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Kids and Carowinds: 8 Insider Tips for Parents

Kerry Egan Kerry Egan
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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Man, girl, boy and woman in swimsuits holding hands at Carowinds waterpark.
Cool off with the kids at Carowinds' Carolina Harbor Waterpark.

Carowinds calls itself the Thrill Capital of the Southeast, and it has the massive roller coasters to back up that claim. But kid-sized attractions and amusements, along with the promise of wet fun at Carolina Harbor Waterpark, make it great fun for even the littlest thrill-seekers. Avoid any glitches by checking out these tips for your family's next trip to Carowinds.  


Father and daughter on Woodstock Express coaster at Carowinds
Spend more time riding and less time on logistics when you download the Carowinds digital app.

Think Digitally

Prior to your Carowinds visit, download the park's mobile app for maps, live ride wait times, dining options and nifty tools like a digital wallet, mobile food ordering and a car finder to help you navigate the massive parking area. When it comes to kids, parents and amusement parks, taking steps to save minutes so you can spend more time having fun is well worth the effort. 

Pack It Up

With so much to carry sunscreen, park maps, cell phone, ID and credit cards, water bottles, change of kiddie clothes, and perhaps diapers and wipes a comfortable bag is essential. Cross-body bags offer easy access, but backpacks can hold a lot, too, and evenly distribute weight while keeping your hands free. If the waterpark (included with admission) is part of your plans (and it should be!) rent a locker to store your bathing suits and towels while you enjoy the other amusements.

Happy Feet 

You could easily be walking a few miles over the course of a day at Carowinds, so don't wear new shoes. Don't let your kids wear new shoes, either. Choose footwear that is comfortable and well-padded and that you don't mind getting wet. (Never underestimate the power of a tiny blister to spoil a big day.) Also make sure each child has a pair of water shoes for the waterpark. While they can't be worn on attractions, they'll protect little feet from the sometimes-scorching pavement.

Transportation Matters

It really does, especially if you're hitting a 407-acre amusement park with kids in tow. But we aren't talking about your mode of travel to Fort Mill. Rather, plan how you will expediently and safely move your tots from point to point at your destination. Children younger than 4 will most definitely need a stroller, which can serve double-duty as a bag stash, too. Though you can pay for a rental just inside the gate, bringing your own stroller is recommended and makes for safer parking lot crossings. Wagons are permissible, too, as are wheelchairs, motorized or manual, should you or your child require one. 


Woman, girl, man and boy eating at picnic table at Carowinds
Refresh and refuel at one of Carowinds' many kid-centric concessions.

Snacks and Meals

Ditch the animal crackers and juice boxes. No outside food or beverages are permitted inside Carowinds. Allowances are made for baby food and formula, of course, as well as guests with special dietary needs. With about 25 restaurants and snack stands scattered throughout the park, you are sure to find provisions to please palates, big and small. (Note: Camp Cookout in Camp Snoopy really caters to the kiddie crowd.) For savings, check out the park's various meal and drink plans online. Because guests may, with a hand stamp, leave the park and return, thrifty parents may opt to keep a stocked cooler in the car so they can lunch in the shaded picnic area outside the gates. To stay hydrated, cups of ice water are yours for the asking at all Carowinds concession stands. It's a great way to keep your water bottle (which must be empty upon entering) full and cold.     

For Safety's Sake 

Avoid wasting time in line by stopping at the height measurement station just inside the park to get a wristband for your child. Knowing beforehand which rides your child can enjoy is an effective weapon against tantrums and tears. And because there's at least one wanderer in every family, speed up that parent-child reunion (and save yourself some worry) with a KidTrack wristband available from Guest Services at the North Gate. Another smart strategy for parents shepherding groups of kids is to make sure each adult has a cell phone. If your family or group decides to split up, it will make finding each other so much easier.

Crowd Control  

Beat the crowds by arriving at Carowinds just prior to opening or try visiting Monday through Thursday when attendance is lower. Make the amusements at Camp Snoopy your first fun stop to take advantage of the shorter morning lines. This kid-friendly fun hub is where you'll also find the Family Care Center, which houses a comfy, air-conditioned space for nursing mothers, diaper changing stations, and other family care needs. Potty breaks are a breeze here, too, with a large restroom facility outfitted with four roomy family bathrooms. Yes, Camp Snoopy is a parent's best friend.


Nighthawk is one of 14 roller coasters in Carowinds.

Fun for All

While going to Carowinds is the stuff of happy childhood dreams, parent dreams can be part of the plan, too. Love daring coasters and other thrill rides? Acquaint yourself with the Parent Swap program. This allows parents of young children to enjoy the more adventurous rides without having to wait in line twice. While one parent rides, the other waits with the non-riding child; then they swap spots. To enroll, visit Guest Services or the Family Care Center in Camp Snoopy. Now, go have fun like a kid again. 

Kerry Egan
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.