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Buena Park

Feast on boysenberries, ride coasters, and take in some shows

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A few miles from Disneyland and 20 miles from Los Angeles, Buena Park, home of the boysenberry, first found fame around a small family farm—and it has grown ever since into a wide-ranging family-friendly destination.

The Orange County town dates back to the 1850s and a few buildings still remain from those frontier days—including the site of the Stage Stop Hotel. But Buena Park was really put on the map in the 1920s, when a farmer named Walter Knott started having success growing a hybrid berry called a boysenberry (part loganberry, raspberry, and blackberry); his farm stand expanded into a restaurant and later into Knott’s Berry Farm theme park. 

Today, the theme park is still the biggest attraction in town, with its own hotel and a classic selection of rides, live shows, and an updated version of that original tea shop, called Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. During the summer, the offerings include the nearby Knott’s Soak City Water Park.

Otherwise, the main artery of town runs along Beach Boulevard, which is home to a slew of hotels, restaurants, and two big dining-meets-family-entertainment attractions: Pirate’s Dinner Adventure, a swashbuckler-starring dinner theater set on a Spanish-style galleon in a huge indoor lagoon; and the popular chain Medieval Times, where you’ll dine while watching jousting, falconry, and acts of chivalry. Adults looking for a night out can enjoy an evening of laughs, magic, music and vaudeville theater at Teatro Martini.

Tucked between Pirate's Dinner Adventure and Medieval Times is the must-try Porto’s Bakery & Cafe, the only Orange County outpost of the beloved Cuban bakery from L.A. County. Don’t mind the line that can form outside any time of day—it moves briskly. Inside, a dazzling array of pastries, Cuban sandwiches, and the famous potato balls (stuffed with beef, or cheese and peppers) await.

Families will also want to stop at Knott’s Independence Hall, a brick-by-brick replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, down to a copy of the Liberty Bell. Grown-ups, meanwhile, may want to pull up a stool at the nearby Cauldron Spirits and Brews, a witches-and-wizards-themed pub and eatery with magically themed cocktails (like the Grey Witch cocktail with gin, champagne, and crème de violette) and Provençal-style pub fare, such as Croque Monsieur sliders. For a unique dining experience inspired by Buena Park's history, head to Grange Hall 39, which highlights fresh, local ingredients. 

From romantic accommodations for two to spacious suites for your entire crew, the city has more than a dozen hotels, many of which have large outdoor swimming pools to relax in when you’re not out exploring. Several accommodations also offer free shuttles that will get you to Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, and other nearby destinations.

Keep driving west on Beach Boulevard and about 10 miles later, you’ll arrive at the famous surf breaks of Huntington Beach.

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