I went to Knott’s Berry Farm yesterday to see the Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies and thought I would share my experience for anyone else who wants to go and wants to know the ins and outs.
Since I live close to Knott’s (30 minutes) I decided to buy an annual pass. Knott’s has a payment plan similar to Disneyland which makes it extremely affordable if you want to avail yourself of this option. I don’t believe it is limited to California residents but not 100% sure. Anyway, I went online and bought my annual pass, printed out the voucher and was good to go!
Having been to Knott’s many times in my youth I didn’t need directions and arrived at the park about 10:15 a.m. There was a bit of traffic getting onto the main drag, and what used to be the main parking lot—and what I was heading for—is now a short term (3 hour) parking area. So I was routed just up to the street to the long-term parking lot. By the way, parking is $15 per car. ( I opted to buy the unlimited parking pass for $40 more once I got to the main gate because $15 a visit will add up quick.)
Once I was parked and got my scooter back together I headed to the main gate. Their “security” review is even more minimal than Disneyland’s and I was at the turnstyle when I learned I had to go to get my annual pass processed first. Ok, I saw guest relations right next to the gate so headed there and stood in line maybe five minutes. Turns out that was not the right place—HOWEVER, it was the place to upgrade my parking (be sure and bring your receipt from the parking lot to get the $15 credit). So with my voucher and parking pass receipt in hand I next headed to the yellow building next door to finally get my annual pass processed. The process was very quick—they scan your voucher, take your picture (similar to Disneyland) and you are on your way!
I entered through the very busy main gates once again and this time had no glitches. Once through the gates I asked where the Wilderness Dance Hall was and was given excellent directions. Basically—head through Ghost Town towards Big Foot Rapids and just before you get there the Wilderness Dance Hall is on the right.
There were three people already lined up so I chatted with them a few minutes to see if they knew when the place was going to open and where I could score some coffee. Zilch-o on both accounts. A CM happened to go by and I asked them and was directed right around the corner for the coffee. When I returned three or four more people had joined a rather loose line. It was not long before some Knott’s personnel came and moved us from the single door we were standing at to a large rolling door on the other side. This is the main entrance. They also set up some ropes to make the line more orderly. We all enjoyed chatting in line while we waited for the powers that be to let us in. My friend Mary Jo arrived about noon and came back and met me.
They let us in about 12:45 p.m. (for the 1:00 p.m. show) and we flooded in. Apparently they had no seating at the New Year’s Eve show and had gotten feedback because they had set up rows of hay bales with western themed blankets on them as seating. It was very cute and comfortable. (Although I would be worried if I had an allergy to hay!) I made a quick dash to the bathroom before the show started (luckily it is right across the way) and Mary Jo went to check out the food offerings that were at the back of the Dance Hall.
Now, my first “negative.” As I mentioned the entrance is through a large rolling door. Unfortunately, the approach to that door is very steep and was very hard to maneuver on a scooter. I’m hoping that at some point Knott’s re-does this area to have a less gentle slope because someone is not going to be paying enough attention and they are going to go over. The approach from the single door is much flatter and they allowed us to use that door to come to and fro. I think they need to make that door a handicapped entrance, frankly.
I came back from the bathroom and Mary Jo returned from the food area with a Panini sandwich—who knew they had a Panini press in the Old West? We shared the sandwich—I forgot to get the price—but food at Knott’s seems to be more expensive than at Disneyland (is that possible?) The sandwich came with chips that we gave away. The Panini was pretty good—we had the turkey—but it could have taken a couple of extra minutes on the press to melt the cheese more. I know there is also a vegetarian option. There might be roast beef too—just not sure.
Then it was time for the show to start! Dennis, Anders and Rick came out and started playing and Kirk did the introduction of the group from backstage, then came out! It was standing room only at this point! Not as crowded by any means as their last day at Disneyland—but a good crowd.
Their first set was pretty low-key. Kirk was having a bit of a problem with his microphone and it cut out on him occasionally. Also, it is clear that they don’t have the equipment budget they had at Disneyland as there are cords everywhere! In fact, at one point Kirk started playing his guitar and a few seconds in had to go find the plug-in cord for his guitar because no one could hear it! But those are kinks that seemed to have been worked out by the later shows.
The other funny thing is that the guys (mostly Kirk) are having trouble not calling each other “Billy.” It happened during all three shows I saw. Apparently at the New Year’s Eve show he had the same issue and someone started a drinking game—taking a sip every time he said “Billy.” Some of those folks were there again (and yes, they were playing the drinking game again!)
So, this is another change from Disneyland—the Wilderness Dance Hall serves beer and wine. Bottled beer and small bottles of wine are $10 each and draft beer is $11 for a big cup. As someone around us put it: “getting to see the Billy’s and drink beer at the same time? Score!” Alas, I am not a beer drinker and not very big on wine. Now if there was a bar with hard liquor . . . . . . (although I guess I shouldn’t drink and drive on the scooter!)
Another difference (at least for me) from Disneyland is that during every show Kirk was pointing out the food and beverage service and encouraging people to partake. Not sure how I feel about that.
