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Carowinds WinterFest Keeps the Carolinas in a Festive Spirit

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Carowinds is once again opening its big festive holiday gates to celebrate the season with Carowinds WinterFest for 2021.

This Carolinas’ theme park invites holiday lovers to bask in the glow of over 5 million lights and sing along with their 12 holiday shows.  Ride lovers will appreciate that 23 rides are open for WinterFest. Most rides are for their younger audience but there are a few for grown up fans, including Afterburn and Copperhead Strike.

Here’s our experience, along with everything you need to know to enjoy your time at the park.

Carowinds WinterFest Pinterest Pin

Where is Carowinds located?

Located on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina, Carowinds is less than 20 minutes from uptown Charlotte.

Address:  300 Carowinds Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28273

When is Carowinds WinterFest Open?

In 2021, Winterfest runs on select nights from November 13 through January 9th.

  • Mostly they open on the weekends. Plus, some weekdays around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Hours vary by the day. Typically, they open at 3 pm on Saturdays, 5 pm Sundays and 5 pm weekdays.
  • The park closes at 10 or 11 pm depending on the night. Except for New Year’s Eve when they stay open until 12:30 am.

Note: Though the park opens November 13, not all attractions and shows start until November 19th. The parade doesn’t start until November 22. 

Where Do I Purchase Tickets?

You can purchase tickets at the gate, but they are more expensive than purchasing online directly through Carowinds. We also recommend getting your parking ticket ahead of time online to save $4.

Adult Pricing: starting at $24.99 online (plus a convenience charge) to $45 at the gate

Parking: $16 online and $20 on the day

**2022 Gold Pass includes admission and parking for Winterfest 2021. If you plan on also going to the park in 2022, this may be a good deal for you.

Where is a Good Place to Stay for Carowinds?

  • Carowinds Wilderness Resort is on the North Carolina side of the Carowinds property. There is an RV park and cabins. The smaller cabins accommodate three people while their standard cabins accommodate eight. If you have a larger group, the executive cabin can accommodate up to 14.
  • Located just outside the property, the closest hotel is also the newest. The Marriott’s Springhill Suites takes less than 10 minutes to walk to the entrance.
  • Comfort Inn at the Park is on the Avenue of the Carolinas. This would also take less than 10 minutes, especially if you walk through the Carowinds parking lot. 
  • There are several chain hotels, such as the Best Western Carowinds, on Carowinds Blvd right off I-77. You can walk to the park from these hotels, but we don’t recommend it. Crossing Carowinds Blvd can be a dangerous nightmare as there are no crosswalks, we are aware of.
Giant jingle bell of lights at Carowinds WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

Celebration Plaza

We entered the park from the North Gate, which led into Celebration Plaza.

As we arrived for opening, the massive holiday tree in the center was still in darkness.

While a crowd started to gather and wait for the 5:30 tree lighting ceremony, we took advantage of the time of day, and lack of crowds, and headed over to the Carolina Skytower.

As the ride lifted us 262 feet above the park, we had an amazing view of the sun setting as the Christmas lights below glimmered around us.

As we exited the ride, we caught the very end of the tree lighting ceremony.

At 70 feet tall, with every inch decorated in lights and bobbles, the tree was stunning. The digital lights danced, creating various patterns and shapes.

70-foot holiday tree sits in the center of Celebration Plaza at Carowinds WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

Next, we headed down Snow Flake Lane where ice skating sessions of typically 45 minutes are available for $15 (skate rental included).

Ice Skating Rink and Harmony Hall at Carowinds Winterfest in the Carolinas

We passed through Charlie Brown’s Christmas Town and Camp Snoopy. There were some lights, but this section of the park was heavily geared toward the kiddies, so we skipped it.

Christmas Crossroads and Blue Ridge Country Christmas

If you are a roller coaster junkie, head straight to these areas. There are not many of the larger rides open during Carowinds Winterfest, but Afterburn and Copperhead Strike are open.

As the crowds hadn’t made their way to the back of the park yet, we quickly tucked my camera into a locker next to the Copperhead Strike and headed onto the rides. Lockers were $2 for an hour.

Entrance for the Copperhead Strike roller coaster, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

After we had our fill of the coasters, we wanted to check out the entertainment.

