Trying to ride a shiny new coaster on opening weekend is a risky endeavor. For one, technical issues are to expected with a new attraction. Two, you will often come face to face with heavy crowds. Three, you could end up in a coaster YouTuber’s vlog.
For that reason, I decided to visit Carowinds on its second weekend.
I figured a Mack launcher was a relatively proven concept. If you’ve followed along on the park discussion, you know Copperhead Strike has had some early hiccups.
It was apparent from the start that Carowinds would be packed. I suspected it might on a Saturday with perfect weather, but it was confirmed when I saw the line to enter the parking lot. We arrived a half hour prior to opening and were stuck in a line of cars backed up to the highway.
This line was not moving. People were abandoning cars. Those poor suckers at Wendy’s couldn’t re-enter the roadway. Was there an accident? Nope. It just appeared that Carowinds didn’t open the parking lot until 9:50. It also wasn’t until this time that they started morning tests. Carowinds was trying to give us a Six Flags day.
Since we purchased tickets on Presidents Day, we had Fast Lane Plus included. This was a major help. Carowinds was packed. The major coasters had hour plus waits. Even coasters like Vortex and Carolina Goldrusher had lengthy queues. Heck the flyers had a wait over an hour at one point.
I think only Fury 325 was ready at opening. It was ever so tempting to head there first, but we figured it would be prudent to hit Copperhead Strike first. This proved to be a very wise decision considering what happened later in the day.
Ultimately we waited 45 minutes for our first ride. This included general morning testing as well as breakdowns. It seemed like every third or fourth ride would stop at the second launch. I never saw a train rollback. The trains simply came to a halt. After a brief delay, the coaster would rock back and forth before completing the course.
The presentation of Copperhead Strike is top-notch. The plaza around the attraction looks fantastic, highlighted by the snake logo complete with glowing red eyes. It may even top Fury’s plaza if you ask me. While I did bypass the main queue (Fast Lane problems
), what I did see was very well themed. I’d be hard pressed to name a better themed ride at a Cedar Fair park.
Mack mega coaster trains are right up there with B&M hyper coaster trains as the most comfortable if you ask me. Having such an open train design is an absolute delight on a coaster with this much hangtime. And the hangtime starts right away with that jojo roll out of the station. I completely forgot it existed!
So what’s in the barn? On the left side, you have a screen. The audio is garbled, but it’s clear that granny is shocked someone entered her barn. All the other nooks and crannies of the barn are filled with farm paraphernalia (chickens, hoes, etc). I didn’t see any snakes though. I’m still trying to figure out how those come into play.
As with most Macks, the launch itself isn’t very good. Slinky Dog Dash has a comparable acceleration. I thought we were going to rollback on the first vertical loop. We crawled through it and the hangtime was Full Throttle-esque. This was immediately followed by a powerful airtime hill, a snappy corkscrew, a quick turn, and an ejector airtime drop into launch 2. Then we hit the brakes.
Yup, the ride stopped. After a 2-3 minute delay, we crawled forwards, crawled backwards, and then shot forwards. While this stoppage did kill the ride’s pacing, it did have the auxiliary benefit of giving the launch a kick that all Macks minus Blue Fire are missing. It felt like a genuine launch rather than a gentle push.
And the airtime hill in the middle of that second launch is unique. I wasn’t quite sure what it would feel like, but it gave some decent floater air. As did the hill leading into the cutback/inverted top hat. People may disagree on what to call it, but there’s no arguing about the hangtime. It is plentiful.
This is followed by the ride’s most intense sequence. You have a rapid, low-to-the-ground turn and another hangtime filled vertical loop before encountering two Intamin-like maneuvers. The first is an intense Stengel dive that threads the first loop. This was my favorite part of the ride. The apex was ridiculously tight, which yielded some crazy ejector air and this is all while you’re perpendicular to the ground. That’s then followed by an I305-esque twisty combining laterals and airtime.
