Carowinds Review, Charlotte's Cedar Fair Amusement Park | 2 States, 14 Coasters

Carowinds is one of the best amusement parks
in the southeast.
This park spans two states and features 14
different roller coasters, including the reigning
winner of the Golden Ticket Award for the
best steel coaster in Fury 325.
This park always had a sizable coaster collection,
but this park has improved exponentially since
Cedar Fair took over.
Find out why this park should be on every
coaster enthusiast’s bucket list in this
Located in both North and South Carolina,
Carowinds opened back in 1973, but attendance
was stunted by an oil crisis.
In 1975, Carowinds was acquired by Taft Broadcasting
and Kings Entertainment who owned Kings Island
and Kings Dominion.
Over the next 1.5 decades, the park continued
to grow.
Carowinds received attractions that were well-received
at Taft’s other parks such as a racing wood
coaster in Thunder Road.
And in 1987, they acquired the Ocean Island
water park next door and assimilated it into
the park.
In 1992, Kings Entertainment was purchased
by Paramount who renamed the park Paramount’s
Carowinds for the 1993 season.
The new attractions over the next decade were
lightly themed to the company’s popular
films and television shows.
In 2006, the park featured 12 different roller
coasters, but

only one that was really well
received in Top Gun, which is known as Afterburn
That was the same year that Cedar Fair purchased
all the Paramount parks.
Carowinds dropped Paramount from its name
and Cedar Fair invested heavily in this park.
This was for two reasons.
One, Charlotte’s population was growing.
Two, the city offered the park tax incentives.
The park received two massive Bolliger & Mabillard
coasters that forever changed this park’s
First was Intimidator in 2010 and second was
Fury 325 in 2015.
The latter is widely considered one of the
best coasters in the world and it’s easily
the park’s signature attraction.
It also creates a really cool entry experience.
This park is just a short drive from the Charlotte
If you’re lucky, you can see the park during
takeoff and landing.
Then while you approach the park, you can
see Fury 325 and the park’s other tall attractions
from miles away.
And as you get closer to the main entrance,
Fury 325 becomes even more impressive as the
ride’s speed hills travel over the pathways
into the park.
Seeing a coaster this tall and fast whiz overhead
really gets you amped for your day.
There also is a second entrance in the back
of the park known as South Gate.
This is typically only open on Saturdays.
Like the main entrance, you also interact
with a coaster.
This one has Afterburn looping both over and
under the midway.
This is the best entrance if you plan to go
to the Carolina Harbor water park.
The arrival experience in past years was extremely
frustrating since Carowinds had a tendency
not to open the parking gates until 15 minutes
before opening.
This led to cars backing up onto the main
Thankfully, they opened these gates earlier
in 2022.
Parking costs $20, but there are two ways
to avoid this cost.
First, you can purchase a season pass.
Second, you can stay at one of the nearby
hotels and they typically let you keep your
car there.
Springhill Suites is located inside the Carowinds
parking lot and is a 10 minute walk from the
main entrance.
Comfort Inn is located on the same side of
the street as Carowinds and isn’t much further
of a walk.
There are some additional hotels on the opposite
side of Carowinds Boulevard.
These hotels are fine, but you should not
walk to the park from there.
There is no pedestrian crosswalk across Carowinds
Boulevard and it’s basically a highway,
so it’s extremely dangerous to cross it.
I didn’t know this the first time I visited
this park without a car, so I needed to call
an Uber just to cross the street.
Day tickets cost $75 at the gate, but you
can save $15-$30 if you buy in advance online.
I typically visit with a Platinum Pass valid
at all of Cedar Fair parks.
You should consider this option if you plan
to visit multiple Cedar Fair parks in a calendar
Once inside, you’ll notice a lot of similarities
to the other Cedar Fair properties.
You have a giant tower at the end of Celebration
Plaza in the Carolina Skytower.
Then you have a very clean and colorful park.
The coasters in this park have such nice paint
Parts of this park are nicely shaded, mainly
the left side of the park over in Camp Snoopy
and over by Afterburn.
However, the right side of the park has some
really barren areas so it can be scorching
hot in the summer.
Make sure to pack your sunscreen!
Carowinds isn’t really a theme park.
Camp Snoopy is the best looking area with
the Peanuts characters and a few rides have
some light theming, particularly their newer
ones, but this is mostly an amusement park.
And that’s fine.
The park has a nice atmosphere because of
how well it’s upkept.
Dispatches at Carowinds are slightly above
average as a whole.
The crew at Fury 325 is one of the best in
the Cedar Fair chain.
They can efficiently keep three trains rolling,
so that line never stops moving.
You can see some stacking early in the season,
but the crews get more efficient as the season
A few of the older coasters have horrifically
slow dispatches, most notably the Nighthawk
flying coaster and the Vortex stand-up coaster,
but those are issues specific to those models
rather than the park itself.
Lines are usually manageable on weekdays,
which makes it possible to do everything in
a day.
