Family Field Trip: California’s Calico Ghost Town (The original Knott’s)

IMG_2883Off if Hwy 15 on the way from Orange County out to the high desert (and on to Las Vegas, Nevada) is a wonderful piece of history that is not to be missed. I first came to Calico Ghost Town over 30 years ago- and it has changed a bit- but the original, historical buildings and artifacts are still there- and in so many ways much better.

Calico is an old, original silver mining town, that sprang up in 1881. As a town, Calico, with its one street perched on an inclined mesa, had a turbulent existence. It burned to the ground in the fall of 1883, and was rebuilt. After it was vacated in the 1930s, the remains of Calico sat derelict until 1950, when Walter Knott, owner of Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, converted the ghost town into a tourist attraction. Walter eventually had all but a few of the original structures completely restored using the original materials- and he should know- as he was spent a lot of time here with his Uncle growing up and helped in building a silver mill in Calico. Take a look at Knott’s Ghost town here (yes called Calico Ghost Town as well) and you can see many familiar structures.

There is something wonderful about Calico. It feels refurbished but still very very authentic. And with charming stores with even more charming store keepers (who all talk and act like they just fell out of 1881 themselves) it is a joy for kids and adults.


There is a fun train ride, a mine tour and even a ‘house of mystery’ (old timers to Knott’s will recall Mystery Shack- well this is the original)…oh and watch out for this box of ‘Baby Rattlers”.


Hey Orange County natives…does this miner statue look familiar? Yep- it is one that was on the corner of the Knott’s Berry Farm property for years…now in a very appropriate new home.

IMG_2938   Pioneering Prospector Statue, Knott's Berry Farm Buena Park California

I was thrilled to find many ‘Calico’ cats on the property as well. This one, had come out of this miner home.

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A few favorites are the wonderful general store, and the charming school house. But that is really just SOME of the neat stuff to see.


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A few things field trip planners like to know: There are two full restaurants and several snack, coffee, sweet places as well. Two sets of nice clean restrooms and there is easy parking. And yes, you can camp there too. Oh, in the summer it is hot. And in the winter is cold. Seems obvious- but plan accordingly.

Go to Calico. It is wonderful. Trust me.


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