I have highlighted the names of the rides I discuss for you to find the rides you want my opinion on. I have written a lot, and would appreciate it if you read all or most of it…
Well, it was time for the coaster trip that would set my coaster count over 100. These parks are often not visited upon coaster trips to the southeast for many people, and is a REAL shame.
We (my Dad and I) started off for Carowinds from Orlando at about 5 am on a Sunday on what was supposed to be a 9 hour trip. Instead, it ended up being 7 hours. We arrived at the Comfort Inn across the street at about 12:00-12:30 and checked in. We planned on having one and a half days at Carowinds, but due to our early arrival, we had just about 2 full days. Wandering over to the park we discovered we could buy a WOW card for the same price as one day admission, and get unlimited visits. This would save any additional cost of buying a two day pass. We entered through the South Gate, as it was the closest walk from the hotel, right into the middle of Top Gun's twisted track. Well, that made the decision of the first ride an easy one.
Top Gun: The Jet Coaster had a walk-on for the front row as I entered the station. So front row it was. I found quickly it is a good invert, nothing outstanding. The front row gives the best ride by far, and the back ride gives the most interesting hum sound I've ever heard on a coaster. I must note the quick transitions on the ride and no braking. The boomerang is certainly the climax of this ride, diving right into a mist tunnel under the South Gate. Better than Montu, but can't touch Alpie or Raptor.
I looked towards Thunder Road but found it was temporarily closed. I turned about and headed for the Hanna Barbara area of the park. After a quick photo with the Dick Dastardly display, I was off to ride the Ghoster Coaster. I took a seat in the back because I figure any ride with a lift this small needs all the help with speed it can get. This one really surprised me. I got some fun airtime off the first and second drops with good speed throughout the entire ride. The structure and overall appearance of the ride was sloppy. There were unpainted boards and trash everywhere... but at least the ride experience was good.
We made our way towards the north gate to get the WOW cards processed. I noted the very poor appearance of the main entrance at this park. When I visited PKI and PKD the entrances were very grand and beautiful with paths ending in the Eiffel Tower. Here I found a very short path with little landscaping and few shops with the path ending in a sky cabin with fading paint. This certainly wasn't the most scenic park I could tell.
We wandered over to the cluster of coasters starting with Vortex. This was I ride I was prepared not to like. It was a B&M with a bad rep. To my pleasant surprise this was a good ride, even better than the Scorcher IMO. Although the inversions were fun, I found myself liking the pleasant banked turns and helixes. Underrated ride here.
We walked down by Hurler to discover a desolate area. There was slim to none theming or decoration here. Hurler was open and the line was a walk-on(as was everything), so I went for a ride. The ride has its rough spots, but it also has its airtime. I preferred the middle of the train on this ride. I can't say I was neither disappointed nor surprised by this ride, just indifferent. I enjoyed the lack of seat belts on this ride and some of the airtime spots. Fun ride and all, but there's something missing from it that makes it an average woodie that I can't put my finger on.
Anywho, I was off to try Drop Zone, a rather small drop tower in a dirt field. It gives a great view of the park and I was pleasantly surprised with the air on this ride. It certainly felt higher than it looked.
Time for Carolina Cyclone. I must say this is the only coaster at Carowinds I disliked. It was uncomfortable, a bit rough, and just not fun. I don't like to focus on the bad, so onto the good.
Ricochet was ride next store and beckoning me. The only other non-spinning wild mouse I had been on up to that point had been Bug Out, which I didn't like. But this was NOTHING like Bug Out. The top half of Ricochet is pure lateral G mayhem. I don't think we were braked at all on the upper course and had very intense forces which I loved. The bottom half was littered with ejection airtime which I found a great finish. Excellent ride!
Finishing off the cluster of coasters, I rode the Carolina Goldrusher. This is a very gentle and relaxing ride. It has a interesting helix trick track and a fantastic final tunnel. Another perk of this ride was that it was the only scenic coaster in the park which gave my eyes a rest. I re-rode this several times through out my visit, good mine train.
I had to skip the Saturator for the day because we were going to do all the water rides tomorrow. So, with a sigh, I passed by.
