With 13 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.
1. The Fury 325 is the tallest, fastest giga coaster in the world. 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.
2. The Intimidator 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 Intimidator 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.
3. The 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.
4. The Carolina Cobra doesn't make a circuit like the other coasters in the park. It doesn't leave the station, go in a big circle and arrive back where it started. Instead, the train is hoisted up backwards to the top of a ramp, then races down the incline. At the bottom, it twists, loops and twists again, and then runs up another incline. Then it repeats the whole thing BACKWARDS.
5. 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.
6. Ricochet is a "Wild Mouse"-style coaster, and its big attractions are the dozen super tight spinning turns, not a big drop or speed.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
11. Lucy's Crabbie Cabbie is the perfect first roller coaster for a child, with tiny little cars and soft, rolling hills that are just enough thrill for a little one.
12. The Flying Ace Aerial Chase is a children's roller coaster in Planet Snoopy. Like the Afterburn, the rails are above, and the kids' feet dangle as they race around. My kids loved it.
13. Woodstock Express is a sweet little wooden children's roller coaster in Planet Snoopy.