(oh my god this is so embarrassing. I actually forgot to update this section of the site last year to add Fury 325.  I promise I’ll get on it soon.  For info on Fury 325, the best I can refer you to is this TPS report from when I attended the Media Day.)

Straddling the state line between North and South Carolina, I guess Carowinds would geographically be my home park. It’s odd, because I haven’t been there in 4 years.

Carowinds Driveup Sign

It’s not that I have anything against the park – it’s just that life got in the way for a while. I spent two years not having a job and then there were two years where I just didn’t feel much like going to parks. Well, I’m over that crap now so I’m back.

Carowinds and Intimidator

Last time I was here was the media day for Intimidator. That wasn’t my finest hour, for reasons I’ll talk about later. Still, it was pretty cool crashing that event.

Carowinds sign - no one there

It was on media day that I was able to get this picture of an empty entrance plaza.

Carowinds Entrance

In the middle of May, though? Good luck finding anywhere empty.

Carowinds sign - crowded

It’s kinda funny – this sign is undoubtedly intended to be a photo opportunity, but it would require an act of God to get a clear shot with the sign once the park is open.

Nighthawk sign

If you enter through the main entrance, the first attraction you encounter will be the Vekoma Flying Dutchman coaster Nighthawk.

Nighthawk - wide

I know I gripe about Vekoma a lot, but my complaints are mostly about the mass-produced mediocrities that are boomerangs and SLCs. While I’m not a fan of the Flying Dutchman coasters, there is a bit of history that has to be recognized.

Nighthawk 1

Nighthawk originally opened in 2000 as “Stealth” at Paramount’s Great America.  When it opened, it was the first large flying coaster in the world (there was an earlier coaster called “Skytrak Total” in the U.K., but it was only around for about a year in the late 90s. I guess that technically counts as the first actual flying coaster).

Nighthawk 2

Either way, Stealth was the first flying coaster in North America, and we only count ourselves anyway, amirite?

Nighthawk 3

So I’m not a huge fan of the ride, but I’m really just not a huge fan of flying coasters in general. I’ll make an exception for the superb Manta coaster at Sea World Orlando, but otherwise? I look at these as not much more than one-off credit opportunities.

Nighthawk 4

Nighthawk (and the other Flying Dutchman coasters out there) utilizes flipping elements that they call either the “fly to lie” or the “lie to fly.” This element is basically the part where the riders are flipped from facing the sky (lying flat on their backs – hence the “lie”) to facing the ground (hanging – or, the “fly.”).

Nighthawk 3 1

The layout of the coaster is rather traditional – unlike B&M flying coasters, there there aren’t any unique elements utilized by the Flying Dutchman coasters (unless you count the flipping element, which I don’t). During its course, riders experience a 66-foot tall vertical loop as well as several hard overbanked horseshoe curves.

Nighthawk - roll

The course finishes off with a pair of back to back corkscrews.

Nighthawk 5

So Stealth was removed from Great America in 2003 to make room for a water park. The coaster was moved to Carowinds and rebranded as the BORG Assimilator coaster, themed to the overexposed villains from Star Trek (and let’s not even argue here. You know they were overexposed. They went from scary to stupid pretty fast).


Here’s a little flashback photo showing the coaster back at that time. You have to admit; they really did go all out with the theme back then. Of course, Cedar Fair couldn’t retain that theme when they bought the chain from Paramount. Bummer.

Carowinds Cafe

Finishing out this little area is a pair of eateries. You can score pizza or some chicken fingers at the Carowinds Café.

Panda Express

Or if you’re a fan of mall food court Chinese food, there’s always Panda Express.  Don’t forget to pick up a park map so you know where all the restrooms are.