Carowinds, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
March 22-23, 2019
I’ve lived in NC for nearly a decade now.In that time, my home park of Carowinds has added 3 major steel coasters, 4 new thrill rides, a slew of new kiddie rides, and have renovated and refurbished nearly the whole park. And they don’t seem to be finished yet. But in 2019 the park followed up their 2015 addition of Fury with Copperhead Strike, a Mack dual launched inverting coaster. I’ve been excited for months to check it out, and finally it was time.
I hate Season Passholder nite. I wanted to get off work early, but that didn’t happen. I knew it would take me at least 90 minutes in Friday evening Charlotte traffic to get from work to Carowinds. Its like that every year. I had flashback to Fury, though, and even though the line was super long, the capacity on a 3 train B&M Giga is pretty good, so the line lasted about 90 minutes or so. That was not to be the case this time.
I arrived at the park around 7 PM. The parking lot was packed. There is a strong Season Pass base in Charlotte. Once I finally got parked in the nearly full parking lot I made my way to the front gate since South Gate wasn’t open. Then I waited in line again to get through security. THEN I finally got into the park and ran to the restroom before heading towards the newly added Blueridge Junction. Coming around the corner I could hear the entertainment and see the entrance to the new area. It flows so nicely from the recent addition of County Fair.
I noticed a new stage with live entertainment, saw the newly added fireplace with people sitting around, then saw the line, which was out in the midway. Then I saw the Mountain Gliders (Thanks KI!), and they look way nicer than I’ve ever seen them at Carowinds. So I got in the massive line. The new sign for the ride is something special. It has lights in the snake’s eyes, moonshine stills (the ride is themed to Granny’s Moonshine, that’s what the Copperhead Strike really is). They had a massive temporary queue that snaked (ha!) all through the open midway to the actual entrance. It was long. I waited in that line for about 3 hours, which is not something I normally do, and wasn’t planning on doing on Friday nite, but I did.
The whole area is nicely themed. The area around the new rides are very nice. And the queue for Copperhead Strike has the best theming I’ve seen out of a Cedar Fair park, save for maybe Knott’s. The whole queue is at Dollywood levels of theming, making the storyline about moonshine quite obvious if you know anything about making moonshine illegally in the mountains.
There was one slight breakdown as I was about 5 trains away. This was close to about 10 PM. Eventually, though, trains started launching again and after about 20 more minutes, I was in the station and in queue for the second row. I rode on the right side to take full advantage of the jo-jo roll.
Copperhead Strike-As the train moves out of the station you’re thrust forward into the jo-jo roll. I’ve been on Hydra a few times and never minded the maneuver on Hydra, but with only lap bars its a much different experience with a lot of hang time. Then you roll around and into the barn. I was unaware that, save for a themed room to start the launch, there would be anything going on in the actual barn. But I heard about the ride on media day from everyone I knew that was there, and without going into detail, they said it was similar to the Shed on Mystic Timbers. It was much better than the Shed, and without all of the preliminary hype that lead to a lot of disappointment on that ride. I won’t give it away, but it was very well done. Then you launch. The launch starts off mild but gets more forceful just before you head into the first inversion, a loop. There is a lot of hang time in that loop, and it’s glorious. Then you drop down and up over an airtime hill that delivers some decent ejector airtime. Next up you hit the corkscrew, followed by twists, turns, and hills swooping down and up towards the ride’s second launch, which, incidentally, includes a hill during the launch. Which was fun, but not aggressive. Next up is a double-up into an inverted top-hat element with super hang time at the top of it. Afterwards you drop down, turn, then another vertical loop followed by a kind of twist and dive element, then followed by a twisting mess of steel, hills, turns, swoops, and eventually a hop up into the brake run.
So that was it. The park was closed, which was fine as this was the reason I’d come. My first thought just after getting off of the ride was that it was a mini-Maverick. That’s a very good thing as I love Maverick. The following couple of hours and the next morning I saw that sentiment repeated several times on social media. I liked the ride a lot. Great pacing, really fun, super comfortable, just aggressive enough, and a very good second half. I was impressed, and glad that it exceeded my expectations. I celebrated by getting a pecan Cinibun and iced coffee.
