Carowinds August 13-14 2019

Friday, August 23, 2019 7:43 PM

If you read my other recent trip report, you'll know I spent the 11th and 12th at SFOT before jetting to Charlotte for a couple days at Carowinds. I wasn't as lucky with the weather here as it was blazing hot like it had been in Texas, but it also thunderstormed both days here at Carowinds.

Cedar Fair/Carowinds seems to have a little excessive of a policy towards these storms. I work with small planes and often we will delay flights if radar detects lightning within 15 miles; however, we are able to get back in the air relatively quickly as soon as the radius is clear of strikes. Carowinds wisely has the same 15-mile rule it seems, but they keep everything shut for at least two hours after the storm passes. It seemed excessive to me as I continually checked the weather radar and the storms got further and further away and everything was still closed.

That being said, I was able to take in the great acrobatics show they have going as well as spend some time at Harmony Hall to eat and watch a cover band do jazz versions of Justin Bieber and Boston songs...they were actually really good! Harmony Hall is a large a/c'd festhaus-style building that you can just chill in which is really nice, and definitely something every southern park should have (I'm looking at you, SFOT). I popped in quite a few times to cool down for a half hour before heading back into the heat.

Overall, Carowinds is a beautiful park--very well kept, clean, well-landscaped, and good music. I noticed a lot of the songs they pipe through the speakers are ragtime or country versions of songs from Pearl Jam or Third Eye Blind or other alternative 90s bands, it was kind of odd but still fit well. While I was on Windseeker, for some reason the Star Wars: Next Generation theme song was playing on the tower on the way up and down. It's very dramatic music and a good fit for the ride but at the same time, I'm wondering how they got the rights to use it; did they get to keep some of the Star Trek IP from the Paramount days?

The other thing about Carowinds is that so much of it looks new! A lot of the buildings and paths are just very well kept or regularly repainted and it's very attractive. The front entrance of course actually *is* new, and is very well done as you're surrounded by Fury on all sides as you enter, with dramatic adventurous orchestral music blasting, it reminded me of the theme for Mario Odyssey, haha. Carowinds! Roller Coasters! Adventure! Fury! Leaves a feeling of great anticipation as you approach the front gates.

As with my SFOT report, I'm just going to break this down by ride because, despite the storms, I was able to do most things multiple times and I crisscrossed all over the park. So here's the coasters:

Intimidator - This is a great ride obviously, and very long. The second hill in particular was my favorite, but I noticed that especially in the front few rows, the ejector airtime is crazy over the crest of every single hill until the end. I'm not sure this ride could have been designed any better.

Kiddy Hawk - My first and last mini Vekoma invert. The headbanging was unbearable, I can't believe this ride is intended for younger kids who are bound to get even more rattled around than I did because they're smaller. What a piece of trash, I can't believe there are so many clones of it around the country.

Nighthawk - My advice: take *everything* out of your pockets and put them in the boxes before riding. The first time I felt so sure I was going to lose my phone; it was not in danger but it felt like it was sliding out the whole time and the paranoia ruined the ride for me. But on the second ride I was able to enjoy it. It's a very intense ride and overall not too bad. It's certainly unique being inclined the way you are for most of it, and it wasn't uncomfortable to me in any way. I know a lot of people hate on these but I have to wonder if it's because these rides aren't as comfortable to fat people.

Afterburn - This is probably my second favorite invert after Alpengeist. Smooth as butter despite its age (they had signs up noting its 20th anniversary) and a decent length as well. I especially liked the final corkscrew which is completely hidden from view within a treetop, and that final helix is so tight!

Carolina Cyclone - Meh I don't have much to say about this. It's there. I guess it might be more fun for families with younger kids getting experience before going on the bigger coasters.

Carolina Goldrusher - Basically this whole ride is just two larger helixes. It really gets some serious speed on that second one though, which was surprising.

Ricochet - Not much to say here either. You've ridden one you've ridden them all.

