We have wanted to visit the Land of Oz in Beech Mountain, NC for years but never were able to because it was typically only open one weekend a year in the fall for Autumn at Oz. Luckily this year they expanded to two weekends and we were able to make it up this year. If you are wanting to visit the two opportunities throughout the year of 2019 are Autumn at Oz which is the bigger festival with characters, shows, and vendors. This year (2019) it is running for the first two weekends in September Friday to Sunday. Journey with Dorothy is the other opportunity and it runs June weekends and one weekend in July. Dorothy guides you through the park in this experience.
Fun Fact about the Wizard of Oz: Did you know the coat The Wizard wears in the movie, happened to be L. Frank Baum’s (the author) coat, that they happened to find at a thrift store?
Should I go?
We were a little unsure for a few years if we should go. We both love the Wizard of Oz. Heather really does. Her maiden name is Garland so she liked to pretend she was related to Judy Garland as a kid, before Google existed and everyone realized it was a stage name. Hey, maybe she was her great grandmother, who knows? haha! However, we are both in our 20s, so we weren’t sure if we would seem out of place with a bunch of families.
Definitely go at any age! Sure, there were lots of kids and families exploring the magic, however, the majority of the people in attendance were just big fans of the movie. Also, dress up if you like. We saw some amazing cosplays of many of the characters throughout the day. It’s definitely an experience for everyone and no one will feel out of place there. It is very well done and not “cheesy” either.
History of the Park
What is the Land of Oz?
It is a theme park located in Beech Mountain, NC based on the Wizard of Oz. Beech Mountain is the highest town in Eastern America, so it’s a neat place to experience in itself. It is a major ski destination in the winter. The Land of Oz was opened in 1970 to bring more people to Beech Mountain during the ski off-season. The theme park itself is located at the very top of the mountain, which is one of the highest peaks in eastern America. It is over 5,500 feet!
How did the Land of Oz start?
Grover Robbins was the creator of the Land of Oz. He was already a successful theme park operator as he opened Tweetsie Railroad, a wild west theme park just down the road in Boone, NC. Unfortunately, he never saw it to fruition as he died of cancer shortly before it opened in 1970s. He was a great creator as he wanted the theme park to be a magical experience for children. He actually walked the property on his knees so he could design the whole thing from a child’s perspective.
When it originally opened it was a great success. The ribbon cutter on opening day was Debbie Reynolds, who owned a pair of the red slippers from the original movie. She also helped the park get the props & costumes it showed off in the museum. She even brought 13 year old Carrie Fisher to grand opening and Mohammad Ali and Dennis the Menace were also in attendance.
What was the Land of Oz like?
The park only had one ride a ski lift that looked like a hot air balloon that brought visitors to the park. It had shows, props from the original movie, characters, and many replicas of sets from the movie. Want to see photos from the park in the 1970s? Check out this blog post with lots of them: https://thoughtandsight.com/stay-in-dorothys-house-at-the-kitschy-70s-land-of-oz-theme-park/
What happened to the Land of Oz?
A few things caused the demise of the Land of Oz. First was the death of the creator, Grove Robbins, before it opened. Then the parent company had a bad business deal in the Caribbean that caused it to declare bankruptcy. Unfortunately, the park caught on fire in 1975 which burned the Emerald City, amphitheater, shops, and restaurant. This ultimately crippled the park as there was no money to rebuild this major section of it. This fire either destroyed Dorothy’s original dress from the movie or it was stolen during the process as well, along with other props from the original MGM picture. The park ultimately closed in 1980, just 10 years after opening, and fell into major disrepair.
In the 1990s Emerald Mountain Realty started restoring piece by piece. They allowed people to rent out Dorothy’s house which was restored for vacation rentals to raise money. After demand sparked they started Autumn at Oz in 1994 with all the funds going back into park. Every year more and more is added back to the park through these funds raised.
Our Experience at the Park
Tickets & Arrival
The earlier you get your tickets the better, the park gives discounts on tickets until certain dates, so book earlier to get the best deal. The tickets at their full price are $55 for General Admission or $65 for VIP admission. The VIP admission includes a VIP lounge to wait for the shuttle with cookies, snacks, water, and lemonade. This helps you skip the sometimes very long lines for the shuttle up to the park. It also includes admission to the museum which is an extra $10 online or $15 at the door. We did the VIP because we wanted to do the museum and it was so worth it. It was great to walk right in and hop on a shuttle. The museum is small but includes original costumes from the movie, you can’t take pictures but it is very neat to see.
When you arrive you will park in the town of Beech Mountain, make sure to put in the address 889 Elderberry Ridge Road, Beech Mountain, NC. You will scan your tickets and receive a wristband. You can then explore, go to the museum, grab a bite to eat, or just hop in line for the shuttle. We decided to do the 11am experience on a Friday to beat the crowds. It was a great idea, because it wasn’t too terribly crowded. We decided to hop right on the shuttle and head up.
