2021: The year the Simpson family first got Platinum Passes! My Dad wasted no time planning a trip down to Charlotte, NC/Fort Mill, South Carolina to check out Carowinds. Because we came for October, we got a little taste of Scarowinds as well!
I will note that traffic around Carowinds is insane. People who dwell around this park don’t pay much attention to their surroundings and tend to pull into the road without checking for others. I would recommend either having an experienced driver go with you, or try to stay at the Carowinds Camp Wilderness so you are closer to park grounds. Also, I would discourage booking a room at the Clarion Hotel at Fort Mills. Despite having a no-smoking policy and threaten a fee, they do not enforce this. Cigarette butts litter the balcony and the hotel reeks of cigarette smoke. Pets are also not allowed in this hotel, yet we often spotted dogs walking the halls. In addition, it wasn’t thoroughly cleaned. It wasn’t horrendous, the essential areas were cleaned. However, there were evidence of dust and even came across a couple small cockroaches. The only aspect that I enjoyed as the fact we got a great view of Carowinds from across the way. However, overall the cheaper fee is not worth it, do not go here.
The first thing I noticed is, compared to King’s Dominion, everything is more compacted. There’s less walking space and everything is almost on top of each other. Carowinds is pretty creative how to compact all of their attractions. Another aspect I noted is that their kid’s area, Camp Snoopy is smaller than King’s Dominion as well, with seemingly less kid’s attractions. It was no hindrance to us, since our youngest is a teenager. Still, I can’t help but draw comparisons.
Friday was our best night. It was difficult accommodating for their no-bags policy for Scarowinds, which I still stand by may be too much of a compromise for guests, and Carowinds should instead allow either waist bags, and/or see-through waist bags. Aside from that, the lines were incredibly short. We managed to hit five coasters in that one night due to the lessened traffic! It allowed us to experience Scarowinds with relative ease, and allowed me to fully absorb the various scare zones and their atmosphere.
Their Halloween layout is quite different from King’s Dominion as well. There are some similar scare zones such as Carnevil (Scarowinds) and Cleavers Brothers Carnivale (KD), the spooky circus filled with clowns and others, Masquerade (KD) and the Queen’s Ball (Sc), both themed after a unsettling masquerade party, and Uprising (KD) and the Grave Walkers, a scary trek through the graveyard, where zombies run amok. However, there are very different scare zones at Scarowinds I absolutely loved! My personal favorites were Dead Man’s Landing and Outlaw’s Revenge.
Dead Man’s Landing was based on the tall tales of Captain Blackbeard and crawled with pirates who will actively attempt to cheat you out of your booty. In addition, watch out for the alluring sirens and their hypnotic songs as they search for victims to drag back with them into the sea.
The other, Outlaw’s Revenge, was essentially a Western Gothic location, filled with blood thirsty bandits. The highlight of this scare zone was the skinless horse stabled in the Livery. He is essentially a puppet, who has his head poking out, attempting to snap a bite out of unsuspecting victims. I was head-over-heels for this creature. I think I actually scared him for how loud I squealed in delight when I saw him.
I sort of felt sorry for Afterburn. It was sequestered in this corner in the park, with little to no traffic on a Sunday afternoon. However I was pleased to discover it was a fun time! It felt very reminiscent of Alpengiest from Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It had familiar corkscrews and flying through a canyon towards the end of the ride.
The Carolina Cyclone reminded me of the Loch Ness Monster from Busch Gardens Williamsburg, mixed with the Anaconda from King’s Dominion. However, it primarily had the roughness of Anaconda, in that my head got pretty banged up by the end of it. If that doesn’t bother you when riding a coaster, you’ll have no problems. But if it does, I would recommend skipping this one.
Carolina Goldrusher I felt was being a tease the whole ride duration. It was probably the slowest coaster in the entire park. Every time it went up a hill, and I in my seat eagerly anticipating a large drop, it went down only a few feet and continued on. This was by far the least intense coaster in Carowinds, and I would highly recommend this as a child’s first roller coaster.
“Everybody knew about her delicious concoction. Best for miles around. She’d won blue ribbons at the county fair for 40 years with that jam, but no more. Granny Byrd’s recipe is gonna be yours. But to get your hands on it, you gotta head way, way out to a run-down, broken-down farm at the far edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Word has it there are lots of copperheads around there, so be careful.” – Carowinds, Copperhead Strike
The Copperhead Strike was the first coaster I rode at Carowinds; and let me tell you, it was a great choice to kick off the trip. The cold air whipping my face and hair was exhilarating. This coaster kicks off immediately with a corkscrew and features a double launch. One is when you’ve driven into the farm and attempt to snoop in on Granny Byrd’s jam making, you’re spotted, and you hightail it out of their before she can get you in the butt with buckshot! Weirdly enough, the launch isn’t as strong as Verbolten from Busch Gardens Williamsburg, or Flight of Fear from King’s Dominion. But this coaster is still widely entertaining, and highly recommend checking it out!
