Knott’s Merry Christmas
When returning from Japan, I decided to visit Knott’s during a layover. HangTime and my Platinum Pass provided a compelling argument, but the competition was stiff. Therefore, with some extra reward miles and a free weekend, I booked a return trip to SoCal. The focus would be on Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and my first ever visit to Universal Hollwyood, but I had a Friday night to fill.
Much to my astonishment, a majority of the SoCal parks closed early on a Friday night. Disneyland was of course open until midnight, but the others closed early except for Knott’s and bizarrely Scandia (more on that later). My flight was scheduled to land just past 8 and Knott’s was scheduled to close at 10.
Even without any delays, I knew I’d be cutting it close. Even if LA traffic was completely non-existent, I’d also be cutting it close. I had no false delusions of touring the entire park. I am a man of simple needs. All I wanted was a single back row ride on GhostRider at night. That seemed reasonable enough.
But my wiener worked its magic on a female employee at American Airlines.
Anyone who read my Tokyo Disneyland report knows that I bought a Slinky Dog Hat. It is one of the best purchases I have ever made. Along with being the sexiest hat man has ever made, it had the magical ability of getting me on an earlier flight for free.
To pack as much as humanly possible into my carry-on, I made the bold fashion statement of wearing the goofy hat through the airport, presumably to the amusement of others. I had gotten to the airport well before my flight and an earlier one was boarding. Out of curiosity, I approached the gate and asked if there was availability. The first agent said yes, but it would be a $75 fee. Meanwhile, the second agent’s eyes were fixated on my hat.
Slinky gave her the puppy dog eyes. Slinky’s jedi mind trick worked. She waived the no change fee and wished me a good time at Disneyland. I wonder what told her I was going there
I was now slated to arrive at LAX two hours earlier. Granted it would be during prime time LA rush hour traffic, but I must have a horseshoe shoved deeper up my rear end than Nick Foles last year since the drive wasn’t bad at all. But soon enough I was rolling up to Knott’s and continued the tradition of not being able to find the parking lot. Am I an idiot or is the signage just not there?
Every time I have driven to Knott’s, I confusedly lap around the park 2-3 times before stumbling into the lot. This time, I failed even more spectacularly than normal. I went into the Marketplace and saw the sign for all-day parking on the left, but then kept ending up on the main road. Eventually I ended up in the Marketplace lot, which actually worked out really well. The park was only open for two more hours and I got my mother some gifts at the Snoopy store to validate the parking.
By this point, you probably want coasters instead of reading about wiener dogs and driving struggles. With two hours, I had enough time to lap the park. I figured I should still save GhostRider for the end, assuming it would have its usual 1.5-2 hour wait. But then I told myself maybe a Christmas miracle would happen and GhostRider would be a 20 minute wait. But I got something better. I got a Festivus miracle; GhostRider was a complete and total walk-on.
My original plan only had me riding GhostRider. My revised plan almost turned into me only riding GhostRider as well. Outside of West Coast Bash, how often is GhostRider ever a walk-on? I limited myself to four, but it was so hard to pry myself away. GhostRider was absolutely hauling. I swear Knott’s turns on the low friction slider at night.
GhostRider’s first half is all about size. You have a little air on the first drop, some floater on the two camelbacks, and some solid laterals. It’s a good start, but it’s the second half that makes GhostRider elite. The legendary fifth drop lives up to its reputation and delivers copious ejector air. That’s followed by a mix of airtime hills, lateral-heavy turns, and sometimes a combination of both.
GhostRider is one of the best paced coasters out there. Even some of the best coasters have dead spots. Take Phoenix’s first turnaround or the MCBR on Steel Vengeance. GhostRider simply doesn’t let up. In many ways, the ride gets wilder and wilder as it progresses. That’s another trait that I really appreciate in a roller coaster. Saving the best for last leaves a delicious taste in my mouth. 9.5 out of 10
I considered Pony Express out of spite. If you remember from my June visit, that dang ride broke down not once, not twice, but three times while I was in line. I figured the mere thought of riding Pony Express would cause the coaster to break down. Rather than test Murphy’s Law, I decided to queue up for Silver Bullet. And when I say queue up, I mean walk right onto the front row. No line at GhostRider told me I had free reign of the park.
Enthusiasts have a frosty view of Silver Bullet. The first drop rightfully deserves it, but the rest of the ride doesn’t. Silver Bullet is glass smooth and four of the six inversions are really good. I’ve yet to encounter a bad zero-G roll, the loop was hardly what I’d consider forceless, and the final two corkscrews are snappier than you’d think. Plus you have that leg-numbing helix at the end that will get your legs tingling like a Batman clone. 8 out of 10
I missed HangTime’s lighting package in my June visit. I corrected that this time. HangTime’s lighting package is an attraction in itself. Knott’s was all decked out in Christmas (sorry holiday) lights, but I think HangTime outshined even the tree. Seeing the lights dynamically change colors with the train is what a coaster enthusiast considers art.
