Hey y’all- happy hump day! Last week I posted my summer 2018 bucket list. One of the items on it was to go to Carowinds. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know that I checked that off this past Saturday! My bestie and I got up early on Saturday morning, stopped at Starbucks, and drove to the NC/SC state line to play at Carowinds for the day! I’m going to break this post into three parts: recap, review, and tips for YOUR visit. So if you want to hear more about our day at Carowinds and garner some tips to plan your own day of fun, keep reading! (I’ve included links to the ride descriptions on the Carowinds website if you want to know more about the individual attractions we rode!)
The drive to Carowinds from Durham is just over two hours. My bestie and I had hoped to get there by the time the park opened at 10:00, but we ended up not leaving Durham until a little after 8:00. Once we factored in stops for coffee, gas, and restrooms, we ended up arriving at Carowinds just before 11:00. Even though we bought our park tickets online, we waited over 30 minutes to go through the security check and get inside the park.
We didn’t really have a plan of action other than to ride as many roller coasters as we could, and meet Snoopy! (In case you don’t already know, I have a huge obsession with characters and mascots, and I have zero shame!) This was my first time ever at Carowinds, and my bestie’s first time in awhile, so we didn’t really have a clear lay of the land. The park isn’t super large though, so if you keep walking around you will eventually run into whatever you want do. We rode Afterburn roller coaster first, and when we got off that ride we found some park maps, which helped us navigate. On Afterburn, the track is above the cars, and your feet dangle.
Following Afterburn, we walked through Camp Snoopy, and after no Snoopy sightings, we continued walking and rode The Intimidator. This coaster does not turn you upside down, but there are some extremely steep drops. We survived The Intimidator, but my Lauren James seersucker headband did not. It slipped off at some point during the ride, and I didn’t even realize it until maybe a half hour later when we were about to order lunch. Luckily, I found a replacement online from Purple Door Boutique, and ordered while we were eating lunch.
Prior to ordering lunch and realizing my headband was missing, we walked around and took some pics with these fun oversize Carolina Fest Adirondack chairs.
After lunch, we wanted to let our food settle before tackling anymore roller coasters. So we took some pics at the State line.
We also made it back to Camp Snoopy for photo opps with Woodstock and Snoopy. Meeting Snoopy was probably the highlight of my day, and I am not at all embarrassed to admit that. He was so soft and cuddly. And I’ve always loved the Peanuts gang holiday specials, especially A Charlie Brown Christmas.
We also rode the Carousel while waiting for our food to settle. Then we rode the Scrambler, which was a lot of fun. You are in these cars that move forward really rapidly and feel like you’re about to hit something, but then you stop and go in another direction. It doesn’t really make you that dizzy. I probably wouldn’t ride it immediately after eating, but it was perfect to ride after we had given our lunch some time to digest and before we rode another roller coaster.
Once we were ready for another coaster, we rode the Carolina Cyclone. It turns you upside down, but is a bit jerky. We then stood in line for The Vortex, where you stand up and it turns you upside down as well, but the ride shut down due to technical difficulties. When it opened back up later on we were a bit scared to ride it, considering an engineer had been working on it earlier.
I braved Fury 325 all by myself. My bestie enjoys roller coasters, but I am a bit more fearless. This one was simultaneously fun and terrifying. It does not go upside down, but it reaches top speeds of 95 miles per hour, and the first drop is 81 degrees! This one was actually a bit smoother than the other coasters at Carowinds, which I liked.
Once I got off Fury, I found my friend and I rode the Hurler, a wooden roller coaster. We attempted to ride The Ricochet, a kiddie coaster that actually looked like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, right before it was our turn they had to shut down the ride in order to retrieve someone’s prescription glasses. Then when they found the glasses, the ride didn’t want to start back up. Oh well! So we then rode Carolina Goldrusher. This one reminded me a lot of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World, and it was the tamest of the roller coasters without actually being a kiddie coaster.
After Goldrusher, we rode the Flying Cobras. This one was actually one of my favorites. You travel the track twice-once forward and once backwards. The only downside to this is the wait for this coaster was a bit longer, since only one car can travel on the track at a time.
We were going to ride one last coaster, Nighthawk, but it also broke down while we were in line. At this point it was after 7:00, so we decided to go eat at the Sweet Frog inside the park and then call it a day! However, on the way out of the park there was live music on one of the stages, so we stopped to do The Cupid Shuffle and The Wobble.
It was around 8:30 or so when we left the park, and we got back to Durham around 11:30. Although it was a fun day, we were super exhausted when we got back to my place!
