Knott’s Berry Farm History

Knott’s Berry Farm history began when young Walter Knott started farming berries on a few acres along dusty Highway 39 (Grand Avenue then, it’s now Beach Boulevard); Walt had no idea that he’d help develop a new kind of berry, help his family through the depression by selling berries, chicken dinners, pies and jams, and then by starting the first true theme park in the country. But verily, that’s what happened.

As you can read in more detail on the official Knott’s history web page , the chicken dinner restaurant took off in 1934 (is that the year they got Bonnie and Clyde?) as a great way to improve family revenues during tough years. And a fun old ghost town attraction took off as a great way to improve the moods of hungry diners waiting to get into said chicken dinner restaurant. And away they went, adding features over the years.

Our Knott’s Berry Farm history lesson jumps to years later, when Mr. Knott used some of his profits to purchase and rebuild the old Calico Ghost Town just east of Barstow. He eventually gave it to the County of San Bernardino and it is a park and campground. Actually it is a fun place worth visiting; click here to open a window into the Calico Ghost Town.

Now, Mr. Knott was apparently well-known for his blue/purple thumb, and a local fellow he knew, Mr. Rudolf Boysen was trying to build a better berry by merging the blackberry, the loganberry and red raspberry, with limited success. Somehow Walt knew how to get those berries to get along, and named the resulting hybrid for their papa Boysen. There is now Boysen Park in Anaheim to honor the man, who also happened to be the city parks superintendent at the time of the berry merge.

For many years of Knott’s Berry Farm’s history the park was a quaint ghost town with a few fun rides, shops, shows and food. Speaking of food, Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant still packs them in, serving the famous chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits and pie (slurp) to hundreds of diners daily. It has evolved over the many years, and the acquisition by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company has resulted in an infusion of cash to build some of the coolest rides in the West.

In the 1960s the Knott family added the Calico Mine Ride and the Log Ride. These brought some element of excitement, greatly magnified by attraction additions in recent years. Nowadays, Knott’s is regularly listed on roller coaster web sites as one of the big boys (with several notable rides including Ghost Rider, one of the largest and best wooden roller coasters in the world).

The Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween Haunt had its beginnings in 1973 and has been a juggernaut ever since. Also introduced to the park back in the 1970s was Snoopy and his gang of friends. We now have Camp Snoopy and a Snoopy store for the little ones, great roller coasters and other thrill rides for the older kids and parents who are not too stiff, and the Ghost Town for all ages but especially for adults. Then there’s Soak City , a full-service water park next door and part of the Knott’s resort.