Ringing in 2019 at Carowinds’ WinterFest New Years Eve
After the success of their inaugural WinterFest in 2017, Carowinds announced earlier in the 2018 season that the park would be adding several additional days to the WinterFest calendar, including December 31, New Year’s Eve. Even with the promise of live entertainment and fireworks at midnight in addition to the scheduled WinterFest activities, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with this first year event.
However, my interest was certainly piqued, and a night at Carowinds sounded like the perfect way to ring in the new year. Here’s some of what I saw and experienced!
Arriving at Carowinds, I’ll admit, the weather wasn’t great. Very grey outside. Fortunately, the rain held off until just into 2019.
The grey skies gave way to a nice blue at dusk, though. All of the Holiday decorations remained up through the duration of WinterFest. From 5:00pm-10:00pm, it was a very similar night to my visit to WinterFest earlier this season. (Though, I’m betting the day’s weather kept a lot of people away. Crowds were very manageable all night!)
Charlotte NBC Affiliate WCNC was broadcasting live from Carowinds.
Having accomplished a lot during my first visit to WinterFest this season, I felt like I could take this trip to WinterFest at a more leisurely pace, and was able to catch a few minutes of Holiday in Harmony inside of Harmony Hall, which I had missed earlier this season.
While wandering around the park, I also was able to take in a little bit more of Jingle Jazz, which is my favorite show at Carowinds’ WinterFest. I stopped to take some photos and video.
I think these five singers have some fantastic harmony! I hope Jingle Jazz becomes a WinterFest staple.
Because I was busy trying to take in as much entertainment as possible during my first visit, I skipped nearly every ride at WinterFest. Fortunately, I was able to take a few laps on Afterburn during this visit. There’s just something about night rides that make an already good coaster into a great coaster.
By this time, it was about 10:00pm. Around this time, the park began to transform a little bit. Sure, the Christmas lights were there, but the soundtrack around the park slowly transitioned from holiday standards into more pop party music. It was a minor, but definitely noticeable (and welcome!) change.
There were five unique New Year’s Eve Entertainment areas at Carowinds’ New Years Eve Party, including three live bands– Hot Sauce, Diverse Groove and Diamond River — and two areas where there were DJ’s playing dance music, The Coca-Cola Polar Bear Plaza in County Fair and a more kid-focused dance party in Camp Snoopy that featured Peanuts Characters.
Coca-Cola Polar Bear Plaza
The familiar red and white lights were everywhere as a DJ was playing music to get the assembled crowd dancing. While I was in the area, group dance favorites “The Cupid Shuffle” and “The Wobble” had everyone moving in unison, and were interspersed with other pop songs that don’t have a specific dance, but were upbeat and got everyone in the New Year’s Party mood! (There was even a little country line dancing with Steve Earl’s “Copperhead Road,” which I’m definitely going to consider the unofficial name of Copperhead Strike’s queue line next year!)
Hot Sauce in Tinsel Town
Over in Tinsel Town, Charlotte-area band Hot Sauce were playing some classic rock and party favorites. They had a fantastic sound, and I felt they were pretty unique, with one of the band’s members playing the keytar. From Rolling Stones to Sam and Dave, they had a little bit of everything in their repertoire! It was a great way to get into the party mood!
Even the Tannebaums, the first family of Tinsel Town, were doing some dancing of their own to Hot Sauce!
Firmly in the spirit at this point…
Time to get in the spirit! Less than an hour until Midnight! pic.twitter.com/Zrv10ccLx2
— Coaster101.com (@Coaster101) January 1, 2019
…it was time to get a bite to eat. Carowinds’ Chef Kris had prepared a few special New Year’s Eve menu items that were being served out of the Carowinds Food Truck, which was parked in Tinsel Town.
I opted for the Beef Tenderloin Sandwich. It was delicious.
This is no exaggeration when I say this, that sandwich was by far the best food I’ve ever eaten in any theme park. It was outstanding. The beef was tender, the focaccia bread, which was made in-house was light and flavorful. The caramelized onions and boursin cheese provided a great flavor. It was awesome that Chef Kris got to experiment a little bit from typical theme park fare, and I hope there are more opportunities for him to do this in the future!
Diverse Groove on the State Line Stage
Diverse Groove performed right on the State Line, in front of the 70′ Tall WinterFest Tree. I stood and watched them for a little bit, and they had drawn quite the crowd with their high-energy pop and hip-hop songs. They had the crowd dancing and waving their arms, and sounded great! Their horn section and drums were outstanding!
Diamond River in Harmony Hall
Diamond River took over for W-H-A-T on the Harmony Hall Stage, and were joined by Charlie Brown, in his New Year’s Best.
Like Hot Sauce, the Asheville, NC band was playing a little bit of classic rock when I saw them perform, and I really enjoyed their cover of Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams!” Admittedly, I was in a bit of a time crunch when I saw them, and wish I could have spent a little more time watching them perform.
I didn’t get over to the Peanuts Kids Dance party, but something pretty cool that happened in Camp Snoopy was a New Year’s countdown at 11:00pm as well as 12:00am. Think of it as a real life version of the Netflix fake-out videos that parents can use to trick their kids to go to bed on New Year’s Eve!
After “party hopping” throughout Carowinds, by this point, midnight was getting closer and closer, complete with a fireworks show to celebrate 2019. With the fireworks being shot off from inside Carolina Harbor, it seemed that County Fair would be the optimal location to watch fireworks. Then, I had an idea.
I have absolutely nothing bad to say about Carowinds’ fireworks, but if you’ve seen a fireworks show before, you’ve seen a fireworks show. They don’t differ that much. I wanted to end 2018 and start 2019 on the same high note. I called an audible and left County Fair, briskly walking towards Afterburn.
The timing was perfect. I got into the station about 11:56, and there was no line. After a train left the station, it was clear that the next train would be dispatched in 2018, and would return “home” in 2019. Though the train was far from full, it was clear that a few guests had the same idea that I had: We were going to ride a roller coaster across two years. At 11:59, we were sent up the lift hill, and the ride op sent us off with a “SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!” which was met with cheers from the train.
Midnight hit at some point on the lift hill, and to our right, fireworks started going off in Carolina Harbor. Riding a roller coaster with fireworks going on is an awesome experience, and if you get the chance, I highly recommend it. Icing on the cake of a great New Year’s Experience!
Fortunately, the fireworks show was long enough where I could still get some photos and video of the fireworks in action, and from a fairly unique angle with Afterburn in the foreground!
Now that we were successfully into 2019, I slowly made my way to the front of the park, and finally left a little after the 1:00am park closing.
If you’ve gotten this far and are wondering my thoughts about what it was like to spend New Year’s Eve at an amusement park — I genuinely can’t recommend it enough. It’s honestly some of the most fun I’ve ever had at Carowinds. It was a phenomenal atmosphere, the food was fantastic, everyone was in good spirits and excited to ring in the new year!
New Years Eve at WinterFest at Carowinds is definitely going to become an annual tradition for me, and I can’t wait to watch the event continue to grow. Congratulations to everyone at Carowinds who was involved with such a fantastic first year event!
While New Year’s Eve may mark the official end of the 2018 park season, it’s now officially 2019, which means the 2019 season is right around the corner! I can’t wait!