Ranked: The Top 11 Roller Coasters at Carowinds

Welcome back to another “Ranked” article here on Laughing Place. This week I had the opportunity to visit a park I’ve never been to before, Carowinds. Located on the border of North and South Carolina, Carowinds is billed as the place where “the Carolinas come together.” The park features a select few incredible, world-class roller coasters. Unfortunately, they also have quite a few duds.

One notable ride I didn’t get to experience was Nighthawk, the park’s flying coaster, which was closed for refurbishment. Now without any further ado, let’s countdown the Top 11 roller coasters at Carowinds!

11. Hurler

Starting right at the bottom of the barrel is Hurler, perhaps the roughest wooden roller coaster I’ve ever had the misfortune to ride. Originally opening as a Wayne’s World-themed coaster when the park was owned by Paramount, the ride has definitely seen better days. The wooden track was not well maintained, so it shuffled and caused quite a lot of discomfort. Also, the trains were very cramped, which didn’t help with the comfort level. This is a ride that either needs to get a hybrid conversion or be scrapped completely.

10. Kiddy Hawk

Another rough ride was Kiddy Hawk, one of the park’s family coasters. This ride is a suspended coaster with no inversions, similar to Dragonflier at Dollywood. However, this ride uses an older, bulky over-the-shoulder restraint system which caused some absolutely awful head-banging. If you could avoid the head-banging, the ride does have a nice setting over a stream, but those trains really need an update.

9. Vortex

Vortex is a dying breed of coaster, a stand-up coaster. At least it was dying, until SeaWorld Orlando seemingly announced a new one for 2023 yesterday. As a ride, it was pretty fun and forceful. Unlike some of the larger stand-up models, Vortex is somewhat smaller in stature, leading to an overall more comfortable experience. Unfortunately, my personal experience was tainted by being stuck on the brake-run in the uncomfortable stand-up position and in the 90 degree Carolina heat for about 10 minutes.

8. Carolina Goldrusher

Carolina Goldrusher is a mine train coaster, the park’s oldest operating coaster. I enjoyed the thematic touches on the way to the station and the layout itself was pretty fun. However, these had to be the smallest trains I have ever been on. Mind you, I’m a tall guy, at 6ft 2. I had to really contort my body to fit, and the seat itself seemed to be about half the width of any normal coaster seat.

7. Woodstock Express

Woodstock Express is another classic coaster at the park, a small wooden coaster perfect for young thrill seekers. Throughout the years, this ride has been themed to Scooby Doo, The Fairly Odd Parents, and now the Peanuts gang, as part of Camp Snoopy. I find it funny how I enjoyed this small wooden coaster far more than the larger Hurler on the other side of the park. Despite being 20 years older than Hurler, Woodstock Express provided a smoother ride with more airtime, and a great color scheme too!

6. The Flying Cobras

The Flying Cobras is the park’s Vekoma Boomerang, a common roller coaster type in amusement parks all over the world. It sends you forwards through three inversions and then does it all again backwards. This type of ride is known for being rather rough and causing some head-banging. Fortunately, The Flying Cobras features new vest restraints that eliminate the head-banging. They do create another problem though, and that is tightness. If you can forgive that, then this is a marginally improved experience. I also appreciate the aviation theme to the ride, which continues through to the different colored cars on the coaster train.

5. Carolina Cyclone

A classic that was recently updated with a brand-new color scheme is the Carolina Cyclone, known as the first ever coaster to go upside down 4 times. The new teal color scheme really pops and gives new life to this classic. Mind you, it certainly is a bit rough, but that’s expected given its age (opening in 1980). However if you can look past that, this is a fun and intense little coaster.

4. Intimidator

From here on out, all of the fluff is out of the way. We’re on to the four coasters that are the reasons for you to visit Carowinds. At #4 is Intimidator, a Bolliger & Mabillard hypercoaster (over 200ft tall). This is a great ride, with some excellent floater airtime and a great first drop. The ride also has a unique seating arrangement, where two riders sit in the middle and then two sit slightly behind the other two seats to the edge.

3. Afterburn

Originally opening as Top Gun: The Jet Coaster, the renamed Afterburn still contains the fighter jet theming of the aforementioned movie. This is another coaster from B&M, their inverted model, and this may be one of my favorites. Similar to my favorite invert, Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, a lot of the drops and inversions are built into trenches, providing a really good, low to the ground thrill. On that note, a lot of the inversions are really whippy, especially if you’re in the back. So you really get pulled into them. The ride also travels over the pathways providing great views for those on and off the ride.

2. Copperhead Strike

Carowinds’ newest and best themed coaster is Copperhead Strike. This multi-launch coaster impresses straight away with excellent visuals and a well-themed queue. The ride itself also starts off impressively with a jo-jo roll, which is a slow inversion right out of the station that provides some excellent hangtime. From there, you go into a themed launch section, completely with projections and effects. You’re launched into a hangtime and airtime filled layout that is just pure fun. I had heard good things about this ride going into it, but I was blown away by just how good it actually is. I hope we get to see more rides like this pop up elsewhere.

1. Fury 325

The king of all coasters at Carowinds. The main reason people make the trek to this park. Fury 325. As the name suggests, this coaster stands at a whopping 325 ft tall, meaning you can see it from pretty far away when approaching the park. It really is an intimidating structure. Add to that the impressive speed of 95 mph, and this really is an intimidating ride. But as you can tell by its placement on my list, I loved it! The sense of speed, particularly from the front row, is just incredible. The drop is also incredible, and it feels like it goes on forever. My favorite part was probably the turn-around that whips you into a drop that goes through a tunnel. There’s just too much to like with this. Definitely a world-class coaster, one that all coaster enthusiasts should take the trek to Carowinds to come ride!

I hope you all enjoyed this ranking of my Top 11 roller coasters at Carowinds. If you want to see some more theme park rankings, feel free to check out some of my other “Ranked” articles listed below:

Luke Manning
Luke is a fan of all things theme parks and self-proclaimed #1 fan of Joffrey’s Coffee, who lives in Kissimmee, FL