This post is sponsored by Visit Buena Park. All opinions are my own.
Buena Park, California is best known as the home to the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park. While it has humble rural and agricultural beginnings, the area has grown into a bustling destination for family fun and entertainment more generally.
When my family heads to Southern California, we usually spend the bulk of our time at Disneyland. But now that my kids are a little older and ready for a few of the bigger thrill rides Knott’s Berry Farm is known for, we jumped at the invitation from Visit Buena Park to experience a different kind of SoCal family vacation.
I had been to Buena Park in my travels before, but this was a first visit for my kids. I’m relieved we didn’t wait any longer because we were pleasantly surprised to discover how much Buena Park has for families with younger kids too – not just teens who want to ride roller coasters! We found multiple offerings that worked for both my thrill-seeking teen as well as my more cautious 3rd grader.
If you are considering a Buena Park vacation as well, here are the top things to do, see, eat, and experience in the area, full of all the best tips learned from our travel experiences.
Buena Park Basics
Before diving into what there is to do in Buena Park, let’s address the obvious – exactly where is Buena Park? While it’s a city that a lot of Southern California locals have certainly heard of, it’s not a household name for everyone.
The city of Buena Park is located in Orange County, California which is south of Los Angeles. It’s northwest of the city of Anaheim just about 15 minutes down the road from Disneyland. As a result, it’s a very popular destination to combine with a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth. A lot of travelers also use it as a home base for other explorations in greater Los Angeles.
Where to Fly for a Buena Park Vacation
For visitors coming from afar, Buena Park is exceptionally easy to reach by air thanks to its location in the greater Los Angeles metro area. The closest airport is Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (SNA), but Long Beach (LGB) is nearly equally close. Both are about a 20-30 minute drive depending on traffic.
The largest airport in the area is Los Angeles International (LAX), which is about 30 miles away. Depending on traffic, drive time to and from LAX can be anywhere from about 40 mins to an hour or more. LAX has more flight options for travelers coming from the East Coast or Midwest, but for travelers coming from Western states, the smaller airports can’t be beat for easy logistics and low crowds.
We flew into LGB and out of SNA (on Southwest Airlines from our home airport of Oakland), which allowed us to maximize time doing fun things in Buena Park rather than having to navigate a massive international airport. Get more tips for these airports and ground transportation options in my guide to where to fly for a Disneyland vacation.
How Long Should You Spend in Buena Park?
If you are planning a vacation in Buena Park, how much time do you need? Buena Park is ideal for a weekend getaway, so 2-3 days focusing on just the attractions within town is about right.
We spent almost exactly 48 hours in Buena Park on our most recent trip. In that time, we knocked a lot of the top attractions off of our list. That said, we had a very full schedule during our stay and still have several more things to do on our wish list for next time. So if you have more time, take it!
If you plan to use Buena Park as a home base to visit Disneyland or other Los Angeles attractions, you’ll want to plan a longer stay. Anywhere from 3-7 days would be ideal for a vacation that includes Buena Park and other area offerings.
What is the Best Age to Take Kids to Buena Park?
At the time of our visit, my kids were 13 and 9, both of which were great ages for the city’s top sights. If you are coming from farther afield, I’d say wait until your kids are at least of elementary school age. This way, they’ll be able to stay up later for evening shows or enjoy a Knott’s thrill ride or two to maximize the value of a vacation in Buena Park.
That said, Buena Park certainly has plenty of things to do with toddlers and preschoolers. Usually it’s more locals who take advantage of these younger kid offerings though. If you are a family with kids of a wide age spread, know that there are definitely things to do for little ones too.
Buena Park is also an ideal fit for an adults-only getaway as the city has plenty of nighttime entertainment and dining. I visited Buena Park for the first time during a work conference and really enjoyed a girls weekend there as well.
Top Things to Do in Buena Park California
Travelers to Buena Park will have no trouble staying busy from the early morning until bedtime if you wish – there are a lot of activities jam-packed into the central areas of town. Here are all the best things to do in Buena Park to add to your family’s travel itinerary.
Knott’s Berry Farm
- Location: 8039 Beach Blvd.
- Price: $69.99-84.99 (online advance purchase), $99.99 at gate
- Best ages: preschoolers, tweens, teens, adults
- Time needed to visit: 1 full day
Knott’s Berry Farm is the most well-known attraction in Buena Park and is certainly a must-do for any visitor. Knott’s is famous for its boysenberries which can be found as ingredients in many menu items throughout the park and as the feature ingredient during the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival each spring. We were lucky enough to experience the festival during our visit, and were impressed by the creativity and breadth of the menu choices.
