As I mentioned in my Dollywood report, on the way back from Myrtle Beach I've made it a habit to hit Carowinds. The past two years however, it was just a couple hours worth of rides before getting back on the road. This year, I booked a hotel so I could spend the whole day there and especially to get some night rides on Fury.
It was slightly chilly and raining when I first got there, but within about 45 minutes of opening, it was partly sunny and in the 70s and would end up being a beautiful day.
The park opened at 9am that morning and we left Myrtle around 5, so I got there just after opening and headed straight back to Fury. Fury was basically walk-on most of the day, so I got a quick three rides in, front-back-2nd row before heading off elsewhere. Fury would easily be my #1 coaster if LR wasn't so unbelievable. One of the things I noticed right away and all day long was that with the changes within the park and the construction work done, it seemed like they did a lot of repainting and upkeep work this offseason, which is always a plus.
I knew there were a couple credits I was missing there, so I wanted to knock them out before meeting up with my friend and his family when they got there around 1. Ricochet was closed the majority of the day (more on that later), and Nighthawk was still testing, so I bounced around to take some pictures for a bit. I got some great shots of Afterburn and Vortex, and then took two rides in the Carolina Skytower to see if I could get some unique shots from above (which I think I did).
By the time I made a lap around the park, taking some good shots, I was hungry so I headed to Harmony Hall just after it opened to get some lunch. I can't remember exactly what I had, but I've never had a bad meal there. I used my recently-purchased drink plan for a drink as well (more on this later too).
After lunch, I headed towards Intimidator around the corner but it was broken down (and would stay that way until later in the afternoon), so I decided to walk back to the new County Fair area. The area itself looks great with the refurb. I don't really remember it that well from previous years since we didn't spend much time there, but the new rides were all running smoothly and the area was busy, but not overly so. The new paint job on Flying Cobras looks great and that coaster will always hold a special place in my heart since its a Geauga Lake transplant and I spent the majority of my summers as a teenager there. Electro Spin was the only ride in the area not operating, as maintenance was doing some work on it.
My friend and his family arrived just about the time they said, and we immediately went back to Fury. They had the child-swap passes as well, so I got to ride a bunch of double rides with both him and his wife all day long. After Fury, we took his kids to Planet Snoopy and to some of the dark rides. I still haven't experienced Plants vs. Zombies, but we rode
Boo Blasters, Woodstock Express and Flying Ace Aerial Chase with them before his wife and I went and tackled Nighthawk. I love Firehawk and I loved it when it was still X-Flight, but I know people had told me Nighthawk was rough. We waited about 30 minutes for it, despite the line being relatively short. The combination of the weird Vekoma flyer restraints and what seemed to be an inexperienced crew led to some lengthy delays. Once we got on, I didn't really tell my friend's wife what to expect, so her reactions to the ride were fantastic, but we both REALLY enjoyed the ride. I didn't notice the roughness at all, other than the double barrel roll at the end. The only thing I didn't like was sitting in the direct sunlight on my back for 4-5 minutes while they loaded the next train after us.
By this point, his kids were getting tired and after they went to eat at HH, I figured they were probably going to leave, which he had said they were. So I went to get a drink at one of the stands and my drink plan kept being denied. I tried 3 different stands before I was directed to guest services. GS thought they fixed the problem and had me go to a 4th drink stand, which still didn't work. They could see that I had bought and paid for it on the computer, but they were having some kind of technical issue, so they re-took my picture and said sometimes the picture being too dark causes that. Still didn't work. Finally, the manager made a call and said its a "company wide issue" right now and gave me enough free drink coupons to use every 15 minutes for the rest of the evening.
So as the sun started to set, I was prepared to get some pictures of Fury at night and then head out to the hotel, but my buddy texted me and said they didn't leave because they had run into some people they knew from back home. So they met me near the North Carolina-South Carolina sign and we decided to go get some more night rides on Fury. I'm so glad we did because those night rides seem so much smoother and faster and are such a different experience. Right after getting of Fury, we noticed that Ricochet finally had opened. What was strange was that nobody else seemed to notice. So I rode it thinking, "typical wild mouse type coaster". Boy was I pleasantly surprised at the whipping around and speed of such a small little thing. Once we got back towards the station however, we stacked up and the ride broke down. So we were sitting on the track stuck for 10-15 minutes before they finally got us back in and closed it for the night. But hey, at least I got the last credit I needed there.
At this point, there was about 30 minutes to go, so I decided to take some long exposure shots of the Fury sign and plaza and the front sign and then head back to the hotel.
Overall as a park, I love Carowinds. The food options are different than your normal chain park fare, the park is pretty clean and the there's a lot of variety among the rides for various types of riders. That said, once you get beyond the first 3-4 really good coasters (mine being Fury, Intimidator, Nighthawk and Afterburn), the coaster collection is pretty meh. I did pick up a lot of maps for trading as well as some souvenirs (they finally had a Fury pin!). I'm hoping to be able to experience the waterpark there at some point, but thus far, my trips have all been in the spring. I definitely recommend it to everyone for Fury and Intimidator alone.