Visited the park for the first time on Wednesday, July 2nd with my two brothers. I'm not usually the one to do this, and I shouldn't because I still haven't gotten that Cedar Point TR up yet, but I had a lot I really wanted to share. This was my first time in Charlotte.
Jumping right in, my expectations about the park itself were exactly met. I didn't expect to leave thinking it was the best Cedar Fair park I have been to. It's a nice park but it lacks a lot charm; if any Cedar Fair park I've been to has felt "generic" to me, it's this one. In contrast, I went into Kings Island with the exact same expectations last year but was blown away. There's also a great lack of shade, which would have been really nice on a hot, 100* and humid day like the day we went. In the least, it's a better park than 90% of Six Flags and the same can be said about even the worst of Cedar Fair's properties.
On employees - I just visited Cedar Point two weeks ago and unfortunately Carowinds lets down in comparison. One of my biggest surprises from Cedar Point and that I didn't recall from my first visit many years ago was just how friendly the employees are there. The employees you see there are extremely energetic and talk to you sincerely like they really do care about your adventures. Carowinds' service was pedestrian: the employees seemed to be your average, "counting the clock", "it's too hot for this shit", kind of people. And perhaps nothing that would be a real concern at all if I had not just been exposed to the exceptional customer service at Cedar Point as honestly if I worked a day like the one I visited I would be the same.
However, not all of Charlotte is a lost (we can't judge an entire city on an amusement park, right?*). I did find the exact same kind of excellent service as Cedar Point at the US National Whitewater Center, which was probably my favorite thing of the whole week. We had an EXCEPTIONAL day there Friday, and I was really blown away by the people and attractions.
*Except Sandusky: Sandusky f**king rocks bc Cedar Point
Anyway, onto the rides, in the order we rode them:
Nighthawk - I'm a real sucker for these things and I don't care if this was the first - it still rocks the socks off every B&M flyer in the US. I will never understand why people call these things rough because they're not. This was the last of the Vekoma Dutchmans in the United States I hadn't ridden and there were only two things I didn't like about this one: the restraints, and the corkscrew ending. I could've sworn up and down that Firehawk's and Batwing's restraints were different, but looking at pictures I turned out to be incorrect. I must not have noticed how sketchy the restraints appear, but now that it's caught my attention, I do not like the way almost all of your weight lies on the buckle connecting the vest together. Also, because of my long legs, the lap bar wouldn't go down properly and left a gap at my waist and ankles (this wasn't remediable because these lap bars lock into a fixed position). Without what I thought was much security, the ride truly felt as If I was flying. It was extremely unnerving, but also incredibly exhilarating.
The corkscrew ending was the only part of the ride where I experienced any discomfort, but it was to do the heartlining and resulting laterals, not roughness. I much prefer the inline rolls on the other models as I found corkscrews in the lying position pretty uncomfortable.
This was of course our first coaster of the day, heeding advice I have gotten from here. My brothers all agreed on the same token about the restraints and the experience. That drop and vertical loop are just killer. I ended up riding once again later in the day after I had gotten all my credits.
Copperhead Strike - I hated Copperhead Strike after my first ride on it early in the morning. My brothers wanted to sit in the front (they're pretty adamant about that on any coaster we ride, which is frustrating) and so I sat in row two. The whole ride was sluggish - not like how it's supposed to be "sugglish", but extra sluggish, making the ride pretty lackluster. What made it terrible, however, was the awful rattle through the whole course that gave me motion sickness for the next couple hours. My brothers also suffered the same problem, forcing us to ride the smaller coasters and postpone Fury to the afternoon.
By now, I can see the pitchforks rising in response to all this hearsay I've babled - "who is this person who loves Nighthawk and hates Copperhead Strike?" - but read on ...
However, I knew that it was supposed to be an excellent coaster, so I gave it a benefit of the doubt and returned to it later in the day. I hopped on the second row to the back (non wheel seat) and fell in love with it! Something had drastically changed from the morning. The ride had warmed up a lot and the second half was excellent. There was a minor vibration (still more than what there should be for a brand new coaster IMO), but no headache-inducing rattle. Beautiful transitions and a few airtime moments that absolutely ragdoll (that last hill is some serious WTF stuff). There was still the slightest rattle, but nothing that gave kept me from riding three more times in a row without problem, including another lap in the front. I seriously could not get enough of this ride - it's probably a top 20 steel coaster for me if I counted that sort of stuff. I always wished SDC would have gone with a ride like this instead of Time Traveler so that I could have one of these in my backyard.