Fury 325 and Intimidator are people-eaters,
but the lines for Copperhead Strike, Nighthawk,
and Ricochet can back up even on quiet days.
The latter is a problem even if you have Fast
Lane since it’s not included.
If you intend to buy Fast Lane, head to Ricochet
as soon as the park opens.
I would recommend Fast Lane on weekends.
It’s pricey at $75-$110, but it will get
you on most rides in a flash.
The park rarely sells out of it, so it’s
usually safe to wait until the day of to purchase
to determine if it’s needed.
Visiting on a day with inclement weather can
be a great way to beat crowds.
Carowinds will run almost every coaster except
Ricochet in the rain.
And they are usually pretty resistant to closing
There are three types of weather to watch
out for though.
First are thunderstorms.
With the humidity down south, these can crop
up in summer.
Second and third are the cold and wind.
These two tend to be issues at the very start
and end of the Carowinds season.
It must be above 40 degrees for most coasters
to operate.
Initmidator and Fury 325 also do not like
the wind.
Intimidator is the most sensitive to wind,
but Fury can close as well.
These two rides have wind sensors atop the
Intimidator seems to close when ground winds
hit the 20 mph mark and Fury closes around
the 25-30 mph mark.
If you don’t have Fast Lane, my recommended
touring plan is to arrive at least a half
hour early so you’re one of the first people
on Nighthawk.
Since it’s at the very front of the park
and has an awful throughput, you need to be
one of the first people in this ride’s queue
line or else you’re doomed to a lengthy
If you don’t hit this at opening, hop in
line right before close so you don’t lose
a large chunk of your day.
After Nighthawk, I would check if Ricochet
still has a short wait.
If it does, ride it now.
If you’ve never been to this park, I completely
understand if you want to get on Fury next,
but I think the smarter decision is to go
to Copperhead Strike next.
You should be able to get a few rides before
that queue line backs up.
I would then hit the Mountain Gliders if you’re
into snapping since that’s another ride
with a pitiful throughput.
You can then save the high capacity B&Ms for
the second half of the day.
Moving onto the ride lineup, Carowinds has
a nice coaster lineup anchored by its top
You’d be hard-pressed to find many parks
with a better top 4 coasters.
Fury 325 is the clear star.
This Bolliger & Mabillard giga coaster is
a masterpiece.
The ride has blistering speed in the first
half as it carves over the entry pathways,
giving sudden laterals and airtime along the
Then the ride also has the strong sustained
floater airtime you’d expect from B&M on
the incredible first drop, the super unique
treble clef turnaround, and the final few
bunny hills.
This is one of the most reridable coasters
in the world between its smoothness and addictive
quality, but check out my review if you want
to hear more.
Intimidator is the park’s best coaster purely
for airtime.
This B&M hyper coaster is a sea of giant camelbacks.
This ride is nicknamed Intrimidator for its
abundance of trim brakes, but the first half
delivers strong and sustained floater airtime.
I find this airtime to be better than a lot
of other B&M hypers even when the trims hit.
The second half is a let-down though as the
mid-course saps Intimidator of its speed and
you meekly limp back to the brake run, which
I cover in a review.
Copperhead Strike is the park’s lone launch
coaster and it’s a diverse ride from Mack.
Those aforementioned launches are super weak,
but the layout is otherwise great.
You have incredible hangtime on four of the
ride’s five inversions, including that super
slow jojo roll out of the station, the circular
vertical loops, and the giant cutback.
Then the twisted layout also features some
good airtime hills for variety.
If you can look past those launches, you’ll
find a really nice coaster, but look at my
review if you want a full play-by-play.
Afterburn is one of the best B&M inverted
This one is a mini-Montu with the six forceful
inversions, including a whippy vertical loop,
a floaty zero-G roll, and a powerful batwing
that dives underground.
This ride is mostly smooth even after two
decades of operation and it’s such a well-paced
There is a severe drop-off in quality after
the top 4 though.
Nighthawk is the prototype Vekoma flying dutchman.
3/4 of this ride is fun.
The valleys deliver intense positive Gs, as
does the crazy vertical loop, and the aerial
maneuvers offer fun visuals.
But the final two corkscrews are abysmal.
They are one of the most uncomfortable elements
on any coaster and will rough you up.
I’m glad Vekoma removed these on the later
two flying dutchman coasters since they ruin
an otherwise fine ride.
Vortex is one of the earliest B&M stand-ups.
I actually enjoy this coaster since I’ve
found a way to ride these stand-ups comfortably,
as I’ve detailed in a separate video.
The ride is short, but the vertical loop and
helix deliver the positives and the corkscrew
is snappy as well.
But if you don’t find a comfortable riding
position, you can get a painful ride with
Carolina Cyclone is an old Arrow looper.
The ride was recently repainted and it has
its moments, namely the abrupt pop of ejector
airtime on the first drop and the two forceful
vertical loops.
But some of the valleys can rattle you.
Flying Cobras is a Vekoma boomerang.
This one was updated with vest restraints
to eliminate headbanging, but it still has
some shuffling in the valleys and transitions.
