|Location||Charlotte, North Carolina, United States|
|Slogan||"Where The Carolinas Come Together"|
|General manager||Manny Gonzalez|
|Opened||March 31, 1973|
|Previous names||Carowinds (1973–1992)|
Paramount's Carowinds (1993–2006)
|Operating season||Spring through fall|
|Visitors per year||2 million|
|Area||407 acres (1.65 km2)|
|Status||March through December|
Carowinds is a 407-acre (165 ha) amusement park located adjacent to Interstate 77 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Although it has an official North Carolina address, the park is located along the North Carolina-South Carolina state line, with a large portion of the park also located in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The park opened on March 31, 1973, at a cost of $70 million. It is the result of a four-year planning period spearheaded by Charlotte businessman Earl Patterson Hall. Owned and operated by Cedar Fair, Carowinds also features a 27-acre (110,000 m2) water park, Carolina Harbor, which is included with park admission. The park has a Halloween event called SCarowinds and a winter event called WinterFest.
Carowinds was announced on October 10, 1969, and originally planned on including a large resort which would include a theme park, hotels, a shopping center, a golf course, and an NFL stadium. The name Carowinds was conceived from the park's original theme of the history and culture of the Carolinas, and is a portmanteau of Carolina and winds, in reference to the winds that blow across the two states. Ground was broken on May 1, 1970, with a planned opening date in April 1972. After numerous construction delays due to weather, the park eventually opened on March 31, 1973. The first season brought in over 1.2 million visitors, but attendance at Carowinds was curtailed by the 1973 oil crisis, and plans for the proposed resort were put on hold. Hall and the other stockholders of the Carowinds Corporation continued to operate the theme park through 1974, though sagging attendance and mounting debt forced the company to sell it to Taft Broadcasting in early 1975.
Taft Broadcasting and KECO (1975–1992)
Ownership had transferred from Family Leisure Centers – a joint venture between Taft and Top Value Enterprises) – to Kings Entertainment Company, which in turn was acquired by Paramount, Inc. Taft Broadcasting brought new life to the park with its Hanna-Barbera characters and several rides aimed to appeal to younger guests. Carowinds added its second roller coaster, and first wooden coaster, with the addition of Scooby-Doo in 1975.
In 1976, Carowinds opened Thunder Road, a Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters racing wooden coaster designed by Curtis D. Summers. It was the largest and most expensive ride built in Carowinds' short three years of existence, at a cost of $1.6 million. White Lightnin', a Schwarzkopf launched shuttle roller coaster, opened in 1976. Throughout the remainder of the late 1970s and 1980s, multiple flat rides were added to the park. The Carolina Cyclone was added in 1980, and is the first roller coaster in the world to feature four inversions. In 1992, Kings Entertainment Company was acquired by Paramount Communications.
Paramount era (1993–2005)
In 1993, the word Paramount was added to the park's name, which became Paramount's Carowinds. Now under Paramount ownership, many rides were based on films from Paramount Pictures, including Action Theater (1993), Drop Zone: Stunt Tower (1996), and Top Gun: The Jet Coaster (1999). The addition of Top Gun: The Jet Coaster became the single largest investment in the park's history at a cost of $10.5 million. After the success of Flying Ace Aerial Chase at sister park Kings Island, Paramount decided to build a clone at Carowinds and opened it in 2003 in the park's children's area. The following year, Nighthawk (then known as Stealth) was relocated from California's Great America and opened as BORG Assimilator in the location previously home to Smurf Island.
On January 27, 2006, the Dayton Daily News reported that the CBS Corporation (which split from Viacom at the end of 2005) would be selling Paramount's Carowinds and other parks in its Paramount Parks division. On June 30, 2006, Cedar Fair acquired Paramount Parks, including Carowinds.
Cedar Fair era (2006–present)
Although Cedar Fair continued to use the Paramount's Carowinds name through the remainder of the 2006 season, it began to phase out the Paramount name in press releases, the park website, and signage within the park. In January 2007, a new logo featuring the Cedar Fair icon but lacking Paramount was revealed on the park website. The new logo featured the trademark Cedar Fair flags, flying on the letter I on the Carowinds name. The other four Paramount-branded parks that Cedar Fair acquired all received similar changes. Paramount was dropped from all of the parks after the 2006 season.
On August 26, 2013, Cedar Fair announced a $50 million investment plan to expand Carowinds over three years starting in 2014. The expansion included a $30 million roller coaster, a $2.5 million water slide, a $7 million food complex, and $4 million to improve the park's ticket booths and front areas.
On August 21, 2014, Carowinds announced the addition of Fury 325 for the 2015 season. Designed by Bolliger & Mabillard, the ride is the fifth-tallest roller coaster in the world, after its debut in the spring of 2015 as another component of the park's previously announced "top-to-bottom" expansion program. A new front entrance, replacing the original North Gate entrance of the park, also opened along with Fury 325 for the 2015 season.
