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Knott's Berry Farm - A retrospective

Updated on August 30, 2017

Knott's Berry Farm

In the Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm, an older gentleman approached the jail. Those who were in on the joke crowded around him as he learned forward to check out the display. From the figure seated in the back of the shack came the greeting, "Howdy Slim". My grandfather took a step back while we all smiled. "How do you know my name? he asked. "Slim, doncha' member I worked the railroad with ya?"

By now, we were all laughing. You can give the attendant in the booth in the front a small amount of money and answer some questions so that Sad Eye Joe can talk to the visitors (victims) when they come through.

That was in 1956 and we were no strangers to Knott's Berry Farm but my grandfather was. That remains a memory as clear now as it was some 50 years ago on that warm summer morning

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Knott's Berry Farm entrance, 1973

"Photo courtesy Orange County Archives."

Ghost Town Jail, Knott's Berry Farm, circa 1941 - "Photo courtesy Orange County Archives."

Sad Eye Joe, Knott's Berry Farm, circa 1941 - Photo courtesy Orange County Archives

Another family member tricked into talking to Joe - 1954

My mother, my Aunt Ruth and cousin Annette waiting to talk to Joe.

Make it a point to talk to Joe in the jail

Have you met Sad Eye Joe at the Knott's Berry Farm Jail?

I've been going to Knott's Berry Farm since 1953

Chicken Dinner Restaurant, Knott's Berry Farm, circa 1955 "Photo courtesy Orange County Archives"

When we moved from Bakersfield after the 1952 earthquakes, we landed in the San Gabriel Valley. Surrounded by orange groves, we were 33 miles from the chicken dinner restaurant. That was where my grandmother always wanted to go when she arrived for a visit from Montana. As more relatives heard about Knott's Berry Farm, it was up to us, as the closest family, to escort them.

As a young adult, a friend and I went every Thursday night. I had a toddler and we would take the stroller and walk the park. There were some rides there but we didn't really ride them. It was a place to hang out and it was only $5.00 a year for a pass.

When my children were older, it was also the place to go and not too long ago, I took my very grown children and watched while they became my much younger children riding the roller coasters.

For 20 years, Knott's Berry Farm was the location of my company picnic. It was a treat because it was free and the lunch was always the fried chicken. I think it's the only thing I regret about retiring.

We haven't been in a while but for my grandson's 11th birthday, we bought the year pass. That means if we wanted to, we could go every day of the year. The cost of gas is prohibitive and now, we are more than 60 miles away but Knott's Berry Farm is an old friend. They year passes are now $90.00 a person but it still beats Disneyland.

Official Family Photos taken at Knotts - 40 years of photos - Taken at the photographer's shop

Click thumbnail to view full-size
1974 - Christopher and Scott on the bar. Chris was three, Scott was five. They are my kids.2012 - Gary, Niles and Christopher. Christopher is NIles' father.1983 - Gary and Ann - We went to Vegas to get married so have no photos. When we went with the rest of the family to Knott's we decided to have an official photo taken.Christmas 1980 - Scott and Chris - They were not happy that I made them dress as school boys. They wanted to be outlaws.Scott and Chris in their 20's. They finally graduated to the outlaws they wanted to be. This is one of the last times Knott's made pictures on tin-type. With the advent of digital photography, the darkroom and the choices of media they offered disapp1972 - Christopher.  Another one where they let you take your own picture using their sets.1972 - Scott
1974 - Christopher and Scott on the bar. Chris was three, Scott was five. They are my kids.
1974 - Christopher and Scott on the bar. Chris was three, Scott was five. They are my kids.
2012 - Gary, Niles and Christopher. Christopher is NIles' father.
2012 - Gary, Niles and Christopher. Christopher is NIles' father.
1983 - Gary and Ann - We went to Vegas to get married so have no photos. When we went with the rest of the family to Knott's we decided to have an official photo taken.
1983 - Gary and Ann - We went to Vegas to get married so have no photos. When we went with the rest of the family to Knott's we decided to have an official photo taken.
Christmas 1980 - Scott and Chris - They were not happy that I made them dress as school boys. They wanted to be outlaws.
Christmas 1980 - Scott and Chris - They were not happy that I made them dress as school boys. They wanted to be outlaws.
Scott and Chris in their 20's. They finally graduated to the outlaws they wanted to be. This is one of the last times Knott's made pictures on tin-type. With the advent of digital photography, the darkroom and the choices of media they offered disapp
Scott and Chris in their 20's. They finally graduated to the outlaws they wanted to be. This is one of the last times Knott's made pictures on tin-type. With the advent of digital photography, the darkroom and the choices of media they offered disapp
1972 - Christopher.  Another one where they let you take your own picture using their sets.
1972 - Christopher. Another one where they let you take your own picture using their sets.
1972 - Scott
1972 - Scott

Let's talk about the menu

The servers at the Knott's Restaurant no longer dress in the formal wear. They don't always smile and when you ask for the traditional items that used to appear on the table, they seem to be a little put-out. If you want the traditional menu, ask for what you want.