On Saturday evening I picked my friend Stefan up and headed back down to the park. Maverick is his favorite coaster, so I told him that I though it was a mini-Maverick. We arrived at the park, which wasn’t super busy. After a bathroom break we headed to Harmony Hall for dinner. Then I remembered the new restaurant in Blueridge Junction. We headed there instead. I had rotisserie beef brisket, with greens, mac & cheese, a cobbler, and drink. I like the brisket at Harmony Hall, but this was really much better, and surprisingly great compared to most theme park food. The greens were also great, and the cobbler was good too. I may eat more here than I end up eating at Harmony Hall. This is a much better option than Wings, the former restaurant in this space.
We headed over to Copperhead Strike next. The line started just at the real entrance to the queue. The ride was actually down, and people were fleeing the line in droves, so we decided to wait it out. And wait we did. It was nice to see the queue themeing in the daylight. The ride had a couple of hiccups. Also, the Fast Lane line was super long. I think they should have waited to add Fast Lane to this ride for the first 4 weekends or so, but that’s just me. It was another wait of about 2 hours, slightly more.
We did eventually get into the station and got in line for the last row. It was just as great the second time. Stefan definitely liked the ride, and we’re excited for the crowds to tame back down. I’ve found that Friday evenings after work in the early spring tend to have very light crowds, and helped to avoid long lines on Fury when it debuted, so I’m hoping that holds true. I can’t wait to ride more.
We’d planned to ride Fury, but the line was longer than we’d wanted, so we bailed on the park and went to Culvers. Once again, I’m so happy for opening weekend at Carowinds. There isn’t much left at the park for them to fix before the park is where it needs to be and can move forward. I love living in the bright future I predicted a few years ago, and can’t wait to see what the park has to offer over the next few years.
Sunday, March 24, 2019 7:41 PM
Click below image for Second Launch Video
Carowinds has definitely turned into something special in the last several years. A very average park has turned into a pretty fantastic park. I had a great day on Opening Day. Copperhead Strike is a fun ride that really kicks it up a few notches at night. Although I must say, I could do without the jojo roll. I actually like it on Hydra, but with just a lap bar on Copperhead it was more of an annoyance I had to tolerate to get to the launch rather than something I enjoyed.Last edited by BrettV, Monday, March 25, 2019 10:54 AM
This ride when it was initially announced did excite me the most out of the three weird loopers coming in -19 (this, KW and SFGAm). None of those three coasters are my preferred style, so it would really have to be the reviews to sell me to return to any of those parks this year. What I have read thus far is underwhelming.
(Since more information since the initial has been released on these rides. Steel Curtain looks more impressive: I did not realize it was going to be taller then the Phantom! SFGAm's ride seems less impressive after that full animation)
I'm not really a fan of Carowinds the park in the two times I've been. Probably my least favorite of all the Taft and Cedar Fair Parks, I've been to from an atmosphere standpoint. Maybe I'm just pissed they got rid of Thunder Road. Fury did not blow me away the day, I rode it opening year. I would pick Millie and half the B&M hyper's out there, in front of it.
Unless I get stuck in the Charlotte area for business. At this point, I'm more apt to go to Kennywood.
Because Pittsburgh is right around the corner from Charlotte?
From my starting point, kind of. Both a long drive or a short flight. But yes, in opposite directions. Pierogies over BBQ.
I would take Carowinds (and BBQ) over Kennywood (and pierogies) any day. Not that Kennywood is a bad park, but it certainly isn't a park I would go out of my way for, especially with the poor operations they have become known for in the last several years.
I would, however, combine a plate of BBQ with a side of pierogies.
