Carowinds Roller Coasters

  • 01 of 05

    Afterburn Roller Coaster at Carowinds Mini Review

    ••• The Afterburn coaster at Carowinds includes lots of inversions. © Arthur Levine, 2010. Licensed to

    Straddling the North and South Carolina borders, Carowinds in Charlotte has an impressive collection of roller coasters. While the following collection of mini reviews doesn't include all of the Carowinds roller coasters, it does provide a rundown of most of the major ones. Note that the reviews are based on my visit to the park in 2010 (when the flying coaster, Nighthawk, was not operating). Your mileage may vary. Theme Parks Rating for Afterburn (0=Blech!, 5=Wahoo!): 4

    Carowinds Afterburn Up-Front Info

    • Type of coaster: Steel inverted
    • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 7
      Powerful positive G-forces, lots of inversions
    • Height: 144 feet
    • Top speed: 62 mph
    • Number of inversions: 6
    • Track length: 2956 feet
    • Height requirement: 54 inches
    • Ride time: 2:47 minutes

    A thrilling ride with a great layout, Afterburn is among the best inverted coasters I've had the pleasure to hoot and holler my way through. Like many inverted coasters, Carowinds' thrill machine includes lots of inversions and...MORE huge bursts of positive G-forces. Unlike too many inverted coasters, which turn riders's noggins into human pinballs, Afterburn mercifully does NOT deliver much over-the-shoulder-restraint headbanging.

    Once known as Top Gun, when Carowinds was a Paramount park and featured movie themeing, the coaster has retained its fighter-pilot inspiration. Afterburn's barrage of dives, tumbles, twists, and other elements play like a series of acrobatic aerial maneuvers. With wild views of trainloads of passengers' dangling feet flipping, er, head over heels, the coaster is as much fun to watch as it is to ride.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Vortex Roller Coaster at Carowinds Mini Review

    ••• Riders stand up to endure the elements on the Vortex coaster at Carowinds. © Arthur Levine, 2010. Licensed to Theme Parks Rating for Vortex (0=Blech!, 5=Wahoo!): 3

    Carowinds Vortex Up-Front Info

    • Type of coaster: Steel standup
    • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 6.5
      Inversions and standing position make for a thrilling ride
    • Height: 90 feet
    • Top speed: 50 mph
    • Number of inversions: 2
    • Track length: 2040 feet
    • Height requirement: 54 inches
    • Ride time: 2:19 minutes

    If you've never been on a standup coaster, it can be an odd experience. Passengers straddle movable bicycle-style seats that adjust and lock into place to accommodate their height. Over-the-shoulder restraints tether riders to the seats and the train. It's kind of weird climbing a lift hill and staring down a first drop while standing. It's weirder still to navigate a loop and a corkscrew in the upright position.

    There is a bit of headbanging on Vortex and a fair amount of positive Gs. There isn't a lot of negative-G airtime, however, which would cause passengers to rise up in the air and then crash down on the coaster's bicycle-style...MORE seats. Especially for male riders, that may be a good thing--if you know what I mean.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Hurler Roller Coaster at Carowinds Mini Review

    ••• The wooden Hurler roller coaster at Carowinds. © Arthur Levine, 2010. Licensed to Theme Parks Rating for Hurler (0=Blech!, 5=Wahoo!): 2.5

    Carowinds Hurler Up-Front Info

    • Type of coaster: Wood
    • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 6
      Typical wood coaster thrills
    • Height: 83 feet
    • Top speed: 50 mph
    • Track length: 3157 feet
    • Height requirement: 48 inches
    • Ride time: 2:00 minutes

    Great wood coasters provide rough and tumble rides (but not too rough) combined with soaring bouts of airtime. Hurler is not a great wood coaster (at least when I rode it in 2010). The nondescript ride goes through its circuit without offering more than a hiccup of airtime. And the ride is a tad too rough (in a bad-rough kind of wood coaster way). It's a good thing that Hurler includes seat dividers, or seat-mates would be constantly hurling into one another.

    Ride warriors don't mind enduring a bit of an assault on their internal organs when coasters deliver the goods. Hurler, however, delivers little more than a boring race to the finish.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Woodstock Express Roller Coaster at Carowinds Mini Review

    ••• The lift and hill and first drop on the Woodstock Express roller coaster at Carowinds is relatively small. © Arthur Levine, 2010. Licensed to Theme Parks Rating for Woodstock Express (0=Blech!, 5=Wahoo!): 3

    Carowinds Woodstock Express Up-Front Info

    • Type of coaster: Family wooden
    • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 3.5
      Mild drops, some lateral G-forces
    • Track length: 1356 feet
    • Height requirement: 46 inches (40 to 45 inches with responsible co-rider)
    • Ride time: 1:30 minutes

    If coaster riding is something of an addiction among hardcore fans, Woodstock Express is a gateway drug. The scaled-down woodie is designed as an accessible coaster for those who don't make the height cutoff on big-boy rides but are too old for teeny-weeny kiddie rides. It's thrilling, but not that thrilling. Unfortunately, the mid-1970s ride can get a wee bit rough. Kids closer to the 40-inch end of the height spectrum may find the sometimes-jarring lateral (side-to-side) G-forces a little much. But the icky purple color of the track should calm them down.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Intimidator Roller Coaster at Carowinds Mini Review

    ••• Carowinds' Intimidator coaster features a series of hills that deliver some serious airtime. © Arthur Levine, 2010. Licensed to Theme Parks Rating for Intimidator (0=Blech!, 5=Wahoo!): 4.5

    Carowinds Intimidator Up-Front Info

    • Type of coaster: Steel hypercoaster
    • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 8.5
      No inversions, but wild speed, height, and G-forces--particularly negative-G "airtime"
    • Height: 232 feet
    • First drop: 211 feet
    • First drop angle: 74 degrees
    • Other drops: 178 feet, 151 feet, 105 feet, 90 feet
    • Top speed: 75 mph
    • Track length: 5316 feet
    • Height requirement: 54 inches
    • Ride time: 3:33 minutes
    • Intimidator Photo Gallery

    The company that designed and manufactured Intimidator, the Carowinds ride that sits near the front of the park, can seem to do no wrong when it rolls out its signature hypercoasters. Like similar thrill machines that Swiss coaster mavens Bolliger & Mabillard have built for other parks, Intimidator is another super-smooth ride with delirious moments of floating airtime

    Read my full review of Intimidator at Carowinds