18 Fun Things To Do In Buena Park CA (with Kids)
Sponsored by Visit Buena Park
We’re always saying yes to new family adventures, and if our girls are in control of how that looks, you can bet there’ll be a fear-inducing thrill ride included.
Welcome to Buena Park
They were thrilled that we said YES to visit to Buena Park, California, which included a day at America’s first theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm.
We were delighted to find that there are plenty of things to do in Buena Park with kids that adults will enjoy too, that it made sense to add it to our California itinerary.
Home to America’s first theme park
With its central Orange County location, Buena Park is within easy driving distance to top SoCal attractions like Disneyland, Hollywood, and the gorgeous OC beaches of Huntington and Laguna. It can be a great base when exploring the Orange County region, too.
Buena Park is known as the Land of Yes! So, if your kids have been bugging you for a YES Day, why not make it in a land where yes is followed by memorable family moments?
Knott’s Berry Farm
To help you plan your trip, we’ve listed all the top Buena Park attractions for families that you cannot miss!
We visited on a paid campaign with Visit Buena Park, but all the ideas, stories and opinions are our own!
Things to Do in Buena Park CA
On this trip, we said yes to 80-degree winter weather, yes to screaming roller coasters, yes to swashbuckling pirate kidnappings, yes to family entertainment, and yes to delicious Southern California food.
If you are planning to visit Southern California the below attractions in Buena Park with kids should not be skipped.
1. Spend the day at Knott’s Berry Farm
HangTime roller coaster
The most well-known Buena Park attraction is of course the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park.
It started back in 1920 with the Knott Family and their berry farm. Mrs. Knott soon became legendary for her chicken dinners, which helped this entrepreneur family expand their business from a food stall to the creation of the very first boysenberry, to a replica ghost town, to now one of the most visited theme parks in the USA.
Silver Bullet – Savannah’s first upside down coaster
It’s so popular that even Australians will visit on their trips to California. I remember hearing my dad and brother’s stories of Montezooma’s Revenge when they visited back in the early nineties. They both said they enjoyed it more than Disneyland!
Knott’s Berry Farm has more thrill-seeker rides than Disneyland at a more affordable price. Although, if your budget allows, I’d recommend a Fast Lane Pass to maximize your time in the park.
Sidewinder – a coaster that spins as it dips!
So, if you’re not that into Mickey Mouse, this is a great theme park alternative and it’s only 15 minutes up the road from Disney in Anaheim. And, Knott’s Berry Farm is 57-acres, which makes it feasible to conquer in one day.
There are 40 rides across four themed areas, which pay homage to the history and culture of this region: the 1800s Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, The Boardwalk, and Camp Snoopy.
Fun entertainment for kids
You may not find Disney characters at this park, but you’ll find Snoopy and the PEANUTS gang. They wander around dancing and taking photos with guests as well as performing in several shows throughout the day.
The Old West Ghost Town was our favorite place to walk around in the park with its old wooden stores, salons, blacksmith shops, cute restaurants, and the Bird Theater. There is a lot to look at and do and they often have live shows and entertainment. Enjoy one while sipping a boysenberry beer at the saloon.
I also loved the fun, beach vibes of The Boardwalk, home of California’s first dive coaster, HangTime. It also has the steepest beyond vertical drop in California. I found the drop thrilling, it was the vertical climb up on the other side that had me screaming, “I want to get off!”
HangTime and its vertical drop!
We will have a full guide to Knott’s Berry Farm in the coming days. For now, here are our picks for the best rides:
GhostRider – the longest, tallest, fastest Wooden coaster on the West Coast. I really wasn’t expecting this ride to be as good as it was. Totally surprising!
HangTime: 150 feet beyond vertical drip, five inversions and mid-air suspensions, only the bravest will say yes to this coaster.
Silver Bullet– Savannah’s first upside down roller coaster and thrill ride. Wow! 2 minutes of intense speed, inversions, corkscrews, cobra rolls, loops and 109-foot drop!
Sierra Sidewinder – a roller coaster that spins as it dips, banks, and nose dives? I’d say that’s a YES!
Pony Express: While incredibly short, this ride will launch you 38mph in less than 3 seconds.
Supreme Scream: 312 ft high, spectacular views over Buena Park, and guaranteed stomach drops as you suddenly drop from those heights.
Fun rides for the kids too!