Despite living in Pennsylvania I've never been to Kennywood b/c Pittsburgh is definitely not right around the corner - whereas I've been to Carowinds (and going back soon) a couple of times b/c it's easier for me to get to Charlotte than it is to get to Pittsburgh. One hour 50 min. flight for under $200 on Frontier as opposed to 5-hour drive or short $600 + flight on American. Anyway, thinking of visiting Kennywood this year and wondering what I'm missing. I've looked at Kennywood's website several times and don't see a queue-skipping option along the lines of Quick Queue, Fast Lane or Flash Pass. Does this park not offer one? (Heck, even Dorney, where almost everything is a walk-on, offers it.) Without this it would be difficult to get in enough rides to justify the trip and I fully expect the wait for Steel Curtain to be way long.
Here is my take on Kennywood. They've got some rare flat rides that can be fun if you like to spin around in circles and some old wooden coasters that some people love, but I think are "just alright". Phantom's Revenge is fantastic. Since they were bought out several years ago, operations are horrendous on a good day and unless you are there on a packed Saturday or event day, plan on slow dispatching one train operations for the coasters. Additionally, if a quick passing shower or thunderstorm goes over the park around 2 or 3pm, there is a chance the park will immediately close for the day.
I remember as a kid making the trip to Kennywood and always having a blast. I'm not sure if I changed, Kennywood changed, or a little bit of both. But with their track record, I wouldn't expect Steel Curtain to open at the start of the season or have anything resembling efficient operations once it does open.
And no, there are no skip the queue add ons available.
KW has had multiple skip the queue options for about 5 or 6 years now.
Can confirm. Purchased on my last visit in 2017.
Kennywood VIP Coaster Tours:
Not the easiest thing to find from their main site. Maybe the park still has front of line pass guilt. :)
Kennywood getting crap? Isn't it one of the "untouchable" beloved small parks that enthusiasts aren't allowed to hate?
What has happened to CoasterBuzz?
The funny thing is that of that group of "untouchable" parks, Kennywood was the one I'd agree deserved it's rep as an unquestionable terrific local small park.
But I haven't been by in ages. Maybe it sucks now.
I visited Kennywood regularly from the mid 90s until 2004 and had a blast every time, and then didn’t go to the park again until last year. The difference in park operations and the overall vibe was night and day. Maybe I just hit things on a bad day, but I have heard similar reports from others who have been recently. That said, I know the yinzers love the place as well they should. But I’ll fully admit to having a much better time at Dorney than Kennywood last year (ducking from all of the projectiles being thrown at me)
As for the skip the line options, I didn’t see it advertised when I was there and couldn’t find it in a quick search of their website when I made my post earlier today. I feel like that is something they should advertise the heck out of.
I’ve heard a lot of horror stories but my 2016 and 2017 trips were great. I only got the skip passes for 2017. I still love the park.
Somewhere, a social media manager is wondering how the launch of their new ride turned into a bitch sesh about a park hundreds of miles away.
Kennywoid is infamous for closing early if the weather isn’t perfect. I wouldn’t risk a trip there unless the weather was perfect.
Paramount did a lot of damage to Carowinds removing most of the original Carolina theming. Cedar Fair initially did some damage too with the removal of Thunder Road and the flume. But In the last few year, Cedar Fair has added great theming with their new rides and is making Carowinds a nice park again.
Now if they would just install Thunder Road 2 :)
Now if they would just install Thunder Road 2 :)
I had a dream a month or two ago, and have since expounded on it. The original dream was the original Thunder Road with a dueling RMC-style woodie weaving in and out of the original ride.
Now, I don't need the exact same ride as TR was, but a new family-style out-and-back woodie with a dueling RMC attached would be awesome.
Call the family coaster Thunder Road and the RMC White Lightning.
I haven't been to Kennywood in a few years but I worry about what I'll find when I return (hopefully this year). There are so many rides there I truly love (Phantom, Jack Rabbit, Thunderbolt, the Kangaroo, to name a few) and I would hate bad operations being the problem. I wonder if lines will get better or worse with Steel Curtain- will everyone be riding that, or will more people show up at the park to ride that, and everything else.
Bringing this back to Carowinds, it's amazing how it has become a true destination in recent years (although I'll admit that Top Gun has always looked like a fantastic B&M invert). With everything they've got to offer (I won't say anything about Thunder Road, but instead grumble quietly), I feel the need to make it there this year, and Copperhead Strike is a huge part of that desire.
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