Instead of going full Maverick, Copperhead takes its foot off the gas. The next segment is undoubtedly the ride’s weakest; it’s a series of slow twists. Copperhead does redeem itself at the very end. There’s one final transition that mixes some laterals and a pop of air and that’s followed by a tiny but powerful ejector hill. And there’s another quick pop into the brake run.
Copperhead Strike throws a little of everything at riders. And that’s what I love most about Macks. It’s the perfect mix of airtime and hangtime with a pinch of intensity thrown in. Those calling this coaster a family ride are wildly exaggerating. It’s an excellent coaster. 9 out of 10
We decided to forgo a reride in favor of a lap around the park; it was my girlfriend’s first time at Carowinds. I wanted to head straight for Fury, but she wanted to work her way up towards the giga. Fortunately Carowinds has the perfect training coaster in Intimidator.
I remembered Int(r)imidator being the worst of the B&M hypers. Its nickname was ever so fitting during my visit in 2016. But on this visit, the trims were off. I repeat, the trims were off! This actually meant the coaster had some airtime after the turnaround. Every single drop provided solid floater air.
Intimidator is extremely similar to Diamondback for me. Both coasters have a great outward leg, but the return leg is contingent upon the trim brakes not biting too hard. 8 out of 10
Now my girlfriend was ready for Fury. She was a bit apprehensive, so it was a good thing Fast Lane allowed us to walk right onto the back row. She knew she’d probably love it, but she was just freaked out by the height. I assured her B&Ms are super reliable, but she was not a fan how Fury slowed down right before cresting the drop. Her nightmare is being evacuated on a lift hill.
But she loved it! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Fury. That first drop is incredible. It’s up there with Expedition GeForce, Iron Rattler, El Toro, and Skyrush for the best drop in the world. Fury lacks the intensity of those four coasters. Instead it offers length. Those drops are over in a flash while Fury’s drop gives 5-6 seconds of uninterrupted airtime.
The most common gripe with B&M hypers is that the formulaic layout of tall camelbacks saps the ride of its speed. This is not an issue on Fury’s outward leg. You especially feel the speed on those two low-to-the-ground maneuvers that mix vicious laterals with abrupt pops of air.
Turnarounds are usually throwaway elements on B&M hypers, but they’re standouts on Fury. The first one offers an abrupt pop of air and laterals. Then the treble clef is uncharacteristically B&M. The sustained sideways airtime feels straight out of a RMC.
The finale feels noticeably slower, but it offers the ride’s strongest airtime moments. You have three bunny hills that each provide incredible airtime. I don’t quite think it’s ejector, but it’s not floater. Whatever it is, it’s strong and sustained. The helix and its terrifying headchopper is just gravy.
When I rode Fury 325 back in 2016, it was unquestionably my new number one coaster. Since then, I have ridden over 500 other coasters. I was fearful Fury would be worse than I remembered, but it was quite the contrary. It was better than I remembered. 10 out of 10
I was a bit nervous to ride Nighthawk. While I remembered 80% of the ride being enjoyable, I remembered that corkscrew finale trying to kill me. We waited a bit extra for the front row and hoped our ride would be closer to Firehawk (RIP) than Batwing.
Thankfully Nighthawk was smooth, even during those corkscrews! The fly to lie maneuvers are extremely disorienting. But the highlight is the vertical loop. The base pulls Gs akin to a pretzel loop and the top has some terrifying hangtime. It’s fun, but I’ll still take my B&M flyers any day of the week. 7 out of 10
We went back to reride Copperhead Strike, but it was down. Worse, the line had been cleared out and it was transferring two of its three trains off the track; the third train was loaded with water dummies. This is why you always ride your highest priority first just in case something like this happens.
Instead we rode the Mountain Gliders. My girlfriend wanted no part of snapping, so she watched in horror as my tub violently bounced about. I love how the ops at Carowinds don’t care one bit if you snap. The cycle is on the shorter side, but they’re about as good as you’ll find outside of Knoebels or Lagoon. 8 out of 10
With the South Gate closed, Afterburn was in a quiet corner of the park. Well it wasn’t quiet exactly. You had the B&M roar overhead and the intermittent roar of Dinosaurs Alive. While I see this B&M lasting for quite some time, I have a feeling those dinos will be going extinct in the near future. Just a hunch.
