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Carowinds is a theme park where the the Carolinas come together. It’s located directly on the the NC/SC border just south of Charlotte. The park celebrates the culture the Carolinas with attractions for the whole family.

You can actually be two places at once!

The park specifically touts their world-class thrill rides. The Fury 325 is the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster. The Fury 325 won the 2015 Golden Ticket Award for “Best New Ride” by the readers of Amusement Today. It reaches heights of 325 feet tall and speeds of 95 miles per hour!

My daughter was SO excited to ride Fury 325!

Although we live somewhat close by, last weekend was our first experience at Carowinds. My children dreamed of this day for a long time! In fact, a few weeks earlier we attempted to visit (read full story here)…but it didn’t work out. So, we were excited when all the stars aligned and we were able go.

First family roller coaster of the day- Ricochet.

Before I get into specifics, I will say that Carowinds is unlike any other theme park we’ve visited as a family. For better and for worse, there are things that set this park apart from the rest. Knowing these things prior to visiting should make for a more enjoyable experience and help you get the most out of your Carowinds adventure!

  1. Hours of Operation: Unlike a lot of major theme parks that stay open year round- or even ones that operate on a semi-seasonal basis- Carowinds basically follows the school schedule. And, I’m not talking the generic Memorial Day to Labor Day. They truly follow the Carolina’s school calendar which means it shuts down during the week in mid to late August. However, the park is open on the weekends in the spring and fall, and then again for weekdays during Spring and Christmas Break. Be sure to check the website prior to planning a visit.
  2. Familiar Food: I’ve never seen any theme park with quite the variety of blended specialty food and chain restaurants. While there are lots of unique dining options, Carowinds also contains a Starbucks, Chick-fil-A and Panda Express. You will definitely not go hungry while in the park! If you choose to eat before or after you visit, I highly recommend Culver’s just outside the gate.
  3. Height Restrictions: Like all other parks, the rides have height restrictions. The funny thing about the rides at Carowinds is that you have to be a pretty tall kid to enjoy. Both of my children are on the taller side of average for their age. At 10-years old my daughter was exactly 54″ which allowed her to ride almost everything. She was THRILLED. Unfortunately, at 44″ my 5-year old felt like he couldn’t do a lot. Of the rides that Carowinds considers “Family Rides” a 44″ child can only participate in 2 of the 10. Likewise, the “Kid Rides” even have pretty tall height restrictions. My son was just barely able to ride 2 of them.

    Big smile because she is FINALLY tall enough to ride the “good” ones!

  4. 1 to 1 Ratio: Because of the afore mentioned height restrictions, most families will need a ratio of 1 adult per child. Even a lot of the “Kid Rides” require an adult to ride with the child making it difficult for a single adult to enjoy the park with multiple children. We found our family needed to split up for most of the day to make it enjoyable for both of our kids.

    Our favorite ride of the day- The Woodstock Express!

  5. Add Ons: Unfortunately, most theme parks are trending this way and Carowinds is no exception. Everything costs extra. You pay to park. You pay to do the carnival-style games that are scattered throughout the entire park (not in just 1 area you can avoid!) You pay for access to a Fast Pass to bypass some of the lines. You even pay extra for some of the rides (Ripcord and Slingshot.) Fortunately, finding discounts on your admission tickets is easy if you do a little research. There are constantly online deals. For example, currently Carowinds is offering a free season pass for all children ages 3-5 for their 2018 season.

With all the things I mentioned, you might be wondering about our overall impression of the park. In all honesty, it isn’t my favorite for my family in this stage of life. It’s ideal for pre-teen and teenagers that love thrilling rides. But for families with young kids and/or a mix of ages/heights- it isn’t the best.

But that being said, my children have asked no less than 50 times when we can go back. And, within reason, my mama motto is that if my kids are happy then I’m happy. So, it looks like we’ll be signing up for a 2018 season pass!

To find out more about Carowinds, visit their website.

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