Beech Mountain, North Carolina: Land of OzA once abandoned Oz mountaintop theme park, refurbished by locals to open to the public one weekend a year.
Visitor Tips and News About Land of Oz
I am one of the characters for the Land of Oz every year. I play one of the three Scarecrows, while my other friends play Dorothy, the Tin Man, Lion, and so on. I have been doing it going on five years, now, and it's such an amazing experience to see how many people in the area actually come to the event. We love doing it so much that we travel all the way from New Jersey (Now New York City since we all attend college in/around it) just to be part!
The Land of Oz was open in the 1970s before closing after the 1980 season. What we find thrilling is that people visit the park 30-some odd years later, bringing generation upon generation of their family; it never left them from their first visit. I love it the most when former employees come up to the character they played, and tell us stories about when they worked at the park. You don't realize the impact of the Wizard of Oz stories until you experience it from our standpoint.
Yes, people get picture crazy, and it's overwhelming at times, when all you want to do is get to the yellow brick road and you are getting kids thrown at you to take pictures with. A few people have tried to light me on fire (apparently thinking the real straw in my costume isn't really flammable?), and a little girl threw a cup of water on one of our wicked witches. She didn't melt, but she insisted on a break after that! However, seeing the kids AND adults faces light up as they meet you, and getting hugs from kids looking up at you as if they have known you for years makes it something I will do for as long as the park will continue the event.
People seem to enjoy it as much as we enjoy working there and putting on the Oz personas. Our crowd size almost doubles every year, and the park is now open for two days instead of one. The Scarecrow and Tin Man houses, and the Emerald City aren't there anymore, it still holds the magic that will always be in that story. You step onto that road, and you are there- I know I sound crazy, but everyone who has stepped foot on that mountain knows exactly what I am talking about.[Sean Barrett, 08/03/2005]
Went this October to the Land of Oz with my wife, our three kids, and other family members. The best time we've had all year. I felt like a kid again. I was much anticipating the event, since it had been nearly 30 years since I had gone there as a child in the mid 1970s, when the park was fully operational. We got our tickets the day before at the Chamber of Commerce to ensure we'd be on the first tour at 10 am Saturday. There are two ways to get to the top of Beech Mountain where the park is located. You can ride the hay ride/shuttle bus, or you can walk. We were contemplating walking it until one of the organizers informed me that the park was approximately 1 mile and 500 feet up.
We rode a hay covered wagon/trailer pulled by a tractor, which only added to the great experience. At the gates to Oz at the top we were greeted by "Emerald City" characters, who gave us directions and wished us well on our journey. There were tents here with vendors selling Oz trinkets. On a paved path we met an "Emerald City" female character who informed us of what was in store on our journey. We took pictures of a "Dorothy" with our kids. We then went to Professor Marvel's location (a gazebo perched on the side of the mountain with spectacular views). This place made my wife and me nervous since there were no chains or barricades blocking the ledges around the gazebo and the drop offs were straight down for what seemed like thousands of feet down.
The highlight of the trip is the farmhouse and Dorothy's home. Before you get there look to the left off of the paved path and you will see a tombstone. The name on the stone was Grover Robbins. This is one of the men who started Tweetsie Railroad and Land of Oz. Walk through the house and you will see a beautiful replica of the Kansas home and meet "Auntie Em" in the kitchen. We then went through a door in the "Tornado Room." I will not spoil it by giving the details of this room, but it is pretty neat.
You then pass through a mirror version of the first home as you exit the house but everything appears as though it has been upset by a tornado -- crooked pictures on the wall, overturned chairs and tables. As you exit, look for the witch's legs protruding from the left side of underneath the house. The yellow brick road then begins.
