Monday, July 23, 2007

17 Hours, 18 Kids, 4 Bathroom Stops

Last Tuesday, I (along with 5 other adults) took a crew of 18 4th-6th graders to Knott's Berry Farm. It was a very long day - we met at 6:00 am, left Easton at 6:20 am, arrived at Knott's around 10:30 am, played until 5:00 pm, stopped to eat dinner, and then (3 bathroom stops later), arrived back in Easton around 11:00 pm.

Still, long day aside, it was a lot of fun. I've been going to Knott's since I was a very small child (there are pictures of me sitting next to the saloon girl statues at about age 4) and I have pretty vivid memories of:
  • riding the Log Ride for the first time
  • being beaten to death by the Corkscrew (which isn't there anymore)
  • riding Montezuma's Revenge over & over
  • being frightened by the miners in the Calico Mine
  • singing with my high school choir in the Birdcage Theatre
  • riding with my girlfriend on the Parachutes (which are also gone)

We rode most of the coasters (Ghost Rider, the big wooden coaster, was closed) and way too many of the "queasiness" rides (like Wipeout, which, as advertised, wiped me out). Xcellerator is a great (if short) "gun" coaster that fires you out of the station at 80 mph then over a 200 ft hill where you pull negative G's. Silver Bullet is a hanging coaster with a smooth ride & a lot of inversions. The aforementioned Montezuma's Revenge is a forwards/backwards loop - but it still packs a wallop for a 30+ year old coaster. The Jaguar is no big deal, but it's got some nice curves and some good air on a couple of the bumps.

The newest coaster is Sierra Sidewinder... a small-ish (100 ft high) coaster that primarily has banked turns & short drops. What makes it so wild is that each 4-person car in the four car train spins independently as you ride - it's like crossing a small coaster with the Tea Cups at Disneyland. (That's the picture at the top of this post.) I was surprised that the spinning didn't bother me much - it wasn't constant - and a couple of times it allowed us some wild views. (We went through one of the banked circles facing straight down at the ground - yowsa!) They also took video of the ride - which they'd sell to you for $20. (No thanks...) This is the first ride of this type in the U.S. - of course, Disney just opened Crush's Coaster at Disney Studios Paris, which uses this ride system on an indoor ride with some pretty cool special effects.

Speaking of Disney, Knott's is missing two main things in comparison to my beloved Disney parks:

  • decent theming - while parts of Ghost Town are very nice, the majority of the park is like a state fair set in concrete... and it's esp. sad in light of what used to be. The Roaring 20's theme was used for the "back" of the park to great effect in the early 80's - and now most of that is gone, eaten by a hodge-podge of rides & stands. And don't get me started on Fiesta Village - with the obviously Viking "Dragon Ship" ride.
  • pleasant cast members - our last five-day visit to the Disneyland Resort yielded one cranky cast member and a plethora of delightful experiences. 7 hours at Knott's on a less-crowded summer day with good weather, and I only saw 3 or 4 crew members smiling at guests.

Knott's does have a price advantage - it's a very cheap park for kids ($18 normally/$15 for group tickets) and their price break for adult folks in groups ($45/$23) is really good. They are also the easiest amusement park to work with for group reservations I've found ever.

So, here's what I walked away with:

  • We'll probably keep taking kids to Knott's... it's the most hassle-free amusement park trip we can do to a decent park.
  • I like the big coasters... but I'd rather have the total package (Disney).
  • I came home & looked up whether my G4 Mac can handle the system requirements for Rollercoaster Tycoon 3... which it can't. Sigh. (Being a park which I think needs help made me want to design my own.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Again, Mark, you've really got to get to Busch Gardens Williamsburg sometime. It's about the only park I can think of (Hersheypark being the one exception) which combines the rides of a Knotts Berry Farm (or Cedar Point, or...) with the atmosphere comparable to Disney.