Believe everything you hear about this ride - it definitely has some the best hangtime ever. In fact, I'll just say it now - it has the best hangtime on any coaster I've ridden.
Cons: this was my first experience on Mack trains, which was actually a bucket-list item for me (I don't count Time Traveler's as they are unconventional) and I'm not a fan of the restraints. I see why everyone likes them, as they're extremely free, but they don't feel secure and that's a con for me on a ride with as much hangtime as this. Me being a lean guy, they sit way up on thighs instead of close to my waist, but what's really concerning is that they have some give during the ride, so in the hangtime moments you can actually feel them decompress and recompress through the element. I'm sure this is mostly me, however, though my brothers thought the same thing and were equally unamused. Also, the launches are weak: really, really weak. I think an electric scooter could accelerate faster than this ride. For me, this and the fact the transitions still aren't in that Maverick category are what make this ride "fun" and not "world class" ride. The second launch has no hit at all; I didn't feel a thing going through that second launch.
The biggest con of this coaster: how long you have to walk to re-ride it. Despite its flaws, it's a really fun ride, and it's only a shame that you have to walk so far around to get another lap on it. None of the countless switchbacks have shortcuts and it's a very long queue.
Flying Cobras - after our motionsick first ride on Copperhead Strike, we took a 15 minute break to use the restrooms and sit down, then proceeded on with the park's boomerang. This one was alight - it's saving grace was the new trains - but it had an odd back and forthness to it where you would rest your head on the headrest, it would be repeatedly slammed into it. It reminded me of a lot of the issue with T3. Not the best, not the worst, but if you keep your head forward it's one of the more tolerable boomerangs.
Carolina Goldrusher - still a little motionsick, we took a longer break to ride the park's mine train and rehydrate at the nearby Chickie and Pete's. This is one of the smoothest mine trains I have ridden. I know a lot of enthusiasts would probably rather see these kind of rides leave parks but they serve a purpose and even for the more mature crowd, they are useful break from the extreme rides. I rode this three times in total during our break.
Intimidator - what an excellent B&M hyper! Until Hershey opens theirs in 2020, I will have now ridden every single B&M hyper in the US, and I think this is one of the best despite it's "Intrimidator" nickname. It has the absolute best floater of all of them - in the backseat you're out of your seat from halfway up the hill all the way to the very bottom - and in the front seat you'll be out of your seat through the crest of every hill and all the way down as well. But my favorite part of the ride where not the airtime hills but the transitions in the first hill and the turnaround - they were quite surprising! Overall, I prefer Nitro and Mako more for the stronger airtime, but this falls just behind as the next best in the country. The ride experience is a lot like Diamondback, but with the extra transitions that give it the edge. I got around five rides on this, mostly in the back.
Fury 325 - after heading out to the car for lunch and rehydrating, we returned to the main attraction of the park. This thing is SOO fast. Want to experience Fury 325 at home? Hold a leaf blower to your face - that's pretty much the equivalent. The first hill does nothing for me, but I appreciate what it is for not killing speed. After the first hill, if you're riding in the front, the ride will seem to just get faster and faster even though you know that's impossible because it should've already hit it's top speed at the bottom of the first drop. From there, you'll head up through the incredible treble clef hill for some fantastic positive gs and sideways airtime. After the drop through the tunnel, the next hill is the one that disappoints a little - it doesn't really do anything, and if I had to nitpick, this would be the one part of the ride that I would change - not the helix. Next, you'll hit the trim a little bit, but not enough to prevent some great ejector airtime through the hill before heading into the helix for an insane head-chopper moment. The final hills end the ride with fantastic, uninterrupted ejector airtime back into the break run. While the transitions were gentle and not i305-like as I hope (makes sense though since the clamshells and seats offer no upper body support), I could not have fathomed just how fast the ride would feel. I still, today, cannot get over how the ride seems to deny physics in the first half and get faster and faster up until the turnaround hill. We all agreed that in one ride, we had just gotten our $40 worth in admission.
We took two laps on it in the afternoon: our first in the front (all things proper in this world), and the second in the back. Later, I spent the last hour and a half marathoning it for 9 more rides all across the board, from the very front to the back and nearly every row in between.
Golden seating guide for Fury 325: front seat for speed and transitions, back seat for ejector airtime.
