Carowinds- 1st Time Visit

August 10, 2015, 12:47 PM

It's time to head back to school and as such, my father and I are stopping at Carowinds on the way. Since this is our first time at a Cedar Fair park, I'm very excited, but need some help. What advice do you have for first-timers? We're going next Monday and have a full day to work with. Will the park be somewhat busy as kids get ready to go back to school? Would a Fast Lane be worth it or not? Any answers will be very appreciated.

Replies (7)

August 10, 2015, 2:42 PM

It's been several years since I visited Carowinds, so some of this advice may need a little updating. However, here's what I would say...

First, get to the park at least 20 minutes before opening. Since you are going toward the end of the operating season, crowds shouldn't be too bad. However, arriving early is always a good idea. When the park opens, you'll want to do Fury 325, Intimidator, and Nighthawk first as those three have the longest lines. Nighthawk has the lowest capacity of the three, but Fury 325 is the newest coaster (and wasn't there when I visited), so I'm not sure which is better to do first. Either way, do those two and then do Intimidator.

After completing these three coasters, it is time to make a decision. If you would like to ride all the coasters in the park, head to Carolina Boardwalk and ride (in order) Carolina Cobra, Ricochet, Carolina Goldrusher, and Carolina Cyclone. After this, proceed around the park counter-clockwise. If you don't care about riding all the coasters, however, instead proceed to Afterburn and then go clockwise around the park from there.

For a first time visitor, I would prioritize the following attractions:

-Carolina Skytower
-Drop Tower
-Fury 325
-Scream Weaver
-Southern Star

I didn't do Boomerang Bay when I visited as it was closed, but it looked like a pretty average waterpark. I would probably skip it unless you really like waterparks and have plenty of extra time.

As for Fast Lane, I doubt you'll need it on a Monday. I did this whole park in about six hours on my visit during a similar time of year. Unless you want a lot of re-rides or want to spend a large amount of time in the waterpark I wouldn't invest in Fast Lane.

Lastly, as you've never visited a Cedar Fair park all I can say is to keep your expectations appropriate. If you've been to a Six Flags park, Cedar Fair properties are similar but are generally better. You'll find a lot of thrill rides and limited theming. Carowinds is pretty average compared to other Cedar Fair parks, but it isn't a bad park and without a reference point I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

I hope you have a good visit. With the addition of Fury 325 I'm looking to get back here myself. Perhaps next year...

August 10, 2015, 7:49 PM

Carowinds is actually a really decent regional park and you will have a blast. The park can be crowded at times but it is not unbearable so you are probably good if you skip fast lane. Be sure to get there before they open and scramble to Intimidator or Fury 325. Those two are by far the best coasters in the park (honorable mention also goes to Afterburn), especially Fury an incredible ride. Loop around and hit any other rides that strike your fancy. If the crowds start getting bad (often in the middle of the day) take a break-get your hand stamped and leave. Go have a nice, long and air conditioned lunch and then head back a few hours before they close. The lines are always at their shortest right when the park opens and right before closing. Good luck and have fun!

August 11, 2015, 11:17 AM

As someone in the Charlotte area we love Carowinds, AJ hit the nail right on the head. The only thing I will add is make sure to drink plenty of water and bring sunscreen as there is very little shade in this park, and the few places there is shade you'll be hard to find a place to sit.

Fury, Int, Afterburner and the Hurler are my favorites. I used to love Nighthawk but as they have not kept it in top shape it has become extremely rough, so rough in fact that it ruptured my ear drum and caused my inner ear fluid to get off balance and caused excessive dizziness. Long story short I won't ride it again which sucks because it was my absolute favorite!

August 13, 2015, 9:21 AM

Hi! My family went on Monday, June 29, and it was pretty packed, it felt like. I believe we got there during the first hour of operation or so. My family has differing tastes in rides: my mom and I are coaster junkies, whereas my dad and brother are not. Carowinds doesn't really put out wait times (if there were any, I'm at a loss as to where they are posted), so my mom and brother went on Rip Roarin' Rapids first thing, thinking it would be short enough of a wait--it was easily 60-90 minutes before they came back.

With a family in our situation, Fast Lane PLUS was a tremendously great idea. For two people, the cost is (compared to other parks) not that extreme as you easily get your money's worth: you're almost immediately boarded on the busiest rides (i.e. Nighthawk, Fury 325, Intimidator) and more often than not, you'll end up front row, we realized (if you're not too keen on that, there are usually some Good Samaritans that would love to switch with you). Though we didn't do this, you can use it multiple times, too. With that, we spent time riding coasters while not eating up family time. If you're just going with your dad, then I would ride a few rides, gauge how long the waits are, then make a choice on Fast Lane (go Plus so you can use it on the four biggest rides). If it's pretty mild, you will probably be able to ride most anything in a day (I never had that experience, only going once, so I'm just guessing); if you can see the back of the line for most things, Fast Lane it.