The sad part is when you get to the end. There is no Emerald City. All of that land has now been developed. But for two days out of the year, the yellow brick road is yours. Can't wait to go next year![Troy and Samantha, 10/24/2004]
We decided to go to the "Land of Oz" this year for the second year. My wife and I stayed in Blowing Rock for the weekend, and got there at 9:30 am. We waited for over an hour in line for the hayride that led us to the top. There were many of the same characters that we saw last year. However, we discovered that they had the Land of Oz Museum full of artifacts from the park's heyday. That part was pretty neat. Other than that, going for the second year was definitely not as cool as seeing it for the first time. Everyone needs to see it once.
Now for the good part: We saw the same scarecrow, and guess how he was posing? The same way he posed with my wife last year :). He didn't see us this year. As we slipped by, my wife and I heard a lady say "I usually like the scarecrow, but this one was kinda weird." Why do I mention this? Because when we exited the park, there was ANOTHER scarecrow with Dorothy, another Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, and they were taking pictures with people as they left. Turns out, this scarecrow was looking for me. He recognized me from the roadsideamerica.com tip I did last year! He asked me if I am Brett. I said "Yes", and I truly think he knew me. He then proceeded to tell me that he was the scarecrow in the picture I submitted, and that his wife thought he was "THE" scarecrow (that posed with my wife :) after she read it last year. Well, he (the one in the picture from last year) wasn't the same scarecrow. So, I guess he slept in the doghouse for a month or two. So, we made our amends and I apologized for the case of the mistaken scarecrow. I had to eat "scarecrow," thanks to you guys at Roadside America. The coolest part of the trip, in my opinion, was seeing "The Coroner", the guy who played the part in the movie. I got his autograph, and was glad to meet him.[Brett Bilbrey, 10/24/2004]
After hearing of the Land of Oz from roadsideamerica.com, my wife and I decided to take a trip up there to video and photograph the place. We called the chamber of commerce the week before the one day a year it is open, and learned it was too late to get advance tickets, and that we couldn't be guaranteed entrance to the park! The lady on the line sensed my angst, and promptly said: "If you show up at 8 am, you should have no problems." She also told me that because of the immense popularity of the event, that it would be open for two days from now on. Yippee.
We arrived early in the morning, and got some of the plentiful tickets for sale for the first trip. They evidently take 1,000 people every two hours, and it opens at 10 am. We went to Fred's Mercantile, a great little general store in and of itself -- I had to buy a winter hat, because it was so cold. We had some coffee/breakfast, and then went to stand for an hour in a huge line for the buses to the top. While waiting, we were entertained by the Wizard, with his accordion.
At the top, we saw the closed ski lift and an old fountain at the front of the park. Through the gate we found a wooden performing booth, where another wizard (who evidently worked there in the 70s) stood. Up until the house, the park's theme was the pre-tornado portion of the movie.
The house was just like the movie. There is a door leading to the "basement," and into the basement is a ramp that goes back and forth, with video of the tornado streaming and very trippy 70s-esque blacklight paintings. There was much weeping and nashing of teeth by the tykes and toddlers in that dark, scary room.
We emerged from the basement into the disordered slanted house, which was almost nauseating to walk through. We took some pictures of leaning forward past 45 degrees, The house had evidently dropped on a witch; you could see her feet hanging out
There was the Yellow Brick Road, and a Dorothy look-alike sitting talking to people. We passed gardens, and met all of the characters. Kudos to the Tin Man for a realistic costume. There was even a midget asking for hugs. My wife was spooked and I was irritated when the Scarecrow came up and was a little touchy-feely for our taste. He hugged her really close when posing for the picture, and then as I counted to three, he ran his leg up her body.
As we left the park, we met a child star of the film and got an autograph. She must have been in her 80s to have starred in the film (as a Munchkin) that long ago.The Coroner in the movie had broken his arm this year, and couldn't make it, though they had a shrine of him.
We ended our day with a trip back down the mountain in the bus. We may never get to go back, but if we get a chance, we'll certainly try.[Brett Bilbrey, 10/13/2003]
Brett was asking for trouble by lubricating the Tin Man while the lusty Scarecrow watched....
As grace would have it, we recently (and quite by accident) had the wonderful opportunity to visit the former Land of Oz theme park, or what's left of it.
