Share thoughts, photos, and reviews from visits to Carowinds or any other amusement park
gabed wrote:
tarheel1231 wrote:Wait, were Transformers and Spider-Man closed during your visit?

I uhh...

may or may not have forgotten those

How do you miss what’s billed as the best ride at the resort (Spider-Man)?????
Day 5

I’m a waterpark guy. No I don’t count my waterslides or anything, I just don’t think people in this community give waterparks the credit they deserve. After seeing the initial concept art for Volcano Bay as it was released a few years ago, I was really excited about the idea of eventually getting back out to Orlando to pay a visit. Since we were already checking out Universal’s dry parks, it made sense to go to Volcano bay as well.

Located a good distance from the other two parks, Volcano Bay requires a shuttle from the main parking garages to get to. The seclusion works in the park’s favor though, as it really helps immerse you in the “island wilderness” feel of the park. That is of course if you ignore Interstate 4 which sits, in some cases, right under some of the slides to the side of the park. Regardless, my first impressions of this place were great and would only continue to get better as we found some chairs with this beautiful view.

This picture does not do the volcano justice, it is massive and truly a sight to behold. The rock work is beautifully done, but at this point I have almost come to expect such perfection from Universal. It may be hard to see from this picture, but the Volcano actually houses a few slides, including a drop box slide which takes you down the volcano and through one of the wading pools below. This was my first slide of the day and certainly a great way to kick the day off. Just walking up to the top is a trek of its own, with over 200 stairs necessary to get there. The view from the top is as breathtaking as it is terrifying, but the slide gives you no time to be scared. Just as soon as the floor drops out from beneath you, you’re in the catch pool coming up for breath. Sure I probably inhaled three gallons of water on my way down, but I would definitely ride it again if I were to ever come back to Volcano Bay in the future.

I would have ridden it again in the same day, but crowds were really beginning to pile up and Volcano Bay has a rather interesting way of operating its queue lines. When entering the park, you are given a sort of wrist watch, dubbed a “TapuTapu” by the park, which allows you to get into rides. At the start of every line for each slide is a podium for you to scan your TapuTapu. If the line is not too long, you are granted access to hop in line right away. However, for the more popular slides, you will be given a set time to return to that particular slide. While it sounds great on paper, you can only reserve a spot for one slide at a time, and the waits can get up to two hours for one slide as was the case today. I understand that Universal’s options were limited, as they could either construct massive queue lines for their slides, taking up valuable real estate. Or instead just make everybody wear some wrist watches. There really wasn’t a good option, but it does become a nuisance when you cannot ride anything and instead have to wait one reservation at a time to do anything.

Speaking of reserving slides, these two would be our first experiences using our TapuTapus. Fortunately for us, the waits were less than fifteen minutes for both. The green slide is a traditional family-style raft slide with a few dips throughout the course. The blue one to the right however is a totally different story. Imagine taking Surfer’s Swell, adding a second turn, and amping it up to eleven. As a result you end up with this gigantic beast. A complete blast of a water slide that really gets the adrenaline going. I love the mist effects that the park has spraying at the top of each of the curls, really gives the slide an ominous feel to build up anticipation while in line.

Krakatau is Volcano Bay’s water coaster and man is it a good one. This is the fourth one of these I’ve been fortunate enough to ride and it may just be the best. Mammoth and Wildebeast are great and all, but getting to be thrusted over the hills of a water coaster whilst traveling through a volcano gives Krakatau the edge for me. The ride time is very good and lengthy as well. My biggest complaint about River Rush at Dollywood’s Splash Country is just how short the ride is. Right as it gets you going, you reach the end of the ride leaving you wanting more. Krakatau keeps on going and right as you think it’s all over, you go down yet another drop. Great slide for sure, but there were still many more left to do.

The Ohyah and Ohno slides are the hidden gems of this place. From a distance you would easily pass them off as slow, boring body slides. But what you can’t see from far away is that they end six feet above a ten foot deep swimming pool. Short as they may be, that fall into the pool will always catch you by surprise.

The rest of the day was spent riding whatever slides we could without having to make two hour reservations. Volcano Bay is a great park, but the newness of it all is still showing as there are definitely some kinks to be worked out with the park’s “TapuTapu” wait time system. Also it being new is a major factor in so many people flocking here at once. Maybe after the years go by it will start to cool down, but for now it can feel like a mess at times. Overall I did really enjoy my time here. Volcano Bay is lightyears ahead of any other water park that I have been to as far as theming is concerned. Universal did great here in terms of rides and storytelling, all they have left now is to work out the remaining technical kinks. But with time I’m sure that it will all work out.