Being a dark ride fan I arrived at Scooby Doo's Haunted Mansion with more excitement than your normal guest. Sally Rides and Paramount did an exceptional job of building a shoot 'em up dark ride. It has fun interactive elements, such as shooting Scooby Snacks to activate Scooby or Shaggy to pop out of something. There is also music playing in the background to add effect. I thought this was a spectacular dark ride, even better than some of the coasters!
Noting that Thunder Road was back up and running we made our way to the forwards side first. It was fun to say the least with a slower return to the station than I would've liked. So, with what I thought was an average wooden coaster, I went to the backward side. Wow! I sat in the back seat so I could watch the track spit out from under the train which provided a different experience. It featured many moments of airtime on the out trip and a few on the back trip (including the drop off the turn around which rips you out of your seat). The only thing I can complain about here was a rough spot right before the turn around. That aside, I found this to be the best ride in the park.
Having now done every coaster I was set out to do that day, and finding, much to my chagrin, Ricochet was closed for the day, I rode 7th Portal. Understanding this is no Spiderman, I really enjoyed this ride. It had good effects and reasonable motion to it. Thumbs up for this show. I then ended the night with rides on Top Gun and Thunder Road. Fun day, and we were just getting started!
The next day, a Monday, I was shocked to find crowds were thicker than the day before, but still several walk-on lines. Well, we did a few rides on our favorite coasters for the beginning of the day, and was still disappointed to find Ricochet closed. One ride just wasn't enough. Alas, Super Saturator, my 98th coaster, was calling, so we got a locker and was ready to get soaked.
Flying Super Saturator brings the excellent element of interactivity to the coaster world, and makes it all the more fun for that. I only got a chance to ride it once, due to long lines, a result of poor loading, and did so backwards. It not tall, fast, nor long, but is fun. Everyone gets involved the guests shoot you with water, and you get to soak the guests. My Dad and I got an excellent shot on the guests in line dumping our water at the same time. Fun, fun, fun!
It was off to the Water Works. Just about every slide here was an average one. I must also say the lazy river needs some shade! Plant some trees, it won't kill you! The best slides were the two intertube slides on Pipeline Peak. A couple of times it felt as if the tube was going to flip right over. I was about to right the body slides on Pipeline Peak. When I saw a couple people showing their elbows all skinned up, which had happened because of these slides. I wanted no part in that, so I opted for the Lazy River. After a few moments there I went to White Water Falls.
White Water Falls is the park's shoot-the-chute attraction. It is a simple lift, U-turn, drop, U-turn. It is effective in getting everyone soaked, and that's all I ask from these rides, so I liked it. Next on the list was Rip Roarin' Rapids. This features a very small 6 seater raft which I found advantages and drawbacks to. Anywho, the line was about 30 minutes, but about 15 minutes into that wait there was a call for two riders. We skipped an absolutely absurd amount of people to get to the raft. After about a minute of cutting through people of which all had a party of 3+, we found to our surprise the raft still waiting for us. It's a good thing we didn't wait that long because this was a poor rapids. Slow and mellow is an understatement for this ride. There was only one point that really got you wet which was a waterfall at the end of the ride. We looked at the Powder Keg Flume, but that was closed.
So, it was back to the dry rides. We picked up the ones that looked interesting. Dodgem was a very slow and short cycling bumper car ride which I was disappointed with. Meteor Attack was a bad simulator, 7th Portal was MUCH better. The Gauntlet was another short cycled flat, but still fun. Scream Weaver is a freshly painted Enterprise with nice one person seats. The Skycabin gave good views of the park, nothing worth noting. And the Riverboat provided nice views of Vortex and Goldrusher and was relaxing. I must note what looks to be mazes on the island the boat circles, they seem to be for Scarowinds or some extinct attraction.
I re-rode all our favorites Scooby HM, Ricochet(which finally re-opened), TG, TR, Vortex, Goldrusher, Hurler, Drop Zone, and Ghoster Coaster. We got a ton of pics including on-ride videos of TG, TR Backward, and even Scooby's Haunted Mansion... which turned out to be a bad idea (as it showed up nothing).
Overall, the park is a good one. It has plenty to do and few bad rides. However I found the food, landscaping, and merchandise to be unsatisfactory. There were few coaster shirts to choose from, most of the stuff were completely unrelated to the park. I can always ignore those things when there are great rides, of all types, and rows of rocking chairs to sit on when your legs tire out. The park is a good one, often overlooked, but shouldn't be. Visit the park whenever you get a chance...