On August 27, 2015, Carowinds announced that the water park, formerly known as Boomerang Bay, would be expanded and renamed Carolina Harbor in 2016. The Australian theme would be removed and replaced with a Carolina harbor theme. The expansion includes a new six-slide complex, a new wave pool, and several new splash areas for kids.
On August 18, 2016, Carowinds announced the expansion of the County Fair area, with the addition of four new rides: Electro-Spin (a Mondial top scan), Zephyr (Zierer Wave Swinger), Rock N Roller (Mack Rides Music Express), and Do-Si-Do (HUSS Troika). For the 2017 season, Carowinds also announced that Carolina Cobra would be refurbished and renamed "The Flying Cobras". It also announced that the Wings restaurant would be upgraded. Carowinds also announced the return of WinterFest, a Christmas event in November and December, that previously operated in 2005.
On August 30, 2018, Carowinds announced its biggest investment in park history for the 2019 season. The signature attraction, Copperhead Strike, a double-launched roller coaster manufactured by Mack Rides, is located in the all-new seven-acre Blue Ridge Junction area and became the park's 14th roller coaster. Blue Ridge Junction was constructed in the area formerly occupied by Whitewater Falls, Sand Dune Lagoon and Thunder Road's former station. Also included in the investment is the 130-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Carowinds' first on-site hotel, and Blue Ridge Country Kitchen, a new dining experience.
In 2019, Carowinds announced that the Boogie Board Racer, the longest mat racing slide in the Southeast, would open in Carolina Harbor in 2020. Retirement of the Rip Roarin' Rapids ride was also announced, along with the closure of the Dinosaurs Alive! attraction.
Carowinds did not open for normal operation during the 2020 season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The park hosted a new holiday event, however, called "Taste of the Season" from November 21 – December 20, 2020. The event featured food, live shows, and other holiday activities throughout the park, as well as a select number of amusement rides. The park returned to normal operation in May 2021.
Themed areas and attractions
|Carolina Skytower||1973||Intamin||A 262-foot (80 m) tall Gyro tower that gives guests a view of Carowinds and Charlotte. It was originally sponsored by and branded as the Eastern Airlines Skytower.|
|Intimidator||2010||Bolliger & Mabillard||A steel hypercoaster inspired by stock car racing driver Dale Earnhardt. The 232-foot-tall (71 m) roller coaster travels up to 75 mph (121 km/h).|
|Kiddy Hawk||2003||Vekoma||A steel Vekoma 342m suspended family coaster. It formerly operated as Rugrats Runaway Reptar (2003–2009) with yellow track and green supports, and Flying Ace Aerial Chase (2010–2017) with yellow track and orange supports. For its 15th anniversary in 2018, the coaster gained a new name, new color scheme, and new theme. The coaster would be themed to the aviation based on the Wright Brothers from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The coaster became part of Celebration Plaza and themed outside of the Peanuts/kid-themed area when Planet Snoopy transitioned into Camp Snoopy in 2018.|
|Nighthawk||2004||Vekoma||A Vekoma Flying Dutchman coaster. The coaster operated as Stealth at California's Great America before being installed at Carowinds. When moved to Carowinds, it was known as Borg Assimilator (2004–2007) and was themed after the Borg from the television show Star Trek: The Next Generation. The theming was removed when Cedar Fair acquired the park, and the ride was renamed Nighthawk.|
|RipCord||1995||Skycoaster, Inc.||A skycoaster formally known as Xtreme SkyFlyer. This ride is an upcharge ride, where guests must pay an additional fee to ride. This ride used to be located where Fury 325 is currently located. In the year 2014 RipCord was relocated right next to the Kiddy Hawk roller coaster.|
|Action Theater||1994||Iwerks||2016: Home of Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 3Z Arena. A 3D intra-active experience developed by PopCap Games, Electronic Arts, and Alterface Projects, puts 2 teams against each other in a 5-minute backyard battle. Previous attractions: Days Of Thunder, James Bond 007: License to Thrill, The 7th Portal 3D, SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D & Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia.|
|Afterburn||1999||Bolliger & Mabillard||An inverted roller coaster featuring six inversions. Formerly known as Top Gun: The Jet Coaster (1999–2007).|
|Boo Blasters on Boo Hill||2010||Sally Corporation||An interactive dark ride where guests shoot at targets to collect points. The building was originally a theater that housed a variety of shows. It was previously known as Scooby-Doo's Haunted Mansion from 2001 to 2009.|
|Dodg’ems||1979||Majestic Rides||A classic bumper cars attraction. Formerly known as Autodrome (1979–1981) & PT Bumper's Dodgem (1982–?).|