That’s all for today and as usual, thank you for reading!

Day 6 - Part 1

The eight park of the trip would also be the second that I had visited in the past. Despite this, I was extremely eager to get back to SeaWorld Orlando. This excitement mainly stemmed from the prospect of getting to give the almighty Mako another ride. For those who have yet to come here, the few coasters this park has are truly phenomenal and more than worth an extra day in Orlando. There are also the animal shows for those interested, but that’s a hot topic as it is and God only knows how many days are left until their demise. The park is definitely in a transitory phase at the moment, with the shift from animal encounters to thrills and general animal education becoming more than obvious. I suspect the SeaWorld we began to see with the introduction of Mako is but a glimmer of the SeaWorld we will know in ten years. Time will tell, but until then, let’s talk about how SeaWorld Orlando is in 2019.

Shortly after getting through the ticketing windows and getting lost a few times, we finally found the entrance to our first coaster of the day.

Superman may not have worked out well for me, but I had no issues at all boarding Manta today. Funnily enough, the last time I rode a B&M Flyer was Manta during my previous visit to SeaWorld during July 2017. A bit more intense than I remembered it being, which is always a welcome surprise. Pretzel loops on flying coasters are always nuts and the sensation of flying through the air never grows old on me. It’s a much different feel from the Vekoma Flying Dutchmans where you’re spending more time on your back than in the flying position. Not mention the constant jostling and shaking on those God-forsaken coasters. Manta is running great despite being ten years old this year and is still the best flying coaster I have ever ridden. It’s a great “one-size-fits-all” style of coaster that has something to offer for everyone. Anybody from children just barely tall enough to ride to the occasional grand parent that gets dragged along will find something about Manta to enjoy.

Dispatches on the other hand were not great, but given the lengthy process required for loading and unloading these flying trains, the ride ops were doing the best they could with what they had.

What’s that? Did somebody ask for my take on a coaster that gets way more hate than it deserves?

Hmm. Yeah I think so. Look, I get that it’s not Dominator or Rougarou, but it’s by no means the armpit of floorless coasters like some fools out there would want you to believe. The layout packs in a lot with countless inversions hitting you over and over again. I found the coaster to be quite smooth as well, though my earring-wearing sister heavily disagreed on that sentiment as we pulled into the brake run. At the end of the day, it is a solid floorless coaster that works really well in the park’s small lineup of coasters.

One last thing, I really want to note how the absence of virtual reality on the ride this time around really helped improve dispatch times. I absolutely hated the virtual reality add-on this coaster had back in 2017 and I am so happy that they decided to do away with it. Overall it looks like most parks are finally doing away with the VR Goggles. Good riddance to them. Roller coasters are meant to be enjoyed as they are, not augmented by terrible animation.
Day 6 - Part 2

After an encounter with barking sea lions and a few more instances of getting lost, we finally found our way to SeaWorld’s star attraction.

Mako was by far my highlight from my last visit to SeaWorld Orlando and suffice it to say that it was my most anticipated coaster of the day. Luckily, it held up just as well as it had in my memories. Sustained ejector over the camelback hills both in the front and back rows. The lakeside placement of the ride is great, giving you the feeling that you’re about to dive straight into the lake after cresting each hill.

To call Mako my favorite hyper coaster would be stating the obvious. The coaster’s wild ride experience makes hypers like Intimidator, Nitro, and Behemoth all look like child’s play. Goliath is really the only worthy comparison I can think of, but Mako still takes the cake over it any day of the week.

Announced shortly before my first visit to SeaWorld, Infinity Falls was a must ride for me today regardless of how soaked I would probably get while riding it.

Well, soaked would be putting it lightly. You could have probably wrung out a gallon of water from my shirt after I hopped out of our raft. Rumor has it my socks still haven’t fully dried out yet.

Infinity Falls is pretty standard for an Intamin rapids ride, except of course for the forty foot drop serving as the ride’s epic climax. This final element is a great feature and a very unique one for the United States. It’s not that it’s super fast or super steep, but rather that drops like these are very uncommon on rapids rides. I took the fall going backwards, only adding to the thrill. I would highly recommend Infinity Falls to anyone visiting SeaWorld. You’ll have plenty of time for it and Orlando’s weather is always miserable so why not cool off for a bit?

