Southern Trip: Carowinds (6/13/2004)

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Park 1 of our Vacation / Coaster Trip was Paramount's Carowinds.

We arrived at Carowinds on Saturday, June 12 around 8 pm and checked into the Holiday Inn Express just across Carowinds Blvd from the entrance to the park. The next morning the sky looked very forbidding with rain, sometimes heavy. My wife, Michele, decided that tramping around a park all day in the rain was not for her, but she said she would be more than content to spend the day relaxing at the hotel. She dropped me off at Carowinds’s convenient drop off area and I entered the park not long after opening. The rain continued until sometime mid afternoon, after which it was simply cloudy and eventually the sun peeked out (and the temp went up).

Since I traversed the park several times during the day, I won’t do a total play by play, but I will list the coasters and other rides (or should I say ride) in order of how I first rode them along with the total number of rides for the day (though they were not all in order).

Top Gun (5 rides): This B&M invert surprised me. It was much more intense than I thought it would be. You never hear much about this coaster, so I wasn’t expecting much. However, what I found was a very good (and underrated) coaster. The early rides were even more intense with the stinging rain on my face.

Thunder Road – Forward (8 rides): Another coaster you don’t hear much about… I loved this coaster. A classic out and back design, it doesn’t matter that both sides were not racing... it is a good coaster in its own right… fast with hits of air.

Rugrats Runaway Reptar (0 rides): I tried… but couldn’t get the restraint closed. First coaster I was ever turned away from. (time to hit the old diet again)

Hurler (5 rides): I was not expecting all that much from this coaster. I rode its near twin at Kings Dominion last June and was not all that impressed. I found it rough. However, I learned from my mistake. Remembering PKD’s Hurler, I opted for the front seat on Carowind’s version. Was I ever surprised. There turn after the first drop was not at all painful and there were pleasant pops of air on each of the hills and hops after the first drop.

On one of my rides on Hurler, I was waiting for the front seat. Two girls were in line in front of me. When the gates opened, two young teen boys in gate two jumped forward and climbed into the first seat in front of the girls who had been waiting for it. Receiving no attention from the ops (but getting lots of nasty comments from the people who were waiting behind them when they saw what they had done) the boys stayed in seat one while the girls who had waited for it meekly took seat two. When the train returned, as people who were previously giving the boys grief started in on them again, I got the girls’ attention and told them that I saw the two “jerks” cut in front of them… and I told them to climb into seat one for a front seat ride… I would wait. My good deed of the day. Besides, there was no one behind me and what was one more train.

Carolina Cyclone (1 ride): A typical loop (double loop that is) and corkscrew coaster… rough on the neck with its OTSR’s. One ride was enough

Vortex (0 rides): I attempted to ride this B&M stand up, but the belt on the restraint came about a quarter inch too short. Again… GOTTA GET ON THAT DIET!

Carolina Goldrusher (1 ride): This mine train has got to have the most cramped seats of any mine train I have ridden. A rather mundane ride was saved by the interesting layout and tunnels. However, it was not interesting enough to warrant a second ride.

Thunder Road – Backward (3 rides): I loved PKD’s Rebel Yell backward… so when I returned to Thunder Road in the afternoon and saw that they had opened the backward side, I quickly got in line. Now I am not sure if it was the fact that I had already had quite a few rides on other coasters and I was a little tired… but I found Thunder Road to be rough riding backward. So much so that I only could do three rides (opting to take several more of those 8 forward rides instead)

Flying Super Saturator (1 ride): Ironically, after the rain had stopped, I decided to take a ride on this coaster. I had only had my first ride on Hersheypark’s (my home park) Roller Soaker a few days earlier and expected a similar ride. Wrong. Flying Super Saturator, while being a close older cousin of Roller Soaker offers a more interesting ride in layout alone… and the water effects were much more interesting. Where Roller Soaker “thrills” by simply soaking guests, Super Saturator goes lighter on the water but heavier on the layout of the coaster. I prefer this one to its Pennsylvania cousin.

Ricochet (1 ride): Not opening until the afternoon, I found this to be a rather good wild mouse. It was speedier than it looked.

Scooby Doo’s Ghost coaster (1 ride): A fun little junior woodie. I had attempted to ride it earlier in the day, but found that it was down with a train stuck on the lift.

Wild Thornberry’s River Adventure (1 ride): A fun flume ride… I liked the way it was tucked into the landscaping.

BORG Assimilator (1 ride): Here was my longest wait of the day (40 minutes). This ride was down several times during the day… once the train was stuck on the lift with the people laying on their backs, faces to the sky, during a moderate rain shower. However, by late afternoon it was running pretty reliably, so I decided to grab a ride. Having ridden Batwing at SFA, I knew what to expect. Good thing about BORG… nice theming and landscaping (not the “tundra” look of Batwing). Bad thing… same uncomfortable ride. One ride was enough. I have found that I am not very fond of these Vekoma flying coasters.