|Southern Star||1986||Intamin||A Looping Starship thrill ride. Formerly known as Frenzoid. The ride was removed by Paramount at the end of 2005 for Boomerang Bay (now Carolina Harbor) expansion. It returned in 2007 in a new location nearby.|
|WindSeeker||2012||Mondial||A 301-foot (92 m) tower swinger ride that spins to music and a light show. It was the tallest ride ever built at Carowinds until the opening of Fury 325 in 2015. It is turned into a Christmas tree of lights during the holidays.|
|Yo Yo||2008||Chance Morgan||A swing ride that currently occupies the spot where Whirling Dervish, the park's original Wave Swinger, was located. It was relocated from Geauga Lake.|
|Carolina Cyclone||1980||Arrow Dynamics||A steel roller coaster featuring two vertical loops and two corkscrews. It was the first roller coaster to feature four inversions.|
|Carolina Goldrusher||1973||Arrow Dynamics||A steel mine train roller coaster. It was the first roller coaster at Carowinds and is only one of three original rides still operating. It is also the first roller coaster to cross state lines (North Carolina & South Carolina).|
|Ricochet||2002||Mack Rides||A steel wild mouse roller coaster that has intense turns and drops.|
|The Scrambler||1973||Eli Bridge||A classic Twist ride. It was originally named Kaleidoscope.|
|Vortex||1992||Bolliger & Mabillard||A steel stand-up roller coaster. It was the South's first stand-up roller coaster.|
|SlingShot||2015||Funtime||A reverse bungee ride that catapults riders nearly 300-feet into the air at speeds up to 62 miles per hour (100 km/h). SlingShot is an additional charge attraction.|
|The Grand Carousel||1979||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||An antique carousel, PTC #67. Originally located in Planet Snoopy before the 2018 season.|
|The Flying Cobras||2009||Vekoma||A standard Boomerang model roller coaster. The train is pulled up the lift hill backward and then released down the hill forward into a cobra roll and vertical loop before repeating the journey in reverse. It was relocated from Geauga Lake where it was known as Mind Eraser (1996–2003) & Head Spin (2003–2007). Formerly known as Carolina Cobra (2009–2016).|
|Electro Spin||2017||Mondial||A Top Scan that sends riders through a freely rotating orbit through the air on its floorless gondolas. It opened as part of the new County Fair area in 2017.|
|Zephyr||2017||Zierer||A swing ride that suspends guests as the ride rotates in a circular, wavelike motion. It opened as part of the new County Fair area in 2017.|
|Rock 'N' Roller||2017||Mack Rides||A Musik Express that plays rock and roll as guests spin around and around. It opened as part of the new County Fair area in 2017.|
|Do-Si-Do||2017||HUSS||A Troika that sends guests flying through the air and gliding up, down and around as three giant arms rotate riders in different directions – all while speed and elevation increase. It opened as part of the new County Fair area in 2017.|
|Fury 325||2015||Bolliger & Mabillard||A 325-foot (99 m) giga coaster that is the tallest in the world to use a traditional chain lift. It reaches a maximum speed of up to 95 mph (153 km/h), making it tied for the sixth fastest in the world alongside Steel Dragon 2000.|
|Drop Tower: Scream Zone||1996||Intamin||A drop tower ride with a height of 160 feet (49 m) and a drop of 100 ft (30 m). It was originally named Drop Zone: Stunt Tower (1996–2007).|
|Hurler||1994||International Coasters, Inc||A wooden triple out and back roller coaster. Originally themed to Wayne's World when the park was owned by Paramount.|
|Scream Weaver||1979||Anton Schwarzkopf||A Schwarzkopf Enterprise ride. It was originally located in the original County Fair area, where it was known as Meteorite.|
Blue Ridge Junction
|Copperhead Strike||2019||Mack Rides||The first double-launch coaster in the Carolinas, with five inversions. It is located within a new themed 7-acre area as part of the park's largest investment in its history.|
|Mountain Gliders||2005||Bisch-Rocco||A Flying Scooters ride where the suspended passenger tubs would spin around a vertical axis. It previously was located in Planet Snoopy as Woodstock Gliders, and Danny Phantom's Phantom Flyers when the area was known as Nickelodeon Central. It was in storage during 2018 for Camp Snoopy expansion; in late 2018, the park announced the return of these as mountain gliders. They were originally built in 1940 for the Coney Island Amusement Park in Cincinnati, OH, before being moved to Kings Island where they operated from 1972 to 2004.|
|Beagle Scout Acres||2018||A children's play area featuring multiple interactive elements spanning 8,000 square feet (740 m2). It opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
|Camp Bus||2018||Zamperla||A bus-themed mini flying carpet ride featuring Peanuts characters. It opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