Hurler: Not as bad as everyone makes it out to be, but I'm told it recently had a trim installed mid-season and it's apparently a lot smoother and more mediocre. I confirm. I didn't experience any discomfort during my ride, and neither did my brothers, but we all agreed it's a boring ride experience. Overall, a lot better than the King's Dominion version ever was. I wouldn't be disappointed if this version stays a wooden coaster, at least until this park gets a new one.
Also, who the F**K designed the stations for these things? What the hell were they going for?
Afterwards, we tried to get one the drop tower but it broke down in line and parked it's cars at the top the rest of the day. No loss here: it looked like a very short one, and one of my favorites ones is Superman: Tower of Power at my home park SFStL anyway for it's position at the highest elevation in the park atop a hill.
Ricochet: a fun wild mouse, pretty much your standard. I really enjoy these rides so I made sure to get in a lap.
Carolina Cyclone: the small scale of this ride is so small it's disorienting. It It feels like you are upside down the whole ride with all the tiny inversions being so packed together, a difference to today's coasters with lengthy pullouts between elements and everything being so massive. Old trains, too: probably the oldest Arrow looper trains I can recall riding. This ride is ugly and misplaced as sin and needs to go, but I know it is a good stepping stone for younger riders.
Vortex: finally got to this abomination, only to find it's also not as bad as everyone says. This was my last stand up in the United States to ride, but only because I missed out on CGA's Vortex (I did ride Shockwave). Sure, it's lame, and the loading is very slow, but it's pretty smooth. It's not amongst the ranks of Green Lantern and Mantis as the worst, though, as those are real , but it's also not interesting like Georgia Scorcher and Riddler's Revenge. Being pretty experienced riding stand ups, I knew to get my shoulders stiffly pressing up against the restraint by bending at the knee before locking my seat into height, and it worked successfully for a headbanging-free ride. Not one single time did my head smash the side of the restraint.
Afterburn: a good invert, but not my favorite. The mist on my feet in the tunnel was a nice surprise. I often forget this ride exists. Raptor and Montu are still my favorites. One and done for me.
Plants vs. Zombies - pretty fun ride. It's a really odd IP for an amusement park ride, but it works well. We sat on plants side in a full theater. I managed to finagle the second highest score in the whole lobby of 33000 (a 2x margin from the next highest) by only shooting Golden Gnomes the entire ride.
Yeah, our side won.
We attempted at this point to ride Boo-Blasters on Boo Hill since it's a knockoff of our beloved Scooby Doo ride at SFStL (RIP) and I missed the one at KI, but it broke down while we were in queue. The one at KD was pretty good, and I imagine this one is the same.
At this point, my brothers left the park to return later for some night rides on Fury. I went to the water park since it was blazing hot outside and I had been planning on going all afternoon, but it was already 4:00. Overall, the water park was pretty good. The tornado/wave complex was closed, so I started in the back. Later, at closing, I headed for the box drop slides. I'm not a drop-box slide person, both for the part that it freaks me out and that I feel like I'm suffocating inside those hot tubes with water spraying up from my feet, so I skipped on them, but I did REALLY enjoy the tube slides on that same tower complex. Both had drops at the end with some nice airtime and lots of speed. I managed four rides on them before the line closed off.
Immediately after the water park closed, I headed to the Top Scan ride. I'm really glad this park has one of these because I've always wanted to try one, but never was willing to wait in the massive line for one that came to the local fair every year. What I was worried might be a disorienting ride became one of my favorite flat rides. I rode this two times - the first cycle felt like our seats just would not flip all the way; instead, it toyed with us, nearly inverting us, and then quickly reversing rotation. On the second cycle, we inverted endlessly in both directions.
Woodstock Express - rode this in the back. Every bit as good as the other two US ones. The drop off the first turnaround has some extreme air for a family wooden coaster.
Flying Ace Aerial Chase - just as painful as the Kings Island one. Why are these so seemingly harmless yet so bad?
... AND finally: Windseeker. Offered some good views of the park, preferable to KI's and KD's, but not on the level of Cedar Point's on the beach. The lighting package is awesome, just like the rest of them.
The time after the waterpark closed is where I got my Copperhead Strike and the extra Nighthawk laps, plus an extra Intimidator lap before beginning my Fury 325 marathon.The temperature cooled off significantly in the last hours and made life a whole lot easier. It was a great way to end the day at the park.