Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Beech Mountain, North Carolina to the Land of Oz, a Wizard of Oz theme park that’s open each September. Can’t make it? Visit Autumn At Oz virtually through this Land of Oz review.
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Every once in a while, Land of Oz, the abandoned Wizard of Oz theme park tucked away in the North Carolina mountains goes viral. Haunting photos of a long forgotten theme park make their rounds, interesting readers until the end of the article redirects their attention to something else.
But, what often gets missed is the fact that the Land of Oz theme park is actually open … sometimes.
Autumn At Oz is a three-weekend event in September when the Emerald City is open for guests. This year is the 30th anniversary of Autumn At Oz. We were hosted at the immersive experience on opening day (September 8) and have to tell you all about it.
If you really like the Wizard of Oz, take a look at our list of the Top 20 Gifts For Wizard Of Oz Lovers.
Land Of Oz In NC: Everything you need to know
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History Of The Land Of Oz
A lot of sites will describe the history of the Land of Oz in more detail than I will, but I wanted to give you a quick history of the site so you know what you’re getting into.
Beech Mountain is a ski resort, which is great during the winter and not so great when there’s no snow. So the Robbins brothers (Harry and Grover Robbins), inspired by the amount of trees and the winding hills in the area, decided to build a Land of Oz-themed tourist attraction.
It opened in 1970 to much fanfare. Guests assumed the role of Dorothy and started with a ski lift-turned-balloon ride, then walked through Kansas, into a tornado experience, traveled across the Yellow Brick Road, and into Oz, encountering lip-syncing characters along the way.
A fire five years later burned two buildings and many props, including Judy Garland’s original dress. The park closed, was rebuilt, and stayed open for another five years before it fell into disrepair and became the version of the abandoned theme park that’s known on social media.
The park was open for a day 11 years later as part of the town of Beech Mountain’s Independence Day celebration. That was the catalyst it needed for the owners of the land to start restoring it to be the fully functioning theme park it is currently. It has yearly re-openings for special events during the year but is otherwise still closed.
Land Of Oz Review
It’s more accurate to describe the annual Autumn At Oz event at the Land of Oz as an immersive theatrical experience rather than theme park. Theme parks imply rides and roller coasters and the Land of Oz doesn’t have any. It has two observation decks and a ski lift option to get to the top of the mountain, but no actual rides.
It’s not quite an immersive experience in the way that the Illuminarium is, but more in a way that Lost Spirits Distillery is. And, if that sentence made no sentence to you, that means you don’t read Drugstore Divas on a regular basis and have no idea that those are both immersive experiences that we reviewed earlier this year.
So, let’s start at the basics. At the very most basic, we are going to refer to this as Land of Oz from now on. Autumn At Oz is the September event that takes place at Land of Oz, but everyone I’ve met who knows about the event simply calls it Land of Oz. Also, it’s the only event that’s happening. There was an early summer timed event, Journey with Dorothy, that had also happened at Land of Oz, but that event hasn’t happened since 2019.
Land of Oz is on top of Beech Mountain Ski Resort (put 1007 Beech Mountain Parkway; Beech Mountain, NC into your GPS). There’s a large parking lot where you can park. You then head up to a white tent to check in to get your wristband.
I didn’t have a problem with service at all on the mountain, but if you’re worried you might, you can either print your tickets or screen shot them on your phone. You’ll need to show them in order to get your wristband.
Once you have that, you’ll either head to the line for the shuttle buses (which are free) or to the scenic lift ride (which is an additional charge). We opted for the bus, which is a bit wild considering you’re on a school bus that’s maneuvering through hair pin turns as it heads up a mountain.
When the bus lets you off, you enter the park.
Quick side note: We had a really long wait between getting off the bus and actually getting into the park’s entrance. I’m not sure if that’s just because it was the first day or if it’s just that it’s crowded. Everyone funnels into a small entrance where you’re given a deli counter ticket to enter Auntie Em’s house. So, that wasn’t ideal. Once you get that ticket and get into the actual park, there are a ton of pathways with signs about the history of the park. There’s also a really big Land of Oz logo that’s a great photo op.