|Charlie Brown's Wind Up||1973||Zamperla||A miniature swing ride. It was formerly known as Top Cat's Swing Time & Backyardigans Swing-a-long.|
|Flying Ace Balloon Race||1987||Zamperla||A flying balloon ride. Formerly known as Boo Boo's Balloon Race, Boot's Balloon Race & Peter Potamus' Magic Flying Balloons.|
|Kite Eating Tree||2018||Zamperla||A mini drop tower for kids that gently drops riders 20 feet (6.1 m). It opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
|Peanuts Pirates||2005||Mack Rides||A Seesturmbahn (Sea Storm Ride) with rotating pirate ships themed to Peanuts. It was relocated from sister park Canada's Wonderland where it was once known as The Great Whale of China. It was formerly known as Flying Dutchman's Revenge.|
|Peanuts Trailblazers||2018||Zamperla||A mini whip ride that opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
|Pig Pen's Mud Buggies||2018||Zamperla||A jump around ride that opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
|Snoopy vs. Red Baron||1973||Chance Rides||A small plane ride themed to Snoopy. It was formerly known as Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines & Tommy's Take Off.|
|Snoopy's Junction||1973||Crown Metal Products||A miniature train ride. It originally opened with the park in the Country Crossroads section (now Crossroads) as Shortline Railroad. In 1975, the ride was moved to a new home. This train ride was formerly known as Flintstone Express, Yogi's Jellystone Garden & Dora the Explorer's Azul Adventure.|
|Wilderness Run||1998||E&F Miler Industries||A junior-sized roller coaster ride. It was formerly known as Taxi Jam (1998–2004), Hey Arnold's Taxi Chase (2005–2009) & Lucy's Crabbie Cabbie (2009–2017).|
|Woodstock Express||1975||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||A junior wooden roller coaster. It was formerly known as Scooby Doo, Scooby Doo's Ghoster Coaster & Fairly Odd Coaster (2005–2009).|
|Woodstock Whirlybirds||2018||Zamperla||A Woodstock-themed mini teacup ride that opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
Included in the price of admission to Carowinds is access to the 27-acre Carolina Harbor water park. Based on a Coastal Carolinian theme, it features 15 rides and attractions. It originally opened as Ocean Island in 1982, the water park has also been known as Riptide Reef (1989–1997) WaterWorks (1997–2006), and Boomerang Bay (2007–2015). On August 27, 2015, Carowinds announced an expansion for the area that added five additional attractions and resulted in the name changing to Carolina Harbor.
Carowinds re-introduced WinterFest for the 2017 season. This seasonal holiday event features seasonal holiday decorations, tree lighting, Christmas carolers, homemade crafts, a themed parade, and select rides. The park previously had Winterfest in 1983 when owned by Taft Attractions and again in 2005 when owned by Paramount.
In September 2000 the park introduced SCarowinds. It is an annual Halloween attraction and is presented on select nights in September and October, as well as the first weekend in November. The experience includes numerous haunted attractions and incorporates most of the existing park rides into a nightmarish experience.
The Paladium is an outdoor amphitheater located at Carowinds. It opened in 1975 and was the Charlotte area's premier outdoor concert venue until the opening of Blockbuster Pavilion, now PNC Music Pavilion, in 1991. It lost most of its major acts to the Uptown Amphitheatre at the NC Music Factory (now the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre at AvidxChange Music Factory) when it opened in 2009, and now hosts mostly Christian bands. Admission to the Paladium is separate from admission to Carowinds.
In 1992, the Paladium hosted Chapel Hill's James Taylor. Bon Jovi played to a sold-out crowd at the Paladium in 1993 during a stop on their I'll Sleep When I'm Dead Tour. It had Virginia's Dave Matthews Band in '93, UK's Depeche Mode in '94, Athens GA's B-52's in '94, Johnny Cash in '95, Billy Ray Cyrus in '95, Blues Traveler in '96, UK's Duran Duran in 2000, Weird Al Yankovic in '00, Atlanta Christian rapper Lecrae in 2014 (for Rock the Park), and Skillet in 2015.
Fast Lane is a limited-access line queue system offered for an additional charge at Cedar Fair amusement parks. Visitors can purchase a wristband that allows them to bypass standard lines in favor of shorter ones at many of the parks' most popular attractions. Fast Lane Plus is a more expensive, higher-end version that includes several additional attractions.
Carowinds Festival of Music
The annual Carowinds Festival of Music allows music students to perform in public, receiving comments and ratings from nationally recognized adjudicators. Bands, choirs, show choirs, and orchestras can all play for ratings. Plaques and ribbons are awarded for performances that receive ratings of superior and excellent.
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