Carowinds, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
I visited Carowinds last Friday - 4/8/2016. My last visit to Carowinds in 2010 was brought on by the major addition of a hyper-coaster called Intimidator to the park's already impressive line-up. Last year Carowinds made an even bigger (literally) addition to their skyline by adding the even more massive giga coaster known as Fury 325; from the moment the ride was announced I was eager to make a return visit. It took a bit longer than I hoped, but I made it back last weekend and had a fantastic day. It was easily the best I have had at Carowinds, and arguably the best I have had at any park.
Our travel plans would see us arrive in the Charlotte area around 3pm so we opted to buy a couple "after 4pm" admission tickets through the park’s web site in advance. We arrived just before 4PM, which worked out very well by giving me some time to gawk at Fury 325 and marvel at what an amazing looking ride it is. Along with Fury 325, the park also debuted an all new entrance plaza last year which looks fantastic. It interacts with Fury 325 beautifully and is very well laid out.
Once the clock hit 4pm we made our way inside and immediately headed towards Fury 325. We arrived at the attraction to find a couple switchbacks worth of people waiting in line. With all three trains running the line moved quickly, and after only fifteen or so minutes we were boarding the front row. The view while ascending the 325 foot apex is astounding, but the real fun starts with the 81 degree plunge back towards the ground. The first drop left me feeling like my stomach was still a few hundred up in the air and sent the train careening down the track at a breakneck pace (topping out at 95mph). With no hesitation or pause the ride begins a series of intense, twisting transitions that pull some intense g’s and best of all are unbelievably smooth. These transitions also give some great, unexpected airtime. The ride never seems to slow down at all until it reaches the final series of airtime hills that lead riders back to the station. Fury 325 has without question taken over the number one spot on my list of top steel roller coasters and only falls slightly behind Boulder Dash in a combined listing of my favorites. It is a truly remarkable ride that far exceeded my expectations.
Following an exceptional ride on Fury on 325 we made our way next door to Hurler where we found a short 10 or so minute wait for a ride in one of the middle rows. I was excited to see how this ride was running since GCI had recently completed some extensive work including rebuilding the first high-speed, banked turn. While some sections of the ride were much more smooth than I remembered, as a whole the ride was still fairly rough. Additionally, with the heavy trim brakes after the first drop I got close to zero airtime and the pacing seemed very sluggish. Once was enough on this ride. It’s sad to remember how fun Hurler once was years ago compared to what it is like now.
After Hurler we returned to Fury 325 for a second lap; the line was a bit shorter, and the ride was still excellent. Next we walked over to Vortex which was only a one-train wait before we were boarding the front row. While not a terrible ride, I’m relieved we didn’t have to wait too long. The corkscrew beat us up and the process to board the awkward stand-up trains takes more time than the actual ride itself. After one ride we were ready to move along to a couple more mild coasters.
Ricochet was next on our agenda and ended up being the longest wait of the day at that point (around 20 minutes). This is a standard Mack wild mouse coaster; while not being too exciting or groundbreaking, these are always rides I enjoy. In this case the trims were barely on which led to some fun, out of control turns and drops. Following Ricochet we continued down the walkway to Carolina Goldrusher for our next ride. We walked right on to this nice, small mine train ride. Carolina Goldrusher has a couple fun helixes with some nice head choppers from the structure and surrounding foliage. Definitely a nice, family friendly coaster.
A couple hours had passed and we were craving a snack so we grabbed some “famous Crab Fries” from Chickie’s and Pete’s - this was a solid choice and I recommend grabbing food from here if eating inside the park. As we enjoyed our fries we sat near the Carolina Cobra and watched as empty trains were sent for test runs repeatedly. The ride was not quite ready to open so we moved along to Windseeker.
I had yet to ride a Windseeker and was very excited to try one out after riding Six Flags New England’s 400 foot tall SkyScreamer last summer. With both attractions being massive swing rides that take guests hundreds of feet in the air I figured I would enjoy Windseeker just as much. Windseeker is the second tallest ride in the park at 301 feet and provides incredible views of the park and surrounding area for miles in every direction. After only waiting a few minutes we were fortunate to board the ride just as the sun was setting, resulting in even more spectacular views. Windseeker did not feel quite as out of of control or thrilling as SkyScreamer, but was still a very enjoyable ride.
While riding WindSeeker we noticed Carolina Cobra had re-opened so we backtracked that way. We rode in the back car after waiting a couple trains. I was actually excited to re-visit this coaster. It may be a generic Vekoma Boomerang - but with its newer style trains and comfortable vest restraints it is the most smooth and enjoyable Boomerang I have been on.
After Carolina Cobra we went on a couple more non-coaster rides. First was Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. This was unfortunately the biggest disappointment of the day. I had been on this ride during its past life as Scooby Doo’s Haunted Mansion; and had experienced both the Scooby Doo and Boo Blaster attractions at other Paramount turned Cedar Fair parks including Kings Dominion and Kings Island. Unlike my past experiences where the animatronics were working and it was a nice shooting dark ride, in the case it seemed the vast majority of animatronics were not working and gun seemed to work intermittently at best. Next we went on the massive looping flat ride called Southern Star. I never pass up a chance to ride one of these attractions, I love the hang time at the pinnacle of the ride as it turns upside down.
