I left Orlando at 7am and had planned to hit Carowinds for the Twilight (after 4) price of 29.95. At 4:05 I had my ticket and entered the park. I didn't have much knowledge of the park, but figured with a little luck I could get most of the coasters done from 4 until the 10:00 close. Turns out I only stayed until 8 due to weather, but got all the major coasters done.
Other than Nighthawk, every coaster was a walk on, many of them running one train and sending out empty seats. The park had a decent crowd though, and the adjacent free waterpark looked to have a healthy crowd. It reminded me of Geauga Lake, in fact, many things in the park brought me back to our old GL. It still makes me mad to see Cedar Fair make a park like this work, but refused to let GL work. Coasters running one train and sending empty seats -- the reasoning for this was because it was a weekday and everyone was at the water park! But at GL, we have to close and destroy! Anyway, we all know how we all feel about that situation. Onto the report.
The gate is very colonial looking, and the entrance plaza reminded me of Cedar Point. Intimidator greets you at the entrance, and is still the hot attraction. There is a feeling you get when you enter a new to you park and see coaster after coaster you have never ridden. I never got around to writing TR's last summer, but I visited both Kings Island and Holiday World for the very first time in 2011, and it was the first time in years I had been to new to me parks. There is just something special about.
After walking in the gate, I beared to the right and started my visit off with Vortex. A B&M stand up from the early 90s, it struck me how modest it is. The only other stand up I have ever ridden is Mantis, and although most people would love to send it to the recycling factory, Mantis is actually one of my favorite coasters at The Point and I have always liked the stand up gimmick. The trains on Vortex are only six rows long and the bicycle seats were quite different, but with two train operation I walked right into the station and got into a row on my own. The ride ops were friendly, and this was something I noticed on my whole visit. Every single employee was extremely pleasant and helpful, and coming from Disney, it's hard for a park to impress me with friendly employees - but major props to every single Carowinds employee. And the guests were great too. As I observed at the end of the night, I never once saw anyone spit or curse, always a nice treat at a park.
Vortex was a good coaster - although not as good as Mantis. The first drop and loop were great, but the second half and corkscrew really played 'ear boxing' with me. Still, it was nice to get on an old school B&M stand up from their early days, and within ten minutes of walking in, I had my first credit under my belt.
Next up was Hurler. Only running one train, we had to wait for the train to return to the station to board Seat 3-1. I had re-read Gunkey's TR from 2011 before coming to the park, so I expected nothing, and that's exactly what I got. Hurler looks like a nice simple medium sized twister with an adequate layout. But it is SO rough. It's Mean Streak/Gwazi rough from start to finish, and was not at all enjoyable or comfortable. No need to return.
Continuing the counter clockwise walk through the park, I pa**ed on Drop Tower, deciding I'd rather do all the coasters first and then go back for others. Next up was Carolina Cyclone, a coaster I had forgotten was even in the park from the little bit of research I had ever done. Running Basically, it's as if the old GL Double Loop and Corkscrew had merged together. You go up the lift, turn to the left 180 degrees (Corkscrew was to the right), down the drop, through two loops, turnaround, do the corkscrews, and done. C.C. actually ended up being one of my favorite coasters in the park! It was so nostalgic! The cla**ic Arrow lift combined with the fact that the two loops felt *exactly* like the loops of Double Loop while riding just made me smile. There's something special about these small old Arrow loopers from the 70s and early 80s. They are very simple coasters, but they are a lot of fun and really take me back to the old GL days. I only got one ride, but it was one of the highlights of the night. And on the turnaround between the loops and corkscrews, there is a great headchopper with some very close bushes!
Carolina Cyclone took me back to the memories of GL, so it was only fitting that next up was Carolina Cobra, our old Mind Eraser. It was the second GL re-located coaster I have ridden (the first was Firehawk/X-Flight last summer at KI) and it's still a strange experience to ride coasters from the old park in their new homes. Mind Eraser was actually the last ride I rode on my last trip to GL on Oktoberfest Friday 2007. As a kid, I always loved the ride, it was one of my favorites, and I could ride it over and over and over. Today was a one and done, as it really made me queasy and gave me a slight headache. I can really tell a difference between 10-15 years ago and now. Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE parks and coasters, and always will. But I am just as happy now to walk the midways, take pictures, and ride each coaster once or maybe twice. Certain coasters will make me queasy, although there are still some others I can do again and again. Carolina Cobra was a one time deal today, but I do really like the new train design. The restraint is very comfortable and there is zero headbanging.
After C.Cobra, we took a spin on the neighboring mine ride. It is your typical Arrow two-life mine ride from the 70s, and had a nice setting along the water. Much better than Cedar Creek Mine Ride and Trailblazer at Hersheypark, but not nearly as good as the mine ride at Kings Island (which I think even beats Big Thunder at Disney). It was running two trains though, so we walked right on.
We continued our walk and pa**ed by the water park, which was starting to clear out as clouds rolled in. It looks like a nice waterpark, one I would definitely want to check out on a future visit (it's included in admission) I couldn't spot any big attractions or speed slides, but there were more regular slide towers than WWK.
