Life in the Fast Lane

Life in the Fast Lane
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At Carowinds, life in the fast lane won’t make you lose your mind, but it will put a huge dent in your wallet.

Recently, we spent a sunny Saturday at Carowinds, under the guise that I had to check out their new food festival for my blog (let’s be real we all know that we were really there for some spins on Fury 325).

Armed with sunscreen and cargo shorts (my boyfriend, AJ, brought his out of retirement because “cargo shorts were made for places like Carowinds,”) we marched through the gates and were immediately swarmed by gaggles of preteens wearing matching, “I’m with the band,” t-shirts.

It dawned on us: Carowinds was hosting a middle school band festival.



Band competitions do not bode well for maximum roller coaster riding potential.

I was never expecting we would breeze our way to the front of Fury 325 in five minutes flat, but I also wasn’t expecting a 3 hour wait.

We toughed it out and waited in line for 2 rides (for about an hour each). We then moseyed up to Fury 325, where the wait was about 2 and half to 3 hours. Nope. We moved on to Nighthawk where the wait was 2 hours. Nope. We promptly went to get a beer.


Over our plastic cups filled with Son of a Peach, we hashed out a game plan of what we would do next; waste precious moments in a line moving at a glacial pace surrounded by preteens talking about their crushes or fork over the cash equivalent to our weekly grocery budget to buy Fast Lane wristbands.

We decided in the end to spend the money, a decision that was not made lightly (and only justified by the fact that we had free park admission; if we hadn’t gotten into Carowinds at no cost, we wouldn’t have been able to afford park admission and Fast Lane passes).

When you go to a place like Carowinds, you expect crowds. Standing in line is part of what you’ve gotten yourself into (when Volcano, The Blast Coaster, opened 17 years ago at King’s Dominion, my friends and I patiently waited in that 1 hour line).

At some point, line waiting can get in the way of one’s actual enjoyment of an amusement park.

If you’re waiting for 1 to 3 hours on each ride, and you have to hit 10-ish rides in the park, you can’t fit that all into one day. That’s where programs like Fast Lane come into play. Some smart people somewhere thought they could put a price on line cutting (which is an ingenious idea) but really, when is that cost too much?

For $70 per person you can cut the lines (there is a $55 option, but it doesn’t include Fury 325, The Intimidator or Nighthawk). Coupled with the price of park admission, you’re looking at $129.99. For that price you could also buy:

  • A month of reserved parking in Uptown
  • 53 gallons of gas
  • A one way plane ticket from Charlotte to Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • 7 pitchers of beer from Sycamore Brewing
  • Standing room tickets for 11 people at a Charlotte Knights game (or seats for 6 people)
  • 25 karma yoga classes at Yoga One
  • Groceries for a family of four
  • Two adult (or one adult and one and a half youth) passes at the US National Whitewater Center
  • 28 iced chai lattes at Central Coffee
  • All you can eat brunch for 6 and a half people at Bistro La Bon or Heist
  • A hotel room for a family of four for one night in the Outer Banks


The cost of Carowinds’ Fast Lane is not a viable financial option for most of the park’s visitors. The program promotes inequity; it’s a benefit to those who can afford the high price and exclusion of everyone else. Instead of excluding normal folks who are looking for a fun way to entertain their families in the summer (or 28 year olds who really like roller coasters), Carowinds should make the Fast Lanes open and affordable to all visitors:

  • Give free passes. Model the Fast Lanes after the man with the mouse. At Disney World, a Fast Pass is a complimentary benefit with park admission for three attractions.
  • Lower the price. At Universal Studios Orlando, a Universal Express Unlimited is as low as $49.99. A Universal Express pass is as low as $34.99.

Carowinds already limits the amount of Fast Lane passes they sell; so complimentary passes or a lower price would not clog the Fast Lanes. Because let’s be real, waiting in line for three hours because you came to Carowinds to ride roller coasters isn’t fun. There has to be a better way; and Carowinds needs to find a balance between long lines and the value of line cutting. It would make a visit more enjoyable for everyone. If they don’t, who wants to go to a Knights game? We can take 11 people for the same price.

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