OldWestNewWest.com: History & Travel Magazine

Feb 18th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Things to Do Resorts / Theme Parks Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Silver Dollar City Offering Plenty of Old West Fun for Summer Visitors

Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Silver Dollar City Offering Plenty of Old West Fun for Summer Visitors

Hits smaller text tool iconmedium text tool iconlarger text tool icon
Take a bit of the Old West, mix in a hair-raising thrill ride or two, and what do you get? A great way to have fun on this year's family summer vacation.

For 2010 Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, both in Southern California, and Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, offer great combinations of fun rides and touches of Western heritage for the family.

Here's a quick run down of what's going on at the three parks for this summer season.


Since the park opened in Anaheim, California in 1955, Frontierland has been a major attraction. One of the centerpieces is Tom Sawyer's Island, along with the paddlewheeler Mark Twain sailing on the Rivers of America. For 2010, the waterway not only got a good scrubbing, but several upgrades for visitors to see.

Disneyland crews drained the concrete-bottomed waterway in January, cleaned it (no treasures were found, just a few cell phones), added some new shoreline scenes, then refilled the river with 6 million gallons of recycled water. Crews also installed a new 2,500-foot track to guide the Mark Twain and the Sailing Ship Columbia, the first new track since the park's 1955 opening.

But the biggest change for 2010 is to the character of the river. Known since 1955 as the Rivers of America, the river was called that in name only. Now, the waterway represents four of America's great rivers: the Mississippi, the Columbia, the Potomac and the Rio Grande.

Each section has a distinct look, with Disney crews planting more than 4,000 shrubs and 130 trees to represent the distinctive vegetation found along each river. For example, evergreens and ferns were planted for the Columbia, while pinon pines, manzanita grasses and red shoreline rocks give a feel of the Rio Grande. The Mississippi section has a somewhat swampy look, with weeping willows and weeping juniper.

New features include a change of residence at the old settler's cabin; Mike Fink (from Disney's Davy Crockett TV show of the 1950s) now lives there, and his keel boat the Gullywhumper is out in front.

There also are 10 new figures to see along the shoreline, including two American Indian warriors scouting.

Other fun "Wild West" offerings for Frontierland guests to enjoy still include Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain. Oh, and don't forget New Orleans Square and the Haunted Mansion.

Over on Main Street, USA, "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," a beloved Disneyland attraction for nearly 45 years and a historic landmark in the development of Audio-Animatronics technology, has reopened.

The new Lincoln figure and an enriched presentation that combines the best elements of the park's original 1965 show and the most advanced technical enhancements, that make for the most lifelike and expressive Lincoln figure yet. (The show first opened at the 1964 New York World's Fair.)

Upon entering the Main Street Opera House, guests encounter a redesigned lobby, including both The Disneyland Story - an entertaining display of the past, present and future of Disneyland - and a separate presentation of items relating to Abraham Lincoln's life and work.

In the auditorium, guests will first view an onscreen program about Lincoln and the Civil War that features digitally enhanced versions of pictures and sound created for past versions of the show along with new material.

Next, Lincoln takes the stage to deliver his speech. When the 15-minute show concludes, guests exit through a gallery depicting notable Americans who have followed in Lincoln's footsteps and continue to inspire others in areas such as perseverance, innovation and imagination.

For more information, visit the Web site at

Knott's Berry Farm

With a history that dates back to 1920 when Walter and Cordelia Knott moved to Buena Park, California to begin farming, Knott's Berry Farm holds the title of America's first theme park and currently is the 12th most-visited amusement park in the country.

While Knott's has expanded its attractions to include some of the fastest and wildest thrill rides in the country, the heart and soul of the park remains Knott's Ghost Town. It's an 1880s California Boom Town with cowboys, gunfights, stage-coaches, a steam train, the world's first log flume ride and panning for real gold. Its many historic buildings and artifacts help transport visitors back more than 100 years.

But along with the historic look and feel, Knott's Ghost Town offers plenty of thrills, including:

  • Bigfoot Rapids, a thrilling, outdoor whitewater river raft ride that will bounce, toss, spin and splash passengers as they brave fast moving currents and dodge soaring geysers as they experience the unforgettable fun of shooting the rapids.
  • GhostRider, the single-largest attraction in park history and one of the longest and tallest wooden roller coasters in the world. Brave riders enter a mysterious mine, only to be strapped into mining cars and sent along 4,533 feet of twisting, unforgiving timber.
  • Pony Express, delivering a horseback relay at speeds never imagined in the Old West! While sitting astride one of the team's 16 horses, riders leave their post with their steed launching them at a speed of 0-38 mph in less than three seconds. The team covers a 1,300 foot route which takes them past Boot Hill and Big Foot Rapids resulting in an exhilarating runaway adventure.
  • Silver Bullet, Knott's first suspended coaster, sends riders climbing to a height of 146 feet and soaring back down an initial drop of 109 feet. Riders spiral, corkscrew, fly into a cobra roll, and experience overbanked curves. Overall, riders find themselves upside down six times including one vertical loop of 105 feet.

For those looking for something milder to enjoy, Knott's still offers the Calico Railroad, one of the last year-round operating narrow gauge railroads, which departs daily from Ghost Town Station for a round-trip tour of the Park, and the Butterfield Stagecoach, an original Butterfield Stage that takes visitors for a rowdy ride back through time.

Don't forget to enjoy Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, serving up Cordelia Knott's fried chicken, homemade biscuits and boysenberry pies since 1934. Located outside the main gate of Knott's Berry Farm, this family dining institution actually formed the basis for the theme park itself.

For more information, visit the Web site at

Silver Dollar City

Silver Dollar City marks its 50th year in 2010, celebrating with a year-long party, a new $7 million ride, special birthday events, top names in entertainment, new shows for each of its six world-class festivals, and $50,000 in prize give-aways.

When the Herschend family opened Silver Dollar City on May 1, 1960, atop the famed Marvel Cave, the park featured a town square, a demonstrating blacksmith, a general store and ice cream parlor, and a crew of 17 "citizens" who ran the shops and performed street shows. Guests numbered about 125,000 that first year.

The park now entertains 2 million guests annually, covering more than 100 acres and featuring 100 craftsmen, 30 rides and attractions, six world-class festivals, and dozens of theaters and restaurants, claiming the title The Home of American Craftsmanship.

New for this year is the $7 million ride Tom & Huck's RiverBlast - America's Biggest Water Battle, a super-soaking water raft ride themed around the adventures of fun-loving, mischief-makers Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

Raft riders, armed with water soakers, navigate the Mighty White River, battling raft-to-raft and raft-to-shore, dodging even more streams of water from sharp shooters ashore. The park warns riders that they will get wet, and they mean it.

The celebration heats up in summer during America's largest kids' festival, KidsFest, taking place June through August, where the new ride adventure Tom & Huck's RiverBlast takes top billing. Also featured are a major new stunt dog show and Silver Dollar City's Famous Friends - appearances by kid-favorite costumed characters including SpongeBob & Patrick, Shaggy & Scooby Doo, The Jetsons, The Flintstones and the Backyardigans.

Silver Dollar City, an 1880s theme park located near Branson, Missouri, presents six world-class festivals from April through December. The 55-acre park has 12 stage venues, 22 rides, 12 restaurants, and 60 shops. For more information, visit the Web site at
www.bransonsilverdollarcity.com .

Things to Do