I took a spin on Windseeker even though I have ridden CP's, and enjoyed the ride. It was on Windseeker I spotted our old GL Yo Yo!! I had totally forgotten another one of my GL childhood favorites was here, and eagerly awaited taking a spin. On the way to Yo Yo, we rode the Dodgems and the Boo Blaster shoot 'em up dark ride. I never rode these rides back when they were Scooby Doo, but you can easily tell they were once themed to Scooby Doo. I don't like these rides as much as Buzz Lightyear at Disney and Men in Black at Universal for two reasons. 1) You can't see your laser so you really don't know where you are aiming to hit the targets and 2) Each target seems to only be able to be hit once per car.
We continued to Thunder Run, the twin tracked wooden out and back coaster that travels through both North and South Carolina. They were only running the left side, but were running two trains on it. This, along with the Kings Island Racer, don't depend quite as much on the racing element like Gemini, but I still wish I could have had a chance to race and try both tracks. It was a great out and back that had some nice pops of air and was relatively smooth - 100x better than Hurler. I also never got to ride any of these old Paramount racers back when one side ran backwards, but it's a bummer that Cedar Fair put a stop to that.
After Thunder Run I took my ride on the old GL Yo Yo, which still has the Happy Harbor color scheme. The Yo Yo lettering and spires on the top are still missing, much like they were at the end at GL. Yo Yo gave a nice ride cycle, but still isn't tilting in its new home. Nothing beat the old days when that thing would really tilt, it used to unnerve me a bit as a kid.
The impending rain was coming, and I still had three major coasters to hit. Afterburn was next. I knew it was here, but I knew nothing about the ride. Since I have never been on a Batman clone, I actually thought it was a Batman clone until I looked it up online when I had left the park. Two trains were sending out empty rows, but I always love to ride up front on B&M inverts, so I waited the two cycles and got front row right.
Afterburn is a great old B&M invert, 'the way they used to be'. Awesome G-Forces, fast, quick elements, and pacing that never let up from the first drop to the brake run. I preferred it to both of the Dragons at Islands of Adventure and even Montu at BGT, but I still think Raptor and Alpengeist have it beat. But it was an awesome ride from start to finish, and I wish I could have ridden it again.
Intimidator was calling my name, and I was eager to try it. This would be my third B&M hyper, and quite honestly, both Apollo's Chariot and Diamondback underwhelmed me. Fortunately, I have a new coaster that beats out Magnum as my favorite "big steel non inverted coaster", and that is Intimidator.
Wow. That's all I can say. I know in Gunkey's TR from last year he said Afterburn came out on top of the Carowinds coaster countdown, but Intimidator won me over from start to finish. What an incredible ride. The lift hill is actually a little unnerving (as were the lifts on Apollo & Diamondback) and then once the ride began, it was just non stop airtime that never seemed to end. It was the only coaster I took two rides on, once in Row 3 and once in the very back seat. Row 3 was gla** smooth, the back had a little bit of rattling on some of the hills, but getting dumped out of my seat and over the first drop more than made up for it. Even though I can't do as much riding as I once could, I could have sat on Intimidator all night. As I crested each hill, I couldn't get over how much airtime there was and how smooth the whole thing was. The intensity was perfect too, I didn't feel like I was fighting with the coaster or defensively riding - it was just like laying back in a Lazy Boy and going for a ride. I just don't have enough good things to say about it. This coaster is what I wish Millennium Force was. I think MF has one of the best first drops on the planet, but then just sort of fizzles out. This coaster has a MF style first drop and then Magnum style airtime, but doesn't beat you up like Magnum does these days. It was great! There are trims used on two of the hills, but it really didn't seem to do much to the ride experience.
In between my two rides on Intimidator, I waited in the only line I found all night, which was about 40-45 minutes for Nighthawk, which was running only one train. It was the only place I saw a few people using Fastlane. In another parallel to GL, the Vekoma flyer was the only coaster with an actual wait. I always liked X-Flight, and enjoyed it again last year at KI as Firehawk. But Nighthawk, the original Vekoma flyer that was once Stealth, was a much rougher ride. I also preferred the inline twists on X-F, and I missed the heavy g-forces in the helix. Still, I am glad I got to ride the original, and nothing is quite like the flip at the top of the lift where you're suddenly flying. I have ridden Manta at Seaworld Orlando, and it's a great ride, but I think the Vekoma version is more intense.
After my second ride on Intimidator, I wanted to trek back to get another lap on Carolina Cyclone and take a ride on Drop Tower, but lightning began and the rain moved in. I bought a t-shirt and was out the gate by 8:30. 4.5 hours and I did everything I wanted except a reride on C.Cyclone and some more laps on Intimidator. Obviously the walk ons helped me tremendously, but I really felt I got my money's worth on my twilight ticket. Carowinds was a very nice park that had a lot of Geauga Lake charm in it, and Cedar Fair hasn't taken that away.
My Top 3 Coasters at Carowinds:
3) Carolina Cyclone
Thanks for reading!
Andrew B. / Goose