I was initially worried about riding this. My previous experience with a long-drop coaster is the Intimidator 305 at King’s Dominion. The Intimidator 305, which has a 305 foot drop and speed of 90 mph, causes a lot of vibrating from its intense speed that causes me to either see stars, or white vision, and I’m always worried I’m going to pass out, and I was concerned I would experience that on the Fury 325, which has a 325 foot drop and speed of 95 mph. I am happy to report I had no such effects. Fury 325 was smooth sailing and exhilarating. I’m not sure what the difference between 305 and 325 is. Perhaps 325 has less turns, or maybe its turns are wider, and there’s less gravitational push. Either way, it was nice to have my fears fly away. Another cool aspect of this coaster is that you can see it from many areas in the park, since it borders about a third of Carowinds. It’s the first coaster you’ll see when you first enter the car park.
I vaguely remember the Hurler from my first visit to King’s Dominion back in 2013. I recalled it being a wooden coaster, which occasionally would get rough. By the time I returned to KD in 2018, The Hurler was long gone and instead was replaced with Twisted Timbers. All this to say, I was curious what Carowind’s Hurler would be like, and if it was similar to it’s extinct KD cousin. Though it was not as rough as I anticipated, it was still shaky. Now since I had ridden the Grizzly so many times and had experienced the intensity of its rocky track, it personally felt a little disappointing. Overall, there wasn’t anything that really stood out about the Hurler. If you’re on a time crunch and can only ride a limited amount of coasters, I don’t think you’ll be that heartbroken skipping this one.
Yet another coaster I was curious to compare. Despite having almost the same name as KD’s Intimidator 305, the layout is completely different! Instead of a 305 feet drop, it’s a 232 foot drop, and instead of a speed of 90 mph, it’s 75 mph. Pleasantly, I enjoyed this Intimidator a lot more than the 305 version. Obviously it’s because Carowind’s Intimidator doesn’t jank me around as much as 305, so it was a lot better experience. Highly recommend this one if you want to ride something with slightly less intensity.
Although this was listed as less intense than Carolina Goldrusher, being a 4 out of 5 on the scale, and Kiddy Hawk being a 3 out of 5, I found it to be backwards. Like the Carolina Cyclone, Kiddy Hawk was rocky and caused us to knock our heads around on the restraints. It wasn’t quite as bad as the Cyclone, nor the Anaconda at KD. Nevertheless, my family and I came to an agreement we probably won’t ride it again.
Now this was a brand new experience! This is apparently one of two roller coasters of its kind, called the “Flying Dutchman” Model. Basically, the entire duration of the ride, you are lying on your back. Because of this, there are turns that have you facing downwards towards the moats below the coaster, causing sensations of falling out of your seat. For the coaster daredevil in me, this was fantastic! The only qualm I have is that loading/unloading took some time, and after the ride was over, my back began to hurt as we were waiting to be pulled into the dock and have our restraints released. Aside from that, an incredible coaster!
The Flying Cobras
Yet another coaster I hadn’t experienced before. The Flying Cobras is a shorter coaster. The reason why is because goes forward, and backwards! You’ll be lifted up on a 125 foot drop, and then released until you reach the end. You’re once again lifted up, and then released again, flying backwards until you woosh past the loading dock, then slowly pulled in. As someone who’s not fond of being flown backwards due to preferring to see where I’m going, this coaster was a lot of fun!
This is one unique coaster I probably won’t ride again unless certain elements are improved upon. The Vortex is one of very few standing roller coasters in operation; and there’s kind of a good reason why. The loading process was difficult to endure. Essentially, you have to climb into the seat, sit on the seat, and you’re shoulder restraints are locked. However, there will be some time before the seat releases and you’re able to adjust it according to your height. I experienced really bad abdominal pain as I begged and prayed to have my seat adjusted (I am 5’3). I was barely on my tippy-toes trying to elevate the pressure! So if you’re a casual rider, I wouldn’t particularly recommend riding this, unless they improve upon their loading process.
The Burrito Cafe is located in Carowind’s Plaza. It was a similar experience to the Border Burrito at King’s Dominion. They offer burrito bowls, regular burritos, and cheese quesadillas. I had the same conclusion as I had of Border Burrito: a good dining choice and often generous with their topping portions!
Chickie’s & Pete’s
Chickie’s & Pete’s is a quaint little sports bar located in Carolina Boardwalk. It was very quiet and pleasant. We had a chicken cheese steak and a regular philly cheese steak sandwich with fries. It was simple, but delightful. Highly recommend!
Harmony Hall Marketplace
Located in Planet Snoopy, Harmony Hall provides a wide variety of choices, from Italian, to BBQ, to salads, to even Acai Bowls! Overall there wasn’t anything particularly mind blowing about the food here, but it’s a good choice for getting out of the heat (or the cold depending on what time of year you’re going), sit down, and take a nice break from coaster riding. It reminded me a lot of Das Festhaus at Busch Gardens, except Harmony Hall appeared to be half the size.
A family favorite that we dearly miss from King’s Dominion. Our favorite dish is the orange chicken with either noodles or rice. It’s fresh, it’s warm, and delicious! There is no change of quality from any other Panda Express, and it’s a yummy safe choice if you’re worried about getting jyped.
Aside from the lack of quality of our hotel, Carowinds was an amazing trip! Our three day trip was plenty of time to accomplish everything we set out to do! The crowds would get a little intense come Scarowinds, but was over wise very tolerable. Almost every coaster was an incredible and unique experience, and customer service was solid. Definitely want to come back again in the 2022 season!