We only had a couple more major roller coasters left to experience at this point. Afterburn was next and had zero wait except for the front row. We walked right on to the back row for our first ride. I’ve always felt this is a very underrated B&M inverted coaster. The layout is very similar to Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa, but just a bit more compact which results in a high-speed and very forceful ride (while forceful, it is still incredibly smooth). After enjoying the back row we ran around and went for a second ride, opting to wait an extra two trains for the front row which was superior if only for the excellent view and foot choppers as the train seems to just skim the ground at some points.
Following Afterburn we made our way to Intimidator, a B&M hyper coaster, and walked right on to the front row. One might think having a B&M giga coaster on the other side of the park would diminish the impressiveness of Intimidator, but Intimidator still holds its own and offers a drastically different experience than Fury 325. While Fury 325 takes riders on a non-stop high speed ride that twists and turns relentlessly, Intimidator offers perfectly engineered airtime hills that give some of the best sustained floater airtime I’ve experienced. Intimidator feels like the more relaxed roller coaster where riders gracefully soar above the park, while Fury 325 is far more intense and fast-paced. I have had some people tell me they enjoy Intimidator more than Fury 325, and others say the prefer Fury 325 to Intimidator. I can definitely see an argument for both, and it really just comes down to personal preference as to which is superior (although my vote goes to Fury 325, as I love out of control rides of that nature). We enjoyed Intimidator so much we went for a couple more laps in the back row, where the airtime was even better, before moving along to Nighthawk.
Nighthawk is the original Vekoma Flying Dutchmen - initially opening at Paramount’s Great America (now California’s Great Adventure) in 2000 as Stealth. After only a few seasons of operation the ride was relocated to Carowinds where it has operated since 2004 as BORG Assimilator until 2007, and Nighthawk ever since. What I enjoy most about Vekoma’s flying coasters is the element of suspense and general fear they create. The way the restraints are set up and how the rollover maneuvers are performed is still among the most intense and scary moments I’ve experienced on a roller coaster; and even after hundreds of rides that feeling persists. With Nighthawk being the first of its kind and having a slightly less “finished” or “polished” quality than the other Flying Dutchmen (Batwing at Six Flags America and Firehawk at Kings Island), those feelings of angst and unease are even greater. In my opinion this is still a fun, and terrifying ride, and well worth the 30 or so minute wait.
After Nighthawk it was approaching the park’s 10PM closing, but we still had just enough time for a couple more laps on Fury 325 to end the day. We went for a ride in the back and front rows (I prefer the front row) and were even more blown away by the ride at night. In the darkness Fury 325 seemed even more out of control and insanely fast, while still maintaining its impeccably smooth ride. However, now that it was nighttime and the temperatures had dropped substantially I was amazed at how cold it felt riding a coaster that goes 325 feet in the air and reaches 95MPH (suddenly I wished I had a winter jacket and not just a sweater) - after those last two rides we were ready to call it a night and thaw out back at the hotel.
This was by far the best day I have had at Carowinds. My previous three visits always fell on weekends in the summer, which meant huge lines and very hot temperatures. During this visit the weather was perfect, and based on how short the lines were all day I’m sure you can guess the crowds were very minimal. It’s also worth noting that despite the relatively low attendance the park was operating all of the attractions extremely efficiently, as if the lines were hours long. Every ride was running multiple trains and the staff was clearly working very hard to dispatch the rides as quickly (and safely) as possible. I hope this is a trend that continues all season and is something seen at all Cedar Fair parks.Last edited by Capitalize, Thursday, April 14, 2016 9:37 AM
I’ve always felt this is a very B&M inverted coaster.
Indeed. I always thought it was a Beautiful and Magnificent coaster as well.....at least from the pictures :-). I was on the fence about making my first trip to Carowinds this year, but your very good trip report helped seal the deal for me.Last edited by delan, Thursday, April 14, 2016 7:44 AM
lol, whoops, meant to say "very underrated" there.
Quite the collection of B&M coasters between North and South Carolina, even with the removal of the one from Hard Rock Park. That one was truly BM.
Nice trip report. I'll be going there Memorial Day weekend. This report makes me anticipate my trip even more.
Nice trip report. I'll be going there Memorial Day weekend. This report makes me anticipate my trip even more.
Prepare to get a Fastlane if you're going that weekend. Unlike most other parks, Carowinds is always PACKED that weekend. And July 4th. Labor Day, however, is usually fine.
I'll be there Monday and Tuesday of that week. Will the crowds be as bad on those days as opposed to Saturday and Sunday?Last edited by Thabto, Monday, May 9, 2016 1:10 AM
Monday probably. Tuesday, probably not.
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