As awesome as the lighting package is off-ride, it did have one major drawback on-ride. One of the most thrilling aspects about HangTime’s drop is not knowing when the plunge will occur. However, the lights change to a blood red moments before you drop. Maybe other riders aren’t as eagle eyed as me, but it sort of spoiled the anticipation much like a countdown on a drop tower.
For a coaster as compact as HangTime, it offers a little of everything. You have an incredible airtime laiden drop, some (you guessed it) hangtime, and a few smaller pops of air sprinkled about. In many ways, the coaster reminds me of Fahrenheit. Except HangTime has glorious lap bars. 8.5 out of 10
Everything to this point had been a walk-on, but it was time to truly put my luck to the test with Xcelerator. Normally Xcelerator’s line isn’t bad for most rows. The exception is the front. Without question, the money seat on most launch coasters is row one. That’s particularly true on Intamin’s hydraulic launch coasters. Because of that, it’s perfectly understandable it would have a longer wait and often I am willing to wait it. Not only Xcelerator.
Xcelerator’s front row queue is the seventh circle of Hell. I have never seen a front row queue capable of holding that many people. From experience, the front row queue always fills up and it’s no exception with Xcelerator. I shudder to think how long a full front row queue would take, but I reckon it may be faster to drive to Magic Mountain and just ride YOLOcoaster.
But on this night, Xcelerator’s station looked something like this:
The launch was strong, but it lacked the stomach dropping sensation it has given me on past visits. Maybe that only happens in the back? The rush of wind more than compensated, as did the wonderful airtime cresting the top hat. Xcelerator is over fast, much like Kareem Hunt’s Kansas City Chiefs career, but it’s a rush. 8 out of 10
What happens when it’s 55 degrees out in SoCal? In one corner, you have a New Englander wearing shorts and a rolled up sweatshirt. In the other corner, you have all the locals wearing winter coats and hats. Needless to say, the Timber Mountain Log Ride was a walk-on. In fact, the only other people riding it were a trio of employees decked out in a get-up more appropriate for skiing.
I sure as heck wasn’t going to skip one of the park’s best rides considering I’ll ride SFNE’s river rapids ride with temps in the 40s. And this ride is far better. The theming on this ride isn’t something you’d expect from a Cedar Fair park. It’s extremely well done. For that reason, it’s sort of a bummer the drops are nothing special. 9 out of 10
Sol Spin was very tempting, but I had a strong feeling it wouldn’t run a program anything like the top scan at Oktoberfest. Montezooma’s Revenge was also tempting. But time was of the essence and I needed to squeeze in one last coaster before a nightcap on GhostRider. What coaster would that be? Sierra Sidewinder.
I feel like it’s coaster blasphemy to pick a coaster targeted towards youngsters over a classic Schwarzkopf but that’s exactly what I did. Sierra Sidewinder is one of the best spinning coasters out there. For one, it’s extremely easy to get an out-of-control ride. Just spot car with a parent and small child and sit yourself on the same side as the parent. Then let gravity do the rest.
There is one part of the ride where the spinning ceases and it’s oddly the most intense part of the ride. That would be the low-to-the-ground turn. This turn may look innocent, but it has sustains Gs far longer than any family coaster has the right to do. I would love for something like this to make its way to Canobie. 8 out of 10
I made my way back to GhostRider and encountered my real wait of the night. I had to wait a whopping 15 minutes for the back row.
I sort of wish I could have experienced the original GhostRider opening year to compare, but the coaster really is running like a dream and does everything a wooden coaster should. I just hope Knott’s doesn’t let the ride beat itself to death again.
My focus was on the rides, but it would have been impossible to miss the Christmas atmosphere fostered during Knott’s Merry Farm. It was exactly what you’d expect- lights, music, and Christmas Snoopies- but what else could you possibly want this time of year? Ok maybe fake snow since that was the focus of Universal’s marketing campaign, but I see plenty of the real stuff in New England.
It was an abridged version of Knott’s. Really I would have been happy riding just GhostRider, but I wasn’t going to shoot a gift horse in the mouth and neglect the park’s steel coasters. Knott’s makes a strong case for Cedar Fair’s second best park. It has a really strong coaster lineup plus easily the best theming of the entire chain. There’s just something about the atmosphere at Knott’s.
My condensed schedule also had another casualty, the Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Restaurant. It felt criminal to omit the mouth-wateringly delicious fried chicken. Because of this, I had to explore food options outside the park. And I’ll begin the report exactly where it started…with wieners. I ended up eating at Portillo’s. That very well may have been the best hot dog I’ve ever had and one of the best logos too.
I have a problem.