From Southwest to Southeast: Carowinds!

Sean: After riding the World’s fastest, and arguably best, Wooden Coaster a few days prior, it was time to visit the World’s largest Giga Coaster at Carowinds! This park recently received a major facelift from Cedar Fair, one very similar to what California’s Great America is planned to receive in the next few years! The park’s operations were amazing, and the park has a solid line-up of roller coasters! Let’s take a look around the park, shall we?

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The new entrance to the park is right next to the parking lot and offers amazing views of what soon became my favorite steel coaster: Fury 325!

There it is! The border of South Carolina and North Carolina, as well as the entrance to the park.

Time to head in! The updated park entrance that came with the addition of Fury 325 in 2015 nicely reminds you what side of the park is in North Carolina and what side of the park is in South Carolina.

Honestly, forget about everything else right now, it’s FURY 325 TIME! Of course we headed straight to this 6,602 feet long beast! The ride towers over the regions flat terrain and is to be seen from many miles away, but since the park just opened only a few guests were in the way of me riding my favorite steel coaster for the first time!

Just like Lightning Rod a few days before I was flabbergasted. Though my first ride in Row 5 was about as amazing as things can get, the front row ride was absurdly awesome. The first drop is wonderful, mainly due to the 81’ degree angle and the huge height, and the first bunch of turns are relentless! It’s all one big blur with wind in your face ‘til you hit Treble Clef element, which features a drop diving below the entrance to the park!

The ride then throws some good airtime hills your way, as well as a large turn around and some quick transitions before hitting the final brakes! Due to it’s insane speed and airtime filled transitions, as well as the height of the first drop of course, this ride delivers ride after ride.

And the Carowinds operations sure make the experience even better as there is zero stacking with a coaster running three trains. Even when the majority of the switchbacks were filled it only took about 30 minutes to get on! Worthy of that #FurySelfie!

Next up was a much anticipated coaster for me: Nighthawk! As a Dutchman myself, and as the owner of California Coaster Kings it was exciting to ride Stealth (former coaster at California’s Great America), which was manufactured in the Netherlands, my country of origin.

Living right next to Tatsu obviously set me up with wrong expectations, as hardly any type of Flying Coaster experience can match that of Tatsu, but sadly Nighthawk was even less than what I expected. The ride’s transitions and elements are certainly cool, and laying on your back for multiple periods throughout the ride definitely gives it an edge, which is why the vertical loop on Nighthawk is so amazing, but as a first-of-its-kind, that’s all there really is to it. The corkscrews, like a lot of the transitions, feel uncomfortable and unlike later Flying Dutchman installments such as Firehawk at Kings Island, are not made for a flying experience. In addition, the ride’s an older Vekoma, and though well-maintained, rattles plenty to make the ride terrifying on a whole different level.

To be fair, this was the first prototype of a coaster of this kind, and actually has a layout I can appreciate. In addition to which the color scheme and landscaping below the ride are pretty fantastic as well. The real issue with a first-of-its-kind coaster, it quickly and majorly has been improved upon. B&M Flyers for the win.

Next up was the park’s first hyper coaster, Intimidator! This 2010 stadium-seating style B&M hyper is totally different from Fury 325. Carowinds offers two amazing airtime experiences. #goals

Intimidator’s trains both enhance and limit the ride experience. Since the trains are so incredibly long, the train drags over the hills, meaning that the front row offers a completely different experience from the back. The back being, arguably, the best, as the back rows are just whipped over the tall airtime hills offering amazing airtime and a constant out-of-your seat experience. In addition the stadium-seating offers front row-like views for the winged seats on the trains, enhancing the experience even further.

Intimidator features a wonderful first drop, some particularly great transitions in the two turnarounds and PLENTY of air over the eight major airtime hills. It’s a coaster we can expect to come to California’s Great America, now the ten year plan has been approved. Carowinds, over the past few years has been under constant attention and investment of Cedar Fair and the park has turned into an amazing property! California’s Great America is likely following the exact same path, with a hyper coaster expected to be similar to Intimidator. It will be a much welcomed ride in California. California needs airtime machines like these. Now.

You know what’s up next? Another yellow Dutch coaster: Flying Ace Aerial Chase. This suspended family coaster by Vekoma has the same layout as their larger scale regular family rollerskater. Even though this is a genius layout for a small family suspended coaster, the restraints just kill the ride. As if someone wondered how you could create a head bangin’ family coaster, and Vekoma saw it as a challenge. Their newer family suspended trains are perfect, but unfortunately these trains create headbanging throughout the rather fun layout. A pity.