By the time 6 pm had rolled around, I decided to call it a day… after my 8th and final ride on Thunder Road. Through out the day I had been keeping up to date with Michele over our Motorola Walkie Talkies (could not reach her from the front of the park, but I could from back around Top Gun and Thunder Road. Foot sore (blisters from wet socks after the rain and Super Saturator) and a little hungry (I did not take time to eat all day), I put in the call for her to come to pick me up. On the way to the entrance, I had to take a detour around the Nickelodeon parade winding its way through the park.

To sum up... Lots of coaster rides and very little waiting. Every ride was a walk on (or a one or two train wait for a specific seat) with the exception of the flume (which is not unusual considering how they load). The rain in the morning was not that bad and probably kept the crowds down. As for the park… it was okay… smaller than I thought (you know how deceiving those maps can be). It reminded me very much of Kings Dominion… but looking back, it didn’t seem to have much personality… it was rather bland in some areas. It also seems to be lacking in the flat ride department.

All in all, it was a good day… even with the rain... and a good start to the vacation.

*** Edited 6/28/2004 8:55:49 PM UTC by SLFAKE***

"Yes... well... VICTORY IS MINE!"
ApolloAndy's avatar
I just rode Top Gun a few weeks ago for the first time, and I was honestly a bit underwhelmed. I had heard quite a number of good things about this ride and, having ridden all the custom B&M inverts in the U.S., I can safely say that this one was near the bottom. It had some decent trench and tunnel work, but I'd heard it compared to the likes of Montu, Fire Dragon and Talon and I just didn't get it. The last cork was the only time that I felt real intensity, but that was when I was getting sloshed around in my seat. Maybe this is another ride that I just don't "get."

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Did you ride Top Gun in the front or the back? The back right corner is the most intense seat in the house in my opinion. You can really feel the pulling effect on the first drop, zero-g roll, going into the batwing, and the flat spin there. Also, if you ride it at night the ride feels faster as with most other night rides.

-Look past the flesh...and see your enemy-
ApolloAndy's avatar
I rode it everywhere, though not at night. Maybe I'm just not a big fan of B&M inverts that don't have something pretty unique (theming, dueling, or air)

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

My first trip to Carowinds was as a kid in the early 80's. At that time it was an excellent combination of thrill rides with great theming all dedicated to the Carolinas with everything well maintained and in sync to the theming.

A second trip in the late 80s under Keco mgmt found things were starting to be neglected and removed.

I made my next trip this year. While everything is new looking, the removal of the theming, atmosphere and the total lack of flat rides is heartbreaking.

Hardly any of the original theming is in tact. Almost all of the water has been removed from the park with the now-concrete area where Pirate Island once was and the addition of the Vekoma flyer this year. What this park now is, is a collection of very medicore coasters. Quantity not quality. Very little family rides as most everything has been removed in that category such as the Sternwheeler and the Monorail. Thunder Road, which was once shining white looks like crap unpainted.

The "new" Boardwalk section is good for a laugh. Frontier type buildings with netting and boats hanging above.........but NO water anywhere to be seen.........i thought boardwalks were typically built over water lol.

This park is convenient if you are local, but nothing there warrants traveling a distance to see or ride.

It was convienent for us because we were travelling between PA and FL and Charlotte NC is a good stopping point (we didn't want to drive all day and night).

Would I have made a special trip down there? Probably not. However, since it was "right along the way" it got placed on our itinerary as one of our stops.

"Yes... well... VICTORY IS MINE!"
Same for me, i was in the Charlotte area for the Memorial day weekend for racing at the Dirt Track at Charlotte. The racing was Fri and Sat night, so going to Carowinds was a good way to spend some time Sat afternoon.

Some very slooooooooow ride ops on some rides (Top Gun was very fast though). Saw the whole park in about 3 hours and left.

SLFAKE said:It reminded me very much of Kings Dominion… but looking back, it didn’t seem to have much personality… it was rather bland in some areas. It also seems to be lacking in the flat ride department.

You said it best. Unfortunatly, Carowinds is bland. The park's personality has been lost over the last several years to concrete.

The los of flat/family rides and the over abundance of pay per experience attractions are killing Carowinds. It was worse last year when some rides were closed due to low park attendance to save on staffing expenses yet the pay per experience attractions were fully staffed.

Borg is a half assed attempt at a Star Trek themed ride. The theming consists of a sphere(which is nice) a few scattered peices of borg ship wreckage and Star trek videos. Nowhere else does this ride even suggest Star Trek. The station should at least be space themed. The landscaping is good though.

Now keep in mind... when I said the theming and landscaping of BORG was good, I was comparing it to Batwing at SFA... which looks like it was just sat down in the middle of some farmer's field.

