How to Enjoy Carowinds Amusement Park (10 Important Tips!)

Last Updated on November 14, 2022

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A day at Carowinds Amusement Park (Carowinds) is one of the most popular things to do in North Carolina, especially in Charlotte, our biggest city.

Since the park is shared by the town of Fort Mill, South Carolina, and is the only amusement park shared by two states. That makes this one of the very rare occasions where we will cover a place that ventures outside North Carolina.

Of course, most people (including we at NC Tripping) recognize Carowinds as a part of Charlotte and solely on the North Carolina side of the border. Apologies to my friends and family in South Carolina.

Border disputes aside, we created this guide to share important tips before you visit Carowinds, so you can make the most out of your experience. We also share some interesting facts about the amusement park, including its history from the beginning through today.

All we ask is that you thrill seekers keep your hands, arms, legs, and feet inside when reading this guide, and don’t forget to secure all loose articles. We’ll take care of the rest from here on out.

We’ve organized your guide to Carowinds into the following sections:

Read More: 17 Outdoor Things to Do in Charlotte to Fuel Your Adventure and Breathe!

Where is Carowinds Amusement Park?

Address: 300 Carowinds Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28273

Carowinds state line carolinas
  • Carowinds straddles the North Carolina-South Carolina border and is about 20 minutes from Uptown Charlotte.
  • The amusement park has an NC address, but as we mentioned, Carowinds is the only amusement park residing within two states. Fort Mill, South Carolina also claims a piece of the park.
  • Further, Carowinds is nearly split in half by the NC-SC border.
  • There are multiple ways to access Carowinds but Interstate 77 (Exit 90 in South Carolina) is the most common way to reach it.

Read More: The NC Tripping North Carolina Travel Map (with 1000+ Great Places Included!)

When is the Park Open? (Carowinds Hours)

Carowinds was previously open each year from March until January. Starting in 2023, the amusement park stays open throughout the year.

Carowinds opens daily at 9:00 am or 10:00 am and closing hours vary according to the date and season.

The Carowinds website keeps updated opening hours throughout the season.

More Carowinds Amusement Park Facts (and History)

One last thing before we share all the things we love about Carowinds is more facts and the park’s history. That includes an interesting story behind the park.

  • The original idea for Carowinds came from a trip to Disneyland by Earl Patterson Hall, a Charlotte businessman.
  • He also wanted to bring both South Carolina and North Carolina closer together.
  • The name “Carowinds” was a combination (or portmanteau) of the words Carolina and winds, referencing the winds that blow through the two states.
  • Construction began in May 1970 and Carowinds opened on March 31, 1973.
  • Part of a proposed resort with hotels, shopping, a golf course, and an NFL stadium, Carowinds originally opened on March 31, 1973, with a start-up cost of $73 million.
  • 1.2 million visitors came during the first season but the 1973 Oil Crisis halted any further resort plans.
  • A group of local investors under the Carowinds Corporation were the park’s first ownership from 1973 to 1975, when it merged with Taft Broadcasting.
  • Taft Broadcasting managed the park through a joint venture between them and Top Value Enterprises, known as Family Leisure Centers.
  • Eventually, Carowinds was transferred to a Taft Broadcasting subsidiary known as Kings Entertainment Company.
  • Carolina Harbor Waterpark (originally named Ocean Island) opened in 1982.
  • Paramount Communications acquired KEC in 1992 and formed Paramount Parks, headquartered in Charlotte.
  • In 2006, Carowinds and all other Paramount Parks were acquired by Cedar Fair, headquartered at Cedar Point in Ohio.
  • Carowinds began with one rollercoaster in 1973 and has continued to add new and improved rides over the years. The park is home to multiple world-class rollercoasters, one of the world’s largest water parks (Carolina Harbor), interactive play areas, live entertainment, special events, and more!

Read More: 125+ Important Facts About North Carolina You Should Know (History, Geography, and More!)

