KNOTT’S TASTE OF CALICO is a new event at Knott’s Berry Farm offering guests the opportunity to visit “America’s First Theme Park” in a way that meets all safety and health protocols in California. While you won’t find rides open or be able to hug Snoopy, you will find a “taste” of the theme park experience.
In step with most of the California economy, Knott’s Berry Farm closed in March this year — just one week ahead of the debut of the 2020 Knott’s Boysenberry Festival — so this event offers a make-good of sorts on the festival that was never-to-be. Admission into the park is $25 for adults ($15 for kids 11 and under) and that includes Tasting Cards redeemable around the park for selections from the 23 specialty food and beverages offerings. Adult admission includes 5 tastings while children admission includes 3 tastings.
We were invited by Knott’s to attend on its opening day and are happy to report back what we saw and tasted. Aside from Knott’s culinary creations — many of which including boysenberry specialties — you can visit local crafters and shop at a few of the park’s unique stores.
If you’re apprehensive about what to expect or just want to get a sense for what the festival has to offer, this pictorial has got you covered. ENJOY!
As with just about most things during these times, you want to try to avoid peak times if you want to stay away from crowds. On Friday, the event started at 4pm. We made the conscious decision before hand to shoot for 4:30. At 3:50pm we looked at social media and saw our suspicions confirmed with switchback queues full of people standing — socially distanced — in the sun waiting temperature check and security screening.
We arrived at 4:38pm and had a breezy experience as you’ll see in our pictures below.
Before entering the queue for temperature screening, employees asked for a verbal confirmation about not having or being in contact with someone who had COVID-19.
Social distance markers and signage re-enforce new safety protocol. Once you pass through the queue you enter a building for a no-touch temperature screening before moving forward to security screening.
Arriving just 30 minutes after opening, the long lines we saw on social media had completely disappeared.
A Tasting Card is considered the official ticket into the event. This must be purchased online which you pick up at the turnstyle after scanning your E-ticket/printout. Unlike other food festivals where a hole punch or plastic tab is used to keep track of how many selections have been redeemed, the card now features a QR code that is scanned at each location.
We found the QR code approach helpful to ensure touch-free interactions and the scanners worked super well but this new method also made it slightly harder to keep track of how many selections were had left. If you opt for Boysenberry Hard Cider or Beer or two, you might find that complication enhanced further.
And now, a taste of the dining options…
When you average out 5 tastings over the $25 adult price you, find that you’re paying $5 for each tasting item. The value proposition is subjective but with Friday’s hot temperatures the Boysenberry Smoothie really hit the spot. It’s mega sweet but super satisfying. It’s the right slap of boysenberry flavor to kick off a culinary adventure in the way only Knott’s can provide. Paper straws are a bit of a drag so make sure to pick up an extra one if you’re a slow sipper.
This is a festival favorite for us. The salty magical boysenberry sausage paired with boysenberry ketchup, mustard, and a hoagie bun does not disappoint.
In previous years, this has been served with a boysenberry component but on Friday it was just straight up freshly-fired corn right off the grill.
Simple in approach, we were hard-pressed to taste any boysneberry flavor in the mustard BUT the meat was salty and delicious, served with deep fried chips.
Boysenberry Steak Chili
A boysenberry cornbread muffin complements this thick chunky chili. Great flavors accented with the fresh crunch of green onions.
Although perhaps mismatched for the weather, this is a super satisfying bowl of flavor with boysenberry sausage, shrimp, and chicken served on basmati rice.
Pulled Pork Sliders
Nothing super adventurous here, served with a heaping pile of fires you kinda know exactly what you’re getting and it’s good.
Boysenberry BBQ Wings
These are one of the more uniquely satisfying offerings of the festival. The tangy sauce has hints of boysenberry with a little kick of heat, too.
A look at the event map and tasting card locations.
Entertainment is tricky when you’re trying to prevent people from crowding.
On the second story of the Calico Saloon we saw some performers interacting with each other and the crowds below.
