Review: Carolina Cyclone at Carowinds

Roller Coaster Reviews

Carolina Cyclone opened in 1980. I’m not sure if it opened with a lot of fanfare, but it deserved it. It was a real record-setter as the World’s first roller coaster to feature four inversions, surpassing Cedar Point’s Corkscrew which had three. It’s located in the Carolina Boardwalk section of Carowinds not far from Ricochet and Hurler.
Carolina Corkscrew - Loops - Carowinds

Expect Turbulence Ahead

Carolina Cyclone was designed by steel coaster pioneers, Arrow Dyanmics. After you climb aboard the old-school trains and sit down, you’ll pull down those black ratcheting over-the-shoulder restraints that the maker is known for. The train exits the station and makes u-turn to the left. Behind the station you begin climbing the ride’s 95-foot tall lift hill. The train takes a small dip at the top, makes another u-turn and approaches the first drop.

Plunging down the relatively small 65-foot drop, Cyclone doesn’t waste any time unleashing two back-to-back vertical loops back on riders. Expect some turbulence during the loops as you’re shaken about a bit, but they’re not too forceful. Next the train passes over the nearby pathway and takes a bumpy banked turn to the right. This turn sets up the next two inversions.

Cyclone spirals through its two corkscrews in a pretty rough manner. It’s so bumpy that your head will likely bounce off of the hard over-the-shoulder restraints (some or quite a bit). The ride finishes with a partially covered helix where the trains winds its way up a tight circle. This near tunnel section is a nice, small surprise, but again it’s not the smoothest. You exit the helix and find some straight, flat track that brakes the train before heading into the station.
Carolina Corkscrew - Corkscrew - Carowinds - 2

At Least It’s Photogenic & Quick

On the positive side, even after almost 40 years, the Arrow looper still looks pretty good thanks to Carowinds upkeep and many paint jobs over the years. Cyclone’s double corkscrews pass right over a pathway allowing for some excellent up-close photo opportunities. Given its age, lines are never terribly long so it’s possible to get in a quick ride without losing a lot of time.

A Possible Beginner Coaster with Caution

Also, since almost the entire ride is visible, potential riders can access what they’re about to face. Along with Flying Cobras, Carolina Cyclone is an option for younger and newer riders working their way up the thrill rankings. It’s definitely not the best first looping coaster, but it is a less intense looper than Afterburn or Nighthawk. Once they’ve graduated from the kiddie rides and are ready for full-sized roller coasters, Cyclone is the next step.

My only hesitation is that it can be pretty rough. I know some who have ridden it and their kids loved it so much they rode it several times. Personally, me and my daughter were roughed up pretty good and for her, one ride was more than enough. I wonder how much the size of the rider affects the headbanging potential. My friends’ kids were smaller which might have saved them in some way.
Carolina Corkscrew - Roller Coaster - Carowinds -750

My Take & Rating for Carolina Cyclone

For me, Carolina Cyclone falls just below a roller coaster that I can fully recommend. If you’re on a mission to ride all of Carowinds’ roller coasters, then go for it and be prepared for some roughness. If you’re trying to choose which rides are worth your time, I’d say skip it and use your time on the park’s other rides. And if you’re new to riding roller coasters or you’re considering this ride for your kids, you’ve been warned. They may come away unscathed or un-bothered or they could be complaining about their heads. If I had to recommend a first looper at Carowinds I might lean towards Flying Cobras even though it’s a bit more forceful (more g-forces pressing down on you) and it includes the added challenge of backwards travel. At least Cobras doesn’t have Cylone’s headbanging issues.

Final Rating – 3.5 out of 10

What’s Your Take?
Have you ridden Carolina Cyclone? What’d you think? Let us know below.

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

5 Comments

  1. I was here when they opened up The Cyclone. And yes there was a ton of fanfare! It was a really big deal. But oddly enough, i never knew it was a record breaker until much later. I don’t remember it being a thing back then. As is a typical Arrow coaster, it is MUCH rougher now than when it opened. I remember riding it way back and it was smooth as butter. Back then it really was cutting edge. The Helix was fully covered. The Track was Red. It was a huge crowd pleaser back in the 80s. (But then, so was Thunder Road so…..)

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing Albert. It’s neat that you were there from the beginning for this ride. Maybe just the fact that it had loops was a begin enough deal and the number didn’t matter to people so much.

      And I had wondered if the helix was ever fully covered, making it a true tunnel. It reminds me of Goldrusher’s semi-covered helix. Was that ever fully covered too?

      Reply
  2. I am in agreement with your overall assessment, Joel. And I personally found the two corkscrews to be brutally rough. The ride was fine up to that point. On my next visit to Carowinds I made it a point to skip this coaster; it was one and done.

    Reply
  3. Great review, Joel. This is definitely one that I haven’t heard great things about. Are you considering doing reviews for other bad Arrow Loopers like Vortex at Kings Island?

    By the way, do you have any park plans for 2018 besides Carowinds? I remember you saying your older daughter is becoming an enthusiast, so you might try getting out to some more parks 😉

    Reply
    • Oh Geeze! Vortex! What a pain that was. 🙁 I can’t remember which was worse, Vortex or Son of Beast!!!

      Reply

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