One of our favorite shows was the Christmas Bluegrass in the Blue Ridge Country Christmas area. Inspired by Appalachian Mountain music, we found it a lot of fun and surprisingly festive.

Christmas Bluegrass show at Carowinds WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

Some of the best lights and decorations of WinterFest were around Christmas Crossroads. Plus, there was a petting zoo and carolers around a nativity scene.

Windseeker at Carowinds WinterFest decorated in lights, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC
Lights decorate Christmas Crossroads at WinterFest, Carowinds, Charlotte, NC

Before grabbing dinner, we headed back towards the entrance through Candy Cane Lane.

Candy Cane Lane as seen from the Skytower, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

Eating at Carowinds Winterfest

There were about ten dining options open for WinterFest. In addition, there were a dozen or so sweet shops selling everything from funnel cakes, to Cinnabon, to various holiday treats.

Most dining options had limited menus. The largest eating area is Harmony Hall. Dasher’s Diner also had a good selection and Chickie’s and Pete’s wings and crab fries looked pretty good.

We chose to try Harmony Hall as it had the largest selection. 

Though it was quite busy, there was plenty of seating. Plus, the show going on in the front kept everyone entertained as we munched away on our dinners.

Grab something to eat and watch a show at Holiday Hall, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

North Pole Excursion

Except for the Horse Drawn Carriage rides, we didn’t find much for adults in the North Pole Excursion area. However, if you have kids with you, they will love it. Plus, Mrs. Claus’ Cookie Decorating seemed to be a hit, everyone was carrying little boxes.

Coco-Cola Polar Bear Plaza and Jingle Bell Boardwalk

If you love rides that spin, Polar Bear Plaza is where you want to be.

In addition to the rides, there was a DJ keeping everyone engaged and on their feet. This was a great area to hang out, listen to the music and enjoy the lights.

Electro Spin ride at Carowinds theme park, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

A 30-foot Santa greeted us as we made our way down Jingle Bell Boardwalk. 

The lights in this area are synchronized to the music, so we took a seat and watched the show for a bit.

This is also where we found the North Pole Post Office. A must stop if you have kids with you, the post office is adorably decorated to give the little ones an authentic experience.

Giant inflatable Santa Claus in Polar Bear Plaza, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC
North Pole Post Office at Carowinds WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

Tinsel Town and Christmas Park

Tinsel Town seemed a little underutilized in our opinion. It looked a bit like a 60’s or 70’s set. However, it was worth the walk-through to see the lights. Plus, there were some fun photo opportunities. But there was not much to hold our attention for too long.

Christmas Park

Christmas Park centered around a beautifully lit giant carousel. The white lights brought a classic Christmas feel to this area and a stunning contrast to the multicolored walkway that joined it to Celebration Plaza.

Grand Carousel in Christmas Park, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC
The beautifully decorated Christmas Park as seen from the Skytower, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

Throughout the Park

In addition to the themed shows and the open rides, Carowinds WinterFest delights with seasonally themed games and holiday shopping around every corner.

We absolutely loved that their normal stores and dining facilities were renamed to enhance the ambiance of the park.

Ugly Sweater Shop, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC
Sign pointing the direction at Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

Closing the Night

Carowinds ends the night with the 9 pm Wonderland Parade. To our pleasant surprise, it is an actual parade, with larger-than-life floats, great music, and a cast of holiday characters.

Train float in the WinterFest Wonderland ParadeTrain float in the WinterFest Wonderland Parade, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

The parade started off in the North Pole Excursion and wound its way through half the park. Finally, they arrived at Celebration Plaza where they parked half the floats on the thoroughfare leading out of the park.

Music blared, as cast members took to the stage and plaza. The whole park seemed to join in the celebration of singing and dancing.

It was a perfect way to end the evening and keep everyone smiling and laughing as they left.

Gingerbread Parade Float in the Wonderland Parade, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC
The parade finale and dance party with the cast at the giant Christmas Tree in Celebration Plaza, Carowinds, WinterFest, Charlotte, NC

As always, our posts are NOT sponsored. We have no affiliation with Carowinds, we just enjoyed the attraction and thought you would too.

Looking for more Christmas fun in Charlotte, check out our posts.

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