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Home / Blog / Theme Park Tips & Planning / Our In-Depth Guide to Carowinds Amusement Park in North Carolina

Our In-Depth Guide to Carowinds Amusement Park in North Carolina

by Mommy Frog on January 16, 2024
5 Charlotte

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Carowinds is a popular theme park located in Charlotte, North Carolina, that first opened its doors in 1973. The park spans over 400 acres and offers a wide variety of rides and attractions for visitors of all ages, including thrilling roller coasters, water attractions, family rides and pint-sized rides for tadpoles. Carowinds is also known for its many live shows and entertainment options, as well as its delicious food offerings and unique shopping opportunities. One of the park's main draws is its collection of world-class roller coasters, including Fury 325, one of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the world. In this post, we're diving deep into everything you need to know to have a frogtabulous visit to Carowinds!

Carowinds - Fury 325 Roller Coaster

Carowinds Overview

Carowinds has several themed areas and attractions for frogs of all ages. Camp Snoopy — created for the tadpoles — features rides and attractions based on the beloved Peanuts characters. Another fan-favorite area is Carolina Boardwalk, which is inspired by the classic beachside boardwalks of the Carolinas and features fun-filled rides and games, as well as plenty of delectable food options.

Thrill-seekers will find plenty of exciting rides in the park's Thrill Zone, which includes Fury 325, the tallest and fastest coaster in the Southeast. The park's County Fair section is another exciting area where you'll find classic carnival-style rides and games.

Other themed areas at Carowinds include the newly revamped Blue Ridge Junction, which is designed to look like a picturesque mountain town and features attractions such as the Copperhead Strike coaster and the Mountain Gliders ride. Newly open is Aeronautica Landing. As part of Carowind's 50th-anniversary celebration, this newly reimagined area features aeronautical-inspired rides, eats and carnival games. Wheels up!

Carowinds - Family on the Plants vs. Zombies Attraction

Carowinds Hours and Location

Carowinds is located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Specifically, it sits right on the border between North Carolina and South Carolina, as the park spans both states. 

The park's physical address is 300 Carowinds Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28273, which is approximately 15 miles southwest of downtown Charlotte. The location makes it easily accessible by car, as it's situated near the intersection of major highways such as I-77 and I-485. Additionally, visitors traveling by air can arrive at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, which is only a 25-minute drive from the park. 

Carowinds operates on a seasonal schedule, with varying hours of operation depending on the time of year. During the peak summer season, which typically runs from late May through early August, the park is generally open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. or later, with extended hours on weekends and holidays. During the shoulder seasons in the spring and fall, the park may operate on reduced hours, typically opening at 10 a.m. and closing between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Carowinds Map 

Carowinds - Park Map

Parking

Standard parking is available for $30 and is located adjacent to the park entrance. VIP parking, which is closer to the entrance, is also available for $40 per day. For you early risin' frogs, parking availability begins 30-45 minutes before the official park opening time. 

Headed to the Carolina Harbor water park? For convenience, you'll want to park in the designated water park lot which is just beyond the main parking area. This lot typically opens at 10:30 a.m. for season pass holders and cabana guests. For all other guests, this lot opens at 11 a.m. (subject to change)

Carowinds Tickets

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Carowinds tickets and season passes are available for Carowinds. Carolina Harbor Water Park is included with your daily admission. Daily tickets are valid for admission to Carowinds on the date selected for anyone ages 3 years and older. Ages 2 and under are free. Daily tickets to Carowinds do not include admission to separately ticketed events or concerts. (Psst ... your favorite frogs now have discounts on tickets to all of the Cedar Fair Parks!)

Carowinds Rides

Carowinds is home to some of the most thrilling roller coasters and rides in the country, making it a must-visit destination for thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies. Here's a breakdown of the park's most popular attractions:

  • Fury 325 — Fury 325 is one of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the world, standing at 325 feet tall and reaching speeds of up to 95 miles per hour. This giga coaster is known for its steep drops, high-speed turns and airtime-filled hills, providing an intense thrill ride that will leave you breathless.
  • Flying Cobras — known for its unique layout that twists and turns riders through a series of corkscrews and inversions while suspended beneath the track. Riders board the coaster in a seated position before being lifted up into the air and launched into a high-speed journey through a variety of thrilling elements. The coaster reaches speeds of up to 38 miles per hour and features a maximum height of 110 feet.

