Knott's Scary Farm - Opening Weekend

Caption: Elvira performs in a brand new stage show... "Elvira's Asylum." Photo:

Knott’s Scary Farm welcomed the first crowds of the season on Thursday, September 24. While Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights may be a bit more “polished” and feature popular film and television franchises within its mazes, Knott’s still is, and will always be the first and largest event of its kind. For the past several years, Universal has gotten a head start by opening a week earlier. Despite featuring such big names as “The Walking Dead” and “Halloween,” I now leave Universal each year looking more and more forward to Knott’s the following week.

The creative team at Scary Farm do not have the luxury of franchises to recreate, nor the budget Universal has, but this works in their favor. The team is forced year and after year to come up with unique and groundbreaking attractions. For example, last year the park introduced “Infected: Special Ops.” This was the first of its kind for a major theme park. Guests were escorted through a darkened Camp Snoopy by a Squad Leader, armed with high-tech laser tag guns and recruited to shoot zombies. “Infected” returned this year with a longer trail, new scares and improved guns. Three new mazes made their debut last week. “Dead of Winter” is staged inside of the icy cold Boardwalk Ballroom. Evil Viking warriors prey on unsuspecting guests as they avenge the death of the death of the Snow Queen’s family. “PARANORMAL, INC. - Case #1 – The Haunting of Hayden Hill” can be found in a backstage warehouse. The maze begins with a friendly line attendant discussing a waiver for about what you are about to experience. There is no “waiver,” but this sets the stage for the theatrics about to come. As you enter Hayden Hill, a live pre-show explains how you are a part of a Ghost Hunter television show taping. The detailed maze features amazing talent, high-tech props and aerial stunts. This is definitely one of the best mazes Knott’s has ever put together and trumps anything Universal came up with this year, in terms of creativity. “My Bloody Clementine” is the Scary Farm makeover for the Calico Mine Ride. When announced, fans were ecstatic to hear that live actors would be returning to attraction. After the state’s safety board put major limitations on how staff could interact inside the Mine Ride and Log Ride, Scary Farm has not been the same. The Calico Mine Ride saw a major refurbishment last year and management has been cautious about causing any damage inside. These two factors impacted the experience last year. “Clementine’s” backstory about a murder inside the mine is creative, yet the limitations set in place hampered any level of scares. But, the effort was appreciated and it is nice to include the ride on the evening’s itinerary. Changes were made to nearly all of the returning mazes this year. “Forevermore,” the Edgar Allen Poe themed maze saw improvements and the addition of a special Skelton Key Room. Houdini returns in “Black Magic” with significant upgrades. The Green Witch and her Tricksters are back for the fourth (and probably final year) inside of “Trick or Treat.” This maze saw the biggest change, with the addition of several new rooms. “Voodoo,” a fan favorite from last year saw improvements as well. In terms of live entertainment, there are two shows this year. “The Hanging” is a Knott’s classic and pokes fun at current events through parody. The show seemed a bit faster paced this year, with not as many long and drawn out fight sequences, although the extended viral video intro could go. Elvia returns for her “rumored” last year. Her ditzy blend of comedy alongside an amazing dance crew really worked. This may be the best show since her return for the 40th Anniversary in 2012. Here’s hoping for at least one more show in 2016! Creating “Infected” was an expensive undertaking and while enjoyed by guests, has impacted the entertainment budget. Scary Farm used to offer up to seven live shows, now they are down to two. Return guests would love to see at least two additional shows added. Not only does it provide variety, but helps with crowd control and a needed rest for tired feet. What truly makes Knott’s great is the roaming street talent. In fact, they were part of the reason the event took off and became as successful as it did over 40 years ago. No other park immerses guests into the fog and scares the way Knott’s does. There is not an inch of the park where you won’t find a monster lurking to scare. From the darkened fogged streets of Ghost Town, to the brightly light Carnevil, to the lively Fiesta de los Muertos, the entire park is a scare zone. No one does it better. No one. The talent know how to properly interact with guests to give them a personalized experience, while continuing to scare the masses at the same time. This is the reason why Knott’s will ALWAYS be my personal favorite Halloween event. With “Infected” taking up all of Camp Snoopy and offering a limited capacity, expect denser crowds throughout the park. A complete refurbishment of Knott’s wooden rollercoaster Ghostrider has closed the ride for the season. This attraction easily sucked up thousands of people per night. With its temporary closure, crowds have been dispersed to other attractions. These factors, combined with a lower show count made opening weekend seem significantly busier than previous years. A few tips to survive the night and the crowds: - Try the “Pre-Scare Boo-fet.” You can enter the park for dinner beginning at 5pm. You will be confined to the area around Spurs, but have first access to the mazes at 6:30, thirty minutes prior to general admission guests. - Head backstage first, if doing the pre-scare. “Paranormal, Inc.” has a timed pre-show which makes for longer wait times. Do this and “The Tooth Fairy” first. - Make sure to head over to Infected prior to 7pm. This is a (free) timed and ticketed attraction. Once time cards run out, you are out of luck. Cards go fast, so be prepared.

- If you get a time for “Infected,” be prepared to wait. Opening weekend presented several challenges. Some guests waited anywhere from 60 to 120+ minutes. While this attraction is fun and unique, do not let it prevent you from doing anything else. Check with line control to see what the current wait time is. - Knott’s front of the line maze pass is called “Fright Line with Skeleton Key.” This up-charge pass allows you to bypass the lines and head to the front. Some mazes feature special “Skeleton Key” rooms. These are short, special pre-show rooms just for Fright Line guests. This is a nice added value to the pass. One downside, the rooms only hold half a dozen people at a time. If there is a line, be prepared to wait. You can elect to bypass the room and head straight into the maze, if desired. Just let line control know you wish to bypass the room. The best Skeleton Key rooms are in “Dead of Winter” and “Voodoo.” Do not miss these! - Look for the Green Witch and The Deadly Seven. The mascots for this year’s Scary Farm roam the park, terrorizing guests and fellow monsters.

-Look for The Headless Horseman roaming the Stagecoach Trail. He often poses for pictures near the Stagecoach loading dock. - Save time to enjoy the fog. As mentioned, one of the best parts of Scary Farm is the street talent. Save time to find a bench, sit down, relax and enjoy other people getting scared. - Pre-game at Amber Waves. The Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel has a great lobby bar. They have a Scary Farm Happy Hour that begins at 3pm with spooky-themed drinks and appetizers. Order one of about a half dozen or so specialty shots and you will receive a souvenir shot glass. But please… do not over indulge to the point where you disrupt other guests, or the monsters from doing their job. Despite some minor (and major) hiccups opening weekend, Knott’s never fails to entertain. From the creative mazes, to the incredible talent, to the entertaining live shows, Scary Farm is an immersive experience that despite growing competition, no one has been able to re-create. No other local Halloween event makes me want to return multiple times during the month. Thanks to the Scary Farm Pass, over a dozen personal visits were made possible last year. Being able to go and just sit and enjoy the scares is reason enough to make the trek down the I-5 at rush hour to Buena Park.

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