Let’s say you’re visiting Los Angeles or Southern California with your young ones in tow. What to do? How can you maximize the sunshine? Surely you will look at the gargantuan House of Mouse, but would your littlest ones enjoy it? With waits getting longer, and fellow guests getting less pleasant, maybe you’d prefer an easier, less expensive day in the sun. Why not try out Knott’s Berry Farm with toddlers? I think you will be pleasantly surprised as I was.
A Little History
Knott’s began as a roadside fruit stand in the 1920’s, and grew into a fried chicken restaurant in the 1930s. This restaurant still stands today before the entrance to the amusement park, and you should absolutely eat there, if only for the sake of pie. Knott’s was the first farm to cultivate the boysenberry, which flavors many of their signature items.
Mmmm…boysenberry jam and shortbread cookies.
Knott’s Berry Farm with Toddlers
Why go to Knott’s Berry Farm with Toddlers? Here are 8 reasons to start the car and head on over.
- First of all, kids under 3 are free. You can save some money to splurge on jams, berry corn dogs, and Snoopy T- shirts.
- The food is very toddler-friendly. Besides the usual amusement park fare, they have hand-dipped boysenberry corn dogs, Panda Express, tacos and tortas (hey, it’s LA) and Mrs. Knott’s famous fried chicken and boysenberry pie.
- Waits are a lot shorter than at other amusement parks. We went on a busy holiday Saturday, and never waited more than 15 minutes for anything. Granted, we did not go on any of the big roller coasters (hey, we have a toddler), but they do offer a Fast Lane bracelet for an extra fee
- People are pretty friendly. The ride operators kept smiling at my little V, all the other guests waited patiently in lines.
- It’s not so big that you feel you ran a marathon just walking to different rides. We felt fairly energized after our three hours here.
- Plenty of shade. So important for the SoCal weather. Or if you’ve forgotten sunscreen, which seems to be my lot in life.
- Plenty of stroller parking. Have you ever tried to find a place to park your stroller and realized you need to park it in Tomorrowland instead of Fantasyland, oh, and then it’s been moved? Does not seem to happen at Knott’s.
- A few hours before or after naps is probably all you need to enjoy it with toddlers. If you have older kids, or want to do the rider swap, you may need a little more time. Most kid-friendly rides are centered in Camp Snoopy or Ghost Town.
The Rides–For Kids under 36 inches
- Calico Mine Ride: This is designated as “moderately thrilling.” You ride in a mine cart into an animatronic working mine. It scared the heebie jeebies out of my daughter, because there are sections that are completely pitch black. Keep that in mind if your kids are afraid of the dark.
- Butterfield Stagecoach: you can ride inside the coach (drawn by real live horses) with your littlest ones.
- Calico Railroad: what kid doesn’t love trains?
- Merry Go Round: All of the animals are hand-carved. Surely that is a labor of love.
- Voyage to the Iron Reef: Knott’s has tried hard to up their ride game. Hence this 4D experience where you can blast steampunk undersea creatures.
- Balloon Race: May be the closest I ever come to a hot air balloon festival.
- Camp Bus: The wheels on the bus go round and round, and so do you! Very fun.
- Charlie Brown’s Kite Flyer: The swings but for littles. I love this–I was always terrified of the big swings so this is far more my speed. Little V wanted to ride again and again. She was fascinated by how the tree has eaten the kite.
- Flying Ace: you need to be 32 inches for this ride, and you ride alone. V was so proud of herself–“mama I drive the airplane!”
- Grand Sierra Railroad: what is it about trains? They just make kids (well, and me) happy.
- Huff and Puff: must be under 52 inches. You cannot help your little one as they try to push and propel their own little mining car, but the effort is just too adorable for words. Works up an appetite, too.
- Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies: If over 36 inches, they can ride alone. You may want them to, as the car bounces. A lot. Don’t eat beforehand.
- Rapid River Run: a smaller version of the dragon swing, except Lucy is in charge (cue the eye roll).
- Rocky Mountain Trucking Company: Toot the horn in your own 18-wheeler.
The Rides–For Kids over 36 inches
- Timber Mountain Log Ride: One of the most popular rides at Knott’s, but if you accompany your child, you can take them with you on this. Waits can be long, so if you are doing ride swap or have older kids, invest in the Fast Lane bracelet.
- Hat Dance: think spinning teacups while smelling delicious tacos cooking nearby. Maybe save the tacos for after the ride…
- High Sierra Ferris Wheel. Did you know the Chicago World’s Fair introduced us to the Ferris Wheel? They thought the inventor was insane. Clearly a genius.
- Pacific Scrambler: I refuse to go on this ride because it spins way too much. You are probably braver than I am.
- Surfside Gliders: accompany your child in a little plane that you can pilot.
- Timberline Twister: roller coaster for littles, helps them build up their courage for when they’re taller. Supervising companion has to be less than 69 inches (that’s 5 foot 9). Just FYI.
- Woodstock’s Airmail: a smaller version of the terrifying Supreme Scream. It drops the kids a little, lifts them up, drops them again.
A bit about Costs
So, parking is not free. Bummer, I know, but this is LA. It costs about $18, and they do take credit cards.
You cannot bring outside food or drinks into the park. They do allow unopened plastic water bottles. They do make some exceptions for toddler food, pouches and puffs and stuff like that. The security lines are pretty short and move quickly.
As I mentioned, kids under 3 are free but obviously adults are not. Buying our tickets ahead of time online saved us almost $30 each per ticket (originally $80, discounted to $52 because we bought online). Knott’s Berry Farm also periodically run coupons on Groupon, Living Social, in various chain restaurants, etc. for a discounted admission price.
Season passes are really not that expensive. As of the writing of this post, they cost about $100 for the whole year! There are some blackout dates, but if you live nearby and your kid loves amusement parks, it’s not a bad deal, especially for the discounts on food, too.
Other Fun Things to do at Knott’s Berry Farm with Toddlers
- See a show. Check when you arrive for the show schedule. Almost all are very toddler-friendly. V was a little shocked by the loud noises during the Old West show, but she still enjoyed it. Keep in mind many of these start in the afternoon. So maybe head back to your hotel (or a shady corner of the park) for a nap, then return for a show or two before dinner.
- Meet Snoopy and his pals. My daughter loves meeting characters. I don’t understand it, but I go with it. Make sure you queue up for the Peanuts so you can get all of your best photos in one place.
- Go shopping. Not just souvenir shopping, food shopping. Boysenberry punch concentrate, fudge, candies, pies…time to bust some New Year resolutions.
- Pan for gold, visit an one room schoolhouse, meet the village blacksmith. If it’s the right time of year, you can even go pet the horses at the livery stable.
We had more fun at Knott’s Berry Farm than almost any other recent family outing. Though we went on a busy holiday weekend, lines were short, people were friendly, and our little V LOVED all the rides. Each year, Knott’s seems to be upping their amusement park game with new rides and attractions. You should definitely add this to your next trip to Los Angeles with toddlers in tow.
Do you have a favorite amusement park or ride? Leave a comment below and let me know!