divide between the “Spooky” and “Scary” sides of the event. Traditionally, the more intimidating props are covered up during Spooky Farm, to avoid upsetting the kids, but this year it feels they’re pushing a bit into a mix between the two. Nothing is truly terrifying around, but a few scary jack-o-lanterns that would normally be given straw hats are around all day, uncovered.
If you’ve been hesitant taking your kids or even yourself to Scary Farm, this might be a good sampling to get an idea of what to expect.
So, that’s food, trick-or-treating, decorations, characters. There was also entertainment, both live and recorded. The large stage in Ghost Town was used for playing specially recorded performances of the Hillbillies, and a visit from the fantastic Chipper Lowell as Prof. Mayhem with Jeff Tucker as his assistant Larry.
The Hillbillies show is great and fully aware of their lack of a cheering audience. The screen is just fantastic and a great way to have them make a safe appearance without drawing a crowd.
Professor Mayhem was a nice surprise, too. Chipper has managed to modify some of his best acts to be appropriately social distanced, and it works! Normally you’d be lucky to see him in the birdcage theater during Scary Farm, so a daytime appearance is a treat.
On the opposite side of the park, near the Western Entrance, there’s a sideshow we managed to catch involving some light bulb eating, nails into skulls, beds of swords and more.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a Halloween at Knott’s without their annual “Into The Fog” art exhibit. It showcases some of the greatest talent around. The art is always something to appreciate as the subject matter is quite unique, building on the personal talents that have developed at the park over the last many years.
Plus, as a surprise, there are now pins for some of the mazes of years gone by. So while 2019 debuted the tombstones for the final years of Infected and Shadowlands, you can now get them for earlier mazes, like Endgames, Asylum, Trick or Treat, and others. It really leans into their legacy and I hope to see it continue even further into the back catalog.
As mentioned earlier, regarding the projections at the graveyard, the park still comes alive at night. Fog is spewed, though nowhere near what the normal levels are, lighting shows play on Hangtime, and just a lot of transformations can be seen all over.
Honestly, because there was no schedule published anywhere, there’s a lot of self-discovery needed for this event. It is going to take multiple trips to see it all. And we’re already planning that ourselves. However, if you want to go, you need to act quickly. At the time of this writing, only six of the eighteen days remain not sold out. While we hope additional days will be added, like Thursdays, it’s not a given.
Plus, you can get a look at the facade for the upcoming Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair, which is continually getting plussed up while we’re all waiting for our first ride.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t cover the safety of the event. There were plenty of hand sanitizing stations around the entire park. All food booths had clearly defined 6 ft. markers, marked out well beyond what normal line lengths would need. All the ledges near fountains and planters had marking to say they’re not suitable for sitting on anymore. Trash cans were all wedged permanently open to prevent needing to open them yourselves. Masks were readily available for sale. All the team members were wearing all the appropriate safety equipment. And Noel Cox’s voice provided the very frequent reminder over the park’s audio system to wear your mask over your nose and to wash your hands frequently, and to only remove your mask when sitting down to eat. Plexiglass was mounted all over the park at every cash register and interaction point. Even the shooting gallery had a dedicated person now to wipe down the guns after every use. And that doesn’t even include the temperature check before entering the park, making using the former California store at the entrance to the park.
The fact is, you aren’t going to get 100% compliance. Humans are not the best at following rules. But I didn’t see anybody actively trying to break the rules, aside from sitting in places they shouldn’t have. More than ever, I believe the guests understand that theme parks are a privilege, and if we all don’t do our part to play by the rules, we could lose them for a lot longer.
Tickets, which include the generous portions of multiple tastings, in the price, are available while supplies last at Knotts.com and the event runs Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through November 1st.