Anyway, all too soon the first show was over. Before it was, Kirk hinted that the upcoming shows would include blasts from the past like the “prostheethis” and Elvis.
Ok, so here is another negative and something Knott’s needs to re-tool. They clear the Dance Hall after every show. Not sure why---they didn’t do any cleaning (someone had dropped a cup during the first show and it was still there during the second and third shows). If they really want to propel sales at that food and wine service then they need to let people stay in the place and buy stuff during the breaks (which aren’t that long after the first break). From what I noted the same people ended up in basically the same seats through three shows so you might as well just let them stay there, buy a Panini and a beer and relax. True fans are not going to waste precious Billy time at the food window during the show.
The first show was 1:00 p.m. and lasted about 45 minutes. So we had about a half hour wait when they opened up the doors again and let us back in. After that the shows are only an hour apart so there isn’t a lot of time to wait in between. Another friend-Trudi- arrived in between the first and second show. It turned out that she knew one of the ladies we had been chatting with! Small world!
Second show seemed to be smoother. In both the first and second show there was a wide variety of music they played that I either hadn’t heard from them before or hadn’t heard in a long time. There were references in some of the shows that they weren’t “allowed” to play certain songs at “that other place.” One being “Ghost Riders in the Sky”—which we couldn’t understand why that was the case but so be it. In the second show Dennis did a bang-up job on the Orange Blossom Special and it was during this performance that the “prostheethis” came out to much laughter and applause. (However, the explanation for the prostheethis was somewhat abbreviated and Disney fans are not going to be as prevalent at every show so I think Kirk is going to need to give more of an explanation of his playing classical music and then going to bluegrass once he puts the teeth in. I would say 95% of this particular audience “got it” but I’m sure there were some people who wandered in who would have been lost.)
During this show Kirk also indicated that “the King” was probably going to make an appearance in the next show—maybe even in costume. To prime the audience he performed CC Rider—complete with karate chop at the end! Then it was leave the Dance Hall again.
My friends had to leave and I took the opportunity to do a little exploring around Ghost Town as I hadn’t been to Knott’s in about 15 years. I wasn’t worried about where I would sit when I got back because there were large open areas with no bales of hay on either side of the stage and I planned to just park there on the scooter up against the wall. So I toured Ghost Town for a few minutes until I figured they had let people into the Dance Hall. Sure enough—most seats were already filled when I got back but there was plenty of space against the wall. I bought a hot chocolate from the food vendor ($2.99) and settled into my spot—which had a perfect side view of the band.
Now, one more tip—every food and beverage vendor gives an annual pass discount so be sure and ask for it. Even the carts give you the discount. It may be $.30 but it adds up!
Third show starts and I am surprised because Kirk comes out in the same hillbilly outfit. Where is Elvis? Well, it turns out we have to have a visit from the Fab Four first! In fact, not sure if this was intended but Kirk has to go back to the dressing room while the guys play to get their Beatles wigs. They then did an awesome Beatles medley! After the Beatles visit, Dennis, Anders and Rick played a song while Kirk went to do a wardrobe change. Sure enough—“Jumpsuit Elvis” soon appeared and did a couple of songs—ending with the trademark karate chop.
One of the great things about this venue is that Kirk can go out into the audience which he did as “Elvis” as well as during at least one of the other shows I saw. The audience loved it!
After the third show I decided it was time for me to leave. I spent some time tooling around the park just to re-acquaint myself with my environs. As previously indicated, food seems to be VERY expensive here. For example, they sell pizza by the slice at a couple of locations and it’s around $7. Or you can buy a whole pizza for $29.99-which may make sense if you’re with a group. A funnel cake is $8.99 (but huge from what I saw--definitely a share item). (Next time I’ll get more precise prices or pics of menus.) There is one place over by the log ride that I want to try at a future visit—they have bbq as well as chicken wings with a buffalo, Thai chili or garlic sauce. The Thai chili is calling my name. The park also has a Johnny Rockets and a Panda Express inside. Didn’t check those prices but I am sure there is a premium on their regular prices.
Unlike Disneyland, the posted signs say that food and beverages cannot be brought in except for water and energy drinks. However, I saw people eating what clearly looked like outside food (large bags of chips for example) so not sure how vigorously this is enforced.
All in all I am looking forward to more low-key trips to Knott’s to see Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies in the future. Next time I will bring more than one bottle of water (which went fast on a hot day).
A couple of other observations: there is a TGIFridays and a Pink’s hot dog place outside the gates in the Knott’s Marketplace along with the Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner restaurant and a Dreyer's Ice Cream place. The prices at Pink’s don’t seem that bad, but I have also seen Yelp reviews that it’s not as good as the other Pink’s locations.
Knott’s is much cleaner than I recalled. Especially the Ghost Town area was very neat and tidy. The last time I had been there was during a music festival and there were stages set up all over the park blasting music and it left a bad taste in my mouth (why I haven’t been there in 15 years). Ghost Town was extremely serene yesterday—on a Saturday in January. The Boardwalk area was busier—because that is where most of the rides are—rides that I will likely never go on. The line for the Log Ride looked really long but didn’t really notice ride lines on the other attractions.
If you have any questions let me know!