Arriving at the Park
You will hop off the shuttle and be directed to the park. If you need to go to the bathroom, the port-a-johns here are the last ones you will see until the end of the park, make sure to go if you need to! You can take the “scenic route” or the “short cut” to the park. The “scenic route” will take you to the 5506′ Bar, which is normally just accessible by ski lift. It is a wonderful view, definitely check it out.
Also you can grab a beer from Beech Mountain Brewing Company here. Do this first if you want to, we thought we could go back and you can’t unfortunately. Now it’s time to head into the park, head back to where you started and take the “short cut” the sign points you to. You will be greeted by a fountain and this is the start of the park.
After you arrive you head down a path and someone hands you a ticket for Dorothy’s House. Due to fire code they need to spread out visitors some. Your number is the bold number on the ticket and there will be a sign on the house letting you know that they are accepting tickets XX or under. If that’s you, you can go in. However, don’t go in before you check out the show. You can’t come back to see if it is you do.
The show starts up the hill by the red barn with the farmers and Dorothy. It’s an interactive show so it spreads throughout the whole Kansas set. You follow Dorothy through the first part of her story, to singing somewhere over the rainbow, meeting Professor Marvel, and of course getting yelled at by Elvira Gulch. Once Dorothy runs back to her house to see Aunt Em, that’s your cue to enter the house if it’s time for your ticket.
Also, grab pictures with all the characters if you want as well, they are all very open to pictures. The only character with a line was Dorothy, you can skip her if you want, there will be another opportunity later. There won’t with Professor Marvel or Elvira Gulch so grab those if you want them!
You enter Dorothy’s House as normal and see all the bedrooms. You round the corner and Aunt Em is telling you to head down into the cellar because a storm is coming, she is baking and will have you back up once it’s over. Fun Fact: The original Dorothy from the 1970s park opening sometimes returns to play Aunt Em. I’m not sure if she was this day!
When you head down to the cellar and there is definitely a storm going. A twister is seen in the corner and it’s a fun psychedelic experience. Most people were rushing through here but take your time, it’s a neat area.
You leave the cellar and unfortunately the house looks like it didn’t fair the twister well. Everything is a mess and the house is now crooked. It makes you feel like you are drunk haha! Fun Fact: When building the house, construction workers could only work for 20 minutes at a time, before they’d need a break from the vertigo. It definitely did Walter in, he felt off for a little while!
The Land of Oz
You exit Dorothy’s House into the Land of Oz. It’s beautiful and a dream! It looks just like the movie. Glinda the Good Witch greets you to take a photo. Also, beware the Wicked Witch of the West is lurking to see that her poor sister is smooshed under the house.
Dorothy greets you and this is a great time for a photo op with her! A few Munchkins greet you in Munchkin Land and tell you to follow the Yellow Brick Road. Of course you must!
Down the Yellow Brick Road
The yellow brick road leads you to photo ops and meet and greets with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion they are all wonderful. They interact wonderfully and someone is there to take a photo every time. You don’t feel rushed and it’s a great experience.
You pass by the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle and get to meet her as well. She quite liked Walter the most and kept trying to hide Heather out of the photos, she told him to call her! Haha!
After you leave her castle the Flying Monkeys and Winkie Guards greet you. The Flying Monkeys are hilarious. They also took a liking to Walter and didn’t believe in personal space. It was hilarious and they were amazing at their roles.
You keep heading down the road to meet Glinda again in the Poppy fields. Make sure to take some photos on the road or skip down it!
The Emerald City
You end up at a gate that says Oz with no one there and a bell. Make sure to ring the bell, it’s a fun experience. The guard later lets you in to the Emerald City. Head over to the tent and see if the show has started. If it has visit the vendors and grab a bite to eat if you are hungry. The show is definitely worth seeing.
If you head in right when the show lets out, you can grab photos with all the characters. It was a great experience meeting them all at once and it’s the best photo opportunity!
Heading Back Down
After this you catch the shuttles back down. This is a great time to check out the Museum, which has original props and costumes from the movie (no photos allowed), or to check out the vendors. The have a great set up with lots to see.
After you are done if you want to head to the Beech Mountain Resort, there is a great Brew Pub that has wonderful beer. It was $6 (including tax) for a 16oz beer, so not too bad for a resort area! Our favorite was the Beach Mountain Blonde, it was amazing! The resort itself is really neat to see!
More Things to Do
There were some extra experiences we didn’t get to do this time but they sounded very neat if you have time!
The first is Dining with Dorothy It is $35/ person for a dinner, dessert, and drink. You get to dine with Dorothy and it’s a one hour experience.
The other is the Showcase Saturday which sometimes included original Land of Oz cast members, cast members from Wicked, authors of Wizard of Oz related books, and various other interesting people. This experience is $25/person.
It really is a a magical experience, especially if you are a fan of the movie. Beech Mountain in itself really is magic, it’s an area not like many others. If you have extra time go hiking on the Emerald Outback trails, they are beautiful. This park was placed here because it really was like a magical otherworldly experience. It is a little bit pricey but very worth the experience.