10 Important Tips Before You Visit Carowinds

Carowinds has an interesting history but the purpose of this guide is to share the things we love about it and how you can enjoy the park, too!

Here are all the things we love about Carowinds, starting with the app, an important tool before and during your day there!

Look for Carowinds Ticket Passes and Discounts

Carowinds

Carowinds ticket prices can seem expensive, especially when you want to visit the amusement park with the whole family!

Thankfully, Carowinds offers season passes, special military discounts, and group discounts, rather than just daily admission tickets, to make it more affordable.

Search Carowinds Ticket Options

Download The Carowinds Amusement Park App

Before you enter the amusement park, we highly recommend you download the free Carowinds app.

The app indicates wait times, shows, events, and a map of Carowinds with your location pinned. If you haven’t purchased the Fast Pass (see next) and want to know wait times and line lengths, the Carowinds App is an essential download.

The app also indicates the “Thrill Level” of all the rides at Carowinds, based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is the lowest thrill level and 5 is the highest.

Finally, when using the app, you’ll notice limited-time offers appear without any notice, so keep an eye out! The app is also beneficial for carrying digital food vouchers without printing them.

Get the Fast Lane Pass

Carowinds lines

Central North Carolina is known for hot and muggy summer days, making waiting in lines miserable. Carowinds offers Fast Lane Passes for visitors who want to escape the heat and get through the lines faster.

Fast Lane Passes are an add-on for Season Pass holders or single-day admission tickets. Visitors can buy the Fast Pass either online or at the gates.

Buy the FunPix Pass

Carowinds family fun

To capture and collect these amazing experiences, you can purchase the FunPix pass, a package for photos taken during rides and experiences throughout the day.

This is great if you don’t have a phone with a lot of battery to spare for photos and videos of all the memories you’re making.

Ride World-Class Roller Coasters

Carowinds the fury

Carowinds has more than 50 thrill rides, roller coasters, and family rides. At each, you’ll find different speeds, heights, rotations, and loops.

For example, one of Carowind’s major coasters, Fury 365, breaks the world’s record for the tallest and fastest Giga roller coaster. The 325-foot tall rollercoaster can reach speeds up to 95 mph.

In fact, riders report they feel like they “levitate” from their seat because of the dramatic drop and speed.

Carowinds intimidator

The Dale Earnhardt Intimidator roller coaster falls shortly behind that record at 232 feet in height, 80 mph in speed, and a 74-degree drop.

Both of these rollercoasters are short rides ranging from 3 to 5 minutes, but the lines can be long.

Including those two, here are a few more of the world-class rollercoasters that you’ll find at Carowinds. We’ve broken them down by “Thrill Level” and have added their minimum height requirements, both of which are indicated in the Carowinds App:

  • Highest Thrill Level (5/5)
    • Afterburn (54″ Minimum Height)
    • Carolina Cyclone (48″ Minimum Height)
    • Copperhead Strike (52″ Minimum Height)
    • Drop Tower (54″ Minimum Height)
    • Electro-Spin (54″ Minimum Height)
    • The Flying Cobras (48″ Minimum Height)
    • Fury 325 (54″ Minimum Height)
    • Intimidator (54″ Minimum Height)
    • Nighthawk (54″ Minimum Height)
    • Ripcord (42″ Minimum Height)
    • Slingshot (48″ Minimum Height)
    • Vortex (54″ Minimum Height)
  • Medium-High Thrill Level (4/5)
    • Barracuda Blasters (48″ Minimum Height)
    • Carolina Goldrusher (48″ Minimum Height)
    • Hurler (48″ Minimum Height)
    • Ricochet (54″ Minimum Height)
    • Scream Weaver (54″ Minimum Height)
    • WindSeeker (52″ Minimum Height)
  • Medium Thrill Level (3/5)
    • Kiddy Hawk (44″ Minimum Height)
    • Mountain Gliders (44″ Minimum Height)
    • Rock ‘N’ Roller (52″ Minimum Height)
    • Scrambler (48″ Minimum Height)
    • Zephyr (48″ Minimum Height)

Pro Tip: Knowing your child’s height and which rides they can enjoy is crucial to avoiding any uncomfortable moments at the turnstiles.

