Why We Get Season Passes to Carowinds

We live less than an hour away from one of the best amusement parks in the Southeast and have been season passholders for the last several years. Carowinds, originally opened in 1973, is now part of the Cedar Fair family and combines great thrill rides with family fun and a water park!  Even with five kids ranging in age from 4-15, we’ve found that Carowinds has something for everyone and a season pass is the best way to experience that fun all year long.

Most Fun in the Carolinas

Carowinds is the only amusement park in the country that is actually in two states: the park sits on the North Carolina – South Carolina state line!  As you walk through the park, you criss-cross back and forth over the state line and some of the rides take you over the line, too, so it truly is the most fun in the Carolinas!

Fury 325 opened in 2015 and it is the world’s tallest giga coaster (a roller coaster between 300-400 feet!) and it holds the record for the fastest non-launched roller coaster in the world. It’s the tallest and fastest ride in the park and definitely a favorite for our family!  As you’re going down the 320-foot drop at 95mph, you can see the Charlotte skyline in the distance (on the right side of the horizon in this pic).

In addition to the height and speed of Fury 325, Carowinds offers more thrills with Nighthawk, one of 13 coasters in the park.  Nighthawk is a flying coaster with five inversions and offers incredible views of the park.

Interestingly, the ride originated as Stealth at California’s Great America and was relocated to Carowinds in 2003– I cannot imagine how much it cost to disassemble, move, and reassemble all that track on the other side of the country!!

While it doesn’t have any inversions and isn’t the tallest or fastest coaster, the Intimidator is our family’s favorite thrill ride in the park because of all the negative-G “airtime”.  The out-and-back track provides a smooth but totally thrilling 75mph ride and is a standout at the park.

In addition to thrill rides, Carowinds has a variety of rides that are more family-friendly like the classic bumper cars.

Something New and Exciting Every Year

One of our favorite things about Carowinds is that every August, they announce something new and exciting for the upcoming season.  The start of the 2015 season brought Fury 325, 2016 introduced Carolina Harbor (the newly redesigned water park), the County Fair area opened in 2017, and 2018 showcased the retheming of Planet Snoopy into Camp Snoopy– along with a huge expansion!

We were at Carowinds on opening weekend for 2018 and the cold weather kept most people home so we got a chance to enjoy Camp Snoopy with minimal crowds!

Even though Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies is a fairly basic jump around ride, it was the clear favorite in our house and ALL five kids love going on it!

Beagle Scout Acres, 8000 square feet of fun, was added as part of the Camp Snoopy expansion.

Our kids LOVE this area and it’s a great place for them to run around and play– a nice break from waiting in lines.  And bonus, there’s covered seating for parents!!

I love that Carowinds has a couple of kids’ coasters so that even Ellie can get in on the thrill-ride fun when we’re there!

We’re really looking forward to 2019 at Carowinds!  An all-new immersive area, Blue Ridge Junction, celebrating the western part of NC, was just announced. The highlight of Blue Ridge Junction will most certainly be the new Copperhead Strike, the first double-launch coaster in the Carolinas!

The Food

We ALWAYS add the dining plan to our season passes and have found it to be a great deal for our family, especially since it includes Panda Express (one of our kids’ fave places anywhere)!

For about $90 per pass, you can eat twice a day (4 hours apart) at the parks, all season long, at a variety of locations.  Panda Express and Harmony Hall are our go-to picks to please the whole family.

While it’s not included in the dining plan, the GIGANOURMOUS funnel cake from World’s Greatest Funnel Cakes (the one by the South Gate) is a great deal for a big family.  For only $20, you get a funnel cake the size of a large pizza, topped with ice cream, chocolate syrup, strawberries and whipped cream- we make sure to split at least one every year!

Carolina Harbor

Though there has been a waterpark attached to Carowinds since 1982, the completely redesigned and expanded Carolina Harbor opened in 2016 and has been a staple of summer fun in the Carolinas ever since.  Admission to Carolina Harbor is included with a Carowinds ticket or season pass, and season passholders get the added benefit of early entry (30minutes!) to Carolina Harbor to snag chairs as well as discounts on cabana rentals.

Just like Carowinds, Carolina Harbor has great dining options– our kids LOVE the chicken tenders from Harbor House!

With two massive wave pools, thrilling slides, and a huge kids area, Carolina Harbor has something for everyone!  The lazy river even goes back and forth across the state line!

Great Pumpkin Fest

The Great Pumpkin Fest (weekends from September 15-October 28) is one of our favorite times to be at Carowinds.  From 11am-5pm, it’s a family-friendly Halloween fest and it’s fun for all ages!

In addition to the rides at Camp Snoopy, the Great Pumpkin Fest has fun Halloween themed activities like hay bale mazes and a foam zone, for kids of all ages, and it’s all included in the price of admission.  For more details about our experiences at the Great Pumpkin Fest, head here.


On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from September 14-October 28, Carowinds is transformed into Scarowinds and is full of frightening fun.

There are monsters around every turn, as well as scare zones and haunted mazes to turn your night into a horrifyingly exciting experience. Unlike the Great Pumpkin Fest, Scarowinds is most definitely a PG-13 experience so exercise caution when taking the kids.  Scarowinds does require its own ticket unless you’re a Gold/Platinum season passholder.


New in 2017, WinterFest is the premier holiday celebration in the Carolinas, and the fun kicks off with the nightly tree lighting.  Like Scarowinds, you do need to buy a separate ticket for WinterFest if you’re not a Gold/Platinum passholder.

Over 5 million lights twinkle through the park, transforming it into a magical holiday wonderland perfect for getting you into the Christmas spirit.

Although all of the rides aren’t open during Winterfest, there’s still plenty to do with holiday activities, live shows, and carolers.  Our kids loved decorating the giant Christmas cookies at Mrs. Claus’s Kitchen– and at $14 for 4 giant cookies and unlimited frosting/toppings, it’s really not a bad price!

Year after year, we’ve found that Carowinds season passes are a great fit for our family.  We get to have fun (and food!) throughout the year and attend all of the special events, for one low price!

Things to Remember About Carowinds Season Passes

  • A Carowinds Gold season pass gets you into the park every day that its open, and includes free parking, as well as unlimited visits to Scarowinds and WinterFest.
  • If you buy your Gold Season Pass now, you get unlimited free visits and parking for the rest of 2018 in addition to ALL of 2019!  Check out the details here.
  • We buy our season passes in the fall and set them up on the interest-free payment plan to spread out the cost a bit– especially since we have six to buy!
  • For a limited-time, Carowinds is offering a free Pre-K Season Pass for kids between 3-5.  You need to register online and activate at the park (and bring a birth certificate or passport to verify the age) but it’s a great deal for those with preschoolers.  Kids under 3 are always free!


Do you have or would you consider getting Carowinds Season Passes??  If not, what would make a Season Pass more appealing to you??













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