Visiting Knott’s Berry Farm’s Independence Hall
Growing up in Orange County I loved hearing my dad and his siblings tell stories of the “good old days.” They would talk about endless drives through orange groves, visits to buffalo farms and deer parks, lazy days at the beach and family trips to Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland. Though it wasn’t that long ago the county had evolved so rapidly by the time I came around that I couldn’t even picture the images they described. Many of the places they visited are long gone but there are a few that hang on and, recently, I was lucky enough to visit Knott’s Berry Farm’s Independence Hall in Buena Park.
Located just across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm, Independence Hall is an exact replica of the Philadelphia original. Built by Walter Knott it opened in 1966 as an extension of his famed theme park and he considered its construction one of his greatest achievements.
When I was little Independence Hall loomed large over busy Beach Blvd. but now it’s partially obscured by a large fence and dwarfed by the neighboring Soak City Water Park. Those who drive by may think it’s private property or long abandoned but, in fact, it’s open daily to the public free of charge.
Simply park across the street in Knott’s short term lot (1 hour is free), take the tunnel under Beach Blvd. and you’ll suddenly find yourself back in the Colonial era. After knowing about it for several years, you’d think I’d have long ago visited but I have to admit this week was my first time there.
My mom and I met for lunch and decided to check it out. On a quiet weekday we were the only visitors save for a family of Muscovy Ducks. We walked in and were greeted by a friendly Knott’s employee who showed us around.
The foyer is dominated by an antique tax carriage that Walter and Cordelia brought back from a trip to France. That’s about the biggest souvenir I’ve ever seen!
Adjacent is a reproduction of The Assembly Room where both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were signed. Ordinarily, there’s an audio presentation but, unfortunately, they were having technical difficulties on the day of our visit and we were left to imagine what the founding fathers spoke of on those important dates.
Another highlight of the hall is a replica of the Liberty Bell – crack and all! I was duly impressed by this replica and have to admit that seeing it imbued me with a sense of patriotism I don’t often feel.
The entire structure is filled with patriotic artifacts from authentic colonial documents to interesting recreations. There’s even an impressive gift shop with lots of fun goodies to take home.
Wax Betsy Ross and George Washington reminded me of my beloved Movieland Wax Museum that used to reside down the road. I still miss it.
Some may consider Knott’s Berry Farm’s Independence Hall to be a corny relic of a bygone era but I don’t feel that way at all. I do have a fondness for roadside attractions and nostalgic institutions but this place is more than that. It’s a reminder of our country’s origin and all that it took to create the America we know today, for better or worse. It’s not easy for everyone to get to Philadelphia to see the real thing – I know I’ve never made it. For us on the west coast it’s a rare glimpse into our colonial past and I wish it was more appreciated.