"Yes... well... VICTORY IS MINE!"
But compare the landscaping now to the wonderful landscaping, water, hills, trees and rocks that were around the Carolina Sternwheeler.

Carowinds theming and atmosphere is like most of the Paramount Parks, an ATTEMPT to be a movie park, and a pretty poor attempt at that. Most of the movies they choose to theme around are not timeless.

Most of the Paramount Parks (maybe not Wonderland) have lost most of their charm, atmosphere and continuity of theming that they once had. In stead of creating environments, the current management of these parks thinks that putting a few props around a ride or worse yet plywood cutouts or very poor looking plastic cartoon statues constitutes theming. And most of the time the items used do not go with the area they are placed in........

I do find Carowinds to be depressing to go to when you remember what it looked like originally. This link has some great photos of the park the way it was meant to be.

They did do quite a hatchet job in California also when you compare the two Great Americas. Hard to believe they were once identical. *** Edited 6/29/2004 6:51:33 PM UTC by super7***

"But compare the landscaping now to the wonderful landscaping, water, hills, trees and rocks that were around the Carolina Sternwheeler."

I have no point of reference since this was my first visit.

"Yes... well... VICTORY IS MINE!"
Paramount does have a bad habit of putting rides in areas that have nothing to do with their theme. remember when PKI placed teir Top Gun in the then jungle section of the park. Just where you expect to find an aircraft carrier.

All that's left of the sternwheeler from Carowinds is the 2 steam pipes. If you look carefully from the Sky Tower in the area behind the Cyclone you may see them over near the warehouse. They as well as the island have been assimilated.

Borg Assimilator:Theming is futile

The_Anomaly said:
The back right corner is the most intense seat in the house in my opinion. You can really feel the pulling effect on the first drop, zero-g roll, going into the batwing, and the flat spin there.

Yup, that's the money seat and is always the first spot I hit on the ride.
Parks can't stay stuck in the 80s if they want to increase attendance and find new visitors every year. For a seasonal theme park, Carowinds must have decided that the attractions they removed were no longer a major part of selling tickets and season passes. The park looked nice before, but I'm glad it has moved forward. The Paramount Parks are on the highest end of theming for seasonal parks, so I have nothing to complain about. You can't pour millions into a ride like Disney or Universal to theme when they're not able to rack in people and money year-round.

They're also the only seasonal park chain that puts several millions into each of their parks every year to support a well-rounded park experience for the *entire family*! Yes, I'll say that one more time... The *entire family*- Wild Thornberries, Nick Parade, Magic of the Movies Live, Runaway Reptar, Tomb Raider, Scooby Doo, SpongeBob, Drop Zone, Delirium, Boomerang Bay, continued work on rides to improve guest experience such as SOB, The Beast, FOF, etc.


"They're also the only seasonal park chain that puts several millions into each of their parks every year to support a well-rounded park experience for the *entire family*!"

Big deal. Silver Dollar City and Dollywood have been doing this since the 70s. Paramount didn't give a rat's ass about the kids until 97 or 98 when they got off that damn waterpark expanding faze.

I don't hate Paramount. They've gave us more coasters than KECO or Taft ever could. But if I wanted to go to a REAL Movie Park, I'd buy a plane ticket to Orlando. CAROwinds should not be a movie park, and I will stand by that. Evan if they do try to rip out it's damn soul, like they've done with PGA.

And yes, I understand that all that matters to the company is the bottom line, but I'm also somewhat angry that there is no attraction in the park signifigant enough to be spared. Next thing you know, Carolina Goldrusher or Carolina Skytower will be chopped up. Why couldn't they get rid of something like WhiteWater Falls or Vortex instead of going after the slower, older attractions that can be enjoyed by everyone, Kids, Adults, and Grandparents. *** Edited 6/30/2004 2:44:44 AM UTC by Dukeis#1***

At the rate the park is going, there will be no family rides left. They've done away with the Train, Monorail, Sternwheeler & Cable Skyway. These were all attractions the young and old could enjoy together as a family. I can only pray the Skytower and Goldrusher stay put. *** Edited 6/30/2004 3:27:42 AM UTC by HarryTraver***
WhiteWater Falls may be on the chopping block if the rumors of expanding the waterpark are true. SkyTower could be a casualty at some point but I doubt it. the Goldrusher isn't going anywhere even though it doesn't have the capacity it once had thanks to the seat belts. This thing once ran 4 trains. Now it's hard to keep 2 from stacking in the station.
I fail to see how Paramount Parks support the entire family........If members of my family that do not like thrill rides went there, they would be very bored. Paramount claims to be family oriented, but they are not. As mentioned before, many of the family rides that ANYONE and EVERYONE (regardless of motion tolerance) could ride together are gone.....Carowinds has a total of 5 family rides, the Short Line Railroad, Scooby Doo Mansion, skytower, the car ride and the helicopter ride. I guess the carrousel can count too........Everythng else is a high thrill ride or a kiddie ride.....Very few shows also. I guess the have the water parks (most of the time right in the middle of the park once again ruining the theming and atmosphere as these areas are concrete runways.