We didn’t get to experience all the rides on our day at Knott’s Berry Farm, some weren’t operating, but we did most of the thrill ones.
If visiting in Spring, you can enjoy the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival, to celebrate this berry first created by Walter Knott in the 1920s. The event runs from March to April and features live entertainment, interactive experiences and scores of boysenberry dishes.
They also have seasonal events. In October, they have Knott’s Spooky Farm which is aimed at kids, and Knott’s Scary Farm which is aimed at teens. Christmas is a big month, with Knott’s Merry Farm. It’s always fun and cheerful at Knott’s Farm!
2. Shop Local at Knott’s California Marketplace
Outside the front gates to this California theme park is Knott’s California Marketplace. It’s a collection of stores and restaurants that offer those visiting a chance to purchase some Snoopy-themed souvenirs, local jams and jellies.
You can eat at the place that started it all – Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. It’s been serving up Cordelia Knott’s original fried chicken recipe since 1934, as well as famous boysenberry pies!
Check out this mural in Virginia’s Gift shop
Be sure to stop in at Virginia’s Gift shop to see the large mural on the walls sharing the history of Knott’s Berry Farm and the Knott Family story. I purchased a beautiful red summer dress here.
The Marketplace emporium is another place for clothes shopping – heavy on the country theme – as well as a year-round Christmas store, and a mini-Candy Parlor!
The largest store in the marketplace, PEANUTS Headquarters has exclusive Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the Gang clothing, plush toys, books and even dog ears to wear into the park.
And what Aussies could not resist picking up a few Billabong items from Knott’s California Shop?
The most popular souvenirs for visitors to purchase at the California Marketplace are the berry market preserves, especially the boysenberry, homemade fudge, and berry market syrup! And you can devour some boysenberry funnel cakes from Cable Car Kitchen.
That’s a YES to as much boysenberry as you can eat in one day! You’re on vacation, of course you can!
You do not need a theme park ticket to visit Knott’s California Marketplace, it’s free and open to the public, making it one of the best free things to do in Buena Park!
3. Get Wet at Knott’s Soak City Water Park (Seasonal)
Perilous Plunge slide. Image: DepositPhotos.com
As we visited Buena Park in the winter, Knott’s Soak City Water Park, the 15-acre water theme park, was closed.
But, if you’re visiting from May through early-September, you may want to incorporate a day into your Buena Park vacation cooling down on their speed, tube and body slides, or in their Tidal Wave Pool, and relaxing Sunset River float.
We also hear the cafeteria serves delicious boysenberry pie, so be sure to check it out if you happen to visit in the summer.
Soak City is across the road from Knott’s Berry Farm and requires a separate ticket.
4. Learn at Knott’s Independence Hall
Out the front of Soak City is Buena Park’s very own Independence Hall. It’s the only place in the country to have an exact brick-by-brick replica of the place where American signed their Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.
So, if you can’t make it to Philadelphia to see the real thing, this is your next best option. Inside is also a replica of the Liberty Bell.
Replica of the Liberty Bell
There is a small room that has recreated what the signing of the Declaration of Independence experience would have been like with recorded voice reenactments of the forefathers debating over the document and plans for independence from Great Britain.
5. Enjoy a Pirates Dinner Adventure Show
As soon as we walked into the Pirates Dinner Adventure Show, we knew we were in for a blast. Rambunctious guests were swilling rum cocktails at the pre-show bar with their swords and pirate patches.
Kids were having just as much fun with their sodas taking photos in front of the pirate paraphernalia, and you can even play mini golf while you wait for the show to start and enjoy free appetizers.
Inside the theater, you’re seated in rows that surround the center stage – an 18th century Spanish galleon adrift on a small lagoon.
We were in the 1st row close to the action thanks to a VIP seating upgrade, which also includes a pirate headband, beaded necklace, pirate flag (be sure to wave it) and a Photo Book!
Straight away the pirates wander around interacting with the guests, questioning what you’re drinking, where your flags are, and threatening you with swords.
Meeting one of the pirate show actors
For the next two hours you’re entertained by their swashbuckling antics: sword fights, special effects, pirate songs, and pirate games as they perform stunts swinging across the ship’s rigging, and aerial trapeze performances.
They invite you to sing along and participate in some of the games, and cheer for your pirate team (we were the red team).
Children were pulled from the audience for boat races and to act as soldiers in the final pirate fighting scenes. I had a sword held to my chest a couple of times. I think for not having rum in hand.
