Daytrip to Carowinds

Guest blog by Kelly Pritchard:

May 16, 2016

“For over 40 years, Carowinds has been right at the heart of where the Carolinas come together.” It’s a two hour jaunt from the Sandhills and easily doable in one LONG, action packed day.

Ten years ago, Cedar Fair Entertainment Company acquired the property from Paramount and gave the park a much needed face lift turning over rollercoasters from our youth like Wayne’s World, into the “Hurler,” Top Gun into “Afterburn” and trading up the good old fashioned Thunder Road, for the new Giga Coaster, Fury 325, boasted as the longest steel coaster in North America. All of that is good and well, but this mama was over in Planet Snoopy with two 5 year old squirts most of the day (and kind of thankful too, because this bladder is not what it used to be)!

June marks a huge change as the brand NEW 20 acre Carolina Harbor Water Park is opening on property giving you two parks for one price. 31 waterslides people. Can you feel the naptimes coming on?

Since we’re technically still in the pre-season until the end of May, everyone gets in for the kids price of $42.99 for a limited time. IF you have a military ID, then plan your trip for May 29 – 30; July 2-4 as you get FREE admission and this will save you a boatload of cash. If you’re not military, but a member of SECU, you can get discounted tickets which is also recommended as this is no cheap venture.

Tip!  Without a doubt, purchase your tickets online and print them at home because paying at the gate or in any restaurant is much higher if you wait. Here’s how are trip summed out for 2 adults and 2 kids (both 5 years old).

Everyone pays kids price/$42.99 x 4 = $171.96 + Single Day Parking $15 + Dinosaur Alive! Admission x 4 $20 + All Day Dining Plan (for one) $29.99 = $236.95 tax $13.99 + $9.99 processing fee + Refillable drink bottle (which we added later on when we realized we needed it) $12 + Carnival Games (ring toss & ball) $20 + 2 beers for mom & dad at $7.99/each = Grand Total of $310.47 for the day!

Keep in mind that this price does not include round trip gas, meals/drinks for more than one person, locker rentals, souvenirs, pictures, fast lane passes etc.

Your bags are searched upon entry so unless you are extra crafty at hiding water bottles and dare to risk being chided by the apathetic honey badger-esq millennials that Carowinds hires, go for it. Otherwise, plan on all drinks being $4.59+ and food at $11.99+ for unhealthy and tasteless options park wide. Bring plenty of money if you plan to shop or participate in the a la carte activities they have strategically spaced around the park which ensures maximum begging from your children!

Tip!  Pack a cooler and plan on hiking it out to the car for a picnic.


Tip!  Free small water cups are available at every dining outlet and water fountains are at restroom stops.

Tip!  Buy one dining pass which lets you get an entrée and a side every 90 minutes which can help fill in the starvation gaps that can happen between trips to the car.

We started with Dinosaurs Alive which is a $5.00 entry fee for each person. While it’s much better than the one at the NC Zoo, we would skip this attraction unless your child is REALLY into dinos, facts and digging. The animatronics are good in that they liven up the displays, but they did not impress the 5 year olds. They said it was for ‘babies.’ They were so excited to get to the rides that they blew through this side adventure.

If you have young children, or kids under 48” tall, then plan on spending most of your time at Planet Snoopy. The map is really good at giving you the height requirement for each ride, as well as information about how “scary” each ride is. We did low to moderate thrill rides and that was plenty enough for these two kiddos! They enjoyed photo ops with all of the characters too who roam this area.

The ride wait times can be terribly long, with teenage ride operators who move like molasses, coupled with overly excited, squirmy kids who are vying for first in line. So, go ahead a splurge on a beer for $8.00- sip slowly, as you’ll be standing in line for 30-45 minutes. If you need to beat the heat, take a break and ride up the air conditioned space needle (Tip: Do not do this is if Mommy does not like heights, nor was this fun after that necessary beer) or let them do the bumper cars (which is all in the shade).

One of their favorite attractions that was fun for the whole family was the new 3D Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare game which was in a dark, air conditioned building. This was still being beta tested, but will be fully functional in June. It was basically a ride on interactive shooting video game and they had a blast.

Tip! It’s totally black lit so that stain on your pants or that white underwear you’re wearing…totally visable.

This is a trip where you’ll want to plan, plan, plan to maximize your day and your dollars especially if you’re going to try and do the water park and the coasters in one day. They now have a wilderness camp, and a pet resort if you want to try and make it a two day adventure. God bless you though. Next time mommy and daddy are taking the $300+ dollars and going on an adventure of their own. However, that hasn’t stopped these two from plotting their next trip!"