Carowinds – Great Carolina Fest 2018

This past weekend, Carowinds debuted their new Great Carolina Fest event.  Combining and improving on pieces from their separate Taste of the Carolinas and BBQ & Brew festivals in previous years, the Great Carolina Fest features 17 specialty foods, multiple entertainment stages, and craft beer from breweries throughout the Carolinas.

We were on hand for the opening day of this new festival to see what was new and, of course, to sample as many of the Carolina specialties presented by Carowinds Chef Krzysztof Siuta and his team as possible.


Great Carolina Fest offers more entertainment options than any festival before it (we think…we didn’t fact check that, but it really is a lot).  Four separate stages feature festival-specific entertainment.  Combined with the other stages and shows already in the park, you could spend an entire day eating, drinking, and watching shows without ever standing in a queue for a ride.



Food Network Star and Chef Damaris Phillips was on hand for cooking demonstrations and meet & greets

Featured Festival Entertainment includes –

The Peach Pair – Dueling Piano Players

Carolina Bands at the Stateline Stage – Local bands from both North & South Carolina

Brew Beatz – Brew masters make music with some unconventional instruments

KinFolk – Musical storytellers

Great Carolina Game Crew – Interactive games (Ever wanted to cover your parents in sticky, melting ice cream? Here’s your chance!)


The Peach Pair dueling pianos on the Johnston County Stage


Though not specifically for the Great Carolina Fest, Carowinds also opened their new featured evening show for the summer – Turn It Up



Grab your tasting card and mix & match from any of the 6 Tasting Card Locations

Now, of course, for the raison d’être and our favorite part of the Great Carolina Fest – the food.


There are 6 tasting stations set up between the Carolina Skytower and Harmony Hall.  A major change to this festival is that each features only one dish whereas in previous years each booth had multiple offerings.  This change allows the booth to focus on only one item and gives them the opportunity to fix each fresh when ordered instead of having to stock multiple pre-prepared plates.  You can watch as your shrimp is fried for the Shrimp & Grits, making it taste much fresher than a plate pulled out of a warming tray.

Tastings are $5 each, or you can purchase a card with 6 tasting vouchers for $25. This allows you to sample each one, or mix and match as you please (6 Bourbon Peach Pies doesn’t sound too bad at all).


Tasting Location 1: Crispy Banana Pudding Cheesecake


Tasting Location #2: Bourbon Peach Pie


Tasting Location #3: Roasted Corn


Tasting Location #4: Bacon Wrapped Quail. Tiny but packs a big punch of flavor!

Tasting Location #5: Shrimp & Grits


Tasting Location #6: Pulled Pork Spring Roll

Foods Around the Park

Great Carolina Fest also features food options throughout the park – many available on the Carowinds and/or Cedar Fair dining plans.


Fried Green Tomato, Bacon and Swiss Sandwich – available at Wings – Dining Plan Accepted


Southern Peach Funnel Cake – Available at Funnel Cake Emporium, South Gate Funnel Cake, and County Fair Funnel Cake


Neese Sausage Carolina Pizza – available at Papa Luigis – Dining Plan Accepted This gets our vote as the best offering of the event and possibly some of the best pizza we have had at any park


Pimento Cheese Burger – available at Jukebox Diner – Dining Plan Accepted


Coastal Carolina Fish Burrito – available at Burrito Cafe – Dining Plan Accepted Definitely a surprise hit – give it a shot!

Sadly, our stomachs can only handle so much in one day, so there are some options that we were not able to try:

Frog Legs and Fries – County Fair Fries (Dining Plan Accepted)

BBQ Bird Dog – Fry Shack (Dining Plan Accepted)

Green Tomato BLT Salad – Harmony Hall (Dining Plan Accepted)

Sweet Tea BBQ or Roasted Tomato Jam on Turkey Legs – Intimidator Kiosk (Dining Plan Accepted)

Pimento Cheese Fries – Sharky’s

Carolina Steam Shrimp and Clam Pot – Harbor House (Dining Plan Accepted)

A Carolina Craft Beer Corner has also been set up featuring many South & North Carolina breweries such as Old Mecklenburg Brewery, Sierra Nevada, Catawba, and more.


While the best option at any food-based festival is to try it all, if you’re looking for recommendations, we can highly recommend the Bourbon Peach Pie and the Bacon Wrapped Quail from the Tasting Booths and the Neese Sausage Pizza and Coastal Carolina Fish Burrito throughout the rest of the park as the stand-out hits!

Though we always enjoyed the previous festivals at Carowinds, with the addition of more food options throughout the park and the more narrow focus of each of the tasting booths, the bar has been raised higher for the overall quality of the Great Carolina Fest food options.  Throw in the large entertainment line-up, and the Great Carolina Fest is an event that could live on its own even if it weren’t just yards away from some world-class coasters and rides.  If you’re planning a visit to Carowinds, or if you’re just hungry, it is definitely worth a visit.

The Great Carolina Fest runs daily through June 24.  For more information and to download a festival guide, visit the Great Carolina Fest website.