The theme park is also known for its extreme coasters, several of which are on the top of the bucket lists of coaster enthusiasts everywhere. Knott’s also has a fairly large “Camp Snoopy” area with Peanuts-themed attractions for younger kids. The park doesn’t have quite as much for elementary age kids who have outgrown Camp Snoopy but who aren’t quite ready for upside down coasters (like my 9 year old son), but we were certainly able to find more than enough to fill the day. See our recommendations for the best rides for every age at Knott’s Berry Farm.
Knott’s was independent for most of its history before being acquired by theme park brand Cedar Fair. Cedar Fair also owns Cedar Park in Sandusky, Ohio and California’s Great America in the Bay Area (our family’s “home” park).
The park’s theming and decor are quite immersive, elevating it beyond what you might find at most regional amusement parks. Knott’s has four well-themed lands – Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, The Boardwalk, and Camp Snoopy.
The park offers one day tickets or season passes. Knott’s is fairly affordable, at least by theme park standards, but you can save even more booking single day discount tickets with Trips With Tykes partner Get Away Today.
Pirates Dinner Adventure Buena Park
- Location: 7600 Beach Blvd.
- Price: $68.95 adults, $41.94 kids 3-11
- Best ages: elementary age kids, tweens, adults
- Time needed to visit: 2-2.5 hours
Buena Park is home to two large scale family-friendly dinner shows. The one we visited this trip is Pirates Dinner Adventure. Guests are seated in the round on bench style seats with table tops facing a central stage – that is, naturally, an enormous pirate ship! While they eat, actors and performers put on an interactive show full of daring stunts and an adventurous storyline peppered with a little (entirely G/PG) romance.
The food for adults at Pirates Dinner Adventure Buena Park is a roast chicken leg with sides of mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. The kids meal includes a small cheeseburger slider, sides of both macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes and a bowl of fruit. All guests are offered either a soup or salad appetizer and a dessert.
But what you are really there for is the show, and the show definitely delivers! Each section of the theater has a pirate in the show they cheer for and there are a lot of opportunities for audience participation. Everyone in my family really enjoyed the spectacle and thought the quality of the stunts and singing were top notch.
The shows regularly have sell out crowds, especially on weekends, so be sure to purchase well in advance. And of course, be sure to snag a deal when you do! Trips With Tykes ticket partners at Get Away Today sell Pirates Dinner Adventure tickets at a discounted price (after purchase, just use the discounted voucher to make a reservation for a specific show).
The show runs about 1.5 hours, but you need to arrive about 30-60 minutes early to have enough time for lines, photos, and the seating process. The last show of the night on weekends may run too late for younger kids, so consider a matinee or earlier seating if you have little ones.
- Location: 7662 Beach Blvd.
- Price: $65.95 adults, $38.95 kids 3-12
- Best ages: elementary age kids, tweens, adults
- Time needed to visit: 2-2.5 hours
Just a few storefronts down from Pirates Dinner Adventure is the main dinner show competition – Medieval Times Buena Park. Guests enter a castle where they are seated at tables encircling a central ring. The show features knights on real horses, jousting, royalty, and plenty of food.
If you are having trouble deciding which of the two shows to see, this is definitely a time where the kids get to choose! You can’t go wrong with either, but your child may have more of an interest in pirates or knights and horses, so I highly recommend listening to their pick.
As with Pirates Dinner Adventure, shows sell out in advance, so be sure to buy tickets online before your trip. Get Away Today sells discounted vouchers to Medieval Times shows as well.
Big Air Trampoline Park
- Location: 8320 On the Mall
- Price: $27 for 90 minutes, $30 for 2 hours + socks, $10 for Toddler Time
- Best ages: toddlers/preschoolers, elementary age kids, tweens
- Time needed to visit: 2 hours
Indoor trampoline parks are everywhere in the United States these days, but Big Air Trampoline Park in Buena Park is the best one my family has ever visited. It has a variety and breadth of offerings that impressed all of us. The park has a giant area with conjoined trampolines like you can find at most indoor trampoline parks. But it also has a climbing wall, American Ninja Warrior style obstacle course (very challenging!), trampoline bounce areas into a foam pit, a dodge ball court, and a mechanical bull atop a trampoline fall zone.
Both my 13 year old and 9 year old found multiple things that interested them as they ran from feature to feature. While a lot of parents watched from the ample seating areas (that included massage chairs!), I got out there with my kids a bit and even pulled out a few tricks.
When we visited, the park offered 90 or 120 minute sessions. The park also holds “Toddler Time” on some days to give families with younger kids a safe place to bounce without the danger of bigger kids in the mix.
