tips for visiting carowindsI wish I could find the box that has my pictures in it from when I went to Carowinds as a kid.. I would compare the park of “then” to the park of now. Pretty sure it would look a LOT different. The other thing that’s different?? I liked coasters a lot more then than I do now.

Cassie’s choral group went down to Carowinds yesterday to participate in the Choral Series which Carowinds hosts every year. From a marketing stand point, it’s genius – get a bunch of kids from around the state to come down during the off-season and fill the park. It works and the kids love it! They get to perform, be graded and then spend the rest of the day with their friends and some very patient if not exhausted parent chaperones.

I tagged along this time (not as an official chaperone, I might add) so I could watch and because the Rooster was heading to San Diego and couldn’t run the risk of abusing his 46-year-old body and then sitting on a plane for 8 hours. It was a fun day and since it’s so early in the season, thought I’d offer my two cents up for those of you in the “I can drive to Carowinds” area (note.. I was NOT compensated for this post). However – I’m sure a lot of what I offer can be applied to parks everywhere.

Tickets and Season Passes

The biggest thing I can say is this -even at the lowest online, single ticket price of $40, if you’re going to go to the park more than twice this season, buy a season pass. We finally did it this year for Sydney, Steve and Cassie. The Rooster is a MUCH bigger fan of rides than I am and I figured that Mackenzie and I could go down on the days/weeks they have buddy pass promos (which is frequent enough for us to get our fix) and be happy. Parking is included in your season pass and they even have a special pass holder parking lot. That lot is pretty small and I hear it fills quickly.. you can use your pass at ANY of the lots so don’t feel like you have to only use that one. There is a TON of other stuff included in the season passes like Scarowinds admission, admission to the park early and Boomerang Bay (water park) admission. You also have an option to make it super premium and have admission to OTHER parks. We didn’t do that but if you’re planning on doing any road trips, check it out – it might be worth it.

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Food and drink are expensive at any of these parks. My advice – pack a cooler and leave it in the car. When you’re ready for lunch, take the extra 20 minutes to walk out, grab your brown bags and fill up your belly. If you’ve bought a season pass, buy one of the refillable drink cups. They’re around $12 each, but when the same size drink is around $5 each, at $.99 refills, it won’t take long to pay for itself. Also, the day you buy one, your drinks are free.

We told our girls that every now and again, we’d let them do the games, buy the junk, etc. but if we were going to be going down frequently, it was NOT going to be an every time thing and if it was, they’d better save their money. I had this “discussion” a few times yesterday as I convinced Cassie that “no, you do NOT need an 8′ stuffed snake”. If you set the standard from the beginning, you’ll save yourself a lot of grief of having to say “NO” all the time.

The App

Well done, Carowinds. Most parks have them now so I figured there would be an app and there was! AndFriend Finder aspect of Carowinds park is awesome it’s a good one. Hands down, the BEST part of the app for me is the “friend finder”. Now that Sydney (especially) is older and has no patience for the “kid” rides, she had NO interest in hanging with me all day. The Friend Finder proved to be very helpful in making us both happy. Each person with a smart phone (not sure if it’s available on Droid.. you know we’re an iFamily) loads the app and the Friend Finder assigns each of you a PIN code. You’ll have a list of people you’re following and then when you open the GPS map, you can see where they are in the park. Granted, I couldn’t get to her in a flash but it at least gave me a general idea of her location and that was good enough for me.

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The app is also full of good info such as rides (broken down into categories) and even tells you how tall you have to be to ride them – which is super helpful when one of your kids is 49″ tall. No sense wasting time in line if you can’t ride. Food, entertainment, etc. is also in there. Definitely a must have for your visit.

The Staff

I’m a stickler for service and I’m sure it will be different in 4 months from now after they’ve battled thru a long, hot, humid summer but the staff was on point yesterday. From the attendees at the gate to the ride staff to the cleanup crew, everyone had a smile and took the time to chat. Of course, they HAD the time but let’s not mess with details. I will say this.. a couple of times that I stopped to ask “which way is the fastest way to get to…” I was met with “I don’t know”. Maybe that will get better as the season goes on, but staff should have at least some knowledge of where things are in the park. I did hear a couple of rumblings from others that had some issues especially with the front gate and ticket sales but since it didn’t happen to me, I can’t report on that. However, if you’re out there reading, feel free to chime in so that others can learn from your experience.

All in all we had a great day yesterday… didn’t get to ride as many rides as we would have liked but that was because we were walking around with 6 or 7 9-year-olds who couldn’t make up their mind on which ride to do when 🙂

If you’re within 100 miles of Carowinds or any other major park like it, I hope you found some good ideas and tips in the post.