Also completely unrelated but I wanted to include a picture of Infinity Falls’ station. Looks very sleek and modern, love it!

Day 6 - Part 3

After a walk around the lake to dry ourselves off and grabbing a bite to eat, we made our way to SeaWorld’s only dark ride.

I suppose you could make an argument that Journey to Atlantis is also a dark ride, but I tend to lump that one into the “water ride” category. Empire of the Penguin would soon become my first “trackless” dark ride, a fact I did not realize until boarding the ride vehicle. Guess I should do some better research next time on my rides. We chose the “wild” variant of the ride which promised more twists, turns, and a whole lot of spinning. It delivered, though by no means is it too much for younger audiences or those easily nauseated.

The ride takes you through Antarctica while telling the story of Puck, an adorable, freshly hatched penguin who is trying to find his was through life. I’m a sucker for cute, fluffy animals, so I was hooked from the get-go. The ride’s duration is incredibly short though, with the finished product feeling quite rushed. I’m guessing SeaWorld must have blown the whole budget on the ride system and theming because the layout left a lot to be desired. In the second room the vehicle will even take you around several times while jostling you around, for what I’m guessing was to pad out the run time. When our vehicle pulled up to the unloading platform, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is that really it?”, it felt like the ride had only just started.

After exiting you can spend as much time as you like watching the penguins in the live enclosure.

My sister and I stood and watched the little guys go for as long as we could stand the cold. After about ten minutes we left and realized that the clouds had gotten a lot angrier since we first went indoors. Within ten minutes thunder started roaring over the park and each and every ride shut down for weather. Satisfied with our day and everything we were able to ride, we headed out and back to the house for an afternoon of rest.

SeaWorld Orlando is a cool place, but not quite a park that you can spend an entire day at without getting bored. Like I mentioned earlier, the park is making a big shift in how it identifies itself. With Mako, Infinity Falls, and their upcoming launch coaster next year, you’d be in a hard position to deny that the park is trying to move away from the zoo-esque it began as. They’ll have a solid lineup in 2020, but SeaWorld Orlando still has a ways to go before reaching the ranks of its sister Busch parks.

That’s all for SeaWorld, thank you so much to all who have continued to read through this madness.
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By gabed
Day 7 - Part 1

And at long last, here we are. The trip has been a great journey through Georgia and Florida, but the time has come to end it with a grand finale. Busch Gardens Tampa has long been a park that I’ve wanted to visit. Hands down one of the most impressive coaster lineups in the United States and one of the most well received parks that I had yet to visit. Everything before today was fantastic, but now I would finally be able to cross this incredible park off of my bucket list once and for all.

We arrived around fifteen minutes before the park opened. Though we hoped to be among the first to arrive, we quickly learned that you have to be a little quicker than that if you want first dibs at this place. Getting through the metal detectors and having our Quick Queues processed was a crawl with hundreds of people getting bottlenecked into the entrance. The looming threat of incoming thunderstorms did not help my patience in the slightest, as I was determined to ride all of the park’s incredible coasters and even a flat ride here and there.

My first pick of the day was a tough, yet important one for me as it would be my 250th roller coaster. Being that it was near the entrance and seemed like loads of fun from both pictures and POV footage, Cheetah Hunt was my choice for this milestone.

And my God, was that a good choice. It’s certainly no Maverick or even Copperhead Strike for that matter, but Cheetah Hunt is a really good coaster. All three launches fling you back into your seat, always sure to give the coaster a needed boost of acceleration when the speed starts to noticeably dip. The coaster is far more family-friendly than I was expecting, perhaps even more so than its snake-infested neighbor. Certainly not a bad thing, family coasters can still kick butt as is most definitely the case here. Though for those going into Cheetah Hunt expecting a balls-to-the-wall Intamin on the scale of SkyRush or Intimidator 305, they will unfortunately be let down. The ride for the most part is fairly tame, minus the insane ejector hill near the end of the ride. Overall I really enjoyed the coaster and wish that I had more time to ride it today. Simultaneously however, I would rank it somewhere in the middle of the coasters at Busch Gardens Tampa if I had to.