John’s Incredible Pizza
- Location: 8601 On the Mall
- Price: $16.99 (adults ages 13-54), $15.99 (seniors 55+), $12.49 (kids ages 7-12), $8.49 (kids ages 3-6)
- Best ages: preschoolers, elementary age kids, tweens
- Time needed to visit: 2 hours
Take a Dave & Busters, mix it in with a Chuck E Cheese’s, and then supersize it. The result is John’s Incredible Pizza – an enormous buffet restaurant with an attached arcade and several smaller indoor amusement rides.
There are something approaching a dozen John’s Incredible Pizza locations in California and Nevada. We used to have one in the Bay Area near our home that my kids adored that didn’t survive the pandemic closures. So my kids were thrilled to find that the location in Buena Park is alive and well and even bigger than the version that they had experienced before.
Guests pay a single entrance fee which includes the extensive pizza buffet. You can then add on a Fun Card for some or all of your group members, loaded up with cash value to spend at the arcade. We normally get a Fun Card for each child, but I’ll admit to borrowing my son’s card for a few games of Skee-Ball! There are a few smaller rides like bumper cars which can be purchased as well – either a la carte or as part of some of the Fun Card bundles.
Knott’s Independence Hall
- Location: 8039 Beach Blvd.
- Price: Free
- Best ages: elementary age kids, tweens, teens, adults
- Time needed to visit: 30 minutes
Buena Park is busting at the seams with entertainment and family fun, but my family also likes a little education wherever we travel. Directly across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm, you can definitely find time for an engaging history lesson at Knott’s Independence Hall.
Built in 1966 (and opened on July 4, naturally!), Knott’s Independence Hall is a full size replica of the original located in Philadelphia. Indoors is a room replicating the room where the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence, as well as a replica of the Liberty Bell and a gift shop.
The building is open daily except Christmas from 10am-4pm. I highly recommend finding a few extra minutes to stop in, take a look around, and get a refresh on your American history.
Knott’s Soak City
- Location: 8200 Beach Blvd.
- Price: $49.99
- Best ages: elementary age kids, tweens, teens
- Time needed to visit: 1/2-1 day
Also across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm and adjacent to Knott’s Independence Hall is Knott’s Soak City. This waterpark is open from mid-May until mid-September and is an ideal attraction for summer visitors looking to beat the SoCal heat. It is usually open on weekends during the late spring and early fall, and is open daily during peak summer break. So be sure to check the calendar to avoid disappointment.
Since my visits to Buena Park have been in the early spring, I haven’t had a chance to try the water park yet, but we did get to sneak a peek through the gates during our visit. Knott’s Soak City has all the features you might expect in a major water park – multiple body slides and tube slides of varying thrill levels, a lazy river, a wave pool, and a large splash pad and playground for younger kids.
Free life jackets are available for younger kids who might not be confident swimmers yet. Lockers are available for rent to store your stuff, as well as cabanas for a splurge. One day tickets are available for purchase ($49.99 for adults and kids ages 3+ in 2023) or Knott’s Soak City admission is included with purchase of a Gold or Platinum Knott’s Pass.
- Location: 1313 Disneyland Drive (Anaheim)
- Price: $104-179 for single day adult one-park-per-day tickets (more for park hopper or multi-day tickets)
- Best ages: all ages
- Time needed to visit: 1-3 days
The Happiest Place on Earth is – of course – technically in the city of Anaheim, California and not Buena Park. That said, a lot of vacationers use Buena Park as their home base for a Disneyland day or even a longer Disneyland vacation because of proximity and price. Buena Park abuts Anaheim and Disneyland is just about 5 miles down the road.
I cover tons of Disneyland information and news on this blog already, and it’s an attraction that probably needs no introduction! If you want more information on the Disneyland Resort, check out these articles to get started:
Where to Eat on a Buena Park Vacation
Several Buena Park attractions are also places to eat, so you may already have a few meals on your itinerary by virtue of booking an evening dinner show or spending time at an attraction like John’s Incredible Pizza.
But Buena Park has so many other restaurants to consider as well for other meals. Here are a few we can recommend:
Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant
- Location: 8039 Beach Blvd.
Before there was Knott’s Berry Farm, Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant was a draw all by itself. It still is serving up delicious home cooking daily adjacent to Knott’s outside the gates – no theme park ticket needed! Be sure to leave room for a slice of boysenberry pie, particularly if you aren’t headed to the theme park where other boysenberry treats are available.
Broken Yolk Cafe
- Location: 8010 Beach Blvd.
Within easy walking distance of Knott’s and several Buena Park attractions is Broken Yolk Cafe. The restaurant has decadent menu serving breakfast/brunch and diner foods. Expect waits on weekend mornings, but you can save time by joining the mobile waitlist on the website when you are en route.
- Location: 8390 La Palma Ave.
