Carowinds has been a staple of Charlotte (yes, I know it’s technically in North AND South Carolina, but stay with me here) for as long as I can remember. And the park has grown into a top thrill-seeker destination over the years, highlighted by its most recent addition, the insane Fury 325, winning the illustrious Golden Ticket Award as the best new ride in the country.
But perhaps the smartest decision made by the park’s powers that be occurred in 2000, when it was decided that Carowinds should double as a destination for rides and haunted attractions. And now in its 15th year, this may be Scarowinds’ scariest offering yet.
For those who haven’t been, this is more than just adding an “S” in front of the name. Each weekend night, the park transforms into a horror factory, complete with seven mazes, five haunt zones and four live shows (all the thrill rides are open as well). And that’s not counting the more than 450 monsters walking around and hiding in the park, ready to jump out at you while you think you’re just on a leisurely stroll to the next ride. To put it bluntly, if you enjoy being scared, this is the place to be.
So when the opportunity to discover how this fright show factory comes to life, I quickly emailed Ted and asked to become Axios Charlotte’s official amusement park correspondent – hey, it hadn’t been taken yet.
Upon my arrival, Chris Foshee, the digital and social media representative for Carowinds, er, Scarowinds, came out to greet us at the gate in full costume. He was joined by John Taylor, the vice president of marketing at the amusement park, who also was dressed in full frightening regalia. Bonus points to both for going all out on this evening.
Thursday night was the dress rehearsal for the park before it officially opens today, and our group had the chance to see the Scharacters, or Army of Darkness, for the first time as they readied to cause endless nightmares for future attendees. First up was a visit to the makeup and costume area, where I met Marley James, the head of the makeup department.
Marley, who started as a face painter at Carowinds, has the final say for all of the monsters – meaning no one heads out into the park until Marley signs off and makes sure they’re in top scare form. Marley said it can take anywhere from eight to 15 minutes to transform each person into a Scharacter.
This year there’s a total of 24 makeup artists and two people dedicated solely to prosthetics. So yeah, this is pretty serious business (Marley added that during the night she’s out and about in the park touching monsters up with what she calls “my toolbox”).
Once everyone is ready, many will go out to the front gate for the opening show when the park opens every night at 7 p.m. I don’t want to give too much away, but this will feature something called a “Scauldron” and should definitely set the tone for the night.
When patrons are inside the park, they’ll have the opportunity to go on one of Scarowinds’ numerous rides, but the real fun here is the scary attractions.
We were able to experience two of the mazes. The first one, Silver Scream Sinemas, was pretty good and featured a few surprises. Then we got to Slaughterhouse: The Final Cut. In a word – terrifying. I don’t scare easily, but I can honestly say some of the things I saw during this attraction definitely stayed with me hours after I walked out. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but worth going to and experiencing (what’s even crazier is that Taylor told me later they were still planning on adding MORE elements to this mind-twisting attraction before opening tonight).
When the park fully opens this weekend, I’m also looking forward to Zombie High (an always-great staple of Scarowinds) and Last Laff, which is in 3D. And, of course, the rides (especially Fury and the Intimidator).
Scarowinds is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday beginning tonight through Halloween night, October 31. Agenda Pro tip: the closer it gets to Halloween, the more crowded the park gets – at least that’s what I’ve experienced through the years.
Ticket information can be found here, which includes the option of a Scarowinds Haunt Pass (giving you unlimited admission) and a Fright Lane ticket (priority line access to all attractions).