TRAVEL
08/16/2011 12:59 pm ET | Updated Oct 20, 2011

Amusement Parks In The South: A Huffington Post Travel Guide

Amusement parks in the South can be rewarding to visit for families with their friendliness and hospitality. But don't let the down-home atmosphere fool you — Southern amusement parks don't skip the thrill factor, and they boast some of the most amazing rides in the country. As part of a Huffington Post Travel series on family-fun parks, here is our guide to all the key information visitors need to know about amusement parks in the South.

Carowinds


Carowinds has a family-friendly, county-fair atmosphere. The lines are reasonable and you won't find yourself spending most of the day waiting for a ride. The children's section of the theme park features Charlie Brown, Snoopy and friends and includes an evening walk through light and sound called Snoopy's Starlight Spectacular.

The Intimidator

The Dale Earnhardt-themed Intimidator hyper coaster has a 211-foot drop and 5,316 feet of track. It features seven drops and has staggered hyper coaster cars for a thrilling ride.

Coasters And More

Besides the Intimidator, the Nighthawk, Afterburn and Thunder Road should not be missed. Of course, these rides will likely have the longest lines, so be sure to head there first. Boomerang Bay is free with admission and features 20 acres of water activities. There is a Peanuts kiddie park and an annual spooky Halloween attraction called Scarowinds.

County-Fair Food

You can enjoy county-fair-type foods at any of the walk-up eateries like Bondi Bites, Carolina Corn Dogs, Chick-fil-A, Cinnabon, Eddy's Ice Cream, Funnel Cake Factories and more. There are also several sit-down restaurants on the boardwalk, including Izzie's Outback Shack, Panda Express and Surfer Joe's Cafe.

Safety Record

Carowinds Park boasts an excellent safety record. They post safety tips and rules and recommend that anyone with a pre-existing condition of any kind not ride certain attractions. There have been no ride-related deaths at the park, and the only injuries were to employees during a test run of a ride due to operator error.

Address: 13423 Carowinds Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28273
Phone: 704-588-2600
Hours: Carowinds has a complicated daily schedule. It is best to check the calendar when planning your trip to the park.
Price: Children ages 2 and under, free; ages 3 to 61 and 48 inches or taller, $52.99; ages 3 to 61 and under 48 inches and over 62, $25.99; ages 3 to 61 and 48 inches or taller after, 4 p.m. $24.99; ages 3 to 61 and 48 inches or taller, $56.99 for a two day pass. Prices are slightly discounted online. Parking is $10.

Dollywood


Dollywood is the epitome of Southern hospitality. Visitors to this Dolly Parton-owned amusement park (she sometimes makes appearances) can enjoy down-home country music and bluegrass presented in live stage shows, as well as thrill rides and dinner theaters. Dollywood is clean, family-oriented fun in the Smoky Mountains.

Thunderhead

Thunderhead is the unofficial signature ride of the park. It is a wood coaster that races 55 mph and has a 100-foot drop and a high-speed S-curve at the base of the first drop. There is also a fly-through station where the train passes eight feet above the exit ramp at 40 mph.


Mystery Mine

Mystery Mine is a close second to Thunderhead. It has a 1,811-foot track that travels through an abandoned coal mine where uncertain encounters and amazing adventures await. There is a 95-degree, 85-foot plunge into darkness. Tennessee Tornado, made to mimic a tornado through a mining company, is a force of nature with a spiral track and a 128-foot drop through an actual mountain at 70 mph.

Food Stands And Restaurants

There are numerous food stands and sit-down restaurants throughout the park, such as Aunt Granny's All-You-Care-To-Eat Buffet, Granny Ogle's Ham 'n' Beans, Red's Diner and Miss Lillian's BBQ Pit. Meal prices are approximately $12 each.

Safety Record

Dollywood has an has a near-perfect safety record. One woman fell from a train in 2004 and spent one night in the hospital. The staff is known to stop rides often for safety precautions and during inclement weather.

Address: 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd., Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Phone: 800-365-5996
Hours: March through mid-June, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Mid-June through early August, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Second week of August, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mid-August through December, special varied hours. Check out the operating calendar for more information.
Price: Ages 12 to 59, $57 one-day pass, $93.85 three-day Splash and Play; ages 4 to 11, $45 one-day pass, $77.10 three-day Splash and Play; ages 60 and over, $53.60 one-day pass, $93.85 three-day Splash and Play. Season tickets are less than the cost of two visits to the park.

Other Noteworthy Amusement Parks In The South

Walt Disney World
Universal Studios
Busch Gardens
Six Flags over Georgia
Seaworld Orlando

What's your favorite amusement park in the South?

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