Jolene goes to the Boysenberry Festival 2019
I'm sure by now it's no secret that I practically bleed Disney, so attending another Southern Californian theme park is not normally on my radar. However, I started following various theme park blogs last year to help me plan my Disney World vacation and have subsequently found myself unable to escape the numerous social media posts and ever-growing popularity of Knott's Berry Farm's Boysenberry Festival. I already had a lot of fun plans in the month of April, but when one of those plans was cancelled, I thought, why not try this thing out?
I hadn't been to Knott's Berry Farm since I was a teenager, which was more than a decade ago, but I have plenty of fond memories of ice skating shows, Snoopy, and laughing at our photos from the Timber Mountain Log Ride. I scoured the internet for information about the Boysenberry Festival, curious about the food offerings and what had changed at Knott's since I'd last been there. During my investigation, I found myself feeling increasingly nostalgic and developing a strong desire to visit.
First thing's first: Knott's is considerably cheaper than any Disney Park. A Disneyland ticket alone will put you in triple-digit spending territory, while Knott's is still a relatively economical option. I grabbed my discounted tickets on Goldstar; be sure to check several different ticket outlets before purchasing!
While perusing through some theme park blogs, I stumbled upon this blog, which helped me understand a lot of things about Knott's Berry Farm. I highly recommend her blog(s) for better appreciation of Knott's Berry Farm's history, and how to appropriately appreciate it. I also used Janey's Knott's Berry Farm Guide to help plan my day.
A little about Boysenberries Boysenberries were not "invented" by Walter Knott, but originally cultivated by Rudolph Boysen. When he had a severe accident and the plants were failing, Walter Knott swooped in and nursed them back to life, being the first to commercially developed what he named boysenberries. The deep maroon fruit is a cross between several different kinds of berries, and is widely considered a variety of blackberry. The reason we don't see more of them? Boysenberries have a short shelf life, are almost too delicate to transport, due to their high moisture content and thin skin.
What do boysenberries even taste like? Well, to me they taste a bit like a blueberry; not very tart, a little on the sweeter side. I personally really like the taste of boysenberry!
The Boysenberry Festival
The Knott's Berry Farm Boysenberry Festival is not separate from the theme park; in fact, it takes place right in the park, so admission is required. The Festival runs between March and April, featuring more boysenberry dishes than you could imagine (both sweet and savory), special entertainment, and plenty of boysenberry-themed merchandise. There are also several booths showcasing local businesses, artisans and crafters with plenty of specialty items for sale. This was one of my favorite parts, seeing a large entity like Knott's giving small, independently-owned businesses some limelight.
ABOUT MY DAY
A few things to note before I write this terribly long post and bombard you with all things boysenberry: Stefani and I are not into rides. Yes, we are wimps (although Stef truly isn't at her core). We were not interested in trying to cram in a bunch of attractions; we were visiting Knott's primarily for the Boysenberry Festival, and second, just to enjoy the park itself.
Honestly, my plans were thwarted first thing in the morning: the first ride on my itinerary was closed, and then we decided to roam the entire park while sipping on boysenberry lattes and examining the sights.
PRO TIP: HEAD TO THE BACK OF THE PARK EARLY IN THE DAY. GRAB A YUMMY BOYSENBERRY LATTE AT THE GOURMET COFFEE HUT. AND YES, THEY HAVE MILK ALTERNATIVES!
Eventually we got on a couple rides and began our boysenberry adventure!
We purchased our tasting cards from the Calico Saloon in Ghost Town, a $35 card with tear-off 'tickets' that allow guests to choose from 14 boysenberry food options. It's a great deal for the price, since most of the food a la carte was at least $6. In addition, we learned that the tasting card saved us from standing in extra lines. We found out much later that if guests wanted an a la carte item, they had to wait in line to purchase that, then head over to the booth (and wait in the line there) to get the food itself. Keep in mind that 8 tastings is a LOT! The portion sizes aren't that large, but they're not small either.
Each tasting item has a designated number, and on the flipside of the tasting card, there is a map with the locations of the corresponding tasting items. All of the Boysenberry Festival items are located in Ghost Town, not all over the park.
