Knott's Scary Farm Opening Weekend 2014

Now in its 42nd year, Knott’s Scary Farm has set the standard for which all other Halloween events are judged. The world’s first Halloween theme park event began with just a handful of monsters and sparse decorations, and has grown to become the largest, most creative scary theme park in the world. This year features eight walk-through attractions, a “haunted” Calico Mine Ride and a six-acre zombie kill zone. An up-charge maze is also available for those with reservations that are willing to test their greatest fears. There does not appear to be a square foot in the 160 acre park where you can escape the 1,000 live monsters looking for fresh victims.

While there is much competition in the Southern California market in terms of Halloween events, none compare to Knott’s Berry Farm. Management and staff make sure that guests are fully immersed in the experience. From the moment you walk through the gates you are greeted by the Green Witch and her Tricksters in front of a new and rather creative backdrop.

Street talent monsters lurk in every inch of the park and there truly is no avoiding them. If you manage to escape “Fog Alley” and the dimly lit streets of Ghost Town without getting the wits scared out of you, don’t look for a reprieve in the brightly lit Boardwalk section of the park. Here, clowns of every shape and size await your arrival. They will haunt, tease and follow you from one end of the scare zone to the next.

Over in Fiesta Village colorful flat rides and roller coasters collide with the dead in a scare zone aptly named “Fiesta de los Muertos.” The elaborately dressed characters are a bit less frightening, but manage to scare you when you least expect it. This colorful zone is filled with amazingly detailed Dia de Los Muertos statues and a DJ spinning the latest Top 40 music.

On the third visit this past weekend, my crew found themselves sitting for several hours watching the interaction between talent and guests in Fiesta del los Muertos, enjoying the music and appreciating a unique addition to this time honored event. Take note of the make-up on the monsters. This is a perfect example of how talented the creative crew is behind the scenes.

The street talent at Knott’s is really unmatched. Many of the “monsters” have worked at the park for more than a decade. “Rookie talent,” as they are called have set their aspirations to work at the park after attending for years. They are taken under the wing of those that take time off from their regular jobs every year to entertain guests. Being street talent at Knott’s is an honor and a privilege. Their dedication and hard work is what makes fans come back year after year.

As previously mentioned, no matter where you are in the park, you will find a monster. This is what makes Scary Farm superior to the haunt down the road in Universal City. Also of note is how the talent interacts with park guests. If you show fear, they will chase you into stores, restaurants and restrooms. They make each encounter personal. Scares at other parks seem manufactured and mechanical.

While snapping flash photos in the face of a monster is never recommended, they will occasionally stop for a photo or pose with you, something Universal monsters will not do. These people work long hours in hot costumes and are constantly harassed by guests. It is quite flattering when you enjoy their work and their costume. But please, use judgment. Sometimes they are unable to stop due to management rules, or if the park is busy when you ask. Do not take it personal and do not interrupt them in the middle of a good scare!

Often overlooked and not mentioned in any review of Scary Farm is the park-wide décor. Once again, this is where Knott’s surpasses its competition. Even Disneyland does not seem as themed during the Halloween season.

Pumpkins sit on top of the ticket booths as you near the main gate. Once inside, decorations can be seen in the entry plaza. Eerie vines grow over the “Welcome to Ghost Town” sign. Large spiders have spun webs on nearly every building in Ghost Town. Some are still hanging around on the sides of buildings. Look to the end of Main Street and see what is lurking on the windmill.

Dozens of skeleton props can be seen throughout Ghost Town as well. Each are wearing outfits appropriate to where they are placed. These make for great photo opportunities. Find the newlydead, uh… newlywed couple standing in front of the wagon near Judge Roy Beans.

Almost every light pole in the park has some sort of creepy decoration attached it. Whether it be a ghost in the Pony Express area, or sideshow banners in the Boardwalk. Make sure to look for the large statues in Fiesta Village. They are beautifully lit at night. The attention to detail the Park Décor department places on the event adds to the fully immersive experience. A day visit should be added to see all of these props.

Fans lost a scare zone this year. The area formerly known as “Necropolis” in the Camp Snoopy section of the park has turned into an attraction called “Special Ops: Infected.” Guests are given laser-tag type guns and led on a mission to kill zombies. No expense to detail was spared here either.

If all of this were not enough, there are still nine more haunted attractions and two live stage shows. “The Hanging” is a classic. The comedic stunt show takes a stab at pop culture and current events. “Elvira’s Big Top” features The Mistress of the Dark alongside a talented group of dancers and side show performers. Two new mazes take guests into the swamps to experience Voodoo and introduce a sadistic tooth fairy.

Knott's has hit a home run again this year! Do yourself a favor and plan at least two visits to the park; one to complete all of the mazes and one to simply walk around, grab dinner and enjoy all of the sights and sounds.