The Best Roller Coasters Near Charlotte NC

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Theme Parks within Driving Distance of Charlotte NC (Click to Enlarge)

Theme Parks within Driving Distance of Charlotte NC (Click to Enlarge)

Queen City Coasters: A List of the Best Roller Coasters within Driving Distance of Charlotte, NC
Charlotteans are lucky to have not only Carowinds here in town, but also several other parks within a 5 or 6 hour drive. To coincide with my interview tonight on Fox Charlotte, here is a list of my favorite roller coasters at the parks nearest to Charlotte.


Afterburn at Carowinds – Charlotte, NC
Afterburn is my favorite roller coaster in the Carolinas. It was formerly Top Gun – The Jet Coaster and it does a great job of giving riders the sense of flying a fighter jet as the theme suggests. The layout features six loops, some of which are named after actual fighter plane maneuvers. Best of all the loops, drops, turns, and twists are all super smooth encouraging riders to ride again and again. Visit the Official Web Site:

Time Machine at Freestyle Music Park features an on-board audio system.Time Machine at Freestyle Music Park – Myrtle Beach, SC (4 Hour Drive)
The new owners of last year’s short-lived Hard Rock Park have revamped and renovated the park including its signature roller coaster. The Time Machine is a looping roller coaster that features on-board speakers pumping out songs from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s. While enjoying the tunes, riders are treated to 6 thrilling loops. Read my full review of the ride in its former life as Led Zeppelin – The Ride. Visit the Official Web Site:

Thunderhead at Dollywood – Pigeon Forge, TN (4 Hour Drive)Thunderhead at Dollywood is a Golden Ticket Award Winner.
Thunderhead is a world-class wooden coaster set against the mountainous backdrop of Pigeon Forge, TN. In the past, it has received the Golden Ticket Award for the Best Wooden Coaster in the World. It features a smooth twister layout and an unusual station fly-through where riders speed through the station at 40 mph. Read my full review of Thunderhead at Dollywood.Visit the Official Web Site:

Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia is 20 stories tall.

Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia – Atlanta, GA (4 Hour Drive)
Goliath is the tallest roller coaster in the South. Riders climb 20-stories above the park and then plummet 170 feet back down to Earth. Goliath offers several moments of airtime at the crest of its seven hills and a very smooth ride. With such large drops, Goliath is also one of the fastest coasters in the region with a top speed of 70 mph. Check out my full review of Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia.Visit the Official Web Site:

Volcano at Kings Dominion – Doswell, VA – (5 Hour Drive)Volcano: The Blast Coaster launches riders to 70 mph.
Volcano: The Blast Coaster is a popular roller coaster at Carowinds’ sister park; Kings Dominion. It catapults riders to 70 mph, then up and out of an ‘active’ volcano that spews fire and smoke. Recently, the ride caused a national stir when a ring of smoke failed to dissipate and looked like a UFO floating above the park. Volcano’s a really unique attraction that shouldn’t be missed. Check out my full review of Volcano: The Blast Coaster at Kings Dominion. Visit the Official Web Site:

Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens Europe – Williamsburg, VA (5 & 1/2 Hour Drive)
Apollo's Chariot drops riders 210 feet to a river below.Like Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia, Apollo’s Chariot is all about height and speed. Apollo’s Chariot has an interesting layout that includes a tunnel and dives near and towards water. It boasts and ultra smooth ride, comfortable seats and lap bars, and more airtime than you can shake a stick at. Riders are lifted upwards on nearly every hill with joyous moments of airtime. Read my full review of Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Garden Europe. Visit the Official Web Site:

What’s Your Take?
You’ve read my take, what’s your take on the best roller coasters in region? Get the discussion started by leaving a comment below. Images courtesy of CoasterImage.

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


  1. Afterburner review please 😀

  2. Good list, but I would have included Grizzly at Kings Island as well as Swamp Fox.

  3. I'll have an Afterburn review up soon. A review for that coaster is suddenly in high demand.

    Jeff, did you mean Grizzly at Kings Dominion? That was one of my first real roller coasters. It's a must-ride at that park. For this list I tried to pick just one at each park. And I haven't been on Swamp Fox, but I hope to ride when I visit Myrtle Beach later this summer.

    Thanks for reading.

  4. thanks coaster critic. Ive been on all of these except the ones at dollywood. But im going over there late July!

  5. I'm a Florida boy, so I am kinda lucky because I live 3 hours south of Orlando. Everything is open year round here ( YES!!!) and I've been to all those parks except Freestyle. I hope to get there soon!

  6. im going to freestyle in about a week. They dont have alot of roller coasters, but hey its better than nothing

  7. I went to Dollywood yesterday. This ride was pretty good. The theming of the ride was nice. The fly-through scared me quite a bit. You have to be there to believe it. It was the loudest thing that ive ever heard. Well the ride was kinda bumpy for the whole ride. LOTS of airtime which is something you really want to have on a roller coaster. I dont think they put the picture camera thing in the best spot. The ride operators were very friendly. They were holding contests to see which train could be the loudest in the flythrough station. AND IT WAS LOUD!!!!!! This ride was nice. It was a little bumpy i give it 9.5 out of 10

  8. Im glad you put up my favorite ride the volcano at kings dominion but realy the dominator is bigger news but great site anywasy 🙂

    • It's the BEST roller coasters near Charlotte, not the newest. Besides Dominator's fun, but not as unique and interesting as Volcano for a post like this. Thanks for reading!

  9. i think that people that do not like roller coasters are crazy.

    • To be honest I think the opposite! 🙂

  10. Then I must belong in an asylum. 🙂


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