The next day we were off at 8:00am on what was to be a 4-hour drive to Myrtle Beach. We arrived at about 12:00 after a brief moment of being lost and discovered our Fairfield Inn. It was a nice one and right across from Broadway at the Beach. We couldn't check in yet and the parks weren't open yet, so we ate lunch at the NASCAR Cafe across the street. The one at Citywalk in Orlando is a favorite place to eat, so I enjoyed this one, and was even better than the Orlando version.
Anywho, we got to Myrtle Beach Pavilion shortly after the opening time of 1:00 and parked in their garage for $6. A hop over the street and we got ride-all day stamps for about $25. Quickly noting all the rides, I made my way towards the Hurricane.
Hurricane Category Five was running one train operation when I hiked up the stairs to the raised station. We took a row in the middle of the train, leery about how rough the back would be. Wow, this is a rough ride. This really jars EVERYONE in the car. The ride had some decent airtime, but the train would often rattle my lap bar down to reduce that. I particularly liked the dive into it's own structure which gives you the feeling you're about to be decapitated by the steel structure. So, at first I thought the ride was ok... we'll leave at that for now.
The dark ride fan in me was screaming for a ride on the Haunted Hotel. I yielded to that voice and went for a ride. This is one GREAT dark ride if you love classic haunted houses. First of all, I must comment on the excellent and mysterious animatronic that greets you above the ride's entrance. "We have hot and cold running chills," he says with that creepy voice. The cars have no seatbelts, which surprised me. It takes advantage of the compact space it fits into and runs up and down through two stories of "Scare Conditioned" hallways. The doors creak and push out, the skeletons pop out of their bed, "Order a head?" a skeleton waiter inquires with a human head on a dish, a butler watches menacingly from the balcony, the coo-coo clock pops with the head of a skeleton, and just when you think you've gotten out alive, knights try to chop your visit even shorter. When you've narrowly passed them, our friend from the entrance screams, "Don't forget your luggage!" as he tries to drop heavy baggage on our heads. As you leave a voice calls, "Don't leave us!" And it's back to the outside world. I love it! A must for dark ride fans.
The Carousel was looking mighty fine, so I took a ride. A spectacular menagerie of animals could be found here: pigs, frogs, emus, and my favorite, giant chickens! Good long cycle with an excellent organ.
By this time, I took a few other rides (including a front row ride) on the Hurricane, and was liking it more and more, despite the roughness. I left it until I returned later that night and hit a few more flat rides before we checked into our hotel.
The Bumper Cars looked mighty fast and rowdy, so I couldn't pass that up! We got in and were pitted against some smaller kids who ganged up on us. We were all spinning out and getting hit head on, smashed every which way. Fantastic bumper cars!
I took a look at the Log Flume and decided to ride it. It starts with a speedy current which eventually leads into a dark tunnel. It hits a bizarre kind of drop turn and was the wettest part of the ride. We exited through a cloud of mist up a small lift. There we dropped, turned, larger lift, and hit a pretty good drop. Fun ride, and a unique for the tunnel.
With a few more rides on Haunted Hotel, I tried Caterpillar. This is like the Himalayan rides, but a tarp come over. I've always wanted to ride one, and was not disappointed. Fun all around.
The Antique Cars had no line, so I went for a spin. This ride intertwined with the Log Flume, so it made for some good scenery. It came with it's very own horn, so I beeped away at the folks on the log travelling at the same speed parallel to me. Pretty fun for an antique car ride! No time for Mad Mouse, Hurricane had been my 99th coaster and Swamp Fox had reservations for #100.
It was about 3:15, and we made our way out to check into the hotel. Afterwards, we arrived at Family Kingdom shortly after it opened at about 4:30 and got a ride-all day wristband. It was off to Swamp Fox!
