Anyone following the Twelve Mile Circle for any length of time knows that I have an unnatural fixation on borders and boundaries. I particularly enjoy those places split by borders or positioned directly alongside borders especially with a purpose in mind. I thought I’d discovered, either on my own or through the generous contributions of readers of this blog just about every large object that could possibly straddle a border. Imagine my delight and surprise when I found a massive entity, an entire theme park that’s split between North and South Carolina just outside of the city of Charlotte. It’s called Carowinds.
View Larger Map
Carowinds is a portmanteau — another one of my favorite topics — albeit a particularly lame example: Carolina and Winds. The Carolina part makes perfect sense. The Winds part seems a little weak, having to do with the breezes that blow across the Carolinas or something like that according to at least one source. I suggest they change their name to Carocue for the friendly barbecue battles that take place between the two states. South Carolina mustard would go up against Eastern NC vinegar or Western NC tomato (Lexington) styles. Everyone wins at a barbecue-focused theme park! Well, maybe not the poor pig, or the misguided person who thinks it’s legitimate to barbecue beef or, God forbid, chicken.
View Larger Map
Optimally named or not, Carowinds deserves a lot of credit for capitalizing on its unusual geographic placement. A long segment of sidewalk even traces a length of the border from the northern entrance, a telltale diagonal line in this satellite image. In typical fashion, and as we’ve observed in other instances, the boundary imagined by Google Maps falls a few feet short of reality.
The proprietors already know something that I’ve tried to portray through my writing: geo-oddities sell. People have an interest in strange geography. Unusual features can attract tourism and elicit economic development to areas that may not have been blessed with vibrant urban amenities or famous natural landmarks. It only takes a little entrepreneurial interest and a modicum of creativity.
Notice how Carowinds marked the border prominently in this licensed Flickr image that I’ve borrowed, with attribution (hover over the photo). This happens in various places throughout the park. Visitors see that they cross the border numerous times during their wanderings, adding a geo-oddity dimension to their day of rides and thrills. Carowinds is proud of their geography and it wants people to enjoy the experience, or at least find some amusement from it.
View Larger Map
The border bisects a remarkable number of Carowinds rides and attractions. From the northern entrance traveling towards the southwest, the boundary slashes through the Vortex and Carolina Goldrusher roller coasters, splits a restaurant, cuts the Sydney Sidewinder water slide and an accompanying bathhouse, then completes its journey through the Crocodile Run float ride and the Thunder Road wooden roller coaster before exiting the park. I’m guessing that most guests probably don’t pay too attention to repeated border crossings as they hurtle down the larger roller coasters, but I would.
I found one potential downside. Apparently North and South Carolina have considerably different laws related to the inspection of amusement park rides. North Carolina applies strict documentation standards while South Carolina is a bit more relaxed. That doesn’t mean it’s unsafe but I imagine it could complicate oversight.
I’m going to have to bring my kids here when they get a little older: "go ride the coasters, kids, I’m looking for border markers."