Mazes Rule Knott’s Scary Farm 2016

Our yearly tradition is to visit all the SoCal theme parks with Halloween “Haunt” experiences. Universal Studios Hollywood delivers Halloween Horror Nights each year.  Disneyland offers a “Trick-or-Treat” option for little ones with Mickey’s Halloween Party.  But Knott’s Berry Farm is really the only park that completely transforms the entire park for a spooky, scary, amazing time for teens to adults – KNOTT’S SCARY FARM.

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Last year we sat out these haunt experiences, so when September 2016 hit and theme parks started putting up their ads for their Halloween nights, we had to go back! I’m so glad we kicked off the season at Knott’s Scary Farm in Buena Park, CA. This is what we’ve been waiting for, a theme park that gives us something more. Haunted mazes, zombies sliding by on their knees kicking up sparks and a show that parodies the best and worst of the year.

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This year Knott’s features six returning mazes (Trick or Treat, Voodoo, Paranormal Inc., The Tooth Fairy, The Red Barn, The Dead of Winter, and The Gunslinger’s Grave,) one updated interactive maze experience (Special Ops: Infected,) and two brand-new mazes (Shadow Lands and The Red Barn.) Some notable mazes:

PARANORMAL INC.

Since I hadn’t attended in 2 years, Paranormal Inc. was new for me, and became my favorite. It begins with a short skit and some amazing effects, both digital and aerial. Then the maze actually splits in two for the 1st half. You eventually end up in the same maze, but there are different elements to each piece of the maze that you might want to go twice. Here is where Knott’s has upped the game in terms of effects. There are massive puppeteered creatures, stilt-walkers and digital effects that blend seamlessly into the theme. We were really impressed.

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TRICK OR TREAT

For those of us that grew up thinking Halloween was all about witches, black cats, ghosts, goblins and jack-o-lanterns, this maze hits the nostalgia button big-time. I am not a big fan of gore, but I am a big fan of haunt creatures in true “ghost” outfits (like you would wear as a kid a sheet with 2 holes cut-out.) Trick-Or-Treat is your typical Victorian Haunted House and treats you to spooky jack-o-lanterns, a tall, amazing witch with special powers, and a few other ghostly surprises. We loved it.

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SHADOW LANDS (New!)

Some impressive effects round out this maze. Shadow Lands draws heavily from a Japanese samurai theme and includes some actual sword-induced beheadings and acrobatic wire-work. I found myself slowing down to watch how they do everything, rather than running through scared. It’s visually impressive. Here’s a taste:

SPECIAL OPS-INFECTED

The last time we tried this out in 2014, Special Ops – Infected was an up-sell. It took a long time to set up, and just getting your gear and understanding how the maze work was a huge production. The problem with that was the amount of time it took. It was a long wait.

This year (and last year as well), Knott’s has stream-lined the “recruiting” and “gear” process, making it almost as fast as a regular maze. You grab your gun from a table where 3 employees are stacking them as fast as we take them. We are ushered in a group of about 10 to a small area where we are given a 30-second speech on holding the gun and what to shoot. And then we are released into the world to kill zombies! The zombies wear collars that have 3 red lights. If you hit them with your gun, your gun vibrates and the zombies lights turn green. At the end of the maze, your gun has accumulated a “kill” count and a “died” count – if the zombie touched you it somehow registers on your gun! Pretty neat. I killed 11 zombies but died once. Hmmm.

SCARE ZONES

While wandering from maze to maze, you could find yourself in a Scare Zone. These are areas of the park that are themed by the scary characters walking around and the billowing smoke.

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One of the other cool new scare zones this year is “The Hollow,” featuring characters and locales inspired by the classic story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” including the Headless Horseman. Be sure to visit the other three returning scare zones (Ghost Town, Fiesta de los Muertos, and CarnEvil) as well.

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SHOWS

I remember when there was Ed Alonso’s Magic Show, a Dance Show, an Improv Comedy Show and a huge arena with a Hypnotist show, plus The Hanging, all in one night. Now there are only 2 shows: Elvira: Danse Macabre and The Hanging. Having culled down the amount of shows, Knott’s has definitely added more effects, aerial acts and fire-eating. However, shows are a great way to take a load off, laugh and chill. I suppose management would rather you chill at one of their eateries…


TIPS FOR YOUR HAUNTING TRIP

  • Get there early – we arrived half an hour before Scary Farm opened. We easily breezed past the front gates, no line, and waited with the crowd at the “rope-drop” area until the dot of 7 pm. We headed toward the southern end of the park near Ghostrider with four mazes, and less than 5 minutes wait at each one. In fact, by the first hour we had completed 7 of the 9 mazes!
  • Eat dinner before you arrive – With this out of the way, you are fueled up and ready to hit those mazes and rides. Maybe take a break at 10 pm for a little dessert.
  • Choose a weekday night for a less crowded experience. Friday and Saturday evenings can be packed. Tip we heard from an employee: Sunday nights are the least crowded.

At this point, Knott’s Scary Farm is a tradition, and my favorite among Southern California’s numerous Haunt offerings. The quaintness and quality mazes combine to make an experience worth the price of admission. You can get tickets here.

DISCLOSURE: Sarah and Richard Woloski received two complimentary tickets to experience Knott’s Scary Farm 2016 for the purpose of writing this review.  However, all opinions expressed are those of the author. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Richard & Sarah Woloski

Richard and Sarah Woloski are the co-hosts and creators of the Disney / Star Wars Podcast Skywalking Through Neverland. The husband and wife team strives to create a polished, positive and fun weekly show celebrating fandom. They also love writing for Adventures By Daddy. Find them @SkywalkingPod