Carowinds and Kings Dominion Winter Weekends

Jephry's avatar

These gray Ohio skies are getting me down and I’ve been considering traveling to Carowinds or Kings Dominion next weekend to check out the parks. Before I make a 7-hour drive, I was wondering if folks who have been during the winter seasons thought it was worth it. I have a Platinum Pass from Cedar Point that I assume works during the weekend openings. So the cost for me is food, lodging, and gas.

So, if you’ve gone to a Winter Weekend at either park, what was your experience like? Would you make a 7-hour drive to hang at the park and surrounding area?

Vater's avatar

I was just thinking about this new year-round operation this weekend when Kings Dominion posted on Facebook that they were closing early due to super cold temps. I guess I just don't see the appeal. What's open in the park that's worth seeing/doing? I can understand the draw of the Christmas season, seeing the park decked out in millions of lights. But January-February? Yeah, I can wait until spring.


So, if you’ve gone to a Winter Weekend at either park, what was your experience like? Would you make a 7-hour drive to hang at the park and surrounding area?

As someone who has not gone, I absolutely wouldn't do Kings Dominion. I think there are 2 or 3 coasters open, and that's assuming the weather is nice enough to open them. I have seen a few social media friends go to Carowinds and they seem to have a great time. As long as you're good with limited attractions, it seems like a good time to get lots of rides on what is open, and as long as the weather holds out Fury is on the open list.

Jephry's avatar

I looked at Kings Dominion line up this weekend and it seems to mostly be geared towards family and children. I’m sure that’s due to staffing, but made me wonder if it was even worth the park opening. I just want to black out on Intimidator 305. Carowinds looks more promising, especially with Fury 325 being open, but wanted more opinions.

If the weather is bad, I wouldn’t go, but I figure it could be a fun adventure if the sun is out.

I would not go to Kings Dominion. Two parts of the park are totally closed off, there are only three coasters open, and they have closed early multiple times for low attendance. I would not take the risk of going there.

Carowinds event seems to be better. There are more coasters open, including their star attraction, and I have not seen the early closures down there yet. Plus, the entire park is open to go through, except of course, aeronautica landing

Both parks, however, do not have the infrastructure for good winter operations. No dark rides, no slow, moving transportation, rides, etc. that can operate in all weather. They don’t have enough indoor venues for entertainment, and aren’t even using the ones they have for shows. I think both of the parks just cross their fingers and hope they get 50° weather every weekend

Last edited by super7*,

I have a season pass to Kings Dominion, however I live almost two hours away from the park. The weather better be pretty nice if I am going to spend 4-hours in my car just to (hopefully) ride Dominator and Twisted Timbers (Apple Zapple is also supposed to be open but come on now 😊) If we get a weekend in the mid 60’s I might take a trip down there in March. However, it most likely won’t be until Spring Break in April when the entire park is open. I have no idea how it makes financial sense to open the park on these cold weekend days, but that’s another topic for discussion.


I have no idea how it makes financial sense to open the park on these cold weekend days, but that’s another topic for discussion.

It’s a great topic for discussion. This was really a poor effort attempt IMO. It could work as Winterfest is successful with limited rides. But not enough to do outside of the rides that may or may not operate.

Plus KD dug their own ditch with their reputation for closing early Due to low attendance and blaming it on the weather. They have done it at least twice this winter. Hardly anybody is going to travel a distance to go there with that reputation. And if it’s just regurgitating the same local season pass holders it can’t been making money

Last edited by super7*,

I get Carowinds opening as they are 350 miles and 5 hours South of Kings Dominion, so the weather is going to be warmer on a typical day. Also, Fury 325 is open if the conditions are right, which is a huge plus in my mind. Mother Nature has not been lining up with the weekends thus far in January and February 2023 at Kings Dominion. We have had some days in the 60's, however every weekend has been pretty much crap for a Theme park. Perhaps there was a reason KD was closed until Spring for the past 50-years?