Vortex - I'm surprised they haven't painted this thing blue, thrown some floorless trains on it, and renamed it Patriot yet. I haven't ridden a stand-up since Mantis 15 years ago, and I'm glad. It's just an overall bad concept, and I really banged my head up on this one too which is a first for a B&M. Redo it or remove it, Carowinds.

The Flying Cobras - This is the first Boomerang I've been on with the new soft OTSRs. It's a huge improvement! This ride was quite enjoyable and comfortable as a result. I also really love the paint job they gave it, the front supports in particular are very nice.

Fury 325 - This is the best coaster I've ever ridden and possibly the best in the world. Haven't been on Steel Vengeance, but for me, it's best in the world. It's very different from Intimidator, and not just in height and speed. B&M seems to have been trying to give a more wild ride here and embrace the speed. There are a lot of crazy overbanked turns that throw you around as they transition into each other, Intimidator was mostly straight track. And it's such a long ride too, it's a coaster enthusiast's definition of perfect. On my second day, I rode it when I first got there and I also wanted to make it my last ride before heading out. So I got kind of lucky as I happened to be on the second-to-last train of the night (in the second row), and when we pulled back into the station, there was no one in my lane so they let me stay to get the *last* ride of the night too. As we pulled into the station the whole train was chanting one more time, so I got the *last last* ride of the night haha. So literally ten minutes of joy as I got three laps in a row on the best roller coaster I've ever ridden!

Hurler - So this ride gets a lot of complaints too from what I've seen, but I don't have any. It felt smooth enough to me for a wooden coaster; there aren't really any abrupt turns as it makes wide graceful turnarounds at each end; the bunny hops were fine. I have no complaints. I wonder if they'll RMC it?

Copperhead Strike - I think this one is a little overhyped. I went in expecting an experience like Maverick, but it's not like Maverick at all, really. It's still a fun ride but I don't expect it to be on many top 10 lists. The inversion out the station is kind of silly as it's taken at such a slow speed. The little movie in the shed is cute, and the first launch is barely enough to get the train over the first loop. Granted, this is intentional as everyone is left hanging for a second upside-down (like those damn Larson Loopers), and then the train gets down to the real business of the ride, which is a huge mass of twists and turns and banking. The second launch took me a few rides to even notice, it barely does anything at all, giving the train just enough speed to get through the top hat (upside-down hang again) before you get back into the spaghetti bowl of turns and whatnot again and then you're done. It's fun, there isn't much airtime (if any) though, and it's a fairly fast ride. I see what they were trying to do trying to make it seem like the train wouldn't make it through those inversions, but it wasn't really my cup of tea. I wouldn't call myself disappointed, I'll just say that I had to adjust my expectations.

Woodstock Express - I'll start by saying that loading and unloading of this coaster took about 5 or 6 times as long as the ride itself. A bunch of unsupervised children not listening to ride operators, and a bunch of dope parents not listening to ride operators. For some reason they make you empty your pockets to ride, and some of these idiot adults were not cooperating. "My phone? It's in my pocket!" "You need to put it in the bin." "Why, it's in my pocket." "All items need to be put in the bin." "But it's secure in my pocket." "It needs to go in the bin." This dude was seriously arguing with the ride ops about it. Just do it or don't ride! The ride ops, I'm sure, have their reasons. Anyway, the ride itself wasn't notable.

I also had plenty of time to ride all the flats as well, since usually they opened back up before the coasters after the storms. Southern Star was great, haven't ridden one of those since the 2000s. WindSeeker was much more comfortable and not as horrifying of a ride as the SkyScreamers. The Electro Spin is a wild ride. I don't think I've been on one of those since a *real* county fair back when I was a kid. You're literally flipped around every which way and it's hilarious how disorienting it is. The Drop Tower is very small, but I've never ridden this model before. It's more like a classic drop tower where it brings you up slow, holds you there for a minute, there's a lot of scary mechanical sounds, and whoosh you're suddenly on the ground again. There was no line so I rode it three or four times in a row, it was a wonderful rush and despite not having the height of the S&S towers, delivers a lot of adrenaline nonetheless.

