Are you thinking about a trip to Carowinds? There is so much family fun waiting for you at this amusement park near Charlotte, NC, but there’s also a lot to know. We’re telling you here how to save money on tickets and food, plus our tips on rides, visiting with small children, special events, and even what to pack. If you are wondering how much is parking at Carowinds, we know that too! Enjoy a day trip to Carowinds with the family any time of year at the Carolina’s best theme park.
Take a Look! Inside our visit to Carowinds
Get a sneak peek into the park in this video from Kidding Around®.
How to Save Money on Carowinds Tickets
Tickets to Carowinds start at $44.99 for a single day, but insiders know that there are a lot of great tips for saving money on Carowinds tickets, especially if you want to visit multiple times a season.
Season Passes are Cheaper if You Are Visiting More than Once
The easiest way to save money on Carowinds tickets if you are able to visit multiple times a year is to purchase a season pass. Carowinds offers three tiers of season passes starting at $120/year. You can also purchase a two-day pass online for less than two individual tickets.
As a season pass holder, your tickets not only pay for themselves by the second visit, but you will also get free parking, early entry, free pre-K passes (see below), bring-a-friend offers, and discounts on additional tickets. Higher tiers also include perks such as free tickets, tickets to SCarowinds and WinterFest, and even tickets to other Cedar Fair Parks.
Preschool Kids 3-5 Can Visit Carowinds for Free with a Season Pass
Any Gold or Prestige pass holder is eligible to apply for 2 free Pre-K passes for ages 3-5 (2 and under are already free). You must register your child online to take advantage of these free tickets by August 1, 2024. They are not available at the gate.
Discounted Carowinds Tickets
Active, inactive, and retired members of the military can purchase discounted tickets with a valid military ID.
Be sure to buy your tickets online before your trip as they are significantly more expensive at the gate.
Groups of 15 or more can receive a discount.
How to Save Money on Food at Carowinds
Food inside the park is expensive (around $15+/plate), but you can purchase daily and seasonal food and drink passes if you plan on eating in the park.
One example of this pass is the Premium All Day Dining pass available online for just $42.99. This pass includes a wristband that will allow you to refill your drink as often as every 15 minutes.
Outside food and drink is not allowed inside the park, but you can bring a water bottle, and the refill stations and concession stands do offer free iced water.
You can also enter and re-enter the park for free on the same day. My family typically packs a cooler with sandwiches and drinks and just takes a break from the park to eat lunch and dinner.
How Does the Fast Lane Pass Work?
For an additional $60, you can also purchase a fast lane pass that allows you to skip the line in some of the more popular rides. Before purchasing, consider whether you are visiting the park during a peak time of year. If you visit on mid-week day or late in the season, the crowd may be small enough that some of the fast lanes aren’t even being utilized because the lines aren’t very long.
Don’t Miss the Special Events at Carowinds
SCarowinds is one of the Carolina’s biggest Halloween events, happening on select nights beginning each year in mid-September. Scarwowinds events in 2023 are happening September 15th, 2023 through October 29th, 2023. The evening event contains haunted mazes, scare zones, live entertainment, and more. It is a scary event, not for small children!
The Great Pumpkin Fest
Carowinds’ fall and Halloween event for families, the Great Pumpkin Fest is happening Saturdays and Sundays September 16th, 2023 through October 29th, 2023. In addition to all the regular Carowinds fun, find great fall and festive Halloween activities with just a tiny bit of spooky. Enjoy a haybale maze, craft corner, soapy mummy pit, trick-or-treat trail, festive games, live entertainment, and lots more!
WinterFest is Carowinds’ festive holiday event happening on select nights this year running from November 20, 2023, through January 1st, 2024. The event includes holiday activities for kids, a festive holiday atmosphere with live entertainment and carolers, a giant Christmas tree, holiday-themed games, and lots more.
The Best 5 Roller Coasters at Carowinds
Carowinds has 57 different rides including a number of high-thrill roller coasters, swings, and other moderate thrill family rides, waterslides, and rides for small children.
In my opinion, the park does lean toward catering to teens and adults that enjoy roller coasters and more intense rides.
Get ready for a thrill ride. One of my personal favorite roller coasters is the Fury 325. This steel giga roller coaster starts with a massive 325-foot hill followed by a steep drop. The coaster hits an incredible 95 mph and while it’s incredibly fast it’s also very smooth. It also has the distinction of being 1.25 miles long and the longest steel coaster in North America. You must be 54” tall to ride the Fury 325.
You are required to secure all items in a locker or in your pockets before riding the Fury 325. Lockers were $4 for 2 hours on our visit to the park. You will want to secure your possessions well as this ride is so fast that my hair band flew out of my hair.
Copperhead Strike’s claim to fame is the two launch starts where the coaster is quickly boosted into a higher speed versus using a hill to gain speed. The first launch out of the gate is from 0 to 42 mph and the second launch takes the ride from 35 to 50 mph. This coaster also has a number of very fast inversions (after all it is modeled after a snake). You must be 52” to ride the Copperhead Strike and you may not bring any unsecured possessions into the ride area. Lockers are provided for a fee.
This ride used to be called Top Gun and mimics the thrill of being in a fighter jet with several inversions. It’s unique in that the coaster hangs from the track so that your feet are dangling free in the air. It is one of the smoother roller coasters and hits speeds over 60 mph. You must be 54” to ride Afterburn.