Carowinds - Flying Cobras Roller Coaster

  • Intimidator — Named after NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, Intimidator is a steel roller coaster that stands over 200 feet tall and reaches speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. The ride features high-speed drops, steep turns and plenty of airtime moments.
  • Afterburn — Afterburn is a steel inverted coaster that sends riders through a series of high-speed twists, a vertical loop and  six inversions. This ride has a unique layout that takes riders through a Immelmann (a maneuver used by fighter pilots), creating an exhilarating experience that's not for the faint of heart.
  • Carolina Cyclone — Carolina Cyclone is a classic steel coaster that features multiple inversions, including a double corkscrew and a vertical loop. The ride has been a staple at Carowinds since 1980 and continues to be a fan favorite to this day.
  • Carolina Goldrusher — The ride takes passengers on a high-speed journey through the mountains, featuring twists, turns and drops that are sure to thrill.
  • Huler — with 3,157 of wooden track, riders will experience a series of quick turns and airtime hills, all with a max height of 83 feet and a top speed of 50 mph!
  • Kiddy HawkThe Kiddy Hawk is a kid-friendly inverted roller coaster (feet dangle freely) located in Camp Snoopy. The coaster is themed after the beloved beagle, Snoopy, and features a gentle slope, small hills and plenty of twists and turns that are sure to delight your little tadpoles. 
  • Nighthawk — Known for its unique flying coaster design, riders board the coaster in a prone position and are lifted up into the air before embarking on a high-speed flight through a variety of inversions, drops and twists. The coaster reaches speeds of up to 51 miles per hour and drops 115 feet!
  • Ricochet — This coaster first opened in 2002 and is a wild mouse-style coaster, featuring sharp turns and sudden drops. Ricochet is a compact coaster with a tight track layout and quick, jerky movements that simulate the sensation of a wild ride through a maze. The coaster reaches speeds of up to 28 miles per hour and has a 50-foot drop.
  • Copperhead Strike — Copperhead Strike is a newer addition to Carowinds, opening in 2019. This steel coaster features two launches launches,  five inversions and airtime moments, providing a thrilling experience from start to finish.

Carowinds - Copperhead Strike Roller Coaster

  • VortexVortex reaches speeds of up to 50 miles per hour with a maximum height of 90 feet. The coaster's six inversions, including two vertical loops, a corkscrew, plus a boomerang element, make this coaster a thrill-seeker's dream!
  • Wilderness Run — Designed for younger riders who may not be ready for the park's larger coasters, riders board the coaster in a seated position and are taken on a gentle journey through a variety of hills, turns and dips. The coaster reaches speeds of up to 22 miles per hour and features a maximum height of 22 feet.
  • Woodstock Express — taken on a gentle journey through a variety of hills, turns and dips. The coaster reaches speeds of up to 35 miles per hour with a maximum height of 44 feet. With its colorful theming and fun, gentle ride elements, Woodstock Express is a great option for families with kiddos who are still getting their froggy feet wet with thrill rides.

Skip the Line with Fast Lane

The Fast Lane pass at Carowinds is an add-on option for guests who want to skip the regular ride lines and enjoy expedited access to some of the park's most popular attractions. With a Fast Lane pass, guests can bypass the regular queue and access a special Fast Lane entrance, allowing them to get on rides faster and with less waiting. The pass is available for purchase online or at the park and is valid for one day of use. Fast Lane passes can be used on select attractions throughout the park, including roller coasters such as Fury 325 and Intimidator.

It's important to note that the Fast Lane pass does not guarantee immediate access to rides and attractions, as there may still be a short wait time depending on the popularity of the attraction and the number of Fast Lane holders in line. However, it does offer a significant reduction in wait times and can be a great option for guests who want to maximize their time at the park and experience as many rides and attractions as possible.

Fast Lane is priced at $75 per day and includes 22 rides and attractions. There is also the $575 option which includes Fast Lane access for an entire year.

Dining and shopping at Carowinds

Carowinds isn't just about roller coasters and thrill rides — it's also a great place to shop and dine. With a wide variety of restaurants, cafes and shops throughout the park, frogs can find plenty of options to satisfy your hunger and thirst, as well as pick up souvenirs and gifts to remember your visit.