Sprinting out of Cheetah Hunt’s exit, I found myself at Cobra’s Curse and was able to get right on with my beloved Quick Queue. Good thing I bought this thing beforehand too, as the park was absolutely packed today with most coasters seeing hour long waits. Back to the coaster, I was immediately impressed by the theming on the coaster’s queue line and station.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of BGT’s coasters lack the storylines and theming elements of their Virginian cousins. From my memory, Cobra’s Curse was really the only coaster that was decked out to the standards of something you’d find in the Williamsburg park.
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By gabed
Day 7 - Part 2

So onto the ride itself, how is it? Pretty great! With Cheetah Hunt right next door, the two serve as an awesome one-two punch for up and coming thrill seekers. This was only my third Mack coaster that wasn’t a wild mouse and so far Mack has retained their awesome track record with me. Cobra’s Curse is just so incredibly unique in everything that it does. For all you haters of spinning coasters, rest assured that the ride only spins for 1/3 of the ride and at no point does it even come close to being too much to handle. I’ve yet to ride Time Traveler, but I’ve often heard it described as a sensation of controlled spinning. The same applies here, as the trains never feel like they might lose control as they would on a Zamperla spinning coaster.

The layout is also very smartly designed, as it takes advantage of the terrain while also maximizing the use of its nimble trains. With all its dips below the ground, occasional spinning, and whippy layout, it really impressed me how a ride with so much happening at once rarely felt disorienting. Cobra’s Curse lives up to its billing as a family coaster experience and all those afraid of feeling motion sickness can take a breath of relief knowing that they’ll be fine. Much like Cheetah Hunt, it’s a roller coaster that is just plain fun. Again, if I only had more time today, I would have marathoned this baby over and over again. ’Tis not the case sadly, as once my time on Cobra’s Curse came to an end, a far more thrilling challenger entered my view.

Without a shadow of a doubt this is the coaster that I had heard the most praise about prior to coming here. I’ve occasionally heard it described as “the perfect invert” over the years so it had a lot to live up to. While it failed to dethrone Banshee in my book, Montu certainly did not disappoint me on either of the two rides I was able to score on it today. The ride is just my speed with a nice intense layout that never becomes too much to handle. As some of you probably already know, the coaster has a very similar layout to Afterburn, with everything that happens before the mid course brake run being a mirror image of our beloved jet coaster. This in mind, the best way I can describe Montu to those of you who have yet to ride it is to imagine Afterburn exactly how it is but with an additional loop and corkscrew after the final helix.

If you couldn’t tell by my take on Mindbender earlier this week, I’m very open about my infatuation with Anton Shwarzkopf’s lovely creations. They’re harder and harder to find these days, but luckily for me Busch Gardens Tampa has kept Scorpion around long enough for me to give it a go. It is seriously beyond me how Anton was able to construct coasters that manage to ride so well even decades after they gave their first rides. Even in all their brilliance Arrow couldn’t even make rides that rode well after half a decade. Scorpion is the true hidden gem of this park, giving one of the most intense roller coaster rides in the entire state of Florida. It has a very compact layout that it uses to its advantage, weaving in and out of itself constantly while taking you for a wild ride.

Wow what a unique view of this coaster I can’t believe more people haven’t taken a picture of Kumba from this angle.

While Montu was a coaster with a lot of praise to live up to, I don’t really know what Kumba was. Never have I heard such mixed reviews on a roller coaster before. I’m assuming that you either love Kumba or cannot stand the sheer thought of Kumba. I was about to find out where I stood soon enough.

Taking a seat near the back of the train, I had no idea what to expect as I dipped down the pre-drop and into the course. Wow. Any doubts I had about this coaster quickly vanished after that first vertical loop over the lift hill. Kumba is absolutely insane, with an action packed layout that never, and I mean never lets up until it slams into the brakes at full force. On top of it all, the coaster is still butter smooth for the entirety of the ride. To my own surprise, Kumba ended up being one of my favorites at the park.
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By gabed
Day 7 - Part 3

With my time before the incoming storms running low, I was now running across the park to get onto as many rides as I possibly could. Coming across the park’s newest coaster, I hopped in line despite it being an hour wait.

Don't be fooled by the "45" on the wait time sign. I fell for the trick as well.

You can call me crazy all you want for knowingly waiting over an hour for this, but up until this point I had still yet to ride one of these Sky Rocket II clones. I had come close before, having visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg just weeks before Tempesto’s opening. Unfortunately, after I had been waiting for nearly forty-five minutes, the announcement came over the queue lines that the coaster would be down until further notice.

