Living right in the middle of the Carolina’s is pretty cool…there’s plenty of football fans, a (somewhat) local music scene, our barbecue is top notch and you’re never more than a three-hour drive from the ocean. Best of all is what sits right on the state line that divides North and South Carolina…Carowinds theme park (Charlotte, NC).
As Fall approaches, a full moon rises over Carowinds and transforms the park into something a little darker…a tad sinister…it becomes a haunted wonderland known as SCarowinds. Originating back in 2000, this practice of transmogrification from light to darkness begins at 7:00 PM when the gates of hell are opened and joyful shouts of fun give way to shrieks of terror. Every year, more willing victims come to test their nerve within the confines of the haunted attraction until the witching hour (midnight) because…well, these creatures of the night have things to get back to in the early morning.
This year, Strange Kids Club was invited to join a handful of other media outlets for a special “behind-the-screams” dress rehearsal, showcasing everything these fiends have done to put a little “bump” into your night at Carowinds this Fall. As two sides of the same coin, Carowinds officially “closes” down at 5:30 PM to make way for it’s creep-filled counterpart, SCarowinds, which “re-opens” at 7:30 PM. While the darkness descends, the park’s full team of make-up artists, painters and FX specialists continue their dread-fueled work which includes preparing the final fright-inducing looks for their “Scarachters” (between 10-15 minutes per actor). In truth, Carowinds employs this team—dedicated solely to preparing for this one event—YEAR ROUND.
I should note, that while lot of SCarowinds was in place during our visit, the park wasn’t quite finished yet so don’t the photos misguide you. There are areas scattered throughout where the team has applied a little Halloween love, though. These sections, called scare zones, generally each have their own theme and cast of “Scarachters” (characters with scare put in front of it) to match. Tread carefully, though…these guys are masters of hiding in plain view and popping up right in front of you! SCarowinds has created five unique “scare zones” this year, which patrons will need to pass through to get to the next location…just be warned, that harmless-looking plant sitting on a pile of cloth probably isn’t what it appears to be—at all.
If the scare zones getting your heart racing and you need to take a break, but still want the scare fest to continue, you can chill out at one of five horror-themed live shows that park has scheduled. Set for specific times, so you know what’s playing when, most include a mix of musical acts and live theatre. If this year’s shows are anything like the ones I had the chance to go see in the past, they’re worth checking out.
Aside from the rides, scare zones and horror-themed musical shows, SCarowinds‘s biggest attraction are the macabre mazes and this year there are seven of them! Most of them are indoors and, I was surprised to learn, they’re actually a permanent part of the park—carefully hidden from public view during the offseason. The team maintains these haunts year round and their care shows. Honestly, knowing that there are jobs like this where Halloween is part of your everyday routine makes me reconsider my career options. I was taken through two of the mazes and even as a dress rehearsal, they were both top notch experiences…sort of like living in a weird, pseudo-slasher reality. These are big budget attractions and the quality shows.
I’d like to give a big thanks to the people at Carowinds for reaching out and inviting us to check out this year’s event. It was a great experience and if you’re in the Carolina’s—or simply don’t mind making a drive for a spectacular haunt—SCarowinds 2015 is an absolute MUST this season. Do yourself a favor and go. For more information on ticket prices, showtimes and all the official events, check out the SCarowinds official website.