The bandit was demonstrating the best way to pull off a heist and the first step is putting on your mask. See what they did there?
Sad-Eye Joe is feeling chatty if you want to pay him a visit.
Stores in and around Ghost Town are open offering familiar assortments of boysenberry and other merchandise. Plus, local crafters and vendors bring their unique assortment of color and craft to the park to round out the experience.
The event was sold out on Friday and while certain times during the event did feel busy, it was never so crowded that you couldn’t quickly dart away and find a quiet space for isolation and a quick breath.
The park looks great with spruced up flower beds and displays.
A massive setup of tables at the Calico Stage offers plenty of room to spread out. Knott’s did a great job of turning available real estate into seating areas.
Tables and shade are found all over the park in places you might not have previously expected.
A Relax Zone is setup at the Mystery Lodge where you can escape, sit, and remove your mask if needed. Otherwise, face coverings are required everywhere else in the park except when eating or drinking.
The biggest issue we had with the whole event is lines. There’s not much to do in the park so everyone was basically in a line the entire time. Socially distanced as they may have been, they moved quite slowly which is semi-frustrating when you feel you’ve pre-paid for your food items and then need to wait in several lines to get that food. Be sure to temper your expectations.
The later afternoon was the worst with long lines stretching at just about every food location in the park. We heard from friends that by sundown the lines were virtually non-existent around the park which means evening visits might yield less stressful results for those looking to avoid crowding.
You can see here the line for Sutters in the late afternoon wrapped around the building and headed back near the entrance for Camp Snoopy. Yikes! This was about a 45 minute wait.
Around the Farm
The event is restricted to the Ghost Town and adjacent areas so Camp Snoopy, the Boardwalk, and the area past Calico River Rapids are off limits. No attractions are in operation.
Special precautions are in effect in the Marketplace as well with controlled entry as needed, social distance markers, and even outdoor dining areas that take up the former driveway.
Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant is available for takeout or dine-in on new outdoor patio spaces.
The George Washington bathrooms in the Marketplace are closed but you can still access the area.
Knott’s Bear-y Tales
Originally scheduled to debut this year for Knott’s 100th anniversary, the Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair attraction seems ready to go from outward appearances.
Health and Safety Measures
Here is what to expect when visiting Knott’s Berry Farm:
- Admission will be limited each day to ensure physical distancing
- Upon arrival, guests will be asked to enter a temperature screening and security checkpoint at the main gate
- All associates and guests must wear a facial covering while visiting Taste of Calico or the Knott’s California Marketplace store locations and restaurants – masks are not required while eating.
- Frequently touched surfaces will be disinfected daily and sanitized frequently. This includes but is not limited to cash counters, scanners, EMV readers, pens at cashier counters, register screens, store fixtures, door handles, and shopping baskets.
- Signage is present to aid guests in the proper direction of travel and as a reminder to practice social distancing.
- Seating will be spaced out throughout the Taste of Calico event footprint
- Hand sanitizing stations are available throughout the event area.
- All associates are screened, including temperature and symptom checks using CDC guidelines before being allowed on the property to work.
- Associates have been trained on the importance of handwashing, physical distancing, and overall hygiene.
- Separate entrances and exits will appear at some store locations.
- Store occupancy is limited to less than 50% of the normal building capacity. Queue lines outside of store locations with six-foot markers are present where applicable.
See it for Yourself
KNOTT’S TASTE OF CALICO takes place select days now through July 26, 2020.
Dates are nearly completely sold out. As of press time only two dates remain available.
Friday, July 17: 4 PM – 10 PM Saturday, July 18: 4 PM – 10 PM Sunday, July 19: 12 PM – 8 PM
- Friday, July 24: 4 PM – 10 PM
Saturday, July 25: 4 PM – 10 PM
- Sunday, July 26: 12 PM – 8 PM
Get the latest park updates from the Knott’s Berry Farm official website below.
READ MORE: Official Knott’s Berry Farm Park Update