Events & Attractions

Opening Weekend at Knott’s Scary Farm 2017

Knott’s Scary Farm has always held a special place in my heart as one of my favorite local haunts.  In high school, my friends and I would attend it annually.  It’s been the Halloween home of Elvira Mistress of the Dark for a number of years.  I worked it for a single season as talent in Tales from the Inquisition and 15 years ago my now wife and I attended Scary Farm on our very first date.  2017 marked the 45th season of Knott’s Scary Farm and it was also announced back in July at Midsummer Scream that it would be Elvira’s last year at Knott’s Scary Farm, so this year was a must-attend year for me.  For 2017, Knott’s Scary Farm introduced three new mazes: Dark Ride, Pumpkin Eater, and the re-imagined Trick or Treat: Lights Out.  Returning mazes for 2017 included Voodoo: Order of the Serpent, Paranormal Inc., The Toothfairy, Special Ops Infected, The Red Barn, and Shadow Lands.  This past Friday, September 22 my wife and I attended the second night of opening weekend and here’s how it went!

In 2015 we took advantage of the Knott’s Scary Farm hotel packages for the first time and opted to do the same this year.  We prefer the Haunted Dreams Package because it includes hotel stay, admission to Knott’s Scary Farm with early access, an exclusive Knott’s Scary Farm t-shirt, collectible Knott’s Scary Farm hotel key cards, a pre-scare dinner at the Knott’s Hotel and a breakfast buffet.

After checking into the hotel we kicked off our evening with the pre-scare dinner.  That atmosphere for the pre-scare dinner is perfect for getting you in the mood for a night of spooky fun.  The dining room is dimly lit and features a variety of Halloween decorations and Scary Farm talent even makes an appearance throughout dinner to give you a little scare, and maybe even insult you a little, but it’s all in fun.

Knott's Scary Farm Pre-Scare Dinner entrance
Entrance to the Knott’s Scary Farm Pre-Scare Dinner at Knott’s Hotel

The pre-scare dinner is buffet style with a variety of delicious food options including Mrs. Knotts’ famous fried chicken, mashed potatoes and country gravy, a delicious brisket that is so tender it practically melts in your mouth, pasta, various other sides desserts and more.  If your reservations are early enough attending the buffet will also grant you early access to Knott’s Scary Farm 30 minutes before it opens to the rest of the public.  Something we’ve found to be a huge benefit to this particular package.

Knott's Scary Farm Pre-Scare Dinner talent
My wife with one of the interesting characters that made a stop at our table during the Pre-Scare Dinner.

After dinner, we spent a little bit of time browsing the shops outside of the park before taking advantage of the early entry that came as part of our hotel package.  With the package, we were able to enter the park at 6:30 PM and begin experiencing mazes before the rest of the guests would start flooding in at 7 PM.  Since early entry comes in right next to Ghost Rider we opted to tackle the cluster of mazes that are tucked away into this corner of the park, starting with the all-new Trick or Treat: Lights Out.

Trick or Treat has been part of Knott’s Scary Farm’s maze lineup since 2012, but for 2017 Knott’s Scary Farm designer John Cooke wanted to breathe new life into the maze by creating a familiar, but new experience for Scary Farm attendees.  To do that the maze’s facade got a facelift, a new series of rooms were added, oh yeah, and they turned the lights out.

The entrance to Trick or Treat: Lights Out
The new facade for Trick or Treat: Lights Out

One of the most anticipated elements of the new Trick or Treat experience was the inclusion of each guest getting a flashlight as they enter the maze that reacts to the various sections of the maze you’re in.  I was skeptical of the flashlights at first since this was their first year in action, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the flashlights actually worked and did, in fact, add an added element of fun to the maze experience.  As you make your way through the maze your light will help you see your way through, reveal hidden messages scrawled on the walls, and of course, they occasionally flicker and give out on you to enhance the scare factor.  The new Trick or Treat was a lot of fun and despite its long tenure as a Scary Farm maze, I hope breathing this new life into the maze means it will stick around for years to come.  My only regret with hitting Trick or Treat: Lights Out first is that I feel like the fact it was still light out impacted the experience a little bit in outdoor sections of the maze, like the patio and greenhouse.

The next maze we hit was Voodoo: Order of the Serpent.  While much of this maze is still very familiar if you’ve visited in past year’s, the fact they reversed the direction was a bit refreshing.  As you make your way through the swamps in Voodoo you’ll come in contact with an interesting cast of characters ranging from witch doctors to redneck swamp folk who aren’t too keen on the idea that you’re trespassing in their house.  Like Trick Or Treat, I feel the fact that it was still light out when we entered this maze killed some of the scare factor as the maze seemed pretty well lit by outside light for most of the walkthrough.

Our third maze of the night was The Toothfairy.  If the dentist gives you anxiety, this maze will wreck you.  It wrecked my wife this year.  Though we went through this maze when we attended in 2015 and she did fine, something about this year’s maze was just too much and she left the maze a total wreck.  For context, my wife is rarely ever phased by haunts, so for this to get to her the way it did, you know it’s pretty messed up.  Filled with the sound of dental drills, bloody teeth, and demented dentists and victims tacked up throughout the maze this is what happens when the tale of the Tooth Fairy gets twisted and a tooth fairy takes more than just your teeth.

