Behind The Scenes: Carowinds Prepares for Grand Carnivale
One of the most exciting of Cedar Fair’s “new-for-2020” announcements (for me, anyway) was that my home park, Carowinds, would be adding their own version of Grand Carnivale, which took place at Kings Island, Dorney Park, Kings Dominion, and Worlds of Fun in 2019.
We all know how 2020 ended up. The “Spectacle of Color, Unlike Any Other” actually was indeed like many other things that were scheduled in 2020 — it got postponed to 2021.
After 700 days between the original announcement on August 15 and today, July 15, Grand Carnivale has finally made it to Carowinds, and will debut at the park this weekend, on Saturday, July 17. We were fortunate enough to be invited to a preview of Carowinds’ Grand Carnivale, and got our first chance to open up our world to beautiful people and faraway places.
Here’s a little of what we saw:
Grand Carnivale largely is taking place in Celebration Plaza at Carowinds, and the decorations put out by Carowinds’ live entertainment team were everywhere you looked. At Grand Carnivale, guests are treated to cuisine and experiences from six worldwide cultures; Germany, India, Italy, Spain, France, and China. Each country had its own dedicated and themed area located between the Carolina Skytower and Shade Arbor between Celebration Plaza and Carousel Plaza.
Each of Carowinds’ ticket-scanning entrances at the main gate featured Welcome messages from the represented countries, which I thought was a fantastic touch!
In talking to Ryan Allen, Carowinds’ Live Entertainment Manager, a part of the Carnivale decor around the park are these multi-colored peacocks.
“A peacock is the perfect symbol for Carnivale,” he said. “They’re regal. They’re colorful. They’re exactly what this event is all about.”
Each of the individual countries has a small themed display located near the food tents, which are certain to become popular photo spots!
The German display has taken up residence near the Carowinds Funnel Cake emporium.
A gondola and miniature Leaning Tower of Pisa comprise some of the detail in “Italy,” where there is also a gazebo with two chairs and a small table inside.
A look at the India pavilion.
In China, a Chinese New Year display is located atop the fountain by Carolina Skytower. Those fireworks might create some “Panda”monium!
In France, a miniature Eiffel Tower and Champagne Bottle are joined by an art display, and bunting that resembles the French flag.
Carnivale is one big party, and these decorations resemble Mardi Gras. Along with the food and entertainment, Grand Carnivale is certain to be a highly “Instagrammable” event!
The Food (and Drink!)
At its core, Grand Carnivale is an international festival, deservedly showcased by 24 unique “tastes” (four per country) from around the world. Park guests can purchase tasting cards for $35/$50 for six/nine samples of the international cuisine, respectively. (A la carte, each taste is $6.99). There are also seven special beverages as part of Carnivale, available in both cocktail (with alcohol) and “mocktail” varieties.
At the preview, we had the opportunity to sample both the Cocktail Carnivale (Green) and Sangria. The Cocktail Carnivale is made with Moscato, Pineapple Juice, as well as Blue Curacao and Granny Apple Syrups, while the Sangria features Pinot Noir, Lemonade, Orange Juice, Mixed Fruit, and a splash of Sprite. It’s worth noting that at Carowinds, the alcoholic beverages are made with Wine instead of Liquor, which allows park guests to walk around the entire park with their beverage. (Sometimes, state-to-state liquor laws can be interesting to deal with, especially on the state line!)
Both Cocktails and Mocktails Carnivale Concoctions can be found outside the Burrito Cafe, in the area where Spain is set up.
We had the opportunity to sample a few menu items, including these Crepes and Jambon–Beurre from France.
Would it truly be German food without German Chocolate Cake and Weinerschnitzel?
In India, guests will be able to sample Laddu, which are festive Indian Cookies, and Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice.
Two options in Spain included Potatoes Bravas (which had a bit of a kick, but were amazing) and Dulce de Leche Churros (also delicious!)
While in China, guests will have the opportunity to sample Steamed Pork Dumplings, and Almond & Fortune Cookies!
Last but certainly not least, Italy featured the layered Cassata Cake, which I didn’t try, and also the Cavatelli Cone – a Bread Cone with pasta and meatballs inside — where I unfortunately didn’t allow the camera to eat first, shame on me! — but take my word for it, it was DELICIOUS.
Each night during Grand Carnivale, the Spectacle of Color Parade will step-off from Carolina Harbor at 7:30pm, making its way through the main gate. One of the parade floats, designed by legendary Mardi Gras parade float designers, New Orleans’ Kern Studios, was available on display. The parade is comprised of multiple (I didn’t count!) drums, and has a great interactive element planned during the parade.
Seeing one of the parade floats up close was highly impressive, and I can’t wait to see them making their way down the Carowinds midways!
There are 150 performers at Carowinds as part of Grand Carnivale, including the “King and Queen” of Carnivale, who will lead the nightly parade! If you have the chance, be sure to talk to the King and Queen, they can’t wait to welcome you to their kingdom!
Over by Intimidator, there will be a series of “Play Until You Win” games that are themed to the various countries!
And while past versions of Grand Carnivale at other parks have featured smaller stages with entertainment tied to each region, at Carowinds, all of the entertainment will take place on the main Plaza stage. Each night, Grand Carnivale at Carowinds will begin with an opening ceremony, feature the Royal Carnivale Variety Show, The Royal Dance Party, and the Royal Rhythms. Following the Spectacle of Color Parade, there will be a nightly send-off to conclude the event! For the full entertainment schedule, click here!
What would a special event be without unique merchandise? Grand Carnivale at Carowinds has you covered!
A wide variety of Carnivale Merchandise can be found at Grand Carnivale Central, adjacent to Funnel Cake Emporium, as well as the main shop in Celebration Plaza.
Each event needs a custom shirt, and Carowinds has two — in grey and tie-dye, along with some special drinkware!
After experiencing Grand Carnivale at Kings Dominion in 2019, I was thrilled for it to come to my home park. Grand Carnivale takes place at Carowinds nightly from July 17-August 1, and the Spectacle of Color Parade and other Live Entertainment are included with Park Admission! To purchase tickets, be sure to visit Carowinds’ website!
Grand Carnivale starts at @carowinds on Saturday! A Spectacle of Color, Unlike Any Other!
Be sure to check it out if you’re at the park from July 17-August 1! pic.twitter.com/4C0TCDrGmK
— Coaster101.com (@Coaster101) July 15, 2021