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Photo TR - Carowinds Opening Weekend


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It’s been about 5 years since my last visit to Carowinds so I decided to wrangle up a few friends and pay a visit to the recently Cedar Fair-ized park to kick off the season. When we arrived around 1PM on Saturday there were only 12 other cars in the parking lot, and with heavy rain coming down all day, we were sort of surprised that the park was even open.


Not only was the park open, but almost everything was running. I give Cedar Fair a lot of credit for this because I know that some other parks would have closed for the day and sent everyone packing given the forecast for cold rain and storms. Kudos to CF for keeping the park open for most of the afternoon – that really made our trip worthwhile. Sure, it would have been nicer without the rain, but we drove 5 hours to get there and we weren’t going to let a little dihydrogen monoxide stop us from racking up our first credits of the year. The park closed a couple hours early at 4PM when they discovered that we were the only idiots left in the place and we weren’t spending any money on games or food. Still, we had plenty of time to get some rides on the main coasters except for Ricochet and Vortex, which were not operating.


On Saturday night we decided to brave the elements by staying in one of the wilderness cabins at the campground. Situated in the remote backcountry (i.e. behind the park’s scrap metal and wood salvage area), the rustic cabins had only the bare necessities: a roof, running water, electricity, heat, full-size fridge, microwave, stove, internet access, and a flat panel television with satellite HD. I mean, we were really roughing it out in the wilderness. I thought we would have to sharpen some spears and go hunting for food until we discovered that we were still close enough to civilization for Domino’s pizza delivery, which was quite convenient. Other highlights from the “Wilderness Experience” included an epic battle with 2 large hornets who found their way inside one of the bedrooms. Armed with only wet shoes and empty pizza boxes, we geared up to valiantly defend our rented territory and initiated combat. The battle proceeded from room to room for several hours, where, in the final moments, the bumbling insects cornered themselves near the ceiling and were beheaded for trespassing.


Later at night the rain stopped and we ventured outside to explore the campground area where we stumbled upon a giant concrete block with a humongous cable coming out of it. It was about the size of a small car and had a steel shell around it. I’m guessing this is the counter-weight that was used to launch the Schwarzkopf shuttle loop coaster the park had in the 80s – I believe it was called White Lightning. Has anyone else seen this giant block? It’s right behind one of the pull-up camp sites that backs up to a fenced maintenance area. We tried to carry it back to our cabin, but it wouldn’t fit through the door.


On Sunday we woke to sunshine and a bright dusting of Carolina pollen. The cabin was returned to its original state, and we headed back to the park for some more coasters. Carowinds has a pretty decent collection of rides, and several things worth noting for 2009:


Carolina Cobra – I have nothing but good things to say about this ride, and I never thought I would say that about a Vekoma OR a boomerang. It fits nicely in that area of the park, looks great, rides smooth as glass, and the trains give you a much more open feel and better sight lines. The shoulder “vest” put a good deal of pressure on the top of my shoulders, but other than that it was very comfortable. I’ll be interested to see if the ride quality holds up over time with the new trains, but at the moment I’d say this is easily the most enjoyable and re-rideable boomerang I’ve ever been on.


Hurler – I guess I was expecting very little of this one considering its twin at KD has gone to crap. Out of instinct, I strapped in and braced myself for 2 minutes of solid jack-hammering, but was pleasantly surprised at the smoothness and overall condition of this ride. I actually rode more than once to see if it was some sort of fluke, but no- it’s a pretty darn enjoyable coaster – especially towards the front of the train.


Top Flight Afterburner – or whatever it’s called now – was running one mostly empty train on Saturday in the rain. It was closed on Sunday because the red train valleyed after the batwing (I guess during testing in the AM). Again, thank you Cedar Fair for staying open during Saturday’s monsoon, otherwise we would have missed out completely on the best coaster there.


Vortex – Was closed the whole weekend with both trains parked. Not sure what’s going on here, but it wasn’t a big loss in my book. I loved this ride as a kid, and the layout is great, but my days of tolerating B&M standups are numbered.


StealthHawk Assimilator – or whatever it’s called now – has one of the most impressive paint jobs I have seen in a while. I love the orange and dark blue. I guess it’s running the same as usual, but for some reason I had no desire to ride it more than once. Something about being chucked around in a prone position just isn’t fun any more. Maybe I’m getting old.


Sunday afternoon we hit the road and drove back in much better conditions. Not a bad way to start out the season, and I’m looking forward to more trips with hopefully more pictures in the next few months.