While you were waiting for your dinner they always brought a bowl of bread and butter pickles. If you ask for them, they still will.

The salad dressing was French only. There were no other choices. If you ask a server today if they know what the original dressing was, they can't tell you.

The menu says vegetables. That translated into cabbage and ham. You get a choice now. Corn is on the menu as well.

I was not happy with the service or the staff. Knott's has been bought out by another company who does not care to carry on the traditions and service required bu the Knott's Family.

Why do we still stand in line to eat there? The fried chicken recipe has not changed and the biscuits are to die for.

Update 4/11/2012 - Had dinner again there and have to say that the service was terrific. In fact, it was so much better, we tracked down the supervisor to let her know that our server deserved a pat of the back.

About the chicken dinner...it is probably the only reason my husband is interested in going. He also likes to share that they serve fried chicken and eggs for breakfast.

Calico Square, Knott's Berry Farm, circa 1960s - "Photo courtesy Orange County Archives."

No matter how old I get, I always ride the train. I remember being scared of the bandits as a small child, I remember my kids being frightened and was delighted when my grandson was. It is a tradition that has carried on. They still have gunfights in the Square.

My brother and I riding the train - June 1954

I see that our family works best with a theme - The old miners were apparently the place for family photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
June 28, 1953 - My brother, my dad, my grandma, and me.June 1954 - My Texas relatives, Cousin Annette and Aunt Ruth.July 1954 - My Montana relatives, me, Aunt Bernice, my brother and my mother.1955 - My Washington relatives, Paul and Jerry Curtindale, my brother and me.
June 28, 1953 - My brother, my dad, my grandma, and me.
June 28, 1953 - My brother, my dad, my grandma, and me.
June 1954 - My Texas relatives, Cousin Annette and Aunt Ruth.
June 1954 - My Texas relatives, Cousin Annette and Aunt Ruth.
July 1954 - My Montana relatives, me, Aunt Bernice, my brother and my mother.
July 1954 - My Montana relatives, me, Aunt Bernice, my brother and my mother.
1955 - My Washington relatives, Paul and Jerry Curtindale, my brother and me.
1955 - My Washington relatives, Paul and Jerry Curtindale, my brother and me.

One of the many sculptures scattered around Knott's Berry Farm created by Claude K. Bell

"Photo courtesy Orange County Archives"

What has changed, what has stayed the same - January 18, 2012

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sad Eye Joe has changed. This one has a hat but the cigar is gone. Politically correct?They are still talking to the visitors. This is a main-stay attraction that will not go away and people are still having fun with visitors who are not aware of the guy out front.This was a struggle. He is at that age where sitting next to the Saloon Girls is just not cool.Map of the new park. It is not as clear as it could be but it's a start.This is his favorite ride. We rode it with him the first time and then he rode it two more times. Something about spinning....Menu covers through the yearsOne of the new attractions. There is no way.....
Sad Eye Joe has changed. This one has a hat but the cigar is gone. Politically correct?
Sad Eye Joe has changed. This one has a hat but the cigar is gone. Politically correct?
They are still talking to the visitors. This is a main-stay attraction that will not go away and people are still having fun with visitors who are not aware of the guy out front.
They are still talking to the visitors. This is a main-stay attraction that will not go away and people are still having fun with visitors who are not aware of the guy out front.
This was a struggle. He is at that age where sitting next to the Saloon Girls is just not cool.
This was a struggle. He is at that age where sitting next to the Saloon Girls is just not cool.
Map of the new park. It is not as clear as it could be but it's a start.
Map of the new park. It is not as clear as it could be but it's a start.
This is his favorite ride. We rode it with him the first time and then he rode it two more times. Something about spinning....
This is his favorite ride. We rode it with him the first time and then he rode it two more times. Something about spinning....
Menu covers through the years
Menu covers through the years
One of the new attractions. There is no way.....
One of the new attractions. There is no way.....

John and Ethan Wayne are first on the Log Ride, Knott's Berry Farm, 1969 - At family favorite and one that we all ride together

I did not know that this had a name until my grandson asked me what the "Timber Mountain Log Ride" was. "Huh", I said. "Grandma, it the one with the log in the water".

40 years later I find that it just wasn't the Log Ride.

