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Aug 17, 2010
I had the opportunity this weekend to visit Carowinds for the first time in just over a decade. It was nice to be back, and it was great to see how much the park has changed and expanded since my last visit.

Carowinds is still in my opinion an underrated regional amusement park experience that I would recommend to anyone spending time in the Charlotte area. I'm really looking forward to hearing the official announcement in a few weeks about their 2015 project. If the rumors are true, Carowinds could be making an impressive step up into a new echelon of parks.

Even though many of the coasters in Carowinds' collection are relatively small and sometimes even a bit lame for their model, I can't help but be impressed by the variety featured in the park. It's definitely a great park for kids to get their feet wet on coasters and experience a wide array of styles. Carowinds should be proud of the versatility in their lineup.

When I first got to the park, I had to head straight to Intimidator. I was not disappointed. This is a world-class coaster, easily earning its spot in the pantheon of the great B&M hypers. It runs its course beautifully and smoothly, with graceful force and wonderful ejector air from the back, and some decent floater air towards the front. The only complaint that I could lodge against this ride is that it's essentially a parking lot coaster that makes no utilization of the landscape around it, but that's hardly a negative here compared to its many plusses. The runtime is also a major positive for me.

I hit Nighthawk next. This was by far the longest line of the day (90 minutes as compared to 20 minutes tops everywhere else). I wasn't expecting much from this ride, but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. I generally hate Vekomas, especially SLCs, but Nighthawk wasn't nearly as rough as I anticipated, and their variation of the flyer was pretty cool, I thought. Nonetheless, it wasn't worth the wait, and the fact that it takes about 5 minutes for a train to be deemed clear of the station can become quite frustrating.

I've never been a fan of stand ups, and Vortex didn't give me any reason to become one. It was mercifully short, but a rather unenjoyable time for me. I'll probably be skipping this one the next time I get back.

Carolina Cyclone is just the same as ever, but I don't remember that strange multi-colored paint job. What's up with that? Not a fan. Regardless, it's still a good coaster to familiarize kids with inversions.

After milling about the Boardwalk area, which I find to be pretty nicely themed for most amusement park standards, I headed over to Carolina Cobra, which is in desperate need of a paint job. It was having some maintenance troubles throughout the day, so it took a little while to finally get a spin in on this one. Not much to write about here as it's just a standard boomerang, but it feels like a useless addition to the park.

By the time I finally got to Top Gun without Maverick, there was practically no line, which I don't understand. I would consider Afterburn to still be one of the better inverts in the world. It just uses its force and speed so effectively that it's quite superior to some of its much larger sisters. Still a great ride all these years later.

Thunder Road and Hurler were both pretty decent woodies, although Thunder Road brought more than its fair share of thunder in the back half. I must confess that I've never been a huge fan of wooden coasters, although I still unfortunately have not been able to get to any of the list topping woodies.

I find it interesting to see how CF has changed the touches of Paramount from around the park. For the most part, this is for the worse as they haven't done anything better with it. Afterburn is essentially Top Gun with a generic name, and it's quite obvious that many of their rides once had some semblance of a theme. I would like to see CF put more of an emphasis on bringing a better theme to some of their rides. I did enjoy catching some of the things they didn't change, such as 1928 Wings Cafe.

Although, I thought this was a pretty enjoyable day in the park. Intimidator definitely shot high up my list of favorite coasters, and Afterburn is just good as I remember. If they break ground with a massive 30-story ride, Carowinds could, in my opinion, surpass the quality of some of its fellow Cedar Fair parks.
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