You’re gonna feel like you just want to get into the park and your natural inclination will be to breeze through those signs. If you’re like us, you might even consider coming back to that section later.
Don’t rush. Take your time. Read.
If you really want to, you’re able to loop through the park again, which means going back to the very beginning and going straight through (I promise this will make more sense soon). But, no one really does this, so you most likely won’t end up back in this section. So take your time now to read about how the park was started, when Debbie Reynolds cut the ribbon in 1970.
Within that area is the Judy Garland Memorial Overlook. Definitely stop there. You get an incredible view of the Appalachian Mountains.
And then you enter Kansas.
So, let’s talk about this.
The Land of Oz is broken into four main sections. There’s Kansas, Aunt Em’s house (aka the Gale house), the Yellow Brick Road, and The Emerald City.
When you get to Kansas, you’re still a little disoriented from that wild bus ride and the lines to enter the park. So you kind of don’t know what’s going on yet, especially if it’s your first time visiting. And, if you’re not paying attention, you’re going to miss something. So. Just like with the entrance signs, take your time.
Land of Oz is basically a live reenactment of the Wizard of Oz movie. You follow Dorothy as she goes from Kansas to the Emerald City. There are live performances and photo ops every step of the way.
Performances start at the Gale farm in Kansas every 30 minutes.
The Gale farm features Uncle Henry and two farmhands, plus Dorothy and Toto. The farmhands are happy moving hay bales around but Dorothy, she decides to run away.
So off she goes, moving through the crowd as she gets to a “remote” location where she sings “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (which is fabulous, by the way).
She then travels through the crowd again, this time to see Professor Marvel who, after a little bit of guessing (no, not guessing — “Professor Marvel never guesses. He knows!”) convinces Dorothy to run back home. But there’s a tornado and, as we all know, that’s how Dorothy ends up in Oz.
Pro tip: You can take photos with Dorothy, Professor Marvel, and Mrs Gulch in this area. You can do this while you’re waiting for the performances to begin or after they’re done. If you arrive and the performances are starting, stay in this area until they start again at the Gale Farm.
Aunt Em’s House
At the Land of Oz, you experience that tornado as well, in the form of Aunt Em’s house.
Now, quick side note. This is where you’re going to hope you packed your patience. Everyone is funneled through the house. There’s no way to get to the Yellow Brick Road without going through it, so that creates an unfortunate bottleneck that takes a while to go through.
When you do get inside, you walk through Aunt Em’s house, get to meet her, and chat a little bit about what’s cooking in her kitchen.
You then walk through this very psychedelic black light area with bright drawings on the walls and the scene of the tornado itself playing on the wall.
And, when you leave there, you’re back in Aunt Em’s house. But this time, it’s leaning and uneven and is affected by the twister. It’s a very cool way to transition you from Kansas to Oz.
As soon as you’re the back of Aunt Em’s house, which — just like the movie — has landed on the Wicked Witch of the East. You see her curled up legs under the house, if you’re paying attention.
The Wicked Witch of the West is there, yelling at you for landing on her sister, and just basically hurling insults at the crowd as you exit Aunt Em’s house. She’s very funny and will absolutely amuse you as you walk off the porch and onto the Yellow Brick Road.
The Yellow Brick Road
As you exit the house, you have the option to stay to the left to take a photo with Glinda the Good Witch or you can stay to the right, bypass Glinda, and walk straight into Munchkinland.
Don’t. Skip. Glinda.
You’ll consider it because of the aforementioned bottleneck at Aunt Em’s house. It makes you not want to wait on another line. But please, if you listen to nothing else, listen to this. Don’t. Skip. Glinda.
The actress playing Glinda is incredibly wonderful and kind. She is the embodiment of a good witch. She is so very patient and generous with her time. We watched as she gave so much attention to a guest who needed to sing every word of “Follow The Yellow Brick Road (We’re Off To See The Wizard)” for her. And she was right there with him, belting out every “because” along with him.
This is exactly why you’re going to want to attend Land of Oz. Every member of the cast has such an incredible attitude. They’re all filled with joy and you get the feeling that they’re really glad to be a part of the it. The cast makes the experience so incredible.
