Straddling the border between North and South Carolina the Carowinds theme park south of Charlotte fuses southern charm and fast-paced thrill rides. The nearly 400-acre lot houses more than 60 rides and is divided into eight Carolina-themed sections including the (new for 2016) Carolina Harbor, one of the largest waterparks in the region with a wave pool, a lazy river that crosses the state line that bisects the park, kiddie pools and numerous slides and water rides.
A looped path takes visitors past Planet Snoopy’s little kids’ rides, the massive Intimidator coaster inspired by southern race car drivers, the Dinosaurs Alive park – a forest filled with more than 30 animatronic ancient beasts – a 3D theater that hosts regular battles between zombies and plants, traditional fair rides, the inverting stand-up coaster called the Vortex and other thrill rides including the new Fury 325 coaster. The Fury 325 coaster soars 325 feet off the ground before dropping down at speeds of 95 miles per hour; it was the tallest giga-coaster in the world when it was unveiled in 2015.
Under the Cedar Fair umbrella that also owns Cedar Point, Carowinds is a well-oiled machine that shares many features with the other parks in its brand. Expect the sounds of carnival music, shrieking children and southern summer heat while waiting your turn in the regularly long lines.
The park opens in mid-April and stays open with limited hours through October with its Scarowinds Halloween events. The Carolina Harbor waterpark has daily hours from June through August. The park’s hours vary throughout the season. Admission includes the regular park rides as well as the Carolina Harbor waterpark and is $62.99 at the gate or $42.99 if purchased in advance online. Two-day passes, Fast Lane passes that allow riders to skip long queues, and tickets for half day park entry (after 4 p.m.) are also available.