Food, Fun, and Good Eats at Knott’s Berry Farm’s Taste of Boysenberry Festival
For the first time in over a year, it feels like there’s truly a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel. I got my first dose of the vaccine yesterday, case numbers are down, and places are slowly reopening. Knott’s Berry Farm is one of the latest to announce their grand reopening plans: they’ll be back to regular operations (albeit with limited capacity and new reservation requirements) on May 6th for season passholders and May 21st for the general public! Check out the announcement here.
While Knott’s hasn’t been operating in its traditional form over the past year, it has been paving the way for theme parks by hosting a series of safe but delightful tasting events. I had a scarily good time in September at the Knott’s Taste of Fall-O-Ween Festival, and I was thrilled to get back to the park a few weeks ago to check out the latest in the series, rejoicing in all things boysenberry. The Taste of Boysenberry Festival offers guests a chance to snack their way around the park, taking in colorful boysenberry, spring, and Easter-themed decor, enjoying socially distanced activities, and celebrating the fruit that Knott’s made famous, the boysenberry.
In my post reminiscing about last year’s Boysenberry Festival Tasting Preview (just days before we knew the world would be shutting down!), I also shared a bit about Knott’s Berry Farm’s history and why boysenberries are so special to Knott’s. In summary: we have Knott’s Berry Farm’s founder, Walter Knott, to thank for popularizing boysenberries. Knott’s Berry Farm started out as exactly what it sounds like but over the years grew into a full-fledged theme park with top-tier roller coasters, themed lands, Peanuts character meet-and-greets, and fabulous food. The Taste of Boysenberry Festival is a fantastic way to experience some of the best parts of what Knott’s Berry Farm has grown into while staying COVID-19 safe.
Keeping Things Safe
With the U.S. rapidly rolling out vaccines and case numbers looking significantly better than they did a few months ago, we may actually return to some normalcy soon—hallelujah! That said, we’re not through this just yet, so, before I get into the fun aspects of the event, let me be one more voice reminding you to play it safe until we’re fully out of the woods. Knott’s Berry Farm is taking guests’ safety very seriously with their tasting events and have implemented these measures:
- Park capacity is limited
- The vast majority of the event is outdoors, so there’s constant airflow
- Shops’ doors are kept open to keep air flowing through those, and some have separate entrances and exits marked
- All guests are required to pass through a temperature check station before entering
- Masks are required at all times, unless you’re seated at a table eating
- Tables are spaced far apart
- Queues for food are marked with lines to keep groups 6+ feet apart from each other
- Employees are protected by plastic barriers at cash registers, entry turnstiles, etc.
- Hand sanitizer is available throughout the park
- Restrooms and tables are cleaned frequently
You can read more about the safety measures for the event here.
I will say that there were a few bottlenecks in the park that felt a little over-crowded and required passing within six feet of others, if only for a few seconds. However, most areas were well spaced out, especially later in the afternoon and evening. If you’re concerned about crowds, you can definitely find alternate paths or stick to quieter areas. I’d recommend downloading the Knott’s app so you can reference a map any time you need to re-route yourself.
I’ve been scrupulous about social distancing throughout the pandemic and haven’t even seen the inside of a grocery store since March 2020. I did, however, feel comfortable at this event and was happy to find a safe way to experience something new. Only you can determine your own risk level, but I’ve been very impressed by the precautions Knott’s is taking.
A Boysenberry Feast
Love boysenberries? Stop reading this post, and get to Knott’s right now! Feel somewhat neutral about boysenberries? Okay, I’ll admit, as much as I love Knott’s, it’s not like I go out of my way to consume boysenberries. However you feel about these berries, I guarantee you’ll be singing their praises after tasting these dishes.
The Taste of Boysenberry Festival offers more than 80 boysenberry-related dishes and drinks, both savory and sweet—and plenty of vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, soybean-free, and gluten-free options too. I was pleased to see some of my favorites from last year’s media preview event back at the park plus plenty more to choose from. Our tasting cards granted us five items each (all huge portions!), and my mom and I agreed to split these so we could taste as many as possible.