Main St., Ghost Town, Knott's Berry Farm, 1967

Before the rides and all the other attractions, there was only Main Street. This is the heart of Knott's Berry Farm although the younger children tend to bypass it on the way to the thrill rides. Still, they keep the blacksmith and several of the other shops and we drag our grandson through them so he has an understanding of the past.

"Photo courtesy Orange County Archives"

Main Street, Knott's Berry Farm - August 1964

Me, my dad, my grandma, and my brother. When Granny came to visit from Montana, she would always treat us to dinner at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant. It is still a special treat for our family so when anyone comes to visit, we head there for dinner. The difference is many of those who used to go are long gone but there is always someone new to take.

The original Candy Kitchen - August 1964

My mother and grandmother in front of one of our favorite places. We only got candy when we went to Knott's. Fortunately, we were there a lot as it was the place to go when family came to visit.

Walter Knott at Independence Hall dedication

By the time I finally made it to Philadelphia, the real Independence Hall was more than familiar. The building was re-created brick-for-brick in 1966 and one of my most favorite places to visit even today.

Update 4/11/2012 - I was happy to find they still have the recreation of the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. If the 20-minute show is not showing on a schedule, all you have to do is ask that they start it for you. Great piece of history and very moving to realize what these men did to secure our freedom from England.

Walter Knott at Independence Hall dedication, Buena Park 1966

"Photo courtesy Orange County Archives"

Family note

When we went in June of 1954, my brother got lost at the Boot Hill Cemetery, It really made me mad because we had to go look for him. I was five and was hoping he would stay lost but that just didn't work out. He knew his name.

Comments Welcomed

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    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hope to get to Knott's Berry Farm when we go to California. My cousin often talked about it in 1960. They also had a Old West town in Tennessee that was similar to what you have described in your hub.

    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 4 years ago

      Like many others here today, I too remember Knott's in it's heyday. I say that, not to take anything away from what it is today, but to remind us that maybe the simpler times weren't so bad. The stagecoach rides and robbery. The train ride and robbery, the chicken dinner at the end of the day and jellies and jams to take home after dinner. A great place for a kid to visit. thanks for a fun walk down memory lane

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Yea, I love you too?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I always loved going to Knott's Berry Farm as a kid. It was so corny compared to Disneyland but it gave you a taste for the Old West. Thank you for sharing the old Knott's Berry Farm pictures, especially the 1960 era when I went there as a small child.

    • Srena44 profile image

      Srena44 5 years ago

      Nice lens

    • IMKZRNU2 profile image

      IMKZRNU2 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      You brought back many fond memories for me! Thanks for this lens. I also loved during the 70's when Knott's would transform to Knott's Scary Farm for Halloween. It was never crowded and so much fun as a teenager to visit.

    • JenwithMisty profile image

      Jen withFlash 5 years ago

      Very nice lens!! Looks like a place that I would love to take my kids to!!

    • manutara69 profile image

      manutara69 5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing! Yes, I have visited Knotts in the 1980s and early 2000s. I liked it better in the 1980s. Must be me, guests of the park were a lot more civil back then. Today not so much. Overall, it is still a place worth visiting.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      When I was 4 years old my mother took a vacation to California to visit a friend of hers but I did not get to go. For years after that she kept all the little brochures of the places she went and I had them still for several years after she died. I am 57 now and this lens brings back those memories. I hope someday to get to go see some of the things she went to see including Knotts Berry Farm. Thanks for the memories.

    • secondhandrose lm profile image

      secondhandrose lm 5 years ago

      My first visit to Knotts was in the 1980s. My friends and I were doing the California amusement park trail and this was a must stop. The chicken was the highlight of our visit. The last time I was at the park was with my husband 10 years ago. We live in New York so we don't get there often. We loved the new coasters and I still love the chicken. My husband still brags about the chicken. Thanks for all the old photos. I love park history.

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      miaponzo 5 years ago

      But where are the berries????????? Blessed!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I too loved Knotts Berry Farm as a young girl. We lived in Paramount for a while so we were fairly close. Thanks for the trip down memory lane and for making the first page. I read every word and got a good chuckle when you mentioned that your brother knew his name. Very funny. Thanks

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      djroll 5 years ago

      I too loved Knott Berry Farm as a young girl. We lived in Paramount for a while so we were fairly close. Thanks for the trip down memory lane and for making the first page. I read every word and got a good chuckle when you mentioned that your brother knew his name. Very funny. Thanks

    • profile image

      djroll 5 years ago

      I too loved Knott Berry Farm as a young girl. We lived in Paramount for a while so we were fairly close. Thanks for the trip down memory lane and for making the first page. I read every word and got a good chuckle when you mentioned that your brother knew his name. Very funny. Thanks

    • allthingsal profile image

      allthingsal 5 years ago

      Wow--you took me back to a magical time in my life. I loved Knott's Berry Farm! The trout pond where you could fish, the covered wagon circle, Ghost Town, the train (you reminded me of the bandits who would stop and board the train, shooting blanks), the Mine Ride, you could actually pan for gold and get a tiny nugget in a bottle to take home. My grandfather worked there. My grandma was friends with Mrs. Knott and used to meet with here on Sundays at the restaurant after church. It was, for me, always a magical place. I treasure those memories.