My 100th coaster, Swamp Fox, sure was a good pick for that spot. This thing had so much character and packed such a punch, it was incredible. First of all, love the restraints: buzz bar, single seat belt, and a small divider. Every seat on this ride is different and great for a different reason. Some seats get more airtime on different hills than others. I personally liked the back row. I think this is the only time I've actually tightened a seat belt on a ride. I came off that first hill and thought, "whoah, that might be a little too much airtime!" … If that's possible. It had excellent hill combos. Particularly the three off the turnaround. It was big hill, tiny hill, and medium hill. This send you up, down, up, as you came down here the train went up and bumped you even farther into the air. All the way to the last hill, this ride delivers airtime, and lots of it.
After a few rides and pictures, we went over to The Great Pistolero Round Up This is another Sally shoot 'em up dark ride, but not as good as Scooby. The first thing I noticed was the funny looking sheriff that notified us of the situation. Regular targets 10 points, gold bags 30 points. Two-seater cars greeted us with little six-shooter guns. All in all another fun shoot 'em up.
We rode their Log Flume to see how it would compare to the Pavilion's. Although fun, it lacked the scenery and tunnel that made the Pavilion's that step better. Before we left, I went for a few rides on Swamp Fox and rode Antique Cars and Ferris Wheel for some pictures of Swamp Fox and the area. I must say the jolly middle-aged black fellow that worked on the "Wheel", as he called it, was the friendliest park employee I have ever met! He asked me all kinds of questions and was just as happy as could be to be working out in the 95-degree heat! I know I could barely manage a smile working in that kind of heat.
So, we were off to the Pavilion to finish what I had missed, we'd come back to the Kingdom towards the end of the night. Crowds were getting a bit thicker as we entered the park, but the park was prepared and had a good loading system, especially with Hurricane now under two-train operation.
I had to make up for lost time and ride Mad Mouse. After the intensity of the Ricochet, the upper turns on Mad Mouse seemed tame, but once it kicked down to the lower level, it got plenty wild. Ejection airtime was abundant on this ride with sharp ups and downs at high speeds, and it even throws in a little trick track at the end of the ride.
We went over to eat at the only restaurant in the park. Let's just say they need to stick with the stands here. I don't want to go into the only bad part of this park, because the good things more than overshadow the bad. Infact, it's now one of my favorite parks, I'll get into that towards the end.
I decided to ride the Little Eagle. I wanted the bell seat. I got it. All hell broke loose. My dad videotaped one lap of me beating the bell senseless in the front row proclaiming "Hear-yee, hear-yee!" It is a good kiddie with a scenic waterfall and tunnel. I think the operator got a kick out of two big guys with coaster club shirts on leading a train full of kids. "That goes on our wall of shame," I said as the train pulled to a stop.
The sun was setting and it was flat ride time! If you want to go to the bathroom go ahead, I still got a lot to say. Anywho, I let Hurricane warm up for the night rides to come and took a ride on most of the large array of flat rides. The one ride I didn't get to ride was Hydro Surge, I didn't want to walk around that soaked the whole day. It looked great though.
First up, Rainbow. This was a very short cycled Rainbow, but the view more than made up for that. It was on the eastern most tip of the park and displayed nothing but the ocean. This is the best view from any Rainbow anywhere. Simply perfect.
Next on the list was my first Chaos. I had seen them before, but they were either closed or I had better things to ride. I must say I'm a little disappointed with the ride. It seems like a kiddie ride as compared to the Zipper rides. Still, it can be fun when you get to flipping.
Right after that, Top Spin. Low lines, and an excellent cycle. This got you slinging every which way and hanging face first towards the ground. Top Spins have always been a favorite flat, but this one was better than all others I've been on. It also has a nice appearance above the go-karts and in front of the Hurricane.
The Tilt-A-Whirl! A favorite of mine was just around the corner. It gave a generous ride cycle and some wicked spinning action. Always fun, fun, fun!
Next I saw an interesting variation of the Hit in 2000 or Himalayas ride called Sleigh Ride. It featured swinging gondolas suspended above the ride platform with little sleigh cars that looked like they were straight from the North Pole! It had very steep transitions giving a good swing out rhythmically on every rotation. A very peculiar ride, and a very fun one. This, as most every flat here, had a pleasantly long cycle.
I hit what was next in line, the Pirate attraction. I always love these rides, but since we didn't get an end seat, the experience wasn't at its optimum fun level. Still, the lights and atmosphere just made me smile.
