E. Pat Hall, a Charlotte industrial developer, stunned the Carolinas on October 10, 1969 when he announced his plans to build a $250 million theme park and resort development that would straddle the NC/SC border near Interstate 77. Seven themed areas would depict more than 200 years of colorful Carolina history!
The $30 million theme park would be designed by Randall Duell & Associates of Santa Monica, CA., the same folks who designed Disneyland. A series of artistic renditions were released to the public in 1969 and ground was finally broken on May 1, 1970. The General Contractor was Charles Cisne & Associates of Charlotte. Their plans were to have the park open in April 1972, but rainy weather caused numerous construction delays.
Carowinds finally opened it's gates to the public on a rainy, March 31, 1973 at 9:36am. About 3,100 people passed through the turnstiles on that rainy, opening day, much less than the 25,000 anticipated. Fortunately, the first season ended with an impressive 1.2 million visitors, a record it held for a number of years when the impending oil crisis substantially hurt the travel and tourism industry. And amid the multiple park ownerships & personel changes, come the inevitable and often drastic transformations that are necessary to remain fresh and competitve. The old Carowinds today, is barely recognizable with the exception of a few original rides and buildings. All of the down home, local charm that made Carowinds that special place it was back then, are long gone.
Many of those who visited Carowinds in it's hey day may recall certain thrill rides like the Surfer, the Witchdoctor or White Lightnin'. Others will remember the exquisite Double-Decker, German-made carousel, the Carolina Sternwheeler, the Monorail or the 2 authentic Steam Engine trains. And others may simply remember the Cable Skyway, a spin on the Oaken Bucket or the trams that would take guests to the former Plantation House entrance. These attractions may be long gone, but now you can rekindle those past memories with this nostalgic collection of over 200 photos, postcards, news clippings and video clips that commemorate those lost but not forgotten rides & attractions of Carowinds' past.
Just click, or tap, on the photo below to begin your Early Years journey.