Frustrated, my next choice was arguably the better coaster anyways.

Ended up with a back row ride on this beast and got whipped over both of the drops. The coaster was running great and to be completely honest I found it to be better than Griffon. Granted my last ride on Griffon was over four years ago, so it could just as easily be recency bias. Either way, they’re both great coasters and that’s all that matters. I know the common complaint with these coasters is that they’re one trick ponies. Not the case here. While it definitely is not the longest of roller coasters, the immelman, second drop, and splashdown provide plenty of action to keep you invested after the first dive.

Moving back near Scorpion, I knew that I had yet another coaster to mark off the list.

Not a whole lot to say about this one, just your average every day wild mouse clone.

I talked about this in my Canada’s Wonderland trip report last summer, but I’m almost (key word being almost) as crazy for flat rides as I am for coasters. Any time a park has a one-of-a-kind flat ride in its lineup, it’s just as high on my priority list as the coasters. Falcon’s Fury is absolutely nuts, giving me genuine fear on a ride for the first time in years. Looking straight down over thirty stories with nothing but good old Intamin technology guarding your life is a thrill in its own right. But falling from that height while being forced to look down? That’s a different story. It’s hard for me to call Falcon’s Fury my favorite drop tower when it rides so differently from every other drop tower tI’ve done before. The feeling of weightlessness you get on the ride is totally different from that which you would get off Larson ARM towers or even traditional Intamin towers. It’s more of a full-body sensation than just that “pit-in-your-stomach” feeling that you would get on any other drop ride. It’s a fantastic ride and for anyone coming here for the first time, Falcon’s Fury needs to be a top priority.
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By gabed
Day 7 - Part 4

As I sat at the top of Falcon’s Fury waiting to be turned on my stomach, I happened to catch a glimpse of certain someone up and operating again.

The wait time was fifty minutes, but all I had left to hit was this and the kiddy coaster, so of course I waited for it. I didn’t hold my breath, knowing the coaster could just as easily go down on me yet again. Maybe it was my impatience, but the line for Tigris moved at a crawl. Why SeaWorld thinks it’s a good idea to build such low-capacity coasters at some of the most popular amusement parks in the country is beyond me. Even with a third car, the trains only hold eighteen people at a time and good Lord does it show. After a brief eternity I was next up in line and so far so good. Everything looked good on the ride ops’ side, so the gates opened up and I quickly took my seat.

Well, after years and years I’ve finally got my first Sky Rocket II credit under my belt. Really liked it! Can’t say I would wait another hour for Tigris again, but at the very least I enjoyed myself while on the coaster. The launches are surprisingly forceful and only gain intensity with each pass through the station. The non-inverting loop was a very cool experience, whipping you around both when taking it forwards and backwards. Hang time on the barrel roll was good, though I imagine that had the comfort collard been absent it would have been amazing. Speaking of the comfort collars, I fully understand the hate for them. They do absolutely nothing other than make boarding the coaster more awkward than it needs to be and kill the hang time.

Not much to say about the last coaster other than I have the credit and that’s it. It was a walk on thank God, I can’t imagine I would have sacrificed another hour for that one.

By this point I was completely satisfied with my day at Busch Gardens Tampa. I was able to get one more ride on Montu in before the thunder started rolling in, which was my cue to head out. Busch Gardens Tampa is a really nice park with the best coaster lineup in the state of Florida. I must say though that I found it to be inferior to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which I definitely was not expecting. Williamsburg just feels so much cleaner with far better landscaping. Overall the theming at Williamsburg is better executed whereas Tampa is very hit or miss. Some of the rides are made to look beautiful while others look like they were just plopped down with very little thought. Don’t get me wrong, the appearance of Busch Gardens Tampa still puts all Six Flags parks and most Cedar Fair parks to shame, but in comparison to its sister parks, I was expecting a tad bit more.

At the end of the day, it has been an amazing trip that I am so grateful to have taken. After 7 days, 9 parks, 35 coasters and 600 miles driven, that’s a wrap.

Can't believe you went to Universal, spent 2 days and chose to ride King King over Spiderman, Transformers, Dudley Do-right's Ripsaw Falls, Popeye & Pluto's Bilge-Rat Barges and Jurrasic Park River Adventure. shorted yourself bigtime.
Yeah you missed some rides but you rode hagrid's and that's something pretty much all of us haven't so you still won lol.

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