Spoiler alert, but we’ll share the more Kid-Friendly rides and Carolina Harbor Waterpark rides shortly.

Hop on Kid-Friendly Rides

Carowinds rides

You may not already know this but the whole family can enjoy the amusement park without riding the most thrilling roller coasters! You abnd the family can get your photos taken, enjoy live entertainment, play fairground-style carnival games, and hit the concession stands for fried or sweet treats.

Because Carowinds has always prided itself as a family-friendly establishment, you’ll find kid-friendly rides around every corner.

The iconic carousel is one example and here are some more kid-friendly rides and attractions at Carowinds, along with their Thrill Level and minimum height required:

  • Beagle Scout Acres (2/5 Thrill Level, No Minimum Height)
  • Boo Blasters on Boo Hill (2/5 Thrill Level, 42″ Minimum Height)
  • Camp Bus (2/5 Thrill Level, 36″ Minimum Height)
  • Carolina Skytower (2/5 Thrill Level, 46″ Minimum Height)
  • Charlie Brown’s Wind-up (1/5 Thrill Level, 36″ Minimum Height)
  • Do-Si-Do (3/5 Thrill Level, 54″ Minimum Height)
  • Flying Ace Balloon Race (2/5 Thrill Level, 48″ Minimum Height)
  • Kiddy Hawk (3/5 Thrill Level, 44″ Minimum Height)
  • Kite Eating Tree (2/5 Thrill Level, 36″ Minimum Height)
  • Mountain Gliders (3/5 Thrill Level, 44″ Minimum Height)
  • PEANUTS Pirates (3/5 Thrill Level, 48″ Minimum Height)
  • PEANUTS Trailblazers (2/5 Thrill Level, 36″ Minimum Height)
  • Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies (2/5 Thrill Level, 36″ Minimum Height)
  • Rock ‘N’ Roller (3/5 Thrill Level, 52″ Minimum Height)
  • Scrambler (3/5 Thrill Level, 48″ Minimum Height)
  • Snoopy vs. Red Baron (2/5 Thrill Level, 36″ Minimum Height)
  • Snoopy’s Junction (1/5 Thrill Level, 46″ Minimum Height)
  • The Grand Carousel (1/5 Thrill Level, 46″ Minimum Height)
  • Wilderness Run (2/5 Thrill Level, 40″ Minimum Height)
  • Woodstock Express (4/5 Thrill Level, 46″ Minimum Height)
  • Woodstock Whirlybirds (2/5 Thrill Level, 36″ Minimum Height)
  • Zephyr (3/5 Thrill Level, 48″ Minimum Height)

Note that in some cases, the minimum height is required for your kids to enjoy these rides without an adult.

Camp Snoopy and More Kid-Friendly Attractions

Carowinds young children area

Children also adore Camp Snoopy, a section of the park that’s dedicated to the classic television show, Peanuts. Some of he kid-friendly rides we mentioned are in this section, which is a nice one to walk through with your children.

Often in Camp Snoopy and near some of the more kid-friendly rides, there are dressed-up Peanuts characters.

Don’t Forget about Carolina Harbor Waterpark

Carolina Harbor Waterpark is located within the Carowinds Amusement Park complex and comes included in Carowinds general admission tickets (when open) and in some season passes.

Keeping the atmosphere of the Carolinas Coast, the waterpark’s rides and attractions follow nautical and ocean-related themes.

Carolina Harbor has a racing waterslide (the Boogie Board Racer), which is the longest racing waterslide in the Southeast. On the Boogie Board Racer, there are 6 separated enclosed and open-to-sun slides.

