Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA
Christmas update #2 of the week really ought to be divided into two updates. But given the holiday-shortened week, one massive update will have to suffice. And a gigantic holiday update we have today, as we gather at Knott's Merry Farm to see how the Farm celebrates the Christmas holiday!
The weather was gray and moody on Sunday when I arrived at Knott's to attend their Merry Farm media day. It had rained earlier, and it would rain again multiple times later in the afternoon. But this sort of dreary vibe actually made for a nice wintery atmosphere (especially by Southern California standards), enhancing the holiday mood. Despite the precipitation, I was eager to check out Knott's during Christmas time for the first time in decades--since I was a child. And as it turned out, Knott's Merry Farm still knows how to capture the nostalgic and wonderful spirit of the season. With a myriad of entertainment options, an interesting holiday marketplace, and festive decorations around the park, Knott's has plenty to entertain guests through a solid day's visit.
Lets go check things out.
Ghost Town and the Christmas Crafts Village
Ghost Town is a far cry from the sinister, dark, ominous presence that it is during the Halloween Haunt. Instead, during Knott's Merry Farm, it is home to the Christmas Crafts Village, a collection of stalls scattered throughout this Old West land featuring a variety of shops and boutiques selling various handmade wares ranging from ornaments to clothing to soaps and perfumeries and more.
Decorations abound throughout Ghost Town, which clearly receives the bulk of the holiday attention. Nothing is over the top, though. The trimmings are as one might expect an old western town to decorate--warmly but not lavishly. The interiors of the actual stores are a little richer, though. Maybe have little Christmas displays and a general sense of holiday warmth. It's fun to just wander through Ghost Town and take in the holiday cheer.
Citizens of Ghost Town and Calico
Fans of this past summer's Ghost Town Alive! experience will be pleased to know that some of the characters will make appearances around the town of Calico throughout Knott's Merry Farm's run, interacting with guests in a limited but similar fashion as the popular role playing endeavor. Guests can of course conversate, or they can help deliver Christmas cards and messages around town. There's no storyline assocuated with this. It's just intended to enhance the ambiance.
When the sun goes down Calico really starts to glow (and more on this later). Here are few shots of the scene after dark.
Santa's Christmas Cabin
One of the features of Christmas in Ghost Town is Santa's Christmas Cabin, a shop and dining area featuring holiday treats as well as a meet-and-greet and photography op with Santa Claus himself. Think of this and the Christmas Crafts Village as Knott's version of the Festival of Holidays format currently featured at Disney California Adventure (thought Knott's has been doing this sort of combination during the holidays for a while, now). They present guests with extra options to experience!
For media day, Knott's graciously providing complimentary samplings of several items available, such as homemade cookies and milk, coffee and hot chocolate, seasonal pastries, warm roasted nuts, egg nog, and wine, port, and craft beer tastings. And that amounted to a lot of sweet tooth decadence! The cupcake was divine, with sweet candy sprinkles in the batter (which I love) in addition to the bountiful frosting. The roasted nuts were popular with many guests (I opted for the candied pecans, which were fantastic). The egg nog was think and filling, but tasty. The cookies and milk? Totally hit the spot. Although there's nothing particularly gourmet about these items, it was still nice to have some Christmas comfort sweets to indulge iin!
A Peanut's Guide to Christmas
Knott's Merry Farm features a multitude of shows around the park throughout the day and evening. In the Camp Snoopy Theater, thrice an afternoon, the park presents A Peanut's Guide to Christmas, a series of tips and opinions from the Peanuts cast of characters for who to prepare for and survive Christmas. It's an exceedingly cute show, and definitely worth bringing young ones to watch. Those not in the family demographic, however, can probably afford to skip this show, though.
Calico Saloon Christmas Show
On the other hand, for a more "adult" show (not really--unless we're going by the 1800s social standards that considered can-can shows to be risque--but compared to the Camp Snoopy show, it's geared at a slightly older demographic), the Calico Saloon offers a Christmas version of their standard show, complete with Dakota Dan and Cameo Kate and Miss Trixie and Miss Dixie, the dancing saloon girls. In the course of the 20-minute performance, Dakota Dan and Cameo Kate engage in a touching Christmas duet, fret about the arrival of Kate's mother, sing a condensed version of all Christmas carols in one, and even throw in the famous "Candy Cane Can-Can." It's a fun and energetic show that really benefits from the intimacy of the saloon, allowing the actors to really engage the guest in between their musical acts and slapstick holiday-themed comedy.
