Attraction of the Week: Winterfest at Carowinds
Carowinds is a large amusement park located on the border of North and South Carolina. The park opened in March of 1973 as the idea of Charlotte businessman Earl Hall. After an inspiring trip to Disneyland in 1956, Hall dreamed of bringing the 2 Carolinas together via an amusement park.
The park is very popular due to its’ convenient day trip distance from numerous cities in both states, including Charlotte, Asheville, Greenville, Raleigh, and Columbia. The park’s busiest season is the summer, mostly due to the adjacent water park, Carolina Splash Harbor, which is included with admission. A nice water park definitely comes in handy during the hot & humid Carolina summer months!
Carowinds also puts on a number of popular seasonal events. Winterfest is amongst the best Christmas events across both the Carolinas. With over 5 million lights, an ice rink, special holiday shows, and seasonal treats & gift shops, this is the best time of the year for anyone who loves Christmas to plan a visit. As the Carolinas lack festive Christmas events, Carowinds is definitely one to add to your December bucket list.
The holiday themed shows here are really spectacular, and really the main reason to add Winterfest to your holiday bucket list. The best show, known as “Cool Yule,” takes place on the hour in front of a dazzling Christmas tree. Talented singers and dancers perform holiday classics like It’s a Marshmallow World, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, and Let it Snow in front of the 70 foot tall tree.
The show is highly entertaining with great choreography, sparkly costumes, spirited renditions of Christmas classics, and even a few snow flurries. As snow is not all too common in this area, it really adds to the excitement. The singers are all pretty great for a theme park and the dancing is on par as well. Check out this clip from the 2018 season!
Other great shows have included “the Mistletones,” featuring an acapella group singing classic tunes of the 50’s, “Jingle Jazz,” featuring a group of Dickenson carolers performing holiday classics, and “Christmas Bluegrass,” featuring live performances of country Christmas favorites.
Last but not least, the wonderful “Charlie Brown Christmas Spectacular,” is a spirited show held in the Carowinds Theater. This holiday spectacular features 18 talented singers and dancers, as well as special appearances from your favorite Peanuts characters. This show takes place in an actual theater and is the nicest of the bunch, and thus, tends to fill to capacity before each show. Definitely arrive early to ensure a prime seat!
Over 5 million lights!
Strolling through the park is quite beautiful. The are gorgeous light displays throughout the entire 400 acre property. Grab a hot cocoa and enjoy one of the biggest light displays in the state.
The Carolina SkyTower, a rotating ride up a 262 foot tower, is a great way to take in panoramic views of the entire park. The lights look really pretty from way up here!
Which rides are open?
Although not all of the rides are open (most rollercoasters are not in operation), the event is worth visiting particularly for the fantastic live entertainment. Unfortunately, most of the rides open are kiddie rides, so if you are seeking big roller coasters, a summertime visit is more ideal.
The Zephyr (the classic flying chair swing ride), Do-Si-Do (a fun flying spinning ride for all ages), the Scramber (the classic spinning fair ride), and the Rock N’Roller (otherwise known as the Himalaya at the carnival) are a few of the better rides open during the event.
Sweet lovers take note – there are plenty of seasonal specialties to indulge in including special holiday treats like gingerbread funnel cake and apple cranberry dumplings. Most of the restaurants have been renamed with cute holiday-esque names i.e. Dancer’s Snack Shack and Candy Cane’s Sugar Shack. A Starbucks is also conveniently located on-site. Although the wait time is hideous, it’s well worth it for a delicious Peppermint Mocha. Overpriced – yes, worth the splurge – yes!
Seasonal Gift Shops
For those seeking a few unique Christmas gifts, you are in luck as a handful gift shops transform into a Christmas wonderland. Lots of Peanuts and Coca-Cola themed knick knacks to browse through in between enjoying rides and festivities.
Other fun activities to get into the holiday spirit include:
*sending letters to Santa at the North Pole
*shopping for holiday crafts at Artisan Alley
*horse drawn carriage rides (extra fee)
*cookie decorating in the kitchen of Mrs. Claus (extra fee)
*Pictures with various characters
*Christmas craft making
Additionally, there are numerous photo opportunities throughout the park, so be sure to bring your camera.
Note: Holiday activities are definitely geared more towards families with younger children. Note most of the thrill rides are closed. The shows, on the other hand, are great for all the ages and the lights are beautiful.
Location: 300 Carowinds Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28273
2018 Dates: Late November-New Year’s Eve
Pricing: Tickets range from $30-35 depending on the date you plan your visit. Parking is $16 (online), and $20 (at the gate).