Next up were some more, perhaps better, kiddie coasters! Including the super adorable Woodstock Express! This 70s kiddie woodie has a perfect purple and yellow color scheme and has a simple but very fun layout. The ride is a mere 38 feet tall and since it is such a small ride with a young audience, the ride features junior PTC trains. Not particularly accommodating for two dudes well over six feet tall. Nonetheless, when both taking one row, we managed to squeeze ourselves into this adorable ride.

We’re not done with the kiddie coaster just yet, next up was the park’s E&F Miler family coaster with crazy little ejector hops. Of course loading two big guys up along with families, squeezing myself in the back, the ride came in way too hot and overshot the station. #reride

Okay enough kiddie coasters, let’s hit up one of the park’s best known rides: AFTERBURN! This is Flight Deck at California’s Great America on steroids, but is it better?

The ride’s first drop is great, feels much like Flight Deck’s, just a bit taller and curvier. The first loop is wonderful, not too forceful, but the ride itself has a powerful feel to it. The fighter jet themed trains drop down below in a ditch to then fly up an Immelman, which is probably my favorite element on the ride, as most B&Ms in California feature the reversed version of this element, Dive Loops.

The ride’s Zero-G-Roll felt like any other, and I do prefer Silver Bullet’s rendition better. The element is by no means disappointing, but it simply doesn’t stand out. The ride is very visually pleasing though, the views from on-ride, and off-ride are lovely.

The next element is the ride’s Batwing, which is by far the most famous element of the ride. This double inversion with a tunnel below the park’s secondary entrance is snappy yet very smooth and combines a lot of cool effects/forces in a quick few seconds, it’s understandably the ride’s lead element. And of course it’s also the best looking element on the ride.

The secondary entrance does not always get used, but on the opening day of the 2017 season, when we happened to be at the park, it was open… Thus we had the opportunity to get some great shots of the Batwing element!

After the Batwing element, Afterburn has a large hill over the station, much like Flight Deck passes over the station as well, before a corkscrew and then a final helix. This sequence, as mentioned above is very similar to our Californian fighter jet themed inverted coaster, but without lake and less forces, isn’t merely as good. California’s Great America, you really DO have a great inverted coaster.

The park is still receiving lots of improvements and changes, especially on the Carolina Harbor side of the park, on your way over to the new County Fair section of the park you’ll find some older sections that are currently in the process of being fixed up. The park’s old shoot the chute has been taken out, and is in the same area that the park’s classic wooden racing coaster Thunder Road once stood. This will be the next area to be developed.

The newest developed and renovated area of the park is the Carowinds County Fair! It was opening day and the area was not entirely finished yet.

The new area features Zypher, the park’s second wave swinger. This ride was running either a very weird program, or it has yet to be programmed correctly, because there was no speed and hardly any swinging on opening day.

Another new ride in the area is Do-Si-Do, a classic Troika attraction <3

The park also added Rock ‘N Rollercoaster, which is located on the very end of the new area, or beginning, depending on what side you enter from. This side of the new County Fair area feels a bit empty and concrete-y to me. Once the vegetation grows in and the sun shines over the area I’m sure it’ll look a lot better.

Electro Spin, the park’s new Top Scan ride had yet to open when we visited, but it sure looks wonderful in the new area. I can not wait to ride Sol Spin at Knott’s Berry Farm soon!

And the real star of the new County Fair area is the next Dutch coaster: FLYING COBRAS! The first MK1212 experience on this road trip! The Vekoma MK1212 trains have vest restraints and make any coaster much more comfortable. Flying Cobras opened in 2009 as Carolina Cobra as the first MK1212 Boomerang in the US (recycled from Geauga Lake where it stood as Head Spin).

The ride’s new color scheme with accents on the supports is absolutely AMAZING. The blue is fresh, the perfect dark shade, and the white is a wonderful contrast to that. The park already has a lot of different colors very close to each other, the white supports with red accents are much welcomed.

In addition to which the trains have received an amazing makeover, every car on the train has their own color with their own aircraft themed stickers and names.

The entrance and new themed elements around the ride are very wonderful as well, the park perfectly managed to theme it to the new County Fair and upgrade the ride’s look. I’m much impressed. Of course the ride experience is a delight as well! I was hoping perhaps Knott’s Berry Farm’s Boomerang would receive such makeover with new trains, but as you’ve likely already heard, it’s closing on April 23rd!