Overall, I had a great time at Carowinds and I am so glad that we went, and that I can finally say that I’ve been there! I definitely recommend Carowinds if you’re close enough to make it a day trip. If you’re local to the Charlotte area, it would even be fun to get a season pass. However, I would not make an overnight trip specifically to go to Carowinds (unless you were planning to hit other attractions in Charlotte.) I prefer the roller coasters at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Although Carowinds has more roller coasters than Busch Gardens, there wasn’t a single roller coaster I rode that I liked better than the ones at Busch Gardens. The roller coasters at Carowinds were a bit jerkier than those at Busch Gardens. Admission to Busch Gardens is a bit more expensive, but the overall park ambiance and atmosphere is better there!
One major pro Carowinds offers is that it straddles the North Carolina/South Carolina state line. I just think it’s really cool that you can walk back and forth between the two states, and there’s even a sign for photo opps at the state line. Fury 325 even takes riders back and forth across the state line. I’m not aware of any other theme park in the US that sits in two different states.
Another Carowinds pro is that it you can meet the Peanuts Gang there. As someone who likes getting pictures with as many different characters and mascots as I can, this is super appealing. Even if I don’t make it back to Carowinds for awhile, I’m happy I got pictures with Snoopy and Woodstock.
Also, wait time for rides was pretty reasonable. Despite it being a Saturday in June, we didn’t have to wait super long for any of the rides we went on.
In my opinion, the biggest con of Carowinds is the frequency with which rides broke down. I don’t think I’ve ever been at a theme park and had to step out of line for three different rides because they shut down for technical difficulties.
Also, it took awhile to get into the park. Security lines at Busch Gardens and Disney World are much more efficient.
Food is really expensive. I know food is expected to be pricy at theme parks, but prices seemed to be more inflated at Carowinds than at other theme parks. My cup of frozen yogurt from the Sweet Frog inside the park was over $10! It was delicious, but also definitely the most expensive cup of fro yo I’ve ever had!
If you do decide to take a trip to Carowinds, here are a few tips to help you out.
1. Have realistic expectations. Definitely don’t expect Carowinds to be Disney World or Busch Gardens. I went in expecting that the overall experience would be in a lower tier than those theme parks. Because I wasn’t expecting an experience on par with Disney or Busch Gardens, I was still able to have a great time!
2. Arrive at the park as close to opening as you can. My bestie and I got the park about an hour after it opened, but by the time we actually got inside it was close to two hours after park opening. You will be super tired at the end of the day, so if you’re making it a day trip it’s better to arrive a little bit earlier and then leave earlier so you aren’t driving home super late and exhausted.
3. Don’t expect to do it all. There are so many rides at Carowinds that it’s unrealistic to expect to do everything if you’re only going to be there one day. Even though the park is a very manageable area, it still takes up time walking back and forth between attractions. You also need to factor in time spent to take breaks for food and drink.
4. Fast Lane isn’t worth the extra money. We did NOT purchase Fast Lane, and I was really glad we didn’t spend the extra money, because it would have been completely unnecessary. As I mentioned earlier in the post, we didn’t have to wait in any super long lines, even though it was the third Saturday in June. We were able to experience most of the adult roller coasters, plus a couple non-thrill rides, meet characters, and take breaks for food, drink, and rest over an eight hour period. Now, if you were visiting Carowinds on a day a special event was happening, or you had your heart set on riding every single roller coaster multiple times then you might consider Fast Lane. But if you want to have a fun day experiencing the highlights, then you will be fine with regular admission.
5. Bring a fanny pack. I know, I know, it might not be the most stylish. But with the exception of Fury, you can bring a fanny pack on the roller coasters with you. It’s so much easier than leaving a bag in the loading area hoping that it will still be there when you get off the ride, or having to deal with a locker rental.
6. Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated. This is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s definitely a must for visiting any theme park in the summer. The food places at Carowinds will give you a cup of ice water free, but sometimes it’s even better just to buy a bottled water. One bottled water costs around $4 at Carowinds, but most places sell them 2 for $6, so you can save by bundling them.
7. Make sure all hair accessories are super secure! So I was really surprised that my seersucker headband flew off during the Intimidator, because I didn’t have any problems with losing it when I rode coasters at Busch Gardens. However, I think the headband had gotten pushed too far back on my head so that it wasn’t snug, and that was how it flew off.
8. Buy tickets ahead of time. It saves you time because you won’t have to wait in a ticket line in addition to the security line. In addition, it saves you money! Online admission is about $11 less than gate admission. If you’re a Triple A member, you can save even more through buying discounted tickets at your local Triple A office.
I hope y’all enjoyed this post and that it helped you determine whether you should visit Carowinds, and how to have a fun experience if you do decide to go.
Have you ever been to Carowinds? If so, what did you think of the park as a whole, and what was your favorite ride?