Amusement parks in North Carolina run the gamut from large theme park to a hideaway for Santa to parks that celebrate North Carolina's heritage. The state's collection of amusement parks offer state-of-the-art coasters, scenic railways and a chance to visit with Santa. 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 North Carolina amusement parks.
What kid (or adult) wouldn't enjoy a chance to visit with Santa in his North Carolina retreat? Visitors to Santa's Land can meet Santa's reindeer and other pets, ride the rides, and shop in Santa's workshop and Mrs. Claus' candy kitchen.
Ol' St. NickSanta is the main attraction at Santa's Land. The jolly old elf greets visitors in his Santa House, and kids get a good conduct certificate and a treat. Guests can also have their pictures taken with Santa.
Reindeer And Roller CoastersIn addition to meeting Santa, visitors to Santa's Land can ride the classic carousel, take a ride on the Ho Ho Express and scream with the crowd on the Rudicoaster, a classic (but tame by most standards) roller coaster. There are also a variety of exotic and domestic animals to pet and feed, including Santa's reindeer.
Santa SnacksSanta's Snack Bar, located inside the park, serves Santa and Rudi burgers, chicken sandwiches, corn dogs and Lil Elfs meals as well as soft drinks and ice cream cones.
Safety RecordOur research revealed no notable news reports of accidents or safety issues at Santa's Land.
Address: 571 Wolfetown Road, Cherokee, NC 28719
Hours: Santa's Land is open from early May through October (when Santa must start getting ready for Christmas.) Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Memorial Day and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. after the holiday.
Price: Ages 2 and older, $19.99; children younger than 2, free.
Carowinds, part of the Cedar Fair collection of amusement parks, offers 64 rides on 122 acres. Open from late March through late October, Carowinds has eight themed areas, including Planet Snoppy for the youngest visitors, Country Fair, Carolina RFD and Boomerang Bay, the Carowinds' water park.
Inspired By NASCARThe Intimidator is Carowinds most spectacular ride. This tallest, fastest and longest coaster in the Southeast was inspired by NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt and twists and turns at speeds of up to 80 mph during its three-minute, 33-second run.
Other AttractionsIn addition to the Intimidator, Carowinds features 63 other rides. These range from the 1923-circa Character Carousel to the kid-favorite Snoppy vs. the Red Baron to water rides like Whitewater Falls, featuring a 45-foot waterfall plunge. Carowinds isn't just about rides, though. The park features five live shows daily, including Charlie Brown's Hoedown and Snoppy Rocks! on Ice.
Eateries And Fast FoodVisitors won't go hungry at Carowinds. The park offers a variety of eateries, including the 1950s-style Jukebox Diner and the kid-friendly Joe Cool Cafe. There are also a number of fast-food stands scattered throughout the park with offerings like corn dogs, Carolina fries and Cinnabons.
Safety RecordAccording to ThemeParkInsider, there have not been any accidents at Carowinds involving guests in more than 10 years. The most recent incident occurred in 1999 when seven people were injured by two train cars that collided.
Address: 14523 Carowinds Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28273
Hours: Carowinds is open from late March to late October. Opening and closing times vary weekly. Please check the Carowinds website for current times.
Price: Adults, $52.99 for a single day admission ticket; ages 62 and older and those under 48 inches tall, $25.99; ages 2 and younger, free; twilight admission (entrance after 4 p.m.), $24.99. Discounts are offered for tickets purchased online.
Other Noteworthy Parks Near North CarolinaFrankie's Fun Park
Gold City Amusement Park
Carolina Beach Amusement Park
What's your favorite amusement park in North Carolina?
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