Poor Afterburn must have had a hangover and couldn't make it on Sunday. They had the area blocked off pretty good, but the train was sitting there all day



Landscape shot


It did have some issues throughout the day and we saw empty trains a lot


Nighthawk is just a very photogenic ride, and looks great


People all over the park were talking about the "new" coaster. It really seemed to be a hit and should do well for the park


Trains were comfortable


I'm telling you. Smooth as glass. No lie


The placement and setup were great


The new attraction. I can't tell if that "o" is supposed to be white in the middle or if they just didn't finish painting


Mine train was also fun in the rain, but maybe a little more comfortable in the sun


Vortex again was closed and lifeless all weekend. Both trains were on the track, so I'm not sure what was going on


Towers are always fun


The unexpectedly awesome Hurler with two train operation which is always nice.



Sunday was better for pictures in the park. Cyclone seemed faster and smoother than what I remember. A decent little ride


The entire area was foggy which added to the orange glow. It was pretty unreal


Yea, the lighting was pretty sweet. About the only good shot I could get outside of the park was of Afterburn


After the storm passed we were treated to some spectacular lighting conditions. Time to break out the camera


Our rustic accommodations complete with a driveway, 3 trees, and our very own Cedar Fair signature trash can


After hours of listening to "Holiday Road" on repeat the entire way, we arrive at Carowinds. Wait, what state are we in?

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Wow, you've got some really great shots there. (I especially like the one of the Carowinds sign, the Carolina Cobra wideshot wth the sign in it, and the wideshot of Nighthawk framing the observation tower.)


Shame about Afterburn, though. I'm a huge fan of it, and I would have liked to see what you could have done with it.

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Wow! Those are some of the best photos I've seen around this site in a while...thanks for sharing!


Cobra's paint scheme is growing on me, and I love how Nighthawk looks. Sad to hear that Afterburn was down while the sun was out...but at least you got to ride it in the rain! Did it drip 'oily-water' down on you, like other inverts (especially Great Bear) do?

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Sad to hear that Afterburn was down while the sun was out...but at least you got to ride it in the rain! Did it drip 'oily-water' down on you, like other inverts (especially Great Bear) do?


Haha, yea, my first ride on Afterburn I made the mistake of sitting on an end seat and had a constant stream of not-so-clear liquid right to the forehead. Alpengeist does that too, but it's been a while since I've ridden an invert in the rain and I guess I forgot. The middle seats were much better.

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Great shots! I've always wanted to visit Carowinds, but I've heard so many negative things about it, but it seems like Cedar Fair may be stepping up their game.


On a side not: May I ask what camera you're using? Also, is there a way to see the pics in a higher resolution? A website or something?

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Griffon, you left out the part where "Ms. Garmin" tried to get us lost in Charlotte... and how she took us to the distribution center instead of the wal mart... Again, great photos, great trip, and looking forward to another one sometime in the future. Thanks again for letting me join you guys on the trip. It was a true blast

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Great TR! Maybe it's just your camera, but Carolina Cobra's paint job didn't look that bad. And Wow! Nighthawk is bright.

I did my best to get the ride colors as close to what they looked like in person. Maybe the color saturation is a little overkill? but I've noticed that prints come out slightly darker, so I usually veer towards keeping them on the bright side. Thanks for the feedback!


Carolina Cobra is smooth? Like smoother than Flashback at SFOT?

Trust me, it was very smooth. I have never been to the state of Texas, so I don't know how it compares to Flashback. I'm hoping these new trains will show up on other boomerangs and hold onto their quality.


On a side not: May I ask what camera you're using? Also, is there a way to see the pics in a higher resolution? A website or something?

I use all Canon gear. Rebel XTi and a couple different lenses. I love it, but would strongly recommend something smaller at Theme Parks. I will only take my camera with me if I have somewhere to put the bag, and plenty of time for photos. Feel free to send a PM and with an Email and I'd be happy to send out some higher res versions if anyone is interested.


you left out the part where "Ms. Garmin" tried to get us lost in Charlotte... and how she took us to the distribution center instead of the wal mart

Haha, I actually left quite a few things out of the story but figured my rambling about insects and concrete blocks was long enough already. I'm not sure if I trust those GPS things any more. Glad you could come along.


Thanks everyone for the comments

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Those are beautiful pictures.


I had a similar experience on my last visit. There was a huge storm and most of the park left but they stayed open. Except for the employee bitching in the bathroom about how Cedar Fair sucked for making him stay, it was awesome. Got to marathon Top Gun, Hurler (which has good and bad seasons), etc.


Gotta get back to try the boomerang (did I really say that?). Is Thunder Road up and running for the season?

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awesome sunset pic dude. sucks about the crappy weather on Saturday but at least you had a beautiful day on Sunday.


I really want to ride cobra with the new trains. I can really see Hersheypark looking at these for the future. (if they update Wildcat why not Sidewinder?)


Man I need to ride a coaster.



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