We did have two giant glasses of pirate cocktails on the table though! Drink purchases come with souvenir glasses – that are proper glass, not fake plastic!
Souvenir rum cocktails
All of this as a three-course meal is brought to your table throughout the evening: Soup, roast chicken and mash, and chocolate cake for dessert. There are options for vegetarians, vegans, and those with food intolerances.
If you want something else, there are various meal upgrade options available such as shrimp skewers and turkey legs.
Chicken & vegetables / Turkey leg & shrimp
The Pirates Dinner Adventure Show is one of the best things to do in Buena Park for families wanting to let their inner pirate have fun. It was fun for the whole family, tourists and locals alike!
6. Watch a Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
Similar to the Pirate themed dinner show – and pretty much next door – is a themed attraction for those who love Middle Age tournaments and fighting.
Again, many guests – young and old – came dressed in costumes, ready to be knighted, and watch their team’s knights compete in Medieval games, sword fighting, and jousting.
The setting for the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament is an 11th century-style castle, and the tournament is hosted by the Queen and her Lords. Andalusian stallions perform dancing acts and a falcon flies around the arena.
For this show audience participation is mostly of the cheering and jeering kind, although the brave knights throw roses out to the crowd. Savannah was delighted to receive one from our Green Knight – the eventual winner and hero.
Again, it’s a three-course menu of soup, roasted chicken (which is a huge Medieval sized portion) and a Dessert of the Castle. I don’t want to spoil your surprise but, chocolate eclairs, YES Please!
There are options for vegetarians, vegans, and those with food intolerances. Speak to your attentive server and they will help get the right meal to you.
In true Medieval fashion, you will be eating with your hands. Embrace it. And of course, beer in a souvenir glass. You’re on vacation. Remember, Buena Park is the Land of Yes!
Come early to see the horses and to take photos in front of all the props inside the castle. Grab yourself a souvenir stein of beer – it’s the Medieval Way.
7. Eat & Play at John’s Incredible Pizza
This is not just a place for lunch – hello all you-can-eat pizza buffet – but a 58,000 square foot indoor entertainment center with arcade games and attractions.
After lunch, fill up a card with credit and enjoy some family fun competing against each other in Pac-man, car racing, and other arcade favorites.
We enjoyed the bumper cars, a version we haven’t tried before. You control the movement of your circular bumper car with levers that help you go forward, backward, turn, and spin around!
Families with younger kids will especially enjoy John’s and this Buena Park Attraction.
8. Bounce at the Big Air Trampoline Park
Our girls are always ready to say yes to back flips and warrior courses. We’ve been to enough of them to know that The Big Air Trampoline Park has a great variety of jumping activities and courses.
There is a Ninja Warrior course where they can navigate their way around obstacles over a big foam pit; a big trampoline area for jumping, backflips and aerials, a trampoline dodgeball court, a battle beam for your own jousting, the bouncy Big Court for shooting hoops, rock-climbing and something I have not seen before: a mechanical bull.
While older kids will get more out of this family activity, there are jumping sections for younger children too.
9. Go Shopping at The Source OC
If you have time for shopping on your Buena Park vacation, the Source OC is an open-air shopping center. We did not get time to visit, even though it was conveniently located next to our hotel.
From my research, there are a lot of great restaurants in the center as well, especially the sweet kind with creatively decorated macarons from Sweet Box and soufflé pancakes from Basilur Tea. I had In-Sit Coffee bookmarked for my latte fix. YES, for next time.
Day Trips from Buena Park
Of course, you can say YES to fun day trips from Buena Park. You’re surrounded by popular places and fun attractions, that will be easier to get to than if you stayed in Anaheim. Here are a few we recommend from previous trips.
10. Beach Play at Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach Pier
Huntington Beach is our favorite Southern California beach. With its surfer vibe, spectacular sunsets, and evening firepit gatherings, it reminds us of Australia the most.
Huntington State Beach is one of the cleanest in California and one of the best Southern California beaches for surfing, as well as next door Newport Beach.
Great family beach atmosphere
40 years ago, it was identified by the rows of oil derricks along the shoreline. Now it’s boutique stores, classic cafes, fine-dining options and luxury hotels create a vibrantly fun atmosphere. HB in the OC is the place to be seen!
11. Tour the Suan Juan Capistrano Mission
Orange County attractions are not just about amusement parks and beautiful beaches. There is also historical charm only a few miles away from the Dana Point coastline.