So sure, there are lines. There are bottlenecks. There are guests who aren’t as patient along the Yellow Brick Road. But then there are cast members like Glinda, or like Nate who ushers you into the theater for the final performance, who are just so kind, so smiley, so happy to be part of the Land of Oz, that … that’s the magic, that’s the reason you took a winding bus ride to the top of the mountain, that’s the feeling you want to take home with you.
Cast members are all throughout the Yellow Brick Road and this is where the majority of the live shows are. As long as you follow Dorothy, you’ll see everything. So stick with her.
But, before they start, you meet the Mayor of Munchkinland. Take his photo. I’m not sure how many times this particular actor has played the mayor, but he’s great. He has all the poses down and is really photogenic. You want this shot for your social media.
There are four main performances along the Yellow Brick Road: Dorothy meeting the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Wicked Witch. At each stop, scenes from the original movie are recreated.
You’ll notice that now, Dorothy is wearing the iconic red slippers (since she doesn’t get the in the movie until she’s out of Kansas).
As you’re walking down the Yellow Brick Road, through a covered bridge, you’ll come upon a Winkies at the entrance of the Haunted Forest. Take that detour to the Wicked Witch’s Castle. That’s where you’ll see the Wicked Witch and Nikko, one of the winged monkeys.
Their scene recaps the story for you, as the Wicked Witch watches Dorothy and her new friends along the Yellow Brick Road and she asks Nikko to bring her back. He walks up a flight of stairs and, if you’re standing at the top, he’ll bring you down onto the stage as the “little girl” the witch is looking for.
Clearly, that’s not who the witch is looking for, so she goes off herself to find Dorothy.
That’s the last performance before you get to the Emerald City at the end of the Yellow Brick Road. You’ll still be on the Yellow Brick Road, walking through the poppy field, seeing an original hot air balloon from the theme park’s opening, and seeing the Talking Apple Trees (the ones at the Land of Oz just have faces, not voices, but still, they’re very cool).
And then you get to the gate to enter Oz.
The scene from the movie is Dorothy and Co. ringing a bell, then knocking on the door after the Gate Keeper says the bell is broken.
At the Land of Oz, you take on the role of Dorothy and her friends. There’s a bell to the left of the door and a sign to the right (that’s a little different than the movie version of the sign, but it gets the point across). The Gate Keeper is really funny. He’s very good at welcoming you (but also, not welcoming you) into Oz.
Pro tip: There aren’t any character photo ops along the poppy field portion of the Yellow Brick Road. And I do feel like that’s a little bit of a missed opportunity because there are so many performances on the Yellow Brick Road and then there’s a large gap with nothing.
I have read online that if Dorothys (in costume) faint in that area, Glinda will wake them up with her magic wand. I didn’t see that happening at all when we went, so I’m not 100% sure about that.
The Emerald City
Once you get through the gate to enter Oz, any of the claustrophobia you may have been feeling because of the enormous number of people on the Yellow Brick Road is gone because Oz is wide open. There’s a huge gift shop, a section with souvenir and food vendors, the Over The Rainbow observation deck, and the theater for the final scene.
The final scene happens every 30 minutes, so if you are on line for a souvenir or for food, don’t rush. You can just catch the next performance.
There’s the state fair Omaha balloon in front of the theater that you can take a photo in. When you enter, the entire cast is available for photo opportunities.
But — and this is a big but — it’s not your cast. Your cast, who you have been following throughout the entire Wizard of Oz story — is still on their way to the stage show. So the cast taking these photos is a different version of your favorite characters. They’re great, too, but if you’re planning on making a photo book of your experience, your photos at this point just might not match up.
Speaking of food, this is actually the first time you can get actual food in the park. Back in Kansas, there’s a food vendor selling kettle corn, fudge, cinnamon rolls, and other sweets. But nothing that you’re going to have for lunch. In Oz, you can buy sandwiches and wraps (and yes, vegan options are available).
You can check out the Over The Rainbow observation deck either before or after the final show. It’s an additional charge and does have 127 steps to get up to it (which means 127 steps to get back down as well). The Land of Oz is a lot of walking and those 127 steps might be too much for some guests.