For those looking for a quick bite, Carowinds has an almost endless list of yummy options, including burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders and pizza. Guests can grab a hot dog at Beach Bites, nachos at Burrito Cafe or a slice of pizza at Papa Luigi's. There are also plenty of snack options available, from funnel cakes and cotton candy to ice cream and popcorn. 

If you're in the mood for something more substantial, Carowinds has several full-service restaurants and cafes. Papa Luigi's has delicious Italian favorites including spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan, while Chickie's and Pete's serves up seafood specialties such as crab fries and shrimp po' boys. Blue Ridge Country Kitchen is a great option for those looking for a sit-down meal, with a menu featuring options including fried chicken, pulled pork and macaroni and cheese.

All-Day Dining 

To save a little green, guests can take advantage of Carowinds' dining deals and discounts, including meal plans and souvenir cups. The All Day Dining allows you to eat all day for one price. For $31.99, you can choose an entree and side every 90 minutes from participating restaurants. The Premium All Day Dining is $42.99 (2023 prices) and includes the same perks as the regular All Day Dining deal, with the addition of a drink wristband. With the wristband, you can enjoy refreshing Coca-Cola beverages every 15 minutes throughout the day. Season pass holders also have the option of adding the All Season Dining or Season Pass Drink plan as part of their pass benefits.

Shopping

For those who love to shop, Carowinds has plenty of retail options to explore. Traditions is one of the park's main gift shops that has a variety of souvenirs, apparel and gifts. Premiers is another popular shopping destination, where you'll find everything from jewelry and toys to stuffed animals and home decor. There are also a few specialty shops throughout the park, such as the Carolina Candy Shop, which sells handmade fudge and other sweet treats. 

Shows & Live Entertainment at Carowinds

Throughout the day, visitors can catch a variety of entertainment. From live music to outdoor shows, there's something for everyone to enjoy!

Carowinds - Snoopy & Stage Performer Surfing

Carowinds also has the most adorable character meet-and-greets! Who wouldn't love a hug from Snoopy or a high-five from Woodstock? Be sure to stop by the Harmony Hall Patio to meet select characters from the PEANUTS gang. Characters usually meet between 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Be sure to download the Carowinds app to check the most up-to-date performances and showtimes on the day of your visit.

Carowinds Water Park - Carolina Harbor

The Carolina Harbor Water Park is the Frog Family's favorite spot in the entire park! We frogs can never turn down a splishy-splashy good time! This fun-filled park offers frogs of all ages a variety of water-based activities and experiences. The water park covers an area of 27 acres and features water slides, a wave pool and a lazy river.

A fan-favorite attraction at Carolina Harbor is Blackbeard's Revenge, a thrilling slide that takes riders on a twisting and turning journey that includes high-speed drops and sharp turns. The park also features several more water slides, including the four-person Hurricane Falls and the family-friendly Boogie Board Racer.

Carowinds - Family at Carolina Harbor Water Park

When it's time to relax, be sure to float along Coastal Currents — a 1000-foot-long lazy river that meanders through the park. The park's wave pool is another must-do attraction. Tidal Wave Bay features rolling waves that simulate the feeling of being at the beach. 

In addition to the water attractions, Carolina Harbor has scrumptious dining options and amenities, including cabanas for rent, locker rentals and changing rooms. 

Carolina Harbor is included with admission to Carowinds amusement park. The park is open during the summer months, from late May to early September. 

Special Events at Carowinds

No matter the time of year, you'll find exciting events and unique experiences at Carowinds for the entire family.

  • Opening Weekend (exclusive Passholder Day on March 8): March 8 - 9, 2024
  • Spring Break: Daily, March 29 to April 7, 2024
  • Carolina Harbor Water Park reopening: May 25, 2024
  • Tricks and Treats: Saturdays and Sundays, Sept. 14 - Oct. 27, 2024
  • SCarowinds: select nights, Sept. 13 - Oct. 27, 2024. SCarowinds is an annual Halloween event that takes place at Carowinds amusement park. Visitors can experience the park after dark. SCarowinds has haunted mazes, scare zones and live shows — all designed to give visitors a frightful experience!

Carowinds - Heads Will Roll Stage Performer

SCarowinds is a separately ticketed event from regular park admission. Whether you're a fan of horror movies and haunted houses or just looking for a thrilling night out, SCarowinds might be what your Halloween-lovin' heart needs this spooky season.

