Having spent a steamy day here in Charlotte, we all agree on three things. l. Too few people come down here. 2. Those who do review this park greatly under rate it. 3. Those who review its coasters under rate them.
Carowinds is definitely worth a day. We loved it. In our usual style, we won't take up valuable Internet space repeating what everybody else says, but will only comment when we disagree or have something new to add.
Access. Carowinds is right off the Interstate. Easy access is certainly nice.
Lodging. I love parks with adjacent lodging. Carowinds has a Comfort Inn and Holiday Inn across the parking lot. I do think they need package deals, early admissions, special entrances, shuttles, etc.
Parking. Boo. $8 to park is outrageous.
Staff. Everybody talks about Holiday World and Kennywood having the finest staff, and I agree they're great, but I was just as impressed with the workers here. They were all courteous and outgoing, but I'll list two specific examples. The first was the parking lot cashier. My usual strategy is to leave my wallet at the hotel so it doesn't get wet on the water rides. I have a little waterproof carrier for my card and a small amount of cash for snacks. But I hadn't expected the $8 parking charge. She never blinked. She told me to park, go on to the gate, use the ATM, and bring her back the $8. I was so impressed with this hospitality that I quickly brought her $8 back to her. The second was the operator on the Scrambler. He had already started the ride, and as we were spinning around, somebody on the opposite side of the ride from him knocked their pin loose from the safety latch. The bar is still fastened, of course, and I've seen park where they don't even worry about inserting the safety pins at all. But this guy somehow noticed that pin, and cut the power immediately. He stopped the ride, stepped across to the car, replaced the pin, and announced that he was sorry for the interruption, but he would give us full time from the restart, which he did. Little details like this give the impression people take their jobs seriously.
General Appearance. Carowinds is a beautiful park, well designed, effectively landscaped and sparkling clean.
Lines. We didn't have a problem with lines anywhere. At the most, two loads wait and we were on. And this is high summer.
Shows. One thing that raises Carowinds a notch above some parks is that it also has entertainment for the adults who bring kids but don't like to ride. The cartoon characters are kind of generic, but America Rocks and CMT are definitely worth a break from the heat.
Rides in General. Carowinds has 22 rides which the average person might enjoy, plus a few kiddieland and simulator attractions. It has a good selection of coasters, classics and innovative new models.
Topgun, of course, is their signature ride. It dominates the park. You can hear it over at the hotels and all around the facility, like a jet plan continually roaring around on a test run. And we liked this version. The particular layout is the best I've seen of this type of coaster, and the underground run through the mist below the south park entrance gives the ride a special flavor and lures more riders.
Vortex. Decent. Another standup steeler.
Carolina Cyclone. Decent. Another steel looper.
Hurler. Here's where my problem starts. I just think the woodies here are greatly under rated. Here we have a 3157 ft. long classic with an 80 ft. drop, 60 mph, great design, comfortable trains and air time and its average rating is only 3.7 and 3.8. On a scale of what ? We ride coasters all over the country and we thought this machine deserved much more respect than that.
Thunder Road. A racing coaster with 3811 ft., 88 ft. drop, 58 mph, nice drops, great design, comfortable trains, air time, and only 3.7, 3.6 average ratings. This is a better coaster than that.
Goldrush. We especially like mine train rides and we rate this one second, behind Indiana Beach and ahead of Cedar Point. It runs 2397 ft. with a 43 ft. drop, but we really liked the run along the river, the helix at the far end and again next to the station, and the underground stretch which is probably supposed to represent the mine except we were going too fast to focus on much.
Ghoster Coaster. A classic junior coaster at 1385 ft. and 35 ft. drop. We rank this second among junior woodies, behind only PKI's Beastie. Lifetime, the only one better than these two was Kennywood's Little Dipper at 1650 and 40 ft. drop. We were banged around a little on this ride, but not enough to lower our enjoyment.
Super Saturator. This is one of the reasons we came to this park, and it fulfilled our expectations. What a blast. For those of you not yet in on the secret, this one and the one at Hershey provide water machine gun installations down on the ground so you can drown coaster riders as they roar by overhead. But they're not defenseless; the cars carry water bombs which are released with a lever from each seat. So the coasters are bombing the people below, and they're firing up at the coasters, and everybody in a quartermile is drenched to the skin. We wore our swim suits, as did almost everybody. On a hot July afternoon, this is the place to be. If not for the water, this is a basic hanging junior steeler, similar to the Runaway Raptor at PKI but with a longer and faster ride.
Ricochet. This was the other main reason we came to this park, and we loved it. What a great update of the Wild Mouse. These cars seat four, but you have the usual tight turns and steep drops. Our only concern was the drop coming down from the roof of the station. It bottomed out so hard many riders found it painful. This didn't keep us from riding it numerous times, but we kept watching that drop and almost everyone looked like they were being punched in the stomach.
Taxi Jam. This is a kiddie coaster, but it's a better interpretation than most. My eight year old has ridden every coaster in the East that doesn't turn her upside down, and considers herself quite knowledgeable, and she likes this one better than its rivals at CP and PKI.
Powder Keg Log Flume. This is a good log flume, but only has one drop and is too short to rank as one of our top three.
Roaring Rapids. Standard rafting ride. KW, CP and PKI beat it.
Whitewater Falls. Standard boat plunge. KW, BGW and CP beat it.
The Waterpark. Nice. Most of the rides are standard fare, but the tubing river is up there with Sandcastle and Disney and the 4 person raft slide is at least one of the top five.
Riverboat Ride. Pretty cool. Great views of various coasters, some natural panoramas, lots of aquatic life in the water, and the usual humorous displays. Too short, but still may be the best riverboat ride of any standard amusement park. The pilot does a masterful job of steering the boat through various tight turns and narrow channels and it's not until you ride the Tower and look down from above that you realize he's faking the whole thing and the boat runs on an underground track. However, the boat is the best vantage point for photos of various coasters.
Tower. Right at the main park entrance. You have to ride this, preferably as you first arrive. It gives you a magnificent view of the layout, and we got some great photos of various coasters from above. Helps orient you to the whole park.
Scooby Haunted Mansion. Well done interactive dark ride.
Scrambler. One of the best three we've ridden. Long ride, higher speed than most, in great condition and very smooth.
Carousel. Rather disappointing. I'd think a park with this long history and as big as this would have a very impressive carousel, but this is only average.
Balloons. Geared down, but a smooth ride on a hot day.
Drop Zone. Decent. Doesn't compare to the ones at KW or CP.
Skyflyer. The standard ride where you pay extra and they crank you up, then release you on a make believe sky dive. We didn't pay extra, but it didn't look as high or fast as most.
Helicopters. You and a kid can pedal your way around the far corner of the park. Same as the ones at PKI. Actually, I think these would be a neat ride if the track ran all the way across the park. You could get from one side to the other in a very relaxing, entertaining fashion.
CONCLUSION. A park neglected by many enthusiasts and under rated by many who go. Definitely worth an annual stop. We've become Carowinds fans.
*** This post was edited by Trekker Park on 7/18/2002. ***