Renovated Knott’s Hotel honors Walter and Cordelia Knott’s hospitality

The redesigned Knott's Hotel features details that honor Walter and Cordelia Knott.
(Courtesy of Knott’s Hotel)

The boysenberry may be at the heart of the Knott’s Berry Farm story, but the true beginning starts with Walter and Cordelia Knott. The theme park’s founders and their love of hospitality are at the center of the narrative at Buena Park’s newly renovated Knott’s Hotel.

Formerly known as the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel, the rebranded hotel showed off its multimillion-dollar renovation at an open house event on April 12. The hotel features 322 redesigned guest rooms and suites, a lobby and great room, outdoor courtyard, expanded gift shop, and a new coffee bar and full-service hotel restaurant.

“As we were looking at one specific story that we would want to tell and base all our designs on, it was really the love story between Walter and Cordelia,” said Ken Parks, corporate director of creative development at Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. “They were partners not only in marriage but in business and spent their lives together on this property.”

The new Thirty Acres Kitchen is part of the refresh at Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel.
(Joshua Sudock / Knott’s Berry Farm)

Walter Knott and his wife, Cordelia, farmed boysenberries on a 30-acre farm in Buena Park in the mid-1920s. Named for creator Rudolph Boysen, the berry is a hybrid strain of the blackberry, red raspberry and loganberry. Besides selling fresh berries, the family sold homemade preserves and boysenberry pie. Then, to make ends meet during the Great Depression, Cordelia began serving fried chicken dinners in her tea room on the nicest dishes the family owned, her wedding china. The farm’s location on Highway 39, the major connection between Los Angeles and Orange counties, helped the demand for the dinners grow. Eventually the concept evolved into Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

It was Walter who came up with the idea to build interactive displays to entertain the hungry diners waiting to get a plate of Mrs. Knott’s famous fried chicken. A 12-foot-tall volcano, rigged up with a boiler to blow steam, and a pan-for-gold activity were among the early attractions, followed by Virginia’s Gift Shop and a Ghost Town. Today the park spans 160 acres with thrill rides and Camp Snoopy, in addition to some original attractions and an annual Boysenberry Festival, this year taking place now through April 28.

Cedar Fair, which became the owner and operator of the theme park in 1997, worked to honor Walter and Cordelia in a number of details found throughout the renovated hotel.

“As you walk through the hotel today, you will see their love story in all of our design decisions and material choices,” said Parks.

Each guest room is decorated with one of four sets of dinner plates hearkening back to Cordelia’s wedding china. Each set depicts different eras of the farm, starting from the berry stand to the roaring ‘20s.

In a nod to the Knott’s family‘s hospitality, parts of the guest accommodations have been renamed in a way that evokes the family home rather than a hotel. The lobby has been redesigned into a open floor plan, called the great room, with a large chandelier made with glass bulbs fashioned to resemble the preserve jars used by the Knott’s family. The rug design includes artfully placed boysenberries, and Walter and Cordelia’s wedding photo appears prominently on the wall.

The outdoor event spaced is referred to as the courtyard, a new coffee bar serving Starbucks coffee and grab-and-go items is referred to as the Pantry, while rustic farm elements and old photos of the park’s history decorate the clapboard walls.

The greatest addition is Thirty Acres Kitchen, a full-service restaurant and bar that captures elements of Cordelia‘s first dinners. Named for the 20 acres of farmland Walter originally leased from the city of Buena Park and the additional 10 acres he purchased, the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. A sliding barndoor with a chalkboard wall, like the board Cordelia wrote her dinner specials on, reveals the buffet. Art from creators like Eric Lynxwiler, author of “Knott’s Preserved,” and a tile wall inspired by Paul Von Klieben’s vintage design of the park’s Ghost Town, work together to create a farmhouse chic atmosphere.

The Maple Bourbon Glazed Pork Chop at Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel.
(Joshua Sudock / Knott’s Berry Farm)

The menu boasts new takes on classic farm fare Cordelia might have fed weary travelers or farm hands after a long day. Granny’s Chicken Pot Pie, a puff pastry filled with creamy chicken gravy and vegetables, and the Maple Bourbon Glazed Pork Chop, brined for 72 hours before getting pan-seared and glazed with house maple bourbon, are just two of the popular entrees.

Knott’s Hotel is a short walk from Knott’s Berry Farm’s front gate, and room rates start at $149 a night.

Parks said he believes the design team has captured the spirit of Walter and Cordelia Knott’s homespun hospitality.

“I think that they would both be really thrilled that we have created a place where we can continue their legacy,” said Parks.