  • Carowinds WinterFest: Select Nights, Nov. 15 to Jan. 1, 2025. Winterfest is a beloved holiday event that takes place at Carowinds. The park is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with millions of twinkling lights and festive decorations. Visitors can enjoy ice skating and holiday-themed shows. A major highlight is the nightly tree-lighting ceremony, where a towering Christmas tree is illuminated with thousands of sparkling lights. This event includes live shows and entertainment, complete with carolers, ice-skating performances and holiday-themed musical numbers.
  • New Year's Eve at WinterFest: Dec. 31, 2024

Carowinds - Charlie Brown & Lucy at the Christmas Tree Lot

More Hopful Tips and Tricks

To make the most of your Carowinds vacation, be sure to save these tips and tricks!

  • Download the Carowinds mobile app for helpful resources including ride wait times, mobile food ordering and entertainment showtimes.
  • Note that Carowinds is cashless. Be sure to have your credit card, debit card or use Apple Pay or Google Pay on your phone.
  • Consider purchasing a Single Day FunPix or FunPix season add-on to have unlimited photo downloads from your trip, including photos from select attractions, stationed photographers and character meet-and-greets.
  • North Gate Guest Services is where you'll find both stroller and wheelchair (both manual and electric) rentals available for each day of your visit. There are also lockers available for rent. For certain coasters, you'll need to place your larger items in a locker before entering the queue.
  • First Aid can be found between the County Fair and Boardwalk areas of the park.
  • There is a Family Care Center at Camp Snoopy. It's the perfect place for baby changing, nursing or getting a respite from the elements.

Are the Carolinas calling you? Let us know if a Carowinds vacation is in your future! Be sure to purchase your discount Carowinds tickets with Undercover Tourist! We'd love to help you plan a frogtabulous trip! 

Related: The Top Thrill Rides at Knott's Berry Farm

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
View Comments

Comments

Jul 11, 2023 at 1:47 a.m.
QueenBeeLea Says...

Like Gretchen, I hopped by this page when my local park caught my eye! I have grown up going to Carowinds and now enjoy bringing my kids. The Goldrusher and Afterburn (formerly Top Gun) have always been my favorites! One fun thing about Flying Cobras is that not only are you launched from a high point, but you go forwards all the way through and up to the end point, and then you get launched from the end point to go all the way through riding backwards! Also, for the Copperhead Strike, a unique feature is that it's a double-launch coaster, ie: the speed doesn't come from a steep drop, but from a launching mechanism, and you go into those upside down loops almost right away, and linger up there at the top of the loop! It's crazy! Lastly, it's not that big of a deal, but the kids' area is actually called Camp Snoopy, not Planet Snoopy. :-) The best time to visit Camp Snoopy is 1pm-3pm when lots of littles are napping, but if yours can hang without that afternoon nap, the lines practically disappear in this window! Also, there's a reason there is a Fast-Pass option for the Hot Air Balloon ride. It's actually a lot of fun and all ages enjoy it, but the line is so deceiving in how long it takes! If the line goes all the way to the entry, it's an hour wait. Just the first stretch/row full is half an hour. I don't know about you, but I don't want my littlest kiddies to be waiting that long for a ride, so if the line is longer than about 15 minutes, skip it IMO. And don't be surprised if you take your kids past the playground and the want to spend the entire day there--forget the rides, the PLAYGROUND, Mom!!! Haha! There is another first-aid station in the Family Care Station for any little boo-boos. Anyway, just thought I'd share those other little tidbits.

Reply
Jul 11, 2023 at 8:12 a.m.
FrogBlog Says...

Hi Queen Bee Lea!

Thanks so much for hopping by and sharing these extra tidbits! :)

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Apr 24, 2023 at 4:35 p.m.
Gretchen Says...

How fun to see this post on our local park. We get passes every year and end up going several days a week most summers - especially when we get an annual dining pass!

There is no ferris wheel at Carowinds but there is a sky tower that gives great views. Maybe that was a typo?

Reply
Apr 28, 2023 at 3:03 p.m.
FrogBlog Says...

Hi Gretchen!

That's so awesome to hear! It was a typo ;) but we've fixed it!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Mar 6, 2023 at 5:05 p.m.
Hakunamafratta Says...

This was great information thank you for sharing

Reply

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