A worthy stop on your Southern California road trip, is Mission San Juan Capistrano, the birthplace of Orange County.
It was founded by the Spanish in 1776, at the same time the Founding Fathers were signing those important documents over in the East.
With its crumbling sandstone walls, bell wall, bougainvillea draped pathways, and flowering gardens, it’s one of the most interesting places to visit in Southern California and a pretty place to wander for an hour.
While here walk around the Los Rios Historic district to get an inkling of life centuries ago.
12. Visit the Dana Point Institute (or Whale Watching Tour)
Pretty Dana Point
40-minutes from Buena Park is Dana Point, a departure point for sailing adventures and whale and dolphin watching excursions. You can combine this with a visit to the Suan Juan Capistrano Mission, which is a 10-minute drive away.
Richard Henry Dana, the seaman who Dana Point is named after, described this place as solemn and romantic. It’s a very pretty location with the harbor sitting under the cliff tops that you see so much of in Southern Orange County.
It’s also the home of the Dana Point Ocean Institute, which uses the ocean as their classroom to inspire children to learn.
Educational for kids
We wandered through the various parts of the facilities that included touch tanks, and life-sized displays of whales, and the growing life cycle of the jellyfish.
The Institute also teaches about maritime life and history. Outside in the harbor sits the tall ship, The Pilgrim, a full-sized replica of the brig on which Dana once sailed, which you can explore.
The historic tall ship is cool
The Ocean Institute is now open to the public seven days a week where you can tour the facility, participate in lab activities, go on a Whale Watching Cruise or head to sea aboard a historic tall ship.
You are close to Laguna Beach, so consider leaving time in your day for some beach time. I prefer Huntington Beach, but Laguna is still a great option.
13. Visit Disneyland
Savannah looking up at Walt Disney
And of course, California is host to some of the world’s top theme parks, such as Disneyland. It needs no introduction.
It’s especially great for younger kids with all the characters and shows, and for more sedate rides. California Adventure Park next door is where you’ll find more rides for older kids.
California Adventure Park
Staying in Buena Park puts you outside the chaos of Anaheim, but close by. You can also easily catch an Uber, get dropped at the door and save on parking costs and hassle, or long shuttle bus lines. AND, your Buena Park hotel will probably have Disney shuttles, which won’t be as busy as the Anaheim hotel shuttles.
Where to Eat and Drink in Buena Park
Acai at Broken Yolk Cafe
We didn’t get to eat at many restaurants in Buena Park as we experienced two themed dinner show experiences and a day inside the theme park.
It’s Southern California, so you’ll find diverse, unique and flavorful food from a wide variety of cuisines, not just hot dogs and burgers. Here are a few we found and enjoyed.
1. Broken Yolk Café
Large & tasty omeletes
Broken Yolk Cafe has the kind of food typical to Southern California. A South of the border twist, with colorful, flavorful meals using fresh, local ingredients – and HUGE servings.
Benedicts are their signature breakfast dishes: for a unique twist, order a chicken and waffle benedict. I really enjoyed my MOM scramble, filled with generous servings of mushroom, red and green bell pepper and topped with avocado. I also added bacon.
Tasty Eggs Benedict
The Original Broken Yolk Café started in 1979 in Pacific Beach, in San Diego, California and has since become a Southern California favorite for breakfast, brunch and lunch.
As it’s across the road from Knott’s Berry Farm, Broken Yolk is the perfect place to fuel up before the 10am opening.
2. Porto’s Bakery & Cafe
One of the best things to do in Buena Park is to indulge in sweets and savories at Porto’s Bakery.
I don’t think I’ve ever been in a bakery as big or busy as this iconic local Cuban bakery. It’s like a gigantic food hall all to itself with an abundance of Cuban pastries, savories, delicious cakes, and homemade bread.
There is also a coffee bar if you just want to grab and go (or eat in).
Food baked with love and quality ingredients has always been the focus of Cuban-born Rosa Porto, who opened her first storefront on Sunset Boulevard, Echo Park in 1976. She started by selling cakes to a long line of family and friends who heard how good her cakes were back in Cuba.
Those long lines now snake around six of her bakeries in California. Rosa’s children and grandchildren now continue Rosa’s legacy after her passing in 2019.
I mentioned it’s busy, so come with time and patience for ordering. Families will love that there will be something to suit all family members – except if you are gluten intolerant – and the prices are affordable.