Afterburn is definitely one of B&M’s stronger inverts. Ultimately I’d consider it to be Montu-lite. If you take away Montu’s the second vertical loop, you basically have Afterburn. The forces on this one are strong. They don’t quite match Montu, but they aren’t too far behind.
And I want to know why more B&M inverts don’t have batwings. They are awesome. Having the snap of an old-school B&M corkscrew followed by the high-G dive into a trench is incredible. This is probably my favorite US invert after Montu. 9 out of 10
I would like to apologize to Carowinds and Vortex. When I submitted my ballot for the TPR Coaster Poll, I listed Vortex among the worst of the worst SLCs. My rides in 2016 tried to give me a concussion and prevent me from one day having children. Since then I have learned how to ride B&M stand-ups.
Using the magic position, I got an enjoyable ride on Vortex! It may not be the biggest or baddest stand-up, but the ride pulls some serious Gs on the vertical loop and helices. And I didn’t bang my head or crotch once. The only real fault with the ride is its length. 6 out of 10
One coaster that did suck as much as I remembered was Carolina Goldrusher. It’s baffling how a coaster that slow can be so uncomfortable. I’m no stranger to Arrow’s coat-hanger transitions, but these ones were really bad. At least there was a tunnel. 2 out of 10
Riding Carolina Cyclone afterwards seemed foolish, but it was somewhat enjoyable. The first drop had some abrupt air and the first two loops were quite intense. However, the second half wasn’t as good. There was no headbanging, but it was uncomfortably bumpy like an old wooden coaster. 5 out of 10
Carowinds also has not one, but two dark rides. Both have their warts though. On Boo Blasters, my gun didn’t work. On Plants vs. Zombies, I had no idea what I was shooting at. Disliking the latter was particularly disappointing since I usually like these Triotech dark rides. But with a full theater and 30+ guns per screen, you’d have better luck seeing a 16 seed win the NCAA tournament.
Drop Tower had been closed for most of the day, but it finally opened in the late afternoon. As far as Intamin 2nd generation towers go, Drop Tower is on the shorter side. But it still packs a mighty punch. This is probably my favorite thing at Carowinds outside the big four coasters. 8 out of 10
As the sun was setting, I had come to grips with the fact that I wasn’t getting a reride on Copperhead Strike. It seemed unlikely the coaster would reopen after being closed for 5-6 hours. But then the coaster gods delivered a gift. Copperhead Strike reopened around 6-7 pm!
There was a catch. The ride was running with just two trains and the FastLane queue was mobbed. I think we ended up waiting almost 45 minutes. But it sure beat whatever that standby queue was. We were seated towards the middle for the first ride, but the attendant granted our request for the back on ride 2.
Our second ride was even better. Most notably, there was no intermission before the second launch. We plowed right on through. The launch wasn’t as forceful this way, but it kept the ride’s pacing intact. Also, the airtime was considerably stronger towards the back of the train.
I really wanted to ride Copperhead again, but the Fast Lane queue was even longer. We discovered a lot of people had complimentary Fast Lane passes, presumably when the coaster broke down earlier in the day and cleared the queue. So instead we ended the night with a marathon on Fury.
There’s just something magical about riding Fury at night. Most of the layout is shrouded in darkness, but you get the occasional flicker of light from the entry plaza and the hive dive. Fury 325 is one of the most reridable coasters in the world, which is a testament to B&M since this is one fast and furious coaster.
Carowinds is without a doubt one of the chain’s best parks. With the addition of Copperhead Strike, I think it’s my favorite after Cedar Point. With Cedar Fair, you know the park will be well-run. So when you have a top 4 like Carowinds, you have all you need for a top notch park.
Also if you're a fan of chicken and waffles, do not miss the Metro Diner. It's about a 15 minute drive from the park and it was incredible. I ordered chicken and waffles and just look at this portion size. I'd estimate it was at least 3000 calories. But I ate every single one of them.