Thanks to early entry and minimal lines, we got through our first three mazes of the night in about 20 minutes.  There was a fourth maze in this section of the park, Paranormal Inc., which we had experienced in 2015 and opted to skip in an effort to get to the other side of the park to experience the new Dark Ride maze.

Entrance and marquee for the Dark Ride maze
Entrance to Dark Ride

By the time we reached Dark Ride some of the regular guests had begun entering the park and we had a small wait before getting into this one.  Dark Ride was another highly anticipated maze for 2017 as it took you into the bowels of a Castle of Chaos carnival dark ride full of clowns, evil carnies and all sorts of other creepy stuff.  Dark Ride was my favorite maze of 2017 and there was so much going on and so much detail I almost wish I could go back through and do a walking tour of the maze just to take in all of the atmosphere this maze brings.

What’s fun about Dark Ride is that it incorporates “scares” that would be part of the original dark ride itself with animated monsters and special effects, but then it layers the scares of the talent within the maze on top of it.  As you make your way deeper into the maze many areas of the maze walkways turn into larger scenes that really give you a sense of the bizarre world this dark ride now houses.  The more open layout also seemed to give the scare talent a bit more freedom to move around and scare maze-goers from a variety of angles and at least in a few instances corner them without disrupting the flow of the maze too much.

Our next stop was Pumpkin Eater, another new maze for 2017.  Pumpkin Eater brings to life the Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater rhyme we all learned as kids, though I don’t remember it being this dark.  As you make your way through Pumpkin Eater you encounter a range of characters including women captive in pumpkin shells, women with their faces carved like pumpkins, and then ultimately you’ll find yourself deep in a giant pumpkin shell, guts, seeds, and all.  Without spoiling too much, just beware, some parts of this pumpkin are rather…juicy.

This was another really good maze and I think the maze design, lighting, and characters were incredible.

The last maze we hit for the night was The Red Barn.  The Red Barn debuted last year, so this was the first we’d experienced the maze and weren’t really sure what to expect.  The Red Barn has that rural, cult-like creepy feel to it and you sense that the second you get in line and start hearing the announcements over the PA where an obvious member of the group tries to make you feel good about what you’re getting into as a cover-up for something obviously much more sinister.

The Red Barn sign

The Red Barn has a bit of a show element to it, so for this maze guests are pulsed through a handful at a time.  When you enter you’re instantly thrust into the insanity of The Red Barn and immediately warned about what you’ve gotten yourself into and now it’s time to find your way out.  As you make your way through The Red Barn you almost feel like an animal being herded through cages for slaughter, which is likely the feel they were going for, but it’s definitely a noticeable element.  Along the way, you’ll come in contact with both friend and foe, a friend in other victims who are working to help you escape and foe in the collective of hillbilly’s trying to keep you there.  And just when you think you’ve made your way out…they bust out chainsaws.  Real ones.

We ended the night with the two shows: The Hanging and Elvira Mistress of the Dark.

The Hanging, as always, was crude, anything but PC, and probably more politically driven this year than I remember in year’s past.  There were a few good laughs during the performance, and surprisingly even a few jokes that I cringed at, feeling this might have gone a little too far, but in reality, it’s basically what you expect when it comes to The Hanging.  I won’t spoil who they hang this year, but when they finally reveal their victim you’ll recognize what an obvious choice it was.

Our last show of the night was Elvira Mistress of the Dark.  With it being her final year Elvira had promised to go out on top and she definitely brought an exciting stage show to round out her Knott’s Scary Farm career.  Pulling from past performances at Scary Farm as well as the original Elvira Mistress of the Dark film, there is the perfect balance of nostalgia, boob jokes, and song and dance numbers to really keep you entertained.

Elvira tied to a stake about to be burned during her stage show at Knott's Scary Farm
Elvira about to be burned at the stake during her Knott’s Scary Farm performance

One thing we noticed is that people are definitely taking note of the fact this is Elvira’s final year and are lining up early.  We attended the first show and the line was basically full at about 20 minutes to show time, so if you want seats in the lower levels of the theater I would strongly suggest lining up early.  If you’re a big fan of Elvira you’ll also want to pop into the shop across from the theater after the show to check out some of the merchandise available featuring The Queen of Halloween, including some special promotional packages that include a pictorial souvenir book looking back at Elvira’s Knott’s Scary Farm career and signed by The Mistress of the Dark herself.

The shop also has on display a few of the costumes Elvira has worn during her Knott’s Scary Farm performances in past years.

Overall I think 2017 was a really successful year for Knott’s Scary Farm. They built a lot of buzz leading up to this year’s haunt and I think they delivered. All of the mazes were strong, the scare zones looked incredible and it was an overall great experience. If you are planning to head out to Scary Farm this year we highly suggest you take advantage of some of the special packages they offer that give early entry. It was definitely worth it. We were able to complete everything we wanted to do by 11:00 p.m. and never really hit any serious wait times for the mazes. Want to see more from this year’s Knott’s Scary Farm? Check out this recap from our friends over at Theme Park Duo featuring a ton of great pictures from opening night.

Knott’s Scary Farm 2017 runs on select dates through October 31. Tickets to the event are on sale now.

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