Conveniently located at the border of North and South Carolina, Carowinds has become a popular family theme park destination for vacationers. Part amusement park, part waterpark (both included on the same admission ticket), Carowinds is the self-proclaimed "Thrill Capital of the Southeast" and offers fun for riders of all ages.
This 105-acre theme park is located 10 miles south of Charlotte, North Carolina at the South Carolina border. With more than 100 rides, a water park, live entertainment and a Peanuts comic strip themed area for younger children, the park never fails to disappoint. Open since 1973, the park became part of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company in 2006.
- The Intimidator: Currently the park's tallest, longest and fastest coaster, this thrill ride towers at 232 feet and races up to a heart-pounding 75 to 80 mph. The ride stands in honor of North Carolina's own NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, who bore the same nickname.
- Afterburn: This inverted roller coaster was inspired by the film Top Gun. Guests can experience the thrills of the movie first-hand with lightning fast drops and loops at top speeds of 62 mph. As Carowinds' second-tallest and fastest ride, Afterburn ranks among the world's top 30 steel coasters.
- Nighthawk: Originally named Borg Assimilator after the Star Trek TV show character, Nighthawk takes guests on a high-speed adventure - face down - through eight inversions.
- Scream Weaver: This is a Ferris wheel unlike any other! Gondolas spin riders this-way-and-that, including upside down.
- Vortex: Guests reach a height of 90 feet and speeds of 50 miles per hour, all while they're standing! Carowinds claims this it is the South's first stand-up rollercoaster.
- Thunder Road: This wooden roller coaster gives guests the unique thrill of riding in both North Carolina and South Carolina with dual tracks that run forward and backward.
- Carolina Skytower: Get the bird's-eye view of the park aboard the sky cabin, reaching heights of 320 feet.
- Southern Star: This ride is a swinging Viking ship, formerly known as Frenzoid.
- Rip Roarin' Rapids: A fun-filled family white water raft ride that guarantees a wet adventure!
- Planet Snoopy: This area is designed just for the park's smaller guests. Kids will delight in Peanuts character themed rides such as Charlie Brown's Windup, Flying Ace Balloon Race, Lucy's Crabbie Cabbie, Peanuts Pirates, Snoopy vs. Red Baron and Woodstock's Whirlybirds.
- Boomerang Bay: This Australian themed 16-acre waterpark is included in the admission price, and includes water slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, and plenty of family water attractions.
According to Carowinds' stated $50 million revitalization project, the park has new rides on the horizon:
- Fury 325: Opening Spring 2015 after much hype, the hornet-themed Fury 325 will top The Intimidator, breaking speed records of 95 mph and astonishing heights reaching 325 feet (approximately 30 stories). According to the Charlotte Observer, Fury 325 is expected to be "the world's tallest and fastest giga coaster."
- SlingShot: Also new for 2015, the two-person SlingShot will launch riders about 300 feet in the air at speeds up to 60 mph. It will be a separate charge from the regular admission ticket.
There is always plenty of live park entertainment, including Meet The Peanuts Gang, Kickin' Country, and other popular shows featuring some of the Carolinas' best singers, dancers and instrumentalists.
There's also no shortage of great food for hungry guests. Options include pizza, sandwiches, chicken, burgers, salads, Chinese food, snacks, ice cream, and beverages. Restaurants and eateries include Chick-Fil-A, Cinnabon, Auntie Anne's, Chickie & Pete's Sports Grill, Dockside Fries, Ozzie's Outback Shack, Panda Express, Surfer Joe's, and more.
Visiting the Park
The park is open from late March through early November, and includes a special Halloween event, SCarowinds. The Boomerang Bay season starts in May.
General admission includes the Boomerang Bay waterpark section of the park. One-day admission (online 2015 rates) is $39.99 for guests 48 inches and taller; walk-up price is $59.99 at the gate. Reduced rates for junior visitors under 48 inches tall or seniors over age 62 may be available. Children age 2 and under are admitted free.
Season passes allow guests to make the most of their theme park experience with unlimited visits per year for one low price.
- A Gold Season Pass for 2015 is currently $96 per person, which includes admission to Carowinds, Boomerang Bay and SCarowinds Halloween Haunt, as well as free parking, food and merchandise discounts, and "early ride times" on Fury 325 and certain other rides that will be open 30 minutes early on select days.
- A 2015 Platinum Pass goes for $189, which grants unlimited admission to any Cedar Fair amusement and outdoor water park in the U.S. & Canada - more than a dozen in all - including free parking.
New for 2015: Passholders can now add on a Carowinds All Season Dining Plan, which provides one lunch and one dinner each day at participating locations throughout the park.
Where to Stay
Cabins and Campsites
Carowinds Camp Wilderness Resort has cabins and campsites and is next door to the park. Guests enjoy a free shuttle to the park plus a convenience store, laundry facilities, a swimming pool, miniature golf, shuffleboard and sand volleyball courts.
- The two-bedroom cabins sleep up to eight, with kitchenette and mini-fridge.
- The spacious four-bedroom Great Wilderness Lodge sleeps up to 14 people.
- The campground features RV, pop-up and tent sites.
There are several options for lodging near the park. Although Carowinds lists a Charlotte, North Carolina address, the park is roughly 20 minutes from the center of the downtown area. Closer accommodations can be found in Ft. Mill, South Carolina, within about four minutes from the park. Options in Fort Mill include chain hotels such as Best Western, Econo Lodge and Quality Inn. Charlotte's official tourism site provides additional many lodging choices for the Charlotte area.
There are plenty of other great things to do near Carowinds.
- Visitors with outdoor interests beyond amusement parks will want to explore the Greater Charlotte area for its various parks and nature preserves, particularly the public botanical gardens on the campus of University of North Carolina Charlotte.
- For museums, there's the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and Charlotte's two Mint Museums, which each house impressive art collections.
- Further afield, about a 30-minute drive from Charlotte, families with younger children can't miss the Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium, with its unique 180-degree ocean tunnel and kid-friendly exhibits.
- No visit to the Charlotte area is complete without a pit stop at the popular NASCAR Hall of Fame, a thrilling complement to Carowinds, replete with racetrack simulators as exciting as any theme park ride.
Carowinds Contact Information
For more information about Carowinds, including a park map, event calendar and other details, visit the park's official website or call 800-888-4386.