First, we headed to the Boardwalk to try the boysenberry barbecue carne asada pizza with cilantro and onions. We paired that with the turkey sandwich on a Hawaiian bun with mixed greens and a boysenberry cranberry relish. I hate to say we peaked early, especially since everything we tried that day was delicious, but wow. If I had to recommend one thing to taste at the event, it’s definitely the pizza. The boysenberry flavoring was subtle in each dish, so it didn’t overpower the other flavors, but it did add a special touch to each.
Next up: a boysenberry cosmopolitan! As someone who’s all but given up cocktails in favor of red wine over the past few years, I expected this to be too sweet for my tastes, but boy was it tasty, sour, and refreshing.
Looking for a change of scenery, we found our way to Fiesta Village and tried a chicken tamale with boysenberry roja sauce over Spanish rice while sipping on a frosty boysenberry mai tai. The tamale filling varies from day to day, so I can’t speak to all of them, but the chicken version was tasty and a bit spicy. As with the other savory items, the boysenberry sauce was definitely subtle and not too sweet.
With only fifteen minutes or so until close, we found ourselves with five tastings left between our two cards. We grabbed a boysenberry barbecue brisket mac and cheese, red wine, and white sangria. Thank goodness for foil, because I wound up taking the mac and cheese to go, and it made the tastiest of side dishes at home the next night.
Then, because I will always associate Knott’s Berry Farm with Dippin’ Dots and funnel cakes, we made sure to pick up boysenberry Dippin’ Dots and the flavored funnel cake with boysenberry ice cream, lemon drizzle, and white chocolate sprinkles. We barely had any room left in our stomachs by this point, but both were hits. The boysenberry Dippin’ Dots are exclusive to this event, so don’t miss out!
My biggest advice for the Taste of Boysenberry Festival? Five tastings per adult or three tastings per child is a lot with these portion sizes. Pace yourself, break up the food with drinks, and consider bringing Ziploc bags or Tupperware. The event provides great bang for your buck, especially if you’re able to enjoy leftovers over the next few days.
Theme park food in general may not have the best reputation, but Knott’s tasting events will make you question everything you thought you knew about dining at an amusement park. These items weren’t merely “good for theme park food.” They were just plain delicious. You can view a full list of food and drinks offered at the event here.
Beyond the Tastings
Though Knott’s Berry Farms rides and shows are closed during the pandemic, the Taste of Boysenberry Festival offered more than tasty treats alone. Over 20 artisan crafters set up shop around the park, selling boysenberry wares and other handmade gifts. Carnival games are open at the Boardwalk, and you can catch a live performance by Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies on the Calico Mine Stage.
The Taste of Boysenberry Festival also features a virtual, QR code-based Easter egg scavenger hunt. Follow the clues and riddles for a tour of the park that ends in a fun surprise. We’ve been sorely missing escape rooms during the pandemic, and this was a great way to tease our puzzle-loving brains—though it’s also not too challenging, so kids can have fun with it too.
I’m always impressed by Knott’s holiday theming, and they delighted again with both boysenberry and spring/Easter-themed decorations all over the park. And while you’re enjoying that decor, you can also meet Peanuts characters and the Easter Bunny himself at a safe distance. Photo opportunities galore!
How to Experience the Taste of Boysenberry Festival
Knott’s Berry Farm’s Taste of Boysenberry Festival kicked off last month and will be running select dates until May 2nd, so you still have a few weeks to check it out! Tasting cards are your ticket into the event, and an adult tasting card, offering five tastings of your choice, costs $45. Kids 3-11 get in for just $20, with three tastings on their card. Season Passholders save an additional 10%, and parking is free for all. Tickets for the remaining weeks are selling out quick, but you can purchase your tickets here.
Can’t make it in time for the Taste of Boysenberry Festival? Knott’s is back to celebrate it’s 100th Anniversary with rides, other great food, and more starting May 6th for season passholders and May 21st for the general public. Tickets will be on sale starting April 26th.
It’s been a rough year for all of us, but Knott’s Berry Farm has really been a beacon of fun for me. I hope a visit can bring you some joy as well! Bon appétit!