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Going to Carowinds? Here’s Your Guide to the Park’s Excellent Roller Coasters

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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With 14 roller coasters at Carowinds, including two of the 10 tallest coasters in the world, there's a coaster for every age and every level of daring.

Here's your (completely opinionated) guide to the parks' fantastic collection of roller coasters.


Fury 325

Fury 325 at Carowinds is the tallest and fastest giga coaster in the world.

1. Fury 325 is the longest, fastest giga coaster in North America. Reaching a height of 325 feet, and a ride lasting 3 minutes and 25 seconds, the Fury 325 is a ride for the bravest of souls. It's one you'll never forget. It's a sit-down steel roller coaster with one gigantic drop, several big drops, and multiple super-tight turns that whip you all around, crossing back and forth over the South Carolina and North Carolina state line. You lift up and out of your seat for several seconds (known as "airtime") at least half a dozen times. The incredible adrenaline rush left me weak-kneed and exhilarated.


Thunder Striker

Thunder Striker is a towering steel coaster designed by Bolliger & Mabillard (for those coaster fanatics out there).

2. Thunder Striker is the second tallest roller coaster in the park at 230 feet in height (and if you think it's small in comparison to the Fury, remember that it's still taller than a 20-story building and is visible from miles away.) It's a sit-down steel coaster with a wonderfully smooth, gliding ride. While the Fury seems to focus more on tight, twisting turns, the Thunder Striker is all about the hills. What really makes it scary to me are the seats. The individual seats are separated and staggered across the trains' platforms, instead of all together in rows, so it sort of feels like you're hurtling through the air at 75 miles an hour in a kitchen chair. No cuddling up to your boyfriend or holding your mom's hand if you're scared. You're on your own. My sister screamed on the entire way UP the first hill.



Afterburn is an inverted coaster -- the rails hang above you.

3. Afterburn is my favorite roller coaster in the park. It's a steel roller coaster in which the seats hang from the rails above you, leaving your feet to dangle in the air. It feels completely different than a sit-down roller coaster because there's no pressure pushing up your legs as you ride. Because the rails are above you, there's an illusion of flying through the air, and you can't really be sure what's going to happen next. There are lots of corkscrews and twists, and you really can imagine you're in a fighter jet.



Nighthawk is a "flying" roller coaster.

4. Nighthawk lets you fly over the park while lying down. On this smooth steel roller coaster, you swoop down like a bird or superhero over the people below. You loop, and twist and roll, sometimes facing up towards the sun, sometimes over the crowds. Let your imagination go, and you really can believe you're a hawk floating and playing on the air.



Ricochet is a “wild mouse” coaster.

5. Ricochet is a "Wild Mouse"-style coaster, and its big attractions are the dozen super tight spinning turns, not a big drop or speed.



Vortex is a stand-up coaster.

6. Vortex is a stand-up roller coaster. That's right; you stand through the ride, strapped in by your shoulders. The top of the first hill is always scary, but even more so when you're standing at the top of it. Snag a seat on the front row for an even more thrilling dive.



Hurler is a wooden coaster.

7. Hurler is a big wooden roller coaster that rumbles and shakes and jostles. And like all good wooden roller coasters, it always sounds and feels like it might just disintegrate at any moment while you're riding. I think wooden roller coasters are a lot like pickles -- you either love them or hate them. I love them.


Carolina Cyclone

When the Carolina Cyclone originally debuted at Carowinds in 1980, it was the first roller coaster in the world with four inversions.

8. Carolina Cyclone is an older steel roller coaster with multiple loops and corkscrews. You'll spend a lot of time going upside down on this one.10. Carolina Goldrusher is a sit-down roller coaster that's a great intermediary ride for kids, somewhere between the children's roller coasters in Planet Snoopy and the scary adult coasters.


Carolina Goldrush

The oldest coaster at Carowinds, Carolina Goldfish features a 43-foot drop.

9. The oldest roller coaster at Carowinds, Carolina Goldrush is a spunky wood and steel coaster that will make you feel like you're on a runaway mine train racing through the Carolina foothills at speeds of 30 mph. This timeless classic features lots of hill-hugging turns and a 43-foot drop that will have you screeming with delight.


Copperhead Strike

Copperhead Strike is the first double-launch roller coaster in the Carolinas.

10. As the first double-launch roller coaster in the Carolinas, Copperhead Strike takes off at an incredible 0 to 42 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds. Then midway through the second thrust of acceleration, it launches you into a series of fast, tight, close-to-the-ground maneuvers with five head-over-heels inversions -- the most of any double launch coaster in North America.


Kiddy Hawk

Kiddy Hawk is an inverted coaster that reaches speeds up to 26 mph.

11. For kids looking for more thrills than the rides found at Camp Snoopy, Kiddy Hawk is just the ticket. With this inverted coaster the seats are suspended below the track, leaving your legs dangling freely during the ride. After the initial 49-foot climb, it begins a slow, looping descent. Top speed on this high-flying adventure is 26 mph.


The Flying Cobras

After making it around The Flying Cobra's 360-foot loop, you'll do it again, only backwards.

12. Reminiscent of an old-timey air show, The Flying Cobra sends riders through a 360-degree loop as well as a cobra roll at speeds up to 50 mph. But that's just half the fun. After the first spin around, you'll fly through the entire ride again -- backwards. Riders are turned upside down a total of six times on this 125-foot tall, high-speed looping coaster.


Wilderness Run

Wilderness Run is a great intro to roller coasters.

13. A fantastic introduction to the roller coaster world, Wilderness Run features kid-friendly hills that will have your little thrill-seekers racing around at 6 mph, with some downward banks and sharp turns thrown in for extra fun.


Woodstock Express

Woodstock Express can be found in Camp Snoopy.

14. Woodstock Express is a sweet little wooden children's roller coaster in Planet Snoopy.


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.