Overall, I was very impressed with this park. I've been following it as it's grown over the past 20 years and have always wanted to visit and I was glad I made that choice this summer. It's a huge park, and it feels mostly new! I can really see this becoming Cedar Point south someday, as they're currently building their first onsite hotel and their waterpark keeps getting bigger and bigger. They have a ton of space to grow as well, either into the parking lot or into the huge swaths of land already in the perimeter of the park where the Dinosaurs Alive attraction is or where the rapids ride is. The rapids ride is still there in its entirety, just no water. I didn't see any construction or anything going on here apart from at the hotel site, but I see that for next year they're adding in a couple more slides in the patch of land next Copperhead Strike.

One last thing, that Copperhead Strike area is very nice. You can tell where that shortcut between Afterburn and County Fair didn't exist last year, and it must have been a hike to get all the way around to that area. It's all opened up now and they even stuck the flying eagles ride in there for the kids to ride while the parents ride Copperhead. I think it must have been a huge positive change for the park's regulars.

When I visited Carowinds I stayed at the Clarion Hotel, which is this 10 story building across the highway from the Carowinds parking lot entrance; it was a very well-kept hotel, looked like it had been recently renovated inside. I had a great view of Carowinds' skyline from my 8th floor room. This skyline really is starting to rival Cedar Point's!:

I'll be heading to Six Flags Great Adventure next week, so I'll do another trip report for that one. For now, thanks for reading all! Please share any comments or opinions you have of my report!

Last edited by bjames, Friday, August 23, 2019 7:52 PM
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Monday, August 26, 2019 8:52 AM

bjames said:

Nighthawk - My advice: take *everything* out of your pockets and put them in the boxes before riding. The first time I felt so sure I was going to lose my phone; it was not in danger but it felt like it was sliding out the whole time and the paranoia ruined the ride for me. But on the second ride I was able to enjoy it. It's a very intense ride and overall not too bad. It's certainly unique being inclined the way you are for most of it, and it wasn't uncomfortable to me in any way. I know a lot of people hate on these but I have to wonder if it's because these rides aren't as comfortable to fat people.

1) Thanks for the not-so-subtle fat-shaming.

2) That's not the reason at all.

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Monday, August 26, 2019 10:31 AM

I'm pretty thin, and the ride isn't uncomfortable because of how I fit in the seat and/or restraint, it's uncomfortable because the forces exerted on the body while in the prone position are unpleasant. For me, this is true of all flying coasters, but Nighthawk for some reason sucks the most.

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Monday, August 26, 2019 11:00 AM

bjames said:

Intimidator - This is a great ride obviously, and very long. The second hill in particular was my favorite, but I noticed that especially in the front few rows, the ejector airtime is crazy over the crest of every single hill until the end. I'm not sure this ride could have been designed any better.

I like Fury, but Intimidator in the first few rows just may have it beat. I know it's not the popular opinion, but that airtime is fantastic.

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Monday, August 26, 2019 11:08 AM

BrettV said:
I like Fury, but Intimidator in the first few rows just may have it beat. I know it's not the popular opinion, but that airtime is fantastic.

I'm a front-row fan, but the back row on Intimidator is a blast.

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Monday, August 26, 2019 2:07 PM

No airtime on Copperhead Strike? What impressed me most about this ride was the surprising amount of ejector air. And I thought that the jojo roll out of the station was a good way to start. Maybe the park performed some much needed maintenance on Nighthawk, which was so rough when I rode it last year that I skipped it this year. Agreed that there is nothing wrong with Hurler. I'm still sorry that the park removed Thunder Road.

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Monday, August 26, 2019 2:33 PM

I rode Nighthawk this year for the first time. If they did any maintenance to make it less rough, then I'm sorry for anyone who rode it beforehand. It's still rough and it's not because I have a dad bod.

As for CS and "airtime," maybe it's an issue of definitions. I see "airtime" and "ejector time" as two separate things. Airtime is when you're lifted from the seat for a second or two, most often in a smooth way (the camelbacks on Intimidator, for example). Ejector is when you're quickly pushed away from the seat and brought back fairly quickly, such as you would find on Copperhead Strike.

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