Next up was Carolina Goldrusher, a very short mine train coaster that failed to impress me. The ride vehicles were uncomfortable with new hard padding, and the ride’s layout, besides the last few seconds, is incredibly short. The pre-lift of the ride is about as entertaining as the rest of the ride. The underground head-chopper helix, as seen in the background of the below displayed picture, is by far the best part of the ride. I always appreciate a classic ride, but unfortunately Carolina Goldrusher was just not that good.

Let’s quickly move on to the next Carolinas themed and named coaster: CAROLINA CYCLONE! A classic Arrow coaster that has a color-coded color scheme. All non-thrilling elements, such as the lift-hill, pre-lift, turn after the lift, and the brake-run are light blue. All non inverting sections of the ride are orange, and all inversions are yellow. Good job Carowinds!

The ride itself features the classic Arrow looper trains and seriously hauls ass! The ride’s transitions are impressively smooth, though there are very few transitions, the helix at the end of the ride is also partially underground and has a great speed to it. I very much enjoyed Carolina Cyclone, much like most Arrow Loopers, and since there was no line all day, got several rides in!

Here’s a mandatory sunset shot.

Next up was another little surprise: Drop Tower. Unlike the one at California’s Great America, this Drop Tower only has four ride vehicles, is much shorter (only 160ft tall, as where the California version is 227ft tall), and is well maintained! The entire ride is nicely painted, the line is nicely landscaped and brightly painted, and even though it’s located in the corner of the park a bit out of the way, it’s amazing looking. California’s Great America is the precise opposite. The ride has not been repainted in a long time, the line is basic concrete switchbacks and the station looks old. All aspects of Drop Tower in Santa Clara can use an update. Something I’m sure we’ll see as California’s Great America slowly gets turned into the next Carowinds!

Next up was… Hurler. Hurler looks and feels almost untouched from the Paramount Era and it ain’t pretty. Though the line was actually very long for this ride, the station is so incredibly 90s, basic, and under-maintained that it hurt. Besides the park dispatching a train with a restraint open, and a guest having to almost physically jump over the airgates to bring it to the attention of the ride operators, the ride’s mediocre layout offered a mediocre experience.

Please Carowinds, give this wooden coaster with potential a GCI makeover like GhostRider at Knott’s Berry Farm received. And since the park really doesn’t have a single good large scale wooden coaster, I would much prefer a GCI makeover over a Hybrid conversion from RMC.

The Scream Weaver enterprise ride is one of our favorites, but it too needs some loving, the colors are a bit outdated.

TIME FOR MORE CLEAR PARAMOUNT ERA REMAINS: Ricochet! Look at these trains and spot the Paramount logo 😛

The ride itself is located on the edge of the harbor themed area of the park and hasn’t seen any major updates in years, besides the repaint of the track. (For better or for worse).

The station looks wonderful, but the exit and signage around the ride, just like the ride vehicles, are in need of an upgrade. The park is well maintained and has undergone an incredible transformation. Ricochet and Hurler are two of the very few rides that have yet to be refurbished to match the new Carowinds look.

There’s one coaster left to ride, one I was incredibly curious about riding but that was closed most of the day (thank goodness that it reopened around 8pm): VORTEX! Now our Vortex at California’s Great America has closed and just reopened as Patriot a few days back, I was happy to experience Carowinds’ Vortex before that too will become a Floorless coaster.

The ride’s layout is longer, much more exciting, and overall baffled me. I very much enjoyed it! The station is indoor (yay!) and the ride layout lends itself amazingly well to become a floorless coaster.

The ride is also beautifully located next to the water and is well integrated with the midways around the ride. It’s the surprise classic at the park, and once it will receive its conversion it will surely be an amazing new ride experience at the park.


We better ride this ride all night long. No joke. Since the line was moving so incredibly fast, we spent the last two hours of the night riding Fury 325. I could have not pictured a better ending to our day!

Overall Carowinds is an incredible park that is a prime example of how a large park chain can turn a property around. Much as we’re seeing our Californian Paramount park, California’s Great America, being turned around and quickly improving, this park has turned around and has become a destination with AMAZING, beyond California regional theme park standards, operations, features a wonderful collection of flat rides, and a colorful line-up of world class coasters.

I’m incredibly excited to see what California’s Great America will soon look like in a decade. I will be back, Carowinds. I’ll be back.

Thank you for checking out this Carowinds Report! Make sure to read all about our Dollywood experience, here! Stay tuned for some Six Flags Over Georgia reports as well!

Carowinds may soon follow California’s Great America with converting Vortex. Read all about our experience on Patriot! 

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