Last edited by DoubleMeatTaco,
Vater's avatar


Hardly anybody is going to travel a furnace

I don’t think the parks are marketing these weekends far and wide hoping to attract visitors from across the country. Or even the region. I think who they’d like to see are locals. Families that miss the park and are looking for something to do during the winter. Maybe drop a buck or two. And if the weather sucks then oh well- they can always try again next Saturday.
Remember- the outdoor amusement industry is solely dependent on weather. Just as a park can have a crappy spring one year and a glorious one the next, the same goes for winter weekends. I’m sure someone somewhere thinks it was worth a shot and any trial period may extend into the following year or two.
If I was in charge I’d probably try to think of unique things to draw people in. Maybe a winter food festival. Or a craft show. Or a car show. Or concerts. Things that would fare better for visitors when the thrill rides take a back seat.

Last edited by RCMAC,

If the plan is to only market to locals, I don’t think it’s financially viable. Regurgitating season pass holders with dining plans doesn’t bring in any more revenue. I doubt if anyone is buying a pass for Jan Feb operations that wouldn’t have bought one anyhow.

i think year round operations could be successful but they need more indoor activities and things to do when weather isn’t perfect. I know it’s not Disney but that’s one reason Disney operates well in the cold and the heat. Indoor attractions.

I still wonder if it's a way to convert just enough front line staff to full time or year round part time status where any revenue loss on these winter weekends actually gets made up with a significant reduction in recruiting costs each spring.

Can 12 to 16 hour work weeks retain employees?

If they are classified as something along the lines of "regular part time" or something along those same lines, possibly. Especially with students. And it's not even the retention so much as the onboarding costs. I know several employees that have done multiple seasons at Cedar Point, some climbing the ranks to team lead. But their employment still has an end date/termination date each year, typically a few days after Closing Day. And starting around now they go through a rehiring/onboarding process for the upcoming new season that no doubt costs the park money.

I’m leaning towards some sort of benefit to the company over onboarding/rehiring costs. Also, Kings Dominion is in the odd position of being only an hour away from a world class theme park in Busch Gardens. Busch Gardens started up year round operations in 2021, so perhaps this is just a way of “Keeping up with the Joneses?”

Last edited by DoubleMeatTaco,
Fun's avatar

You don't make money merely by competing. I'd classify this winter operation as a test as to whether "some revenue is better than no revenue". Six is not a direct comparison because they bungled their pass program, but it is worth pointing out that not all of the SF parks that went year-round are still year round.


so perhaps this is just a way of “Keeping up with the Joneses?”

I get that impression That they tried it, because Busch made it work.

But BGW has a Mardi Gras event during this time with live indoor entertainment and slow moving rides. Bgw still needs more infrastructure for true winter operation but at least they have things to do when the weather is chilly.

KD is, trying to keep operations minimal but it’s so minimal it’s really not worth going. They even are not operating their indoor coaster probably because they want to keep two sections of the park totally closed.

Last edited by super7*,
Brent Sullivan's avatar

Last year, we went in late March, so pretty much everything was open, but with that early Spring weather, they kept closing down a few rides (like Fury) because of high winds. So keep that in mind if you go during this time of the year.

According to the Carowinds website all rides are scheduled to be open after March 10. KD does not list their full rude closures like this. They dont seem as organized.

Ride Closures
Boo Blasters on Boo Hill (January 9, 2023 - March 10, 2023)
Camp Bus (January 30, 2023 - February 17, 2023)
Carolina Cyclone (January 1, 2023 - March 10, 2023)
Carolina Goldrusher (November 21, 2022 - March 10, 2023)
Drop Tower (November 21, 2022 - March 10, 2023)
Hurler (opening late spring 2023)
Intimidator (November 7, 2022 - February 25, 2023)
Kiddy Hawk (January 2, 2023 - February 17, 2023)
Mountain Gliders (January 9, 2023 - March 10, 2023)
PEANUTS Pirates (January 30, 2023 - March 10, 2023)
The Flying Cobras (January 1, 2023 - March 10, 2023)
Vortex (opening late spring 2023)
WindSeeker (October 17, 2022 - March 10, 2023)
Woodstock Express (October 31, 2022 - March 10, 2023)

Last edited by super7*,

I feel like that roughly coincides with when their Opening Day used to be so that makes perfect sense. And I imagine Vortex and Hurler are the bottom two on the priority list when it comes to staffing, etc., and neither of those being closed would affect my decision to make a trip to Carowinds.

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