Intimidators is one of the largest roller coasters not just at Carowinds but in the United States. Its speeds reach 80 mph and it has seven massive drops. You must be 54” to ride Intimidator.
The harnesses for NightHawk place you in a position where you are laying on your back as you rise up the first large hill. When the roller coaster inverts immediately as it crests the hill, you are then placed in a “flying position” where you are face down soaring to the ground. While this position is terrifying it also is a unique experience that feels very close to flying. You must be between 54-81” to ride NightHawk.
Honorable Mention: Carolina Cyclone
I remember riding the Carolina Cyclone as a teenager and I still enjoy riding it to this day. Even though it’s one of the older roller coasters in the park, it’s a smooth ride with barrel rolls and a 95-foot hill. This roller coaster also allows anyone over 48” so it’s accessible to children that are old enough for coasters but not tall enough for the Fury 325 and Copperhead Strike.
Not a Roller Coaster: Windseeker
The Windseeker swings look scary but they are really not that terrifying. They do rise very high above the park, but the experience is very peaceful and serene soaring above the park. This is one of my family’s favorite rides when we need a break because it’s cool and restful.
5 Tips for Taking Small Children to Carowinds
The Camp Snoopy area is full of festival-themed rides for smaller children including some smaller roller coasters. Kids can also play in a large playground area.
Play Areas in the Waterpark for Young Kids
Younger children will also enjoy the waterpark which has several splash pads and playground areas in addition to its pools.
Best Early Roller Coasters for Children Getting Ready for Bigger Coasters
Kiddy Hawk is a great introductory roller coaster for children that are getting ready for bigger rides. It’s a similar set-up to Afterburn where the coaster attaches to the track with your feet hanging downward. Children only have to be 44” to ride Kiddy Hawk.
Woodstock Express is another great coaster that is a little faster and more thrilling than the smaller coasters but is still designed to accommodate younger children. Children only have to be 40” to ride Woodstock Express if they are with an adult.
Don’t Miss the Parent Swap Program
Carowinds does allow parents to wait in line with a small child and then take turns riding a roller coaster. Stop by the guest services area in Camp Snoopy to learn more on your arrival.
Get Your Wristband
If you have a child that is not tall enough to clearly ride everything in the park, you can ask for a wristband upon entering the park. This helps give your child a clear color that indicates which rides are available to ride and also reduces confusion as you enter the ride gates.
Baby Care Station
In the Camp Snoopy area of the park, parents will find a baby care station that includes rocking chairs, a diaper changing station, and even a microwave. The station is available for mothers and fathers to feed and change their infants and toddlers.
Carowinds Has a 5-acre Waterpark
Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit, flip-flops, and beach towels. You could probably spend an entire day in Carolina Harbor. Even though the waterpark is a part of the larger park, it is 5 acres and large enough to be its own attraction.
You do not need additional tickets to enter the waterpark, but you may want to consider locker rentals to store your valuables.
Bathhouses are available to change before entering the waterpark and to clean up after swimming.
The water park typically opens after the park opens and closes early. Be sure to plan time for the waits on slides if you want to do more than just swim in the pools.
Carolina Harbor includes multiple water slides, a lazy river, multiple playgrounds/splash pads, and two wave pools. Lifeguards are active at these attractions.
In the wave pool, children will be required to wear life jackets (provided) in the wave pools if they are under 52”. If they are under 42”, they will also be required to be with an adult (only two small children per adult).
What Should You Bring to Carowinds?
This is my personal packing list for Carowinds. Note: We leave most of this in the car and only take what we need on our person:
- Lunch and snacks for breaks from the park (we typically leave the park to eat in the car)
- Wear clothing that is comfortable, cool, has pockets, and will dry quickly if there is rain. I personally loved wearing these lightweight hiking pants with zippable pockets for roller coasters.
- Bring a change of clothes because you never know when you might get soaked due to rain or someone might get motion sick and need a fresh shirt.
- Flip flops, swimsuits, and beach towels if you plan on going in the waterpark.
- Consider lightweight, packable ponchos in case of rain.
- Small first aid kit with bandaids and alcohol pads. There are first aid stations but it’s nice to be able to deal with small scrapes quickly yourself.
- Bug Spray
- Headache medicine and motion sickness medicine
- Water bottles
- Plastic bags to protect phones etc if it were to storm.
- We always pack a backpack with the basics even though that means that we will need a locker to ride the Fury 325 or Copperhead Strike together.
- Carowinds is a cashless park, so you will need a credit card, Apple Pay, or Google Pay inside the park. Kiosks are available to turn cash into debit cards for the park as well.
How Much is Parking at Carowinds?
Carowinds has a couple of parking options for its expansive parking lots. You will need to plan on paying a fee of $30 for single-day parking. You can purchase your pass ahead online. Cash, Apple Pay, and Google Pay are not accepted at the toll booth. A VIP pass that is closer to the entrance is available for a higher fee of $40.
More Park Information
14523 Carowinds Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28273
- Hours change based on the season. Use the Carowinds calendar to check hours.
- Searching for more information, check the Carowinds FAQ page.
Plan an EPIC day with our Ultimate Guide to Day Trips Near Upstate, SC!