Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be one of the first to ride Carowinds’ new 2012 attraction WindSeeker. Similar to the four that opened at other Cedar Fair parks last year, WindSeeker is a towering flat ride that lifts riders to a lofty 301 feet and spins them at 30 mph. It’s been described by the park as a family ride that’s also a thrill ride. Even though I typically stick to roller coasters, I was eager to give this new ride a whirl.
WindSeeker – Carowinds’ New Attraction
As you’d imagine, Windseeker has changed the skyline at Carowinds. It joins the observation tower (Carolina Skytower) and Intimidator, as all three are now visible from many miles around. WindSeeker is located right in the heart of the park in the Carolina RFD section. The most direct path to the ride (from the main entrance) is via the path under Nighthawk. It almost looks like it was always there as it has been well-integrated into the surrounding area. During the media event, the park’s General Manager Bart Kinzel pointed out the new pavers and trash cans. I also noticed the grassy area near it has the Peanuts displays like the rest of the area that morphs into the Snoopy Starlight Spectacular in the evenings.
After a brief introduction by park officials I was one of the first to ride WindSeeker. I joined Clint Novak from Coaster Crew for my first and only ride. WindSeeker’s huge up close with its 32 rows of 2 side-by-side seats. The ride has a sound system with eighteen different dramatic tracks. While they tested the ride, I heard movie scores from E.T., Star Trek, and Harry Potter.
WindSeeker – The Ride
After a few false starts, our ascent was accompanied by the Superman theme song. The familiar score evoked some applause and our view of the park slowly started to change. The entire ride is super smooth and I felt very safe and comfortable. As you continue to climb, the 64-person carriage starts to spin. When you reach the top, the ride seems to speed up just a bit as you reach the 30 mph pace. While it looks pretty slow from the ground, it feels a good bit faster. Everyone has a different tolerance for spinning, but for me it was just right. It wasn’t so fast that I felt dizzy or nauseous. And there was even a touch of g-forces pressing against me. Because it’s not spinning you so fast, you can still glance around at the great view.
The music does add to the experience and I can’t wait to ride WindSeeker at night when the lights are in full effect. I think lines for this ride will stay pretty long even until the park closes. After a while, you begin to slowly and smoothly drop back down the tower. As you do, the carriage stops spinning and by the time you reach the ground, the seats are stationary again. You’re dropped off right where you were picked up and your ride is over.
WindSeeker – The View Down & The View Around
It was neat knowing that I was higher than Intimidator. As Public Relations Manager Bryn Winburn stated, “From WindSeeker you can shout words of encouragement to riders on Intimidator that are 69 feet below you”. I’ve been 300-feet above the ground before, but never for this long. I figured riding a roller coaster train was much different than sitting in nothing but a seat with ground far below you. But all-in-all the view past my size 11’s was cool, but not all that crazy. I think I was comparing it in unfairly to experiences I’ve had on thrill rides like Kings Dominion’s Drop Tower. It’s definitely a different experience than having your back to the tower and knowing you’re about to be dropped. To the general public and most people who haven’t ridden a lot of tall rides, I’d imagine the view down is quite something. Now I wish I would have interviewed some of the other riders.
You get an impressive view of the surrounding area from the top. The North Carolina – South Carolina border cuts right through Carowinds. WindSeeker happens to be on the South Carolina side making it the tallest structure in the Palmetto State. Officials said that on a clear day you can see about 30 miles around the park. Uptown Charlotte’s skyscrapers are easily visible north of the park as are a few mountains in the distance.
Note – This video was filmed by professionals with permission from the park. For safety reasons, please DO NOT take a camera on a roller coaster.
WindSeeker – My Take
In summation, WindSeeker is a good addition to a park that’s been steadily growing since I moved to the area. As Bart Kinzel said, “Cedar Fair is committed to Carowinds”. They’ve expanded the water park (2008), added an upgraded Vekoma boomerang in Carolina Cobra (2009), built an excellent signature roller coaster in Intimidator (2010), and put in a cool family attraction in the Snoopy Starlight Spectacular (2011).
So, a large family thrill ride that’ll likely draw even more attention is another good choice. I’d say it’s more “family” than “thrill”, so thrill seekers may want to temper their expectations a bit. Having said that, the size and height of the ride will wow the general public and the view will also impress many. Add in the lights and music and you’ve got a solid new attraction with a wide appeal.
Here are my photos from the media event:[simple_slideshow size=”slider1″ link_click=”1″ auto_advance=”1″]
What’s Your Take?
Have you ridden WindSeeker at Carowinds? What’d you think? Leave a comment below and rate the ride in the poll.[poll id=”62″]