We had stopped at Mystery Hill in Blowing Rock, NC and after paying $7 apiece and being completely underwhelmed by their one mystery room (with no tour guide) and a bunch of run-of-the-mill optical illusion displays, we decided we should try to go find that abandoned Land of Oz park we'd read about on RA. We asked the person at Mystery Hill's ticket counter if he'd ever heard of it. He flashed me a coy smile and said, "Yes, and it's only open one day a year. And today's the day. But you're too late!"
We stood there dumbfounded, wondering if he was pulling our leg. Another person handed us a copy of a local paper and said, "He's not kidding. Their annual festival is always the first Saturday in October. But it ended about a half hour ago." We thanked them, grabbed the paper, and ran to the car.
According to the article, after Land of Oz closed in 1980, the place was vandalized and looted for years. In 1990, Land of Oz was bought and the new owner began restoring it. During their annual fall festival, not only is it open to the public (for a $10 per person admission, proceeds benefit restoration), not only are original Land of Oz employees invited back for a reunion, not only do they have costumed Wizard of Oz characters roaming around and performing in the park, but this year two of the original munchkins from the film, including Meinhardt Raabe, the Coroner, would be in attendance!
We pulled up near the Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce around 6:30 pm The event ended around 5:00. On a hayride coming down the mountain, we spied a girl dressed like Dorothy. Dorothy had silver paint all over her nose and mouth. I asked her if she'd been making out with the Tin Man, and, blushing slightly, she nodded in the affirmative.
With Dorothy's blessing, we drove up the mountain in hopes that we would be allowed to tour the Land of Oz site. We found the woman who runs the place, dressed in bright green Emerald City garb, and she gave us permission to tour the grounds, even though they were closing up for the day.
Daylight was fading, so we peeked in their museum, which has lots of artifacts & souvenirs from the park's heyday in the 1970s. There were munchkin costumes behind glass cases. They looked much older than 1970s, and it is possible they are originals from the 1939 film.
The highlight of the park is Dorothy's farmhouse. You walk through a replica of the house as portrayed in the film, decorated to look authentically like the 1930s. Then, through a door in the wall at the back of the house, you walk into a black "tornado room", and down a wooden ramp. The tornado scene from the movie is projected on the wall in a loop, and the sounds of the tornado chaos fill the dark room, as you see blacklight paintings of cattle, the wicked witch, etc. on the wall, as if you are inside the tornado. You exit out the bottom, down a hallway, and through a door, where you find yourself in Aunt Em's house once more. This time, though, the house has crashed in Oz. This 2nd house looks *exactly* like the first, except that it is built on a slope and you have to maintain your balance as you walk through. Throughout the house, furniture and decorations are strewn about to give the impression that the house has crashed violently.
Out the front door of the house, the Yellow Brick road awaits. When you look back at the house, you see that they've built it in such a way that you can only see the crashed house, and not the original house where you started. It gives a nice illusion that you've been transported.
Beyond this, the remains of the park are an "Oz gardens" more than anything, and the view from the top of the mountain is breathtaking. Down the yellow brick road, you pass a Munchkin land, a Tin Man house, a Witch's Castle, and some really frightening trees with evil faces. At the end of the yellow brick road is a big green door that says OZ, and beyond it, a small castle with the giant head of the Wizard of Oz (with light-up eyes) protruding from it. There is also a wire frame of a hot air balloon from one of the original Land of Oz rides.[Tony & Kimberly Paglia, 11/09/2002]
Land of Oz
- Beech Mountain Pkwy., Beech Mountain, NC
- Hwy 184 takes you to the town of Beech Mountain. A winding two-lane road just to the left of the Chamber of Commerce building -- Beech Mountain Pkwy -- takes you up to a sign that says, "Emerald Mountain." Through that gate, it's another half-mile, past a bunch of ski lifts.
- 1st weekend in Oct. Sa 10-4 Su 11-4. (Call to verify)
- Adults $35.00
- RA Rates:
- Worth a Detour