Adjacent to the mall where Big Air and John’s Incredible Pizza are located is Portillo’s Buena Park. This eatery serves Chicago style hot dogs and much more – burgers, shakes, Italian beef sandwiches, and salads. The inside is themed with over the top Chicago decor, and my family and I enjoyed looking for Easter eggs on the walls as much as we enjoyed the food.
Porto’s Bakery and Cafe
- Location: 7640 Beach Blvd.
Right in between Pirates Dinner Adventure and Medieval Times is Porto’s – a famed Cuban bakery and cafe. We didn’t have time this trip to wait in the line but I know enough friends and family who have enjoyed the food there over the years to know it is well worth the wait!
Best Buena Park Hotels: Where to Stay
Buena Park doesn’t have five star luxury resorts, but what it offers by way of lodging is reliable mid-priced hotels at a value price. Several of these hotels are part of major chains like Hilton and Marriott, so you can earn and redeem hotel loyalty points for a stay in Buena Park to maximize your savings.
I’ve stayed in three of the four best-rated hotels in Buena Park during my visits to the area over the years so have gotten to know the best lodging options well. Here are my top picks for hotels in Buena Park, with the advantages of each one noted so you can make the right choice for your family.
Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel
- Best features: walkable to Knott’s, newly-renovated rooms (note: renovation is still ongoing as of the date this post was published)
- Standard Room Price (2023): $125-200+/night, $15 parking
Located just south of Knott’s Berry Farm within easy walking distance of the park is the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel. As of spring 2023, it’s currently undergoing a renovation so you can expect bright, shiny, and new rooms and amenities on your next stay. Prices for rooms can be a real value on weeknights, but expect pricier accommodations for weekend stays when the park is more popular with guests from drive markets.
Courtyard Anaheim Buena Park
- Best features: Most walkable to several Buena Park attractions
- Standard Room Price (2023): $140-190/night, $12 parking
Even though the Knott’s Hotel has the best walking distance to Knott’s Berry Farm, the Courtyard Anaheim Buena Park is a bit better located for walking to some of Buena Park’s other major attractions like Pirates Dinner Adventure or Porto’s Bakery. And it’s also still walkable to Knott’s. Accommodations are what you’d reliably expect from any Courtyard.
DoubleTree by Hilton Buena Park
- Best features: Shuttle provided to local attractions, free parking
- Standard Room Price (2023): $140-200/night
The Double Tree by Hilton Buena Park is a little farther down the road from Knott’s on the other side of the California Route 91 freeway. But it’s easy to use as a Buena Park home base because it has a free shuttle to Knott’s and other attractions within a three mile radius. It’s also walking distance to The Source OC entertainment complex and mall.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Anaheim North/Buena Park
- Best features: Free hot breakfast, microwaves in rooms, free parking, some suites sleep up to 6
- Standard Room Price (2023): $125-175/night
Adjacent to the DoubleTree on the same city block is the Fairfield Inn & Suites Anaheim North/Buena Park. We stayed in a two queen suite in this hotel on our most recent family trip and had more than ample space across two rooms, with two bathrooms, making it easy for our family of 4 to get ready each morning. The hotel includes hot breakfast for even more savings before a theme park day, as well as free parking and microwaves in every room.
Additional Tips & Tricks for a Buena Park Vacation
We had a whirlwind trip to Buena Park and can’t wait to go back for another run at the roller coasters and some more good food and entertainment. Here are a few additional tips to help you plan the best Buena Park vacation possible:
- Watch the weather: Unlike Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm will close when the weather is extra rainy. Thankfully, there are so many indoor attractions in Buena Park to stay dry and entertained on rainy days. And because Knott’s doesn’t require advance park reservations like Disneyland, it’s much easier to pivot and switch up your indoor and outdoor plans when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
- Rent a car or rideshare: Buena Park isn’t quite as walkable as it may look on a map – at least not if you plan to visit more than just Knott’s. Its more suburban layout (with convenient parking lots for most attractions) makes a car more valuable, especially if you plan to stay for more than a day or two. We used Lyft and Uber on our most recent trip, but had to wait for rides on a few occasions, so plan accordingly.
- Visit on a weekday: Buena Park is a popular weekend destination for a lot of travelers within a few hours drive. If you have the flexibility, I highly recommend visiting on a weekday to minimize crowds and maximize savings! Just be sure to check the hours of activities you plan to visit in advance to make sure everything you want to visit is open on your dates of travel.
- Souvenir shop wisely: It’s super hard to go to Buena Park and not take home a souvenir – particularly something edible with boysenberries. If you are flying and team carryon like we are, just be sure to buy TSA friendly sizes for the flight home (the shops have some jam samplers if you look closely). Or grab something like boysenberry popcorn that won’t get confiscated.