PRO TIP: TRY NOT TO EAT DURING COMMON MEAL TIMES! WE STARTED EATING 'LUNCH' EARLY, SO THE LINES WEREN'T TOO CRAZY.
We began with the item that I noticed most bloggers rave about: Boysenberry elote, Mexican grilled corn with a boysenberry twist. I'd never tried elote because it never really appealed to me, but I took the reviews into consideration and tried it. It was so good! The corn was freshly roasted, then slathered with boysenberry deliciousness. Even though it was a savory item, the boysenberry came through without overpowering the whole thing. In fact, it was so good that Stefani took a bite of mine and decided to get one of her own!
Next, we continued our food journey with more boysenberry options - boysenberry dry rubbed flank steak with boysenberry cream cheese topping, and boysenberry pot roast over boysenberry mashed potatoes. The flank steak was alright, but lacked the boysenberry flair I was seeking. The pot roast, however, was absolutely heavenly. The pot roast was tender, ever so slightly sweet, and the mashed potatoes were swirled with boysenberries.
In-between stuffing our faces with food, we enjoyed every charming crevice Knott's has to offer. While most guests visit for its thrill rides, it's called a theme park for a reason! We took cute photos, wandered in and out of shops, and soaked in the Western charm of Knott's. Sure, Knott's is no Disney, but it has its own quaint, vintage-Californian vibe that only comes with time. Let's not forget that Knott's was open before Disneyland!
When we got full, we decided to venture out of Ghost Town and watch some shows and explore other parts of the park. We enjoyed the serenity of the Sky Cabin, the slapstick comedy and exciting stunts at the Wild West Stunt Show, and took a voyage under the sea to defeat a very aggressive steampunk octopus.
Before too long, we were at it again with the boysenberry treats. I went for the boysenberry jerk chicken wings, while Stefani tried the boysenberry pulled pork tostada and took a very spicy chance on the boysenberry habanero mac n' cheese.
We took a train down memory lane next, with a magical experience at the Mystery Lodge, then onto the Calico Mine Ride. Both of these attractions brought back so many memories for me! It was wonderful experiencing them yet again.
Another part of Knott's I really enjoyed were all of the specialty items and shops. There are so many rustic, charming offerings at Knott's, and one of those offerings is a geode. According to the note I received with my geode, a geode is a "hollow rock with crystals inside." There is a large tray outside of the geode shop, where guests can choose a geode and have it cut open. I took my chances and ended up with a very unique geode; maybe it's not the most sparkly, but it has a lovely pink hue from hermatite deposits. Every geode is unique and completely mysterious. While the price tag is not so light, bringing home a geode is a special souvenir to bring home.
The geode shop also has a very extensive collection of gorgeous rocks, fossils, and all things sparkly!
Finally, the sun started to set, and strings of mason jar lights started to twinkle in the treetops. After evading a long line all day, we finally got in line for another nostalgic ride: The Timber Mountain Log Ride. Even though it had started to cool down, the ride was still quite fun. Different from more ~famous rides like Disney's Splash Mountain, the Timber Mountain Log Ride is truly a log flume ride; it's fast, smooth, and full of character.
By this point, I still had 4 tastings left but I could barely eat! I forced myself to get the boysenberry glazed salmon with side salad and boysenberry vinaigrette, along with the boysenberry BBQ chicken skewers with boysenberry aioli.
Overall, we did what we came to do: EAT. I definitely did not make it even close to the 8 tastings included with the card. I don't have the biggest stomach, but I thought spacing out the tastings would help... it didn't. So, here is a photo of me giving up:
Even though this was not my typical theme park day (with a very full, strict itinerary to jam-pack as much in as possible), it was perfect for what I needed that day. Knott's Berry Farm may not be up to the standard that Disney has created, but Knott's is an OG Californian staple. It's a quirky theme park with humble beginnings, celebrating the gritty Western days of this side of the States. From the weathered buildings of Ghost Town to the totally rad 80's vibes of the Boardwalk, Knott's Berry Farm has something for everyone, especially if you love boysenberries!
Would you try any of these unique boysenberry dishes?
Until next time,