    • JackieM293 profile image

      JackieM293 5 years ago

      I went to Knott's Berry 25 years ago when I was 12. I thought it was the best place ever! I have a much clearer and more cherished memory of Knott's Berry than I do of Universal or Disney which I visited on the same trip. I can't wait to take my kids and will definitely be doing so over the coming year.

    • djcopa profile image

      djcopa 5 years ago

      Big fan of Knotts Berry Farm, for some reason my best memory is all the jellies they have and of course panning for gold.

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 5 years ago

      My mom went in the early 70's. I'm going to show her this page for sure!

    • TopShelly profile image

      TopShelly 5 years ago

      Great lens, that is an amazing picture of John Wayne. I am surprised I have never seen that before.

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      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Great read! Thanks for sharing! :) Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • RationalHedonist profile image

      RationalHedonist 5 years ago

      Thanks for the memories. My parents took us to Knotts Berry Farm as well as Disneyland in the 70's. To this day, the day at Knott's actually stands out more because my father (who is gone now) had so much fun there.

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 5 years ago from Ohio

      SquidAngel blessings. The changes at the restaurant sound like the disappointments when the O'Malleys sold the Dodgers. The love of the original owners can only rarely be replicated. I haven't been in LA for quite a few years but still remember trips to Knotts Berry Farm.

    • Tom Maybrier profile image

      Tom Maybrier 5 years ago

      Great lens! I have lots of fond memories of days spent at Knott's with my family.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have not been to this place and since it is not familiar, I enjoyed my virtual visit.

    • gatornic15 profile image

      gatornic15 5 years ago

      I have only been to Knott's Berry Farm once, but I did not eat at the restaurant. I will have to make sure to try it next time. It's neat to see the pictures of how it looked before...Blessed

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

      Gayle 5 years ago from McLaughlin

      My first big vacation was from Missouri to California, Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm. Thanks for the memories!

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 5 years ago from Albany New York

      Love the old photos. I didn't know Knott's Berry Farm went back that far. Too bad they are not quite the same as the old days.

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      Looks like a very fun place! And fried chicken and eggs for breakfast sounds pretty good to me! :)

    • suzy-t profile image

      suzy-t 5 years ago

      I love old theme park history and enjoyed the journey you took me on. Bookmarked and looking forward to more pictures.

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 5 years ago

      Looks like an interesting place to visit, very nicely presented, thank you!! :)

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      macsquared 5 years ago

      How cool! I love Americana. Thanks for the lens, now I have yet another place to go to in my lifetime :D

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 5 years ago

      I went as a very young child once. I need to go back because I cannot remember Sad Eye Joe.

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      MaggiePowell 5 years ago

      My parents took me often as a young child...but I haven't been in ages. Thanks for the memories

    • Herman IV profile image

      Herman IV 5 years ago

      Really enjoyed your lens on Knott's Berry farm!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      came back to bless your article ... *blessed*

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      seosri417 5 years ago

      Really great lens...

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      ptnjust007 5 years ago

      nice lens

    • PTurner56 profile image

      PTurner56 5 years ago

      I went to Walter Knott Elementary in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. We used to play at Knotts after school when it was still free to get in. Jungle Island was a favorite spot to play hide and seek. My first boyfriend and I would hold hands on the Calico Mine ride...very romantic! A bunch of us kids used to crawl under the steps to the fake stores and wait for the train to pass by...what a thrill! I can still smell the pine trees on the log ride. There was a tunnel around the gold panning that was great fun to run through. The old school house is an exact replica of the real one in Calico, CA. The bottle house always fascinated me, as well as the historic saloon, general store, blacksmith shop, etc. Knotts is a great place to learn about early California history. Thanks for the memories and a great lens!

    • MJsConsignments profile image

      Michelle 5 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

      Great lens...love the old photos! Thank you for sharing.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      I have fond memories of the best fried chicken in Knott's Berry Farm in the 70's. Thanks for a walk down memory lane.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I'll have to go there sometime. It looks great! Thanks for sharing.