Calico Tree Lighting Ceremony
Every evening at 5:00pm, the citizens of Calico come together to throw the switch and light up their grand Christmas tree. This is a brief ceremony, featuring a few words of proclamation and a dramatic illumination of the tree. Despite the evening rain Sunday, there were plenty of people who gathered around Calico Park to witness this pleasant tradition.
Merry Christmas, Snoopy! Ice Show
Charlie Brown and Linus reflect on the spirit of the season.
Of course, perhaps the most well known and Merry Farm-associated entertainment act is the annual Snoopy ice show, inside the Charles Schulz Theater. This year, it is entitled Merry Christmas, Snoopy, and it features the traditional series of performances by talented ice skaters dancing and performing to scenes of Christmas cheer and nostalgia.
The show is the longest of the entertainment line-up, clocking in at around 45 minutes. But it's a wonderful performance featuring warm and touching moments, exciting jumps and ice acrobatics, and of course, Snoopy and the Peanuts gang. The show is dazzling, and it definitely wows the audience. The ice skaters include skilled veterans and graceful dancers, and the time certainly flies by.
Charlie Brown and Linus serve as the main narrators of the show, interspersing the acts with Christmas musings and messages about the true meaning of the season. Performers twirl and jump and skate to the tune of classic Christmas carols and holiday hits. This is definitely the premiere Merry Farm show to catch for anyone who visits during this Christmas season!
Snow and Glow in Ghost Town
Twice in the evenings, Ghost Town holds a little lighting and "snow" ceremony that scatters "snoap" (snow that's actually soap bubbles sprayed overhead--ala what Disneyland does) across the streets and includes a little light show synchronized to an angelic and uplifting Christmas symphony. It's wonderful moment and legitimately kind of magical too--especially when watching younger children for whom the wonder is still real.
Besides the brief, five minute mini-show, Ghost Town also lights up at night. The Christmas Crafts Village remains open throughout the evening, and the luminous string lights and warm holiday decorations gives Ghost Town an absolutely splendid yuletide feel. Guests can catch multiple photogenic moments just walking down any lane around Ghost Town. It's really quite fantastic.
It's the Merriest Christmas Show Ever, Charlie Brown
Unfortunately, due to the rain, both Media Day showings of this outdoor stage show were cancelled out of concern for actor safety. Can't fault the park for that. Normally, the show runs twice a night, during the evening.
And that wraps up the shows. There are also a pair of shows in the Birdcage Theater that I was unable to attend--A Christmas Carol and Gift of the Magi. Those run during the afternoon. And in the evening, Krazy Kirk and his gang take over.
Christmas on The Boardwalk
We'll wrap things up by taking a look at the holiday decorations elsewhere in the park. But first, we interupt this feature with an impromptu construction update!!
And now, a perusal of the rest of Boardwalk. There's not anything particularly extravagant here, just some modest light and post wreath decorations and a few toy soldier displays. The midway is filled with the sounds of surf style Christmas carols, and there doesn't really appear to be any extra holiday illumination at night.
Christmas in Fiesta Village
Fiesta Village seems to benefit from a little bit more effort than Boardwalk, with the wreaths being illuminated in red and green and yellow to match the regular string lights. On the other hand, what decorations present are somewhat scattered across multiple facades, so there isn't really that immersive Christmas ambiance that pervades, say, Ghost Town. Theming-wise, it seems Fiesta Village gets an effort that matches what it receives during Knott's Scary Farm.
Christmas in Camp Snoopy
Walking through Camp Snoopy during Knott's Merry Farm is delightful, if only because the jazzy holiday tunes of Vince Guaraldi emanate through the woods. At night, Camp Snoopy becomes a colorful display of holiday saturation, with rides, buildings, and even trees and nature features decked out in Christmas lights and color. It's quite nice to behold for me as an adult. I can imagine that children might be even more taken with the area.
Ultimately, Knott's Merry Farm is a wonderful and economical way to spend a day during the winter holiday season. Unlike Knott's Scary Farm, it is not a separately ticketed event, and regular Knott's Berry Farm season passholders can attend as well. I was impressed by the large variety of entertainment as well as the old fashioned charm throughout the park. There's not too much that is super fancy here--Ghost Town takes the bulk of it. But it's all just really nice. Especially at night, as Christmas things are wont to be.
Knott's Merry Farm runs now through Sunday, January 8th. There's plenty to check out, on top of the rides already offered. So embrace the holidays and get yourself down to the Farm. I may most devoted to Knott's when it's Knott's Scary Farm, but I have to say--Knott's Merry Farm is pretty swell too!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.