However, the ride does have a good initial
plunge and three forceful inversions going
in both directions.
Hurler is a subpar wooden roller coaster.
The ride isn’t as rough as it looks, but
the ride crawls through the layout barely
offering any airtime.
The layout has potential if the trim brake
didn’t hit, as I loved Kings Dominion’s
Hurler before the same brake was installed,
but I also wouldn’t mind if we get another
RMC conversion.
While this isn’t going to appeal to thrill-seekers,
Carowinds has a deep family coaster lineup.
Ricochet is a minimally braked Mack wild mouse
with some powerful laterals.
Carolina Goldrusher is a secluded Arrow mine
The ride isn’t too eventful, but the second
helix and tunnel have decent speed.
Some of the transitions can be a bit suspect
up front though.
Woodstock Express is a cute junior wood coaster.
You can find clones of this coaster at the
other Cedar Fair parks, but I would have loved
having something like this as a kid.
Kiddy Hawk is a suspended Vekoma family coaster.
This has the old track and trains, so you
need to watch out for headbanging on this
Lastly, you have Wilderness Run.
This Miler kiddie coaster has a nice layout
for a ride of its size, but it’s usually
off-limits to adults unless they are accompanying
a child.
As I mentioned earlier, Camp Snoopy is a relaxing
kids area with plenty of attractions for kids
to experience by themselves or with their
There isn’t too much for kids to do on the
opposite side of the park, but there are a
few family rides with low height limits here
and there.
For flat rides, Carowinds has some nice options.
The park doesn’t have the strongest spinning
rides, but there are a handful of rides worth
Drop Tower is the park’s best flat ride.
This 17 story tall Intamin drop tower isn’t
as tall as others, but it offers some float
and stomach-drop as you fall like a rock.
Windseeker is a 30 story tall swing ride.
This ride offers a stunning birds-eye view
of the park while spinning atop the tower.
Carolina Skytower offers the same view at
a more leisurely pace and photography is allowed
up there, which is much appreciated.
Electro-Spin is a rare Mondial top scan.
This isn’t as fast as the ones in Europe,
but it still offers great hangtime on the
slow inversions followed by quick laterals
and whip as you snap upright.
Mountain Gliders is a classic Bisch-Rocco
flying scooters ride and this can be one of
the wildest rides in the park if you know
how to snap.
This ride runs a short cycle, but it’s super
easy to get the cables to snap, which causes
your tub to jerk wildly through the air.
And the operators here not only allow snapping,
but they seem to encourage it!
Another classic flat worth checking out is
Southern Star.
There aren’t many Intamin looping starships
remaining, but this ride offers incredible
hangtime over the top.
Carowinds thankfully has two dark rides to
escape the heat or poor weather.
Boo Blasters is a fun Sally dark ride.
You shoot at 2D targets, but most work, the
ride has decent length, and laser sights make
it easy to determine where you’re shooting.
The same cannot be said about Plants vs. Zombies.
This Triotech 3D shooter is rumored to be
on its last legs, so you may not have much
longer to try it.
This ride is chaotic if fully loaded.
There are too many people firing at the same
screen, so the experience becomes incomprehensible.
It’s fun if there aren’t many people riding
Carowinds unfortunately no longer has any
water rides, which is extremely disappointing
for a park of this scale in such a hot climate.
I wish they’d reinvest in this area in the
They do have the sizable Caroline Harbor water
park included with admission though.
While I’ve never spent time here, they appear
to have some nice family slides plus Blackbeard’s
Revenge, an intense trapdoor speed slide.
Beyond the rides, you have two notable seasonal
Scare-owinds is the highly popular Halloween
I’ve never visited the event, but it seems
like a great time of year to get night rides
on the coasters.
Just watch out for crowds though!
Then WinterFest looks like a solid event for
There are only a handful of major rides open-
most notably Copperhead Strike and Afterburn-
but the park is adorned in colorful lights.
I’ve heard this event can get lengthy queues
due to the limited ride lineup, so I hope
the park considers expanding this in future
I can’t speak too much on the food at Carowinds
since I’ve only gotten a snack at Chickie
& Pete’s; the crab fries are great as always
I’ve heard good things about Harmony Hall,
but I’ve never had a full meal here.
I always stuff my face at the nearby Metro
Diner before heading to the park.
They have awesome chicken and waffles and
the portions are massive.
So do I recommend Carowinds?
This is one of the best parks in Southeast.
The top 4 coasters and Fury 325 in particular
keep me coming back.
It also helps this park has some decent non-coasters,
solid operations, and a pleasant atmosphere
to compliment those top attractions.
I think this is in the upper half of the Cedar
Fair parks and it only looks poised to get
better based on how much attention Cedar Fair
has given this park.
So those are my thoughts on Carowinds.
What are your thoughts on this amusement park
that spans both states?
Do you like all that this park offers or do
you come mostly for Fury 325?
Let me know your thoughts down in the comments.
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roller coaster and amusement park videos here
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