Talk about remaining in the 80's........Carowinds has the same approximate number or rides it had in 1980, which was 29.

Look at Hersheypark if you want a GOOD example of a park moving forward while keeping the things that people love about the park..........Very few rides have been removed over the last 20 years (enterprise, rainbow, cable skyway, cuddle up, himalaya) while the park has continued to actually grow and add space and rides without sacrificing the rest of the park. And everything that is removed there has been replaced by something similar except for the cable skyway. They are not the best at theming (minetown, the county fair section and the western section are nice), but the areas they do theme create an atmosphere. Not just slapping some cheesy movie type props around a ride in an area in which it does not belong like Paramount.

Hershey could also have a few more family rides, they have 8 (giant wheel, ferris wheel, train, monorail, turnpike, chocolate tour, skyview, kissing tower) but they also feature more shows and the zoo and it gives a little more things that a whole family can do together better than the other thrill/theme parks seem to do. They also have their little rides scattered through the park so the family can stay together throughout the day.

Carowinds is just a lot of mediocre rollercoasters, about 5 flat rides, 5 family rides and a bunch of kiddie rides. The only thing better about it now is that the trees are more mature. It is a park of little substance.

I will agree... park's can't be stuck in the 80's (or in the past in general), and, having no sentimental ties to Carowinds, those pictures from the past (linked in an above thread) do nothing for me.

What I noticed was a great lack of rides other than coasters. The lack of "personality" that I mentioned doesn't even deal with this. Don't compare to the likes of Hersheypark, but rather compare to PKD (Apples to apples, instead of apples (Carowinds) to chocolate (Hershey)).

Look simply at the entrance area. The entrance to PKD features shops, a long avenue type of set up, with the fountains and Eifel tower anchoring it. It seems alive. Carowinds entrance seems separated from the rest of the park by a bridge, and there is nothing there really... lockers, rest rooms, guest services, but nothing that really says "Welcome". There is just something cold about the park, and the rainy day had nothing to do with that.

Getting back to Hersheypark. Over the years I have seen them lose quite a few rides... Gold Nugget dark ride, the Bug (tumble bug), Lost River, Twin Toboggans, Sky Ride, Coal Shaker (themed cuddleup), Cyclops, Hymilaya, Flying Bobs, Conestoga come to mind. In each case there were good reasons (Gold Nugget was old and low capacity), Bug, while a classic, was old... Lost River was a victem of 1972's hurricane Agnes... etc) but in most cases a ride was moved into replace those lost. Perhaps not the same ride, but a ride non the less. The number of rides did not drop. While they do not have a large number of THRILL flat rides, they do have a large number of Family flats, and a very large number of kids flats. The park may not be overly themed, but it does have a distinct personality.

Keep one thing else in mind... Hersheypark is nearing its 100th season. Some of the rides listed above (Bug, Lost River, Cuddleup) were the same ride, or updated versions of very old rides... time, wear and mantenance concerns, and changing tastes caused their departure. However, in the case of Carowinds, it seems that while rides are removed (for what ever reason), they are not replaced. As stated, what is left is nothing more than a park filled with a handfull of kiddie rides in the one area, a few (very few) flats, and 10 or so coasters... none, except for the new BORG, being "signature" rides. While I enjoyed Top Gun, Hurler and Thunder Road, I can ride the same rides 3 hours away at PKD (Hurler = Hurler, Thunder Road = Rebel Yell) or 2 hours away at Dorney (Top Gun equalling... in a manner of speaking... Talon). IF I would have enjoyed BORG, I could travel 2 hours south of here and ride Batwing at SFA. Nothing unique at all about any of them.

Last June I visited PKD for the first time... and was greatly impressed. My preconceived impression of that park was a rather bland park with no personality. I found the opposite. Perhaps locals may think it has lost some of its charm and personality over the past 10 or 20 years, but for a first timer it was a nice park, one that I would go back to if given the chance. As for Carowinds... I went in using PKD as my model... and while I would not say I was dissapointed (I enjoyed my visit... while the coasters are not the most unique, I really enjoyed 3 of them and they were always walk ons too)... I was a bit "underwhelmed" at the blandness that some of the areas of the park showed. And I am not comparing this to the Carowinds of the past... but rather other contemporary parks.

Given the options of travelling in that direction again... while it has fewer rides than Carowinds, I believe I would travel an hour or two to the west, over the Smoky Mountains, to Pigeon Forge and Dollywood... one of Carowinds closest "neighbors" and a park that just oozes personality and character.

"Yes... well... VICTORY IS MINE!"

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