A berrylicious experience at Knott’s Berry Farm’s Boysenberry Festival

In my 30+ years living in Southern California, I have never been to Knott’s Berry Farm’s Boysenberry Festival. But one of my earliest memories of Knott’s is the boysenberry punch inside of little fruit- and animal-shaped plastic bottles sold on a cart stacked on a mound of ice. My mom would get one for me and the Knott’s employee would take out a kitchen shear and snip the green top off – old-school souvenir sippy cup. I just remember how sweet and tangy the punch was and that it was ice cold.

In the 1930’s, Anaheim Parks Superintendent Rudolph Boysen experimented with a new strain of berries but the plants kept dying. Walter Knott nurtured the plants back to health and named them “boysenberry” - a cross between a loganberry, red raspberry, and blackberry. All the world’s boysenberries can be traced back to Knott’s Berry Farm. The berries are what launched their jam and jelly business, followed by home-baked pies, hot biscuits, sandwiches, and their famous fried chicken dinner. The park itself was built around the Chicken Dinner Restaurant, feeding as many as 4,000 dinners on Sunday evenings. Walter developed Ghost Town to pay homage to the pioneering spirit of his grandparents and his love of the Old West. This also gave his guests something to do while they waited to be seated at the restaurant. This became the first of six themed areas of what we now know as Knott’s Berry Farm Theme Park.

A lot has changed since my first visit in the 1970’s and now they have an entire festival built around the boysenberry that started it all. Knott’s Boysenberry Festival is located in Ghost Town. This food festival runs from April 1 through April 23, 2017 and features one-of-a-kind boysenberry inspired dishes and drinks along with live entertainment and fun for the whole family. You can purchase tasting cards for $25 at the California Store, Little Spurs, General Store, Ghost Town Candy, Gold Trails Hotel, Spurs Chophouse, Ghost Town Refresh Stand, Pemmican Pickle, Calico Saloon, Ghost Town Bakery, Sutter’s Grill, and Ghost Town Mix-it-up.

Stop #1 – Boysenberry BBQ Meatballs at Bank of Calico. I’ve been to many tastings in my foodie career and expected one-to-two bite-sized tastings at each stop. For the Boysenberry Festival, this is not the case. A stick of three pretty good sized meatballs are slathered with Knott’s Boysenberry BBQ Sauce and grilled a touch before serving. Since it was only 9 a.m. and we had skipped breakfast, it definitely hit the spot. The meaty, juicy meatballs work well with the BBQ sauce. I normally do not care for sweet BBQ sauce, but the boysenberry flavor pairs well in this case.

  • Tip: While feasting on boysenberry delights, opt for the red $29.99 sipper cup to quench your thirst. It can be filled with a cold drink of your choice (boysenberry punch is my favorite) all-day, every day in 2017. If you have a family that doesn’t mind sharing a drink, it is a great deal. 6-7 refills will more than pay for it. On hot days, the hubby and I would easily refill a sipper cup about 5-6 times during the day so it is well worth it. If you have a Season Pass, the deal is even better. Just don’t forget to bring the cup with you.

Stop #2 – Boysenberry Fry Bread at Churro Factory. I would hit this one first as the fry bread is made to order and the line can get very long. But it is well worth the wait! Again, this tasting is HUGE! The Indian fry bread is about 8 inches long and 4-5 inches wide. After it is fried, it is rolled in a cinnamon-sugar mixture, cut in half, and filled with Nutella and boysenberry filling. I love Indian fry bread and this creation was fantastic. If a churro and a fruit filled donut had a baby, it would be this! The Nutella is not necessary as the boysenberry and cinnamon overtake the chocolate flavor. It is a messy one so grab lots of napkins!

Stop #3 – Boysenberry Buffalo Wings at Gold Trails Hotel. I love wings! These four wings are tender and juicy, grilled slightly, and tossed in a boysenberry buffalo wing sauce. I think it could be a little spicier and less sweet. I would also prefer a crispier exterior on the wing for a textural contrast.

Stop #4 – Boysenberry Ravioli at Spurs Chophouse. This is a very interesting and creative dish, but I think it would work better as a sweet blintz with a boysenberry sauce. The pasta has a light purple color and the interior is a very beautiful purple with the boysenberries mixed with the ricotta cheese inside. I love the cheese sauce and it would be great on fettucine with chicken.

Stop #5 – Boysenberry Panna Cotta. This is the one dish I wanted to try all day!!! And it didn’t disappoint. The panna cotta is thick and creamy with sweet, tangy boysenberry flavor. The boysenberry topping punches the boysenberry forward. The almond crumble adds a crunch textural element. I love this dessert! I hope they permanently add it to one of the restaurant dessert menus!

Stop #6 – Boysenberry Pizza at Wagon Wheel Pizza. I am not big on amusement park pizza but I have to say, this pizza is amazing! It looks like it is going to be sweet, but it actually leans more toward the savory side. The boysenberry cream cheese base is very subtle as the bleu cheese and caramelized onions punch through with their salty, zingy flavor. The arugula adds a little bitter flavor as the boysenberry sauce balances it out with its sweet tanginess.

During the Boysenberry Festival, you can also do a Wine & Craft Brew Tasting. The tasting is $25 and includes 6 wine/beer tastings and includes small bites pairing with cheese, fruit, and nuts.

Ace Berry Premium Craft Cider is light and berry forward in flavor. If you like berry flavors and hard cider, you’ll love this. It reminds me of a hard soda. I love it!

Knott’s Berry Farm’s Boysenberry Beer is a light and crisp beer. It has a subtle tart boysenberry flavor hits you on the end of the palate.

There are even more inventive and creative boysenberry dishes to try in addition to the tasting card. Get your fill of boysenberries at Knott’s Berry Farm’s Boysenberry Festival now through April 23, 2017!

For more information:

  • 2017 Season Pass: $91 for all ages 3+, valid through 12/31/2017
  • 2017 Gold Pass: $108 includes admission to Knott’s Berry Farm and Soak City Waterpark, for all ages 3+, valid through 12/31/2017
  • 2017 Platinum Pass: $210 – 48” and taller, $168 – under 48” or age 62+, included admission to Knott’s Berry Farm, Soak City Waterpark, and all Cedar Fair Parks plus parking, valid through 12/31/2017
  • Single Day Admission: $75 ($42 if purchased online) – ages 12 to 61, $45 – ages 3 to 11 or age 62+
  • After 4 P.M.: $45 – all ages
  • Knott’s Boysenberry Festival Tasting Card: $25, valid April 1, 2017 through April 23, 2017, includes 6 tastings
  • Knott’s Boysenberry Festival Wine and Craft Brew Tasting Card: $25, ages 21+, 6 tastings of wine and/or craft beer and small-bite pairing