I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my adult life.
Of course, my fear was completely irrational. There hadn’t been any headlines of riders falling out of Carowind’s Fury 325 roller coaster and tumbling to their death. Still, I was afraid. It had been two decades since I’d last been to an amusement park. During that time, roller coasters had grown remarkably taller and faster than I remembered, like Fury 325’s record-setting heights of 325 feet and speeds of 95 mph.
As the coaster climbed the first hill, I closed my eyes and gripped the handlebars. My body tensed up, and I used deep yogic breaths to try and calm my nerves. After a few minutes, I mustered up the courage to squint my eyes open enough to see we were at the summit.
Then, it happened.
The coaster train whipped over the top of the hill, sending us hurtling down into what felt like a free-fall, and my fear immediately turned into a joy that I hadn’t felt in I can’t remember how long. Not only were my eyes wide open, but I was laughing and actively remembering why I was such a coaster freak growing up.
Whether you want to re-discover your love for thrill rides or help your kids discover the joy of amusement parks for the first time, Carowinds is the place to do it with 13 roller coasters, a newly expanded Camp Snoopy kids area, and a water park stocked with slides and water features for children of all ages. To help you get started on your Carowinds vacation planning, I’ve gone ahead and matched some of the park’s top attractions with Charlotte’s top hotels.
10 Charlotte Hotels Near Carowinds
If you like the Intimidator, you’ll love the Westin Charlotte
You can’t have an amusement park in NASCAR country without a roller coaster dedicated to one of racing’s most famous daredevils – Dale Earnhardt. Much like the racing legend himself, the roller coaster defies odds, ranking as one of the 10 tallest roller coasters in North America.
Learn more about NASCAR with a stay at the Westin Charlotte. Not only is the hotel a relaxing oasis in the heart of Uptown – complete with a spa and a pool – it’s located adjacent to the interactive NASCAR Hall of Fame.View Hotel
If you like Hurricane Falls, you’ll love the Ballantyne
Hurricane Falls in Carowind’s Carolina Harbor waterpark is a favorite among families. Up to four people can hop on an inner tube and swish through the slides’ 564 feet of high-banked turns.
Continue the family water fun at Charlotte’s only full-fledged resort – The Ballantyne. The hotel has everything one looks for in a resort but in the midst of a suburban metropolis. Think indoor and outdoor pools, a PGA golf course, a full-service spa, afternoon tea, and lawn games. All that fun works up an appetite which can be met at the Gallery Restaurant, where modern American cuisine is served with a southern twist. BBQ pork cheek over grit cakes anyone?View Hotel
If you like Rock ‘N’ Roller, you’ll love Tru by Hilton
Take a breather from the coasters with old-time nostalgia rides ripped right from your favorite childhood beachside boardwalk in Carowinds’ County Fair, like the Rock ‘N’ Roller which will have you movin’ and a-groovin’ to old-timey rock ‘n’ roll while climbing up and down embankments. All County Fair attractions were plucked from the past and refurbished for today’s enjoyment, guaranteeing full family fun much like one of Charlotte’s newest hotels – Tru by Hilton.
Tru is filled with flavors and fun for the whole family: a game corner stocked with board games and a breakfast with 35 different toppings for complimentary donuts, cereal, bagels, and yogurt. Added bonus, the hotel is located in pedestrian-friendly Ayrsley with a bowling alley, movie theater, and plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars within walking distance.View Hotel
If you like Boo Blasters on Boo Hill, you’ll love the Dunhill
Learn how to be a ghost hunter on Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. The interactive ride takes park-goers through a haunted southern plantation where the goal is to shoot Boocifer and his ghostly friends. Put your newfound skills into practice at the Dunhill – Charlotte’s oldest and spookiest hotel. Dusty is one of many alleged ghosts to haunt this Historic Hotels of America property. Don’t be too scared, though. Most hauntings are harmless antics like items pushed off dressers.View Hotel
If you like Harmony Hall Marketplace, you’ll love the Ritz-Carlton
Harmony Hall Marketplace is Carowinds’ answer to the culinary desert found at most amusement parks. The chef-led food hall has five food stations serving up dishes like house-smoked pulled pork, a honkin’ large meatball served in a bread bowl, and chicken tenders hand breaded and made fresh daily. There’s also a full bar for those looking to indulge.
Pair your foodie experience with a culinary journey at the Ritz-Carlton in Uptown. Start the night with farm-to-table shared plates at K Lounge followed with an elegant steak dinner at BLT Steak and dessert at Bar Cocoa – a dessert bar, retail boutique, and cooking lab. Put the kids to bed and then head up to the Punch Room for skyline views and seasonally-inspired cocktails.View Hotel
If you like the Grand Carousel, you’ll love the Duke Mansion
There’s nothing like the slow trod of a carousel horse moving up and down to music from a calliope to make us all long for simpler days. Carowind’s Grand Carousel was built in 1923 and was recently restored to its original glory. Relive that era at the Duke Mansion, a century-old estate that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. From the columned entrance to the sleeping porches and meticulously planned gardens, guests are pampered with historic southern charm.View Hotel
If you like Fury 325, you’ll love the Charlotte Marriott Center City
Experience the wow factor from the moment you step into the technology-forward lobby of the Charlotte Marriott Center City. Check-in via one of the kiosks in the lobby and then head up to your room, which can be accessed via an app on your phone. Since the Charlotte Marriott Center City is the company’s testing ground for advancements in hospitality technology, you never know what to expect (like the on-demand fitness classes found in the state-of-the-art fitness center). It’s the perfect match for the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster, Fury 325 – Carowinds’ two-time winner of the Golden Ticket Award for steel roller coasters.View Hotel
If you like the Flying Ace Balloon Race, you’ll love the Homewood Suites Charlotte Ayrsley
A family favorite ride in Camp Snoopy is the Flying Ace Balloon Race. Up to four family members board a hot-air balloon to be lifted up and down as balloons race in a circle. A family favorite stay in Charlotte is the Homewood Suites Charlotte Ayrsley. The all-suites hotel offers plenty of room for the entire family with studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom accommodations, and, get this, complimentary breakfasts daily and complimentary happy hour Monday through Thursday. There’s also a refreshing pool to cool off in after a day at the park.View Hotel
If you like Rip Roarin’ Rapids, you’ll love the Villa at Water’s Edge
At least a few go-rounds on Rip Roarin’ Rapids are required to escape the Carolina summer heat. The water ride – set to mimic a white-water rafting experience – passes under waterfalls and geysers and splashes through rapids to help riders keep cool. Experience more water fun at the Villa at Water’s Edge. The private residence is located in a private cove on Lake Wylie. There’s plenty of room for everyone with a full kitchen, theater room, multiple bedrooms, and plenty of shoreline to play on. It’s also located close to the U.S. National Whitewater Center for additional water fun.View Hotel
If you like the WindSeeker, you’ll love the Kimpton Tryon Park
Sky tower meets swing ride on the WindSeeker. Riders soar to heights of 301-feet as they swing out over the top of Carowinds amusement park, breathing in views that, on a clear day, reach all the way to the mountains. Enjoy those same sky-high views at the new Kimpton Tryon Park. Most of the rooms in this ultra-luxury hotel boast floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Romare Bearden Park and BB&T Ballpark. The cherry on the top for the hotel, though, is the 19th-floor rooftop bar where guests can sip cocktails with a backdrop of Uptown’s skyline.View Hotel
Featured image courtesy of Carowinds