Another favorite, Scrambler, was nestled in the final helix of Hurricane and had strobe lights all around it. Once again, long cycle. I also enjoyed watching the Hurricane trains race around you as you spun in the familiar pattern of the Scrambler.
Last on my flat ride run was Calypso. I had never been on one before and the little gondola cars looked interesting. It looked kind of like a Breakdance ride, but the cars didn't spin. Anyway, this is now a new favorite. It feels like a Scrambler on Speed. When this things gets spinning it can pull some wicked Gs. This exit led right to the Hurricane entrance.
It was time for my night rides on Hurricane. Now, I had been growing to like this ride more and more, but the night rides are what got me to love it. I rode it many times over, never waiting more than 5 trains before I got on, so re-rides were plenty. I was edging my way towards the back all night, but was afraid it would be too rough. I finally decided to go for it on my last ride. To my surprise, it was the best seat on the train. It was any worse than any other seat on the train in the way of roughness, and had more airtime in the back. Great ride…
It was nearing 10:00, and I had to get back over to the Kingdom for some rides on Swamp Fox before it closed at midnight. I made a quick stop at Caterpillar, but as I was riding, I forgot... WAVE SWINGER! I always make a point to ride these at night, it's such a perfect way to see the park. Ok, just one more ride.
I went and grabbed an outside seat on Wave Swinger. There perhaps isn't a better park to ride this in. The lights swirling, the flat rides spinning at full tilt, the Hurricane roaring by, and the life beyond the Pavilion's walls made for a great view. Perfect way to end the night. On the way out I got a Pavilion shirt for $10 and Pavilion hat for $3, which was a pretty good deal---the hat was 75% off.
So it was south on the strip to the Kingdom. The first thing I noticed when we got there was a cool little Blues Brothers band entertaining guests, no time for that though, Swamp Fox awaited. No need for flat rides here, the Pavilion more than fed my hunger. I was here to ride out my 100th coaster until the last ride.
Swamp Fox was running one train operation still... the other train had dust on the seats, so I assumed this was a common thing. There was usually only a few people in line, so I only had to wait two trains at the most. The lifthill at night is great. It leads right towards the void of the ocean with all the lights of the strip around you. I kept running around and around, I figure I totaled about 20 rides on it. I got the last train of the night and took the third row because the back seat was already taken. I didn't want that last pop of airtime to end, but it had to. So, we returned to the hotel.
These parks are good ones, but the Pavilion is just spectacular fun. It's got a little of everything and has a nice atmosphere and nice clean walkways. Although some of the rides are transportable, you'd never know it without looking very closely. Family Kingdom seems like a small fair with a wooden coaster. It's not a nice park, but it has it's fun spots. Both parks had friendly guests. I was surprised not to see the seedy characters walking the parks, but found mostly families out for an evening of fun. I suggest you make a little side trip here on your way down to Florida or Georgia.
The next day we went to Treasure Hunt at Broadway at the Beach. This is a shoot 'em up dark ride similar to that of the Great Pistolero Round-Up. Same cars, same guns, and same point values, just different insides. It was fun and better kept than Pistolero, but cost $5 a ride. At the end we got some pirate flags, some game tokens, and a key for a chance to open some treasure chest for prizes for our scores which was a nice perk.
Next was a quick stop at the NASCAR Speedpark. for a ride on one of their go-karts. It was a good park for those who love their go-karts. It had several unique tracks. Worth a stop if you're into go-karts.
That's when we headed home. It was a fun trip with some great rides. The Swamp Fox was definitely my favorite ride of the trip and the Pavilion was my favorite park. All three parks are something to be seen...
I have chosen not to rate these rides on a number scale because I find those to be misleading. I will however rank the rides on the trip...
1. Swamp Fox
3. Thunder Road Backwards
4. Top Gun
5. Super Saturator
8. Thunder Road Forwards
9. Mad Mouse
Best Everything Else:
1. Haunted Hotel
2. Scooby Doo's Haunted Mansion
3. Top Spin
4. Log Flume (Pavilion)
5. Wave Swinger (Pavilion)
6. Skooters (Pavilion)
7. Scrambler (Pavilion)
10. Carousel(Pavilion)/Treasure Hunt
Thanks for reading...
Universal Orlando regular since the first day of IOA's soft opening...
*** This post was edited by rocketman23 on 7/23/2002. ***
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