As for coasters, we loved a good lot of them. Fury 325 was probably our favorite, being the fastest and most thrilling coaster we've ever been on. That gigacoaster was so fast and intense my mom's hairtie flew out of her hair! It's plenty long, too. Intimidator is more of the same, but I think a little more intense despite being slower and smaller. Nighthawk, I loved; it's one of the most mindbending and scary (in a good way) flyers I've been on. The others are fun coasters, too (exempting woodies, I didn't go on those), but I would stay away from the Carolina Cyclone unless you want to be out of the coaster mood--there's a reason both lines were nonexistent. It's far too rough and bumpy to be enjoyable, very much like Ninja at Six Flags Over Georgia. Besides Cyclone, I say if something looks fun to you, ride it. We did pretty well that way. (Also, don't neglect seeing the traveling Brass Brigade--very fun and energetic!)

August 15, 2015, 6:37 PM

On a Monday you may luck out in terms of the lengths of the queues. Hard to say. I went on a weekend and had to purchase Fast Lane Plus, as I was determined to ride Fury 325 as often as possible and the wait without it was close to two hours. Although Intimidator was a good ride, one ride was sufficient - as by now I've ridden enough B&M hypers for them to blend into one another and seem repetitive. Nighthawk is a must-ride, especially as there are only three Flying Dutchman coasters in existence and I've now ridden two of them. The best ride in the park, however - other than Fury - IMHO is Afterburn, and the queue for that seemed to be moving pretty fast. What Adam Johnson says about Carolina Cyclone is very true. I'm glad I rode it just for the experience and the ride does have some nice elements but the double corkscrew at the end of the course is really brutal. Much too rough to be enjoyable. One ride I did find especially enjoyable is Thunder Road, which unfortunately is no more.

August 15, 2015, 7:22 PM

Thanks for the advice everyone. As luck would have it, we found deals that get us tickets that are good for 2 days for the price of 1, so we'll end up going both Monday and Tuesday. In that event, a strategy might not be entirely needed. In any event, I'll make sure to post quick thoughts afterwards here because with school going into full swing, I won't have time for a trip report.

August 24, 2015, 9:26 PM

Well, now that everything's unpacked and taken care of, I can get to this. For the most part, I thought Carowinds was a neat park for travelers looking for a respite from Interstates. While I would have liked to have seen some attempt at theming (such as that from Six Flags parks), all that matters in a coaster park are coasters and they didn't disappoint for the most part. Nighthawk was my first ride and I was truly surprised by the way Flying Dutchmans work, having believed it to be a standard flyer. I found it a little disorienting going out and up on your back and flipping back upright was little help, but it was still a good ride. Flying Chase Aerial Race can be a bit of a headbanger, but I'm sure the little ones love it for a first-time invert.

Because the park was deserted, I managed to get a whole train to myself on Afterburner. Man does that sucker pull you in and never let go. While it may start to be showing it's age, those looking for non-stop action will not be disappointed. Boo Blasters was very cheesy and I couldn't tell whether it was trying to be scary with funny thrown in or vice versa. Windseeker sounds like a good idea in theory, but when you can't let people on because it needs a minimum amount of rides to balance the weight, something definitely went wrong with engineering. We enjoyed our first ride, but would have liked to have gone on it once more.

Having never rode a Boomerang before thanks to Great America's problems with Deja Vu, I resolved to at least try Carolina Cobra. I can see why parks are moving away from this format. One-train coasters always take forever and inversions backwards makes me dizzy just remembering it. Ricochet was your standard mouse coaster, nothing special, nothing terrible. As I wrote in another thread, I was hoping Vortex would try and restore my faith in stand-ups. Alas, it did not.

Carolina Cyclone reminded me a lot of the Demon at Great America and thus, I adjusted my head properly in anticipation and was able to have fun. Maybe I should give the Demon another shot someday. We skipped Carolina Goldrusher having done one kiddie coaster already, something I somewhat regret. Hurler was down that day, so I can't judge it. As for Fury 325, all I can say is WOW! What a beast! With promotions everywhere in the park, there was no way I was gonna miss this coaster. The lift hill goes fast, yet feels like forever thanks to its massive height. Speaking of lasting forever, that initial drop feels like it's never going to end! With it's massive speed, I would have hoped that they used it a little more to produce more airtime hops. Either way, it would have earned my vote for this year's best new coaster and would have been my favorite in the park had it not been for:

Intimidator. Easily now my favorite coaster anywhere, Intimidator takes its 230 ft height and uses it in all the right ways. With a generous amount of bunny hills on this sucker, you keep feel like your going to fly right out of your seat. I could not get enough of this masterpiece. Now I have to give the King's Dominion version a try, though I doubt that it can match up.

As for Boomerang Bay, we did go there for a couple of hours, but there's nothing terribly exciting except for the Surfers Swell and even then, I couldn't go on it a lot due to only allowing double riders. Only go if it gets really hot out. However, the water park did provide some good views of Thunder Road's demolition, which you could feel the parkgoers mourn.

Once again, Carowinds is a great park for its area and definitely holds up as a Cedar Fair park. If only management would begin adding some quality dark ride experiences that we're know starting to see from Cedar Fair, I might have to give it another return visit real soon.

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