    • BFunivcom profile image

      Allan R. Wallace 5 years ago from Wherever Human Rights Reign

      I had to look at the pictures to see if my friends or family were in them. We spent a lot of time there. I even worked there a while during high school. Lots of good memories were formed at Knotts.

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      Ivylee2122 5 years ago

      This is awesome ^_^

    • Shorebirdie profile image

      Shorebirdie 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

      I have lived in soCal for thirty years' but I've never been to Knott's Berry Farm! I've always wanted to go, but never had the time or money.

    • GypsyPirate LM profile image

      GypsyPirate LM 5 years ago

      What a delightful visit to Knott's Berry Farm. I was there years and years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed your memories!

    • IngridA1 profile image

      IngridA1 5 years ago

      Love it!! I went to "the farm" when I was a child. I remember panning for gold! In fact I still have the little jar with my gold flakes.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Nice lens

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      getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      Such great photos brings back memories, thanks so much for the lens.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Only know it from the movies. What a great stroll down your memory lane you've taken me on!

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 5 years ago

      I haven't been to Knott's Berry Farm since I was a kid, when I remember loving it, and my son and I are seriously overdue for a little vacation... he'll be 18 in August, and the last time we left town for vacation I believe he was 8. Adding Knott's Berry Farm to the list of potential destinations!

    • profile image

      Ruthi 5 years ago

      Knott's Berry Farm sounds a a place filled with fun for all ages. Loved seeing the old photos. It's a shame service with a smile is harder to find these days.

    • ngio64 profile image

      ngio64 5 years ago

      "I was five and was hoping he would stay lost but that just didn't work out. He knew his name." You cracked me up with these sentences! LOL. I have never been to Knot's Berry Farm but you make it sound like a wonderful place to have visited.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Never been there, but looks so interesting, would love to visit (nice lens!)

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      thanks for sharing this - I really enjoyed my visit

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Done with such loving fun...and I love that you share the husband humor. what a wonderful place for family adventures through the generations...sweetness...and blessed!

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 5 years ago from Templeton, CA

      This brought back many memories for me. I started going to Knott's Berry Farm with my extended family about once a month on Sunday afternoon. We went there for the Chicken House. While we waited to be called (there was always a line) we went down to the mine to watch people pan for gold. I remember being scared of the train robbers, and walking around the old Ghost Town. As the years went by, more attractions were added. One of our favorites was the Calico saloon. After that came the Haunted House, where water ran uphill.

      Among other free attractions were the lake and the glow worm studio full of fluorescent, glowing art in the dark. Later, the California Mission Trail with replicas of all the missions, appeared on the path around the lake. My boyfriend and I used to go there often on Friday nights and just walk around. That was while everything was still free, and before the more Disney-like rides appeared. I never took the log ride, and as far as I'm concerned, when Knott's started trying to be more like Disneyland, I lost interest in it.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 5 years ago

      I only went there once, way back in the early 1970s. I don't remember much but I do recall we had fun. Nice lens!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      What fun! We never went to a theme park when I was growing up. Maybe 6 kids would have been too expensive. Now we live near Orlando and having a Disney pass lets my husband and me be kids and have the fun we missed earlier in life.

    • AlexandraHeep profile image

      AlexandraHeep 5 years ago

      It's not in my area and I have no connection, but this lens is like a nostalgic picture book. I like when people draw attention to quirky places. Too much of this has been lost.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      if John Wayne has been here then I'll have to go! enjoyed your lens tonight, thank you indeed!

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 5 years ago from Havre de Grace

      I have never been there but enjoyed the old photos!

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      I always wanted to go to Knott's Berry Farm around Halloween.

    • Cinnamonbite profile image

      Cinnamonbite 5 years ago

      My parents got married at the chapel at Knot's Berry Farm. I read that they moved it so there's no point in me visiting now. Oh well.

    • Ann Hinds profile image
      Author

      Ann Hinds 5 years ago from So Cal

      @Scarlettohairy: The nice thing about Knott's Berry Farm is that it is fun for big kids like me. There are more than just rides to see and do.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I've heard Knotts Berry Farm is a lot of fun, especially for younger kids.

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      SandyPond 5 years ago

      I have always wanted to check out knots berry farm! A friend of mine is from California and they always talk about it and have some maple syrup that is really good!

    • krakensquid profile image

      krakensquid 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens, very informative! :)

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I have never been to California, so have not had the opportunity to visit Knott's Berry Farm. It looks interesting, and I have certainly heard of it. I remember going to a place with a similar name as a child, but it was in Kentucky. I wonder if they had a franchise at one time.