Super popular bakery!
You can get a filling savory or breakfast pastry for under $3. Their signature Cuban Sandwich is popular as are their potato balls and guava strudels.
The girls gave a double thumbs up YES to apple strudel and chocolate croissant. My pork tamales were flavorful, and Craig had a meat pie and ham and cheese croissant.
Meat pie and ham and cheese croissant
Not sure if Porto’s is the real deal? It landed at Number 1 on Yelp’s 2016 Top USA restaurants list and the LA Times named it in the region’s best bakery in its 2022 Best of the Southlands awards.
3. Rock & Brews
We had an hour to spare before our dinner at Pirates Dinner Adventure, so instead of wasting that walking back and forth to our hotel, we decided to stop into the Rock and Brews Restaurant for a drink and a snack.
Rock is our genre, so we felt at home in this restaurant dedicated to the greats. As soon as we saw the giant guitar out front and the vinyls embedded into the sidewalk, we made a plan to find time to visit.
Giant murals adorn the walls of Kiss (this chain was founded in part by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley from Kiss), Aerosmith, and wall to wall photos of U2, Jim Morrison, and any Rock Gods and Goddesses you can think of. Many of which we got to listen to and watch on the TV screens around the restaurant playing live concerts and music videos. I felt like I was surrounded by friends and memories.
Their food is made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients in dishes that suit local flavors. We had some garlic parma fries and guacamole and dip for snacks. Their nachos looked huge!
There’s a beer garden out back with the overhead shade cloth covered in rock icons and a small stage for live music.
As the name suggests, it’s a beer lover’s paradise with over 60 brews from around the world. Craig was very impressed with his Pilsner from nearby Buzzrock Brewing and I enjoyed my seltzer from the same brewery.
The Grammy’s may no longer acknowledge Rock, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead.
4. Latte Up at Coffee Code
Good coffee here!
I’d say it’s a crime to make terrible coffee in California. I hereby proclaim Code Coffee in Buena Park, not guilty. I could tell it would be good at one look at the latte artwork on the foam – no barista goes to that much effort without backing up the art with creamy flavorful brew.
It’s right near the Broken Yolk, so I’d say save your morning coffee until after your breakfast and stop in at Coffee Code.
It’s also near the Knott’s Berry Farm entrance so if you’re in need of a good coffee during your theme park day, you can easily walk over and grab one from there. Be sure to have your ticket on hand for re-entry.
5. The Cauldron Spirits and Brews
While we did not visit The Cauldron Spirits and Brews, my witchy spirit was quite drawn to what I learned through my research on things to do in Buena Park at night.
Dark and cozy atmosphere, overstuffed chairs, lounge fireplace, cauldron, and witches and black cats’ paraphernalia (True witches like us have two black cats!)
It’s not just enchanting brews and alchemic cocktails on offer, but French style food.
I had to include this just in case you may find time to sneak in!
Where to Stay at Buena Park: DoubleTree by Hilton Buena Park
DoubleTree by Hilton
We loved how our hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton Buena Park, was within walking distance to all the Buena Park attractions. This meant hiring a car, and worrying about parking, was not necessary!
Knott’s Berry Farm was under a 20-minute walk, and we usually broke that up with a croissant from Porto Bakery along the way, or a Pirate themed dinner of an evening.
Nice pool area
The hotel was everything you’d expect from a DoubleTree – warm cookies upon arrival, modern double queen rooms, a large inviting foyer, heated swimming pool, fitness center, and free shuttles to both Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm (you must book in advance).
Knott’s Berry Farm also has its own hotel next door to the theme park.
Getting to Buena Park
Due to its central Southern California location, there are several easy options for getting to Buena Park.
Long Beach (14 miles) and John Wayne aiport (18 miles) are the closest to Beuna Park with LA airport only 25 miles away.
We flew into John Wayne airport from Raleigh via Chicago (look at the scenic flight we got!) It was about a $30-$40 Uber ride from the hotel (depending on traffic).
First thing we noticed in SoCal is the palm trees
As mentioned, Disneyland is only a 10-15 minute drive and Huntington Beach and the OC Beaches 30 minutes. Check car rental here.
It may be a good idea if you want to incorporate some beach time in your trip as Huntington beach (our favorite in SoCal) is only 10 miles away straight down Beach Boulevard that runs through Buena Park.