The park also has six pools (one being a 27,000 ft wide wave pool), one lazy river, a kiddy fun water playset, and twenty-seven slides. Additional amenities include changing rooms, bathrooms, gift shops, and an eating area.

Here’s a breakdown of the Carolina Harbor Waterpark’s rides, along with Thrill Level and the Minimum Height required:

  • Barracuda Blasters (4/5 Thrill Level, 48″ Minimum Height)
  • Blackbeard’s Revenge (4/5 Thrill Level, 48″ Minimum Height)
  • Boogie Board Racer (4/5 Thrill Level, 42″ Minimum Height)
  • Coastal Currents (2/5 Thrill Level, 42″ Minimum Height)
  • Hurricane Falls (4/5 Thrill Level, 42″ Minimum Height)
  • Kiddy Hawk Cove (1/5 Thrill Level, No Minimum Height)
  • Myrtle Turtle Beach (1/5 Thrill Level, No Minimum Height)
  • Pelican Plunge (3/5 Thrill Level, 36″ Minimum Height)
  • Pirate’s Landing (1/5 Thrill Level, 36″ Minimum Height)
  • Storm Surge (5/5 Thrill Level, 48″ Minimum Height)
  • Surf Club Harbor (3/5 Thrill Level, 48″ Minimum Height)
  • Tidal Wave Bay (3/5 Thrill Level, 42″ Minimum Height)

Again, remember that in some cases, the minimum height is required for your child to enjoy these rides without an adult.

Explore Food Options

Things to Do at Carowinds Amusement Park Food

Carowinds is one of the best amusement parks in the US, not just for its rides, but also for the delicious food that awaits. There are plenty of restaurants, snack stands, and foundation drink refill stations to visit.

Another pro tip we want to share is that you should take advantage of various food passes and deals offered by Carowinds:

  • Single Meal Deal – $14.99
  • Souvenir Bottle or Drink Wristband – $16.99
  • All Day Dining: $29.99
  • Premium All Day Dining: $39.99
  • Season Pass Drink Plan (Paper Cup): $34.99
  • All Season Drink Bottle: $34.99
  • All Season Dining: From $105
  • Limited Time Offers via the Carowinds App

Please note: Carowinds prohibits outside drinks or food from entering the park.

Carowinds Special Events

Rides, roller coasters, and the water park are not the only attractions at Carowinds. This park also offers special events that are perfect for all ages.

Throughout the season, the park offers live music and live entertainment with singing, choreography, light shows, and special costumes. The live entertainment switches out frequently, but you can keep up with the schedule through the app.

However, these events only happen during specific times of year, so plan ahead for you and your kids:

  • Labor Day Fireworks: Held on the Saturday night of Labor Day Weekend, the fireworks will light up the sky around Carowinds.
  • The Great Pumpkin Fest: Held throughout the park from September through the end of October, The Great Pumpkin Fest offers unique Halloween events for kids!
  • sCarowinds: sCarowinds is the spooky festival with haunted trails for Halloween, open on select nights also from September through the end of October.
  • Winter Fest: The park transforms into a frosted wonderland for the Christmas season on select dates in November and December.

Ready To Visit Carowinds?

Carowinds kid friendly rides

Carowinds is an all-day adventure, and there’s always something to do within the park when you come or who you’ve brought! While you’re enjoying the thrills of those amazing roller coasters and rides, digging into food deals, and everything else the amusement park has to offer, we hope you used at least a few of our tips.

If you know Carowinds well and think you’ve got some important tips to add, we’d love to hear about them. Let us know in the comments or send us an email.

Don’t forget to share your adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group, too!

Beyond Carowinds (More Things to Do in Charlotte and Nearby)

One more thing we love about Carowinds is that Uptown Charlotte is about 20 minutes away to the north. The theme park is also within 30 minutes of Gastonia and 45 minutes away from Concord and Kannapolis.

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