What if Cedar Fair really committed to the idea of turning Carowinds into a true THEME park, as opposed to a more generic amusement park (albeit one with some pretty world-class coasters
)? I’ve been thinking about what reasonable steps could be taken in each section of the park to continue Carowinds’ recent trend of meaningful transformation.
Here are a few ideas that would be relatively easy to pull off (for the most part at least…
):CAROLINA PLAZA (currently Celebration Plaza)
Out of the gate, the first section of the park needs to make a big impression. The front gate is amazing but everything beyond the bridge could still use some tender loving care.
Replacing those ugly art deco buildings with more modern architecture like Starbucks and expanding the plaza stage is a must. A small fountain or reflection pool where the old Carowinds logo planter used to be would also look great—as long as foot traffic isn’t blocked too much.NEW SOUTH MARKETPLACE (currently Celebration Plaza / Camp Snoopy?)
This section is currently super generic and doesn’t even seem to have a name on the 2018 park map. It just kinda blends in with the surrounding areas. No bueno. It used to be called “Old World Marketplace,” so why not give that name a modern update?
New South Marketplace is a celebration of Southern charm, innovation, and progress. This one’s easy: Intimidator (what’s more “New South” than NASCAR?), Kiddy Hawk (celebrates arguably the greatest invention of the entire region: flight), Nighthawk (several species of hawks are native to the Carolinas), and Harmony Hall (it’s literally a marketplace). Even Panda Express makes sense considering the modern South is a true melting pot. Ripcord is so generic, it’ll fit almost anywhere COUNTRY CROSSROADS (currently Crossroads)
Bring back the full classic name! Stretching from the edge of County Fair to Camp Snoopy and the front of the park, Country Crossroads is the heart of Carowinds.
Virtually every path converges here, at the center of the park, making it an almost literal crossroad. It feels rural too, with lots of trees, a large square featuring a grand gazebo, a quaint little candy store, and a shop that looks like a barn. This area has a lot of potential, especially if Boo Blasters were to be revamped with a regional ghost story or throwback live show like Phantom of the Opry. Windseeker is a bit generic, but the park ain’t called CaroWINDS for nothing!PALMETTO PIER (currently Crossroads)
Tarheel finally won me over on this name. It’s clever and works with my ideas for the current Boardwalk section. Plus, the beach theme would only be enhanced if they ever end up adding a path to the waterpark (which isn’t necessarily out of the question, even with Project Alpha coming soon). Imagine something like Knott’s amazing Boardwalk Pier that debuted in 2012, which feels like an authentic California boardwalk.
Deck out the entire area with palm trees, string lights, big photo-op postcards, surf gear, wooden planks, etc. Maybe add a fountain or a couple small ponds, which would both enhance the seaside theme and replace some of the park’s lost water features. Southern Star would fit well as is (it is a big boat afterall) and Dodgems go hand in hand with boardwalks. PVZ is going to stick out like a sore thumb no matter where it is. And Yo-Yo would be replaced with the Peanuts Pirates ride (which has no business in a kiddie section anyway), which would be renamed something nautical like “Whirlpool.”AMERICAN OUTPOST (currently Crossroads)
Inspired by the name "Frontier Outpost" from Carowinds' past, American Outpost would be themed to a rural military camp on the far side of the park. "Outpost" can mean either a remote location or a small military position. In this case, it means both!
Plaster this section with Americana, stars and bars, red, white and blue, US flags, state flags, patriotic music, etc.. Reboot the South Gate, make it feel more open and modern. Add a new bathroom as well, allowing the removal of the old bathroom next to Afterburn’s entrance. Replace it with a drink stand called “Ft. Carowinds Canteen.” Lastly, convert the Dinosaur’s Alive building into an air-conditioned museum detailing Carowinds’ history, featuring Amos’ model of the old plantation house, photos of classic rides, park maps over the years, pieces from demolished rides, and a TV playing retro commercials and the original park song on a loop.BLUE RIDGE JUNCTION (currently Carolina Boardwalk)
This part of Carowinds used to be called “Blue Ridge Junction.” Send all the beach theming from Carolina Boardwalk to Palmetto Pier and what’s left? An old mining town in the Blue Ridge mountains! Play up the rustic charm of that area, with it’s old buildings and wooden structures, and you’d have a completely unique section of the park.
Carolina Goldrusher already fits perfectly (it should considering it headlined the original Blue Ridge Junction), all it needs is a new, more rustic sign. Cyclone would be repainted orange and grey, would feature new vest-restraint trains, and would be re-themed as a dust storm wreaking havoc on the town. Ricochet would be re-themed to stray bullets and a gunfight would be stage in front of it periodically. One of the beach shops would also be turned into a gemstone mine for kids. Chickie’s and Pete’s doesn’t necessarily have to move (they don’t even serve the chain’s famous seafood at the park do they?), regardless, the “Carolina Boatworks” sign would be changed to “Frontier Saloon!”THRILL CITY (currently Thrill Zone)
The name might not be much of a change from Thrill Zone, but hear me out: we’ve basically got every other part of the Carolinas covered (mountains, piers, crossroads, marketplaces, fairgrounds, outposts, parks, plazas, camps, harbors, etc.), why not cities too? That area already has an urban feel, why not just go all out and embrace it?
This one’s easy. There are already classic cars in front of Juke Box Diner, and some traffic signs over that way too (a few more couldn’t hurt). Pave the path again (or ditch asphalt altogether and do it with stone) to make it look more like a city street with yellow/white lines and everything. Paint a couple crosswalks as well and throw up some traffic lights at the two entrances to this section (by Cyclone and the theatre). Scream Weaver would get re-themed to a runaway tire and called “Burnout.” Fury and Drop Tower can stay the same, but the latter could get renamed something like “Skyscraper” or “High Rise.” It’s fine either way though. This theme is already here, I don’t know why the park doesn’t just lean into it a bit more.CAROUSEL PARK
This section of Carowinds is pretty lovely already. I love how green and clean it is. But more landscaping never hurt. The outside of the theater really needs a facelift to match the classic vibe of the Grand Carousel. It’s kind of art deco right now and could use a nice, modern update.
If/when Vortex gets that rumored floorless conversion, maybe they’ll pick a name and theme that’s more fitting to Carousel Park. Call it something like “Thunderbolt,” (a classic Coney Island ride name). Perhaps move Scrambler to County Fair and replace it with some other classic ride, like a mid-sized ferris wheel (assuming there’s enough room. Even more brick pavers around this area would be great too. They really work wonders.COUNTY FAIR
County Fair is perfect as is! It legitimately feels like you’ve just been teleported to an authentic county fair, the small kind you’d find anywhere across the region in the Fall. I just wish the rest of the park had this level of theming, it’d be a dream come true.CAMP SNOOPY
Other than adding more rides for kids and families in the near future, I think this area is stunning as it stands now. Like County Fair, Camp Snoopy feels like a cohesive little corner of the park that stands out from everything else. That’s how each of these sections should be. Let’s hope the rest of the park gets the same treatment soon.