50 Years of Haunts Makes for A Spooky Fun Time
Halloween season in Los Angeles is always top tier from escape rooms, to haunts, to immersive experiences. Knott’s Scary Farm in recent years has chartered towards the top of my list, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary with several new mazes.
I gathered my friends, and we proceeded to Knott’s on the most cursed of all days: Friday the 13th. While parking took a while, entrance into the park itself was rather quick and streamlined despite the large number of people.
Upon arriving we tried out several of the themed drink and food offerings, with my favorite being the return of the Type A and Zombie Blood Bags, alcoholic drinks that were contained within fun little plastic blood bags with an attached straw.
Already feeling the Halloween spirit, we started our maze journey at one of my personal favorites, Calico Origins: The Legend of Sarah Marshall. This maze is great because the lore connects the maze to Knott's Ghost Town Alive, adding layers of fun to both events. And the witch theme adds a classic, Halloween story on top. It’s also one of the few Knott’s mazes that has some line interaction, with a witch hunter stationed overlooking the line warning the guests about the dangers of Sarah Marshall. When I shouted up at him that I was Sarah Marshall he called me a liar and accused me of consorting with witches. This interactive moment was a standout for me during the night.
Crowds on a Friday night did make most mazes a longer wait, but the wait times were often shorter than the posted times. I don’t believe we waited longer than 45 minutes to enter a maze. While some effort was put in to hide lines and add some theming near the entrance to the mazes, most lines were a series of metal dividers in a back and forth structure. Out of the 10 available mazes we experienced 6 of them in our 5 hours at Knott’s -- a success, given we chose a busy night. We enjoyed running through 3 of those mazes in quick succession, aided by the park’s layout. Mesmer, Bloodline 1889, Dark Entities, and Wax Works are all grouped in one of the back corners of the park and usually have wait times under 15 minutes in the last hour the park is open. Knott’s Scary Farm by no means uniquely struggles with line control within the landscape of amusement park haunts. Similarly to others, though, there is a clear discrepancy between the high amount of time the park anticipates guests spending in line and the low amount of themed content it provides in these lines, underutilizing, in most cases, the potential of the line space to create atmosphere and transition guests into the story.
The mazes we experienced included The Depths, Bloodline 1889, Mesmer, Dark Entities, Cinema Slashers, and Chilling Chambers. Some highlights:
The Depths’ lighting effects submerged us in an underwater layer, creating an illusion that I always enjoy.
Bloodline 1889 took a step back from last year, when we had been given laser guns to shoot and fight the vampires.This year we did not receive them, nor was there anything filling this interactive space. Logistical considerations may justify this (it was one of the last mazes of the night so either they weren’t doing the laser guns this late or it just wasn’t part of it this year), but it fell from the top of my list last year to being one of my least favorites.
Dark Entities and Mesmer embraced alien and clown tropes respectively, though neither provided enough new in the way of maze mechanics or setting to climb beyond the middle of my list. Though for those who particularly enjoy those tropes, both are decent explorations of each.
Chilling Chambers led us through a mausoleum of past mazes, a very fun new addition to honor Knott’s Scary Farm’s 50th Anniversary.
Cinemas Slashers was my personal favorite, a new maze that took you through a series of horror movie cinemas each highlighting a slasher film. The movie theater theme evolved as we progressed through the maze, as each progressive theater became more and more destroyed. And, the design immersed us in the setting right down to the smell of popcorn that greeted us when we entered
Classic staples of the park's mazes continue to provide enjoyment and scares, and likely give designers space to focus on each year's new offerings. It's clear, though, that Knott's Scary Farm is at its best when it continues to innovate new themes and interactions for returning guests.
In addition to their mazes, Knott’s also has several really fun scare zones and shows. I often found myself more scared in the scare zones than the mazes, never knowing when or where the next scare would come. Although I didn’t get to personally experience any of the shows this year, my other friends thoroughly enjoyed them (with more show offerings this year than in previous).
As always, Knott’s continues to impress with its design and storytelling woven into their mazes. Definitely don’t miss out on this year, you only have a few more chances before Halloween! The only drawback to my experience at Knotts was the crowds. Next year I will be attending earlier in the season, in the hopes of finding more new and old spooky delights at Knotts, with less of a wait time in between.
Editor’s Note: This review was written after attending Knott’s Scary Farm on Friday the 13th (of October) with several friends. Knott’s Scary Farm runs through October 31st and tickets start at $59.99, more information at https://www.knotts.com/events/scary-farm