I bring this up because when we were visiting the Land of Oz, we actually had to wait because there was a a woman had experienced a medical emergency at the top of the deck. She felt faint and the medical team was called to meet her at the top and then carry her down, via an evacuation chair.
The view at the top, though beautiful, isn’t much different than what you see from the Judy Garland Memorial Overlook at the beginning of the park. So, if you don’t add it on to your ticket, you’re not missing much.
Autumn At Oz at Land Of Oz: Frequently Asked Questions
Ticket sales start in June at www.landofoz.com. They sell out very quickly due to high demand.
You cannot purchase tickets for the Land of Oz when you arrive at Beech Mountain Ski Resort, however, you can purchase tickets for the observation deck and the ski lift there. Note: You can only purchase tickets for the ski lift at the bottom of the mountain for a round trip. You cannot purchase tickets at the top just for the way down.
It takes about two hours, once you enter the park, to go through the Land of Oz.
This approximate timing doesn’t include the time of the shuttle bus or ski lift up and down or the time waiting on the line to actually enter the park itself.
I don’t know what, legally, constitutes a site being handicapped accessible, but, the Land of Oz is filled with uneven paths. The Yellow Brick Road is made, well, of bricks. It’s not paved.
We did see a man in a wheelchair being pushed through the park. And we also saw older guests with canes and walking sticks. They made it through, which is really commendable.
It’s a lot of walking (nearly two miles) and, other than the time you’re in the theater for the final skit, you’re standing the entire time. Beech Mountain is also over 5,500 feet above sea level, which can result in altitude sickness. So keep that in mind when you’re deciding if the park is right for you.
The ski lift is an extra charge (for 2023, it’s $17). You’ll get gorgeous mountain views from up there, but it isn’t required if you don’t want to take. Instead, you can ride on the shuttle bus, which is included in your ticket price.
If you’re a Wizard of Oz fan, or just a fan of theater, this is absolutely worth it.
In theory, there’s no limit to how many times you can go through the Land of Oz. When the final show ends, you’re directed towards the exit where the shuttle buses and ski lift are. That’s also where the park’s entrance is, so if you wanted to, you could just loop around and go through again.
Going through multiple times is a good way to assure you get all the photos with your favorite Oz character and along the Yellow Brick Road as you want, although you will be able to get all this with just a single time through as well.
What should you wear to the Land of Oz?
Many guests dress up as characters from the classic film. You don’t have to dress up in full costume. We saw many guests in Wizard of Oz t-shirts instead.
What I will suggest you wear, though, are comfortable sneakers. You’ll be on your feet and walking a lot and sneakers are the best for this.
You’ll also probably want to dress in layers because the weather on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains can be unpredictable.
Tips for the Land of Oz:
- Watch the movie before you go: If it has been a while since you watched the movie based on L. Frank Baum’s book, I highly recommend watching it as a refresher. You probably remember all the major plot points, but maybe not the exact dialogue.
Watching the movie to get yourself hyped up, then seeing the reenactment with the exact verbiage from the movie, is very cool. You get some of the nuances you might miss if you haven’t watched in a while.
If you don’t own the movie, you can stream The Wizard of Oz on Max. You can also rent/purchase it on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Vudu.
- Show up during your time slot: When your book your tickets, you’ll get an hour time slot. You can stay longer than that hour, but you can’t show up more than 30 minutes before your time slot.
When you arrive, you’ll show your tickets and get a wrist band with the color according to your time slot. That color will be checked before you’re allowed on the bus. So, if you show up too early, you’ll be waiting at the base of the mountain until it’s your time.
- Eat before you go: The Land of Oz does have food offerings, but they’re not until the end of the park. If you haven’t eaten breakfast or lunch, that’s a really long time to go without food — especially if you’re not used to walking around hills and uneven terrain. So definitely eat before you go.
Packing snacks, like a granola bar, would also be a great idea. Just a note, there aren’t garbage pails along the Yellow Brick Road, so you’ll have to keep any wrappers with you until you get to Emerald City (so we don’t recommend packing fruit, like a banana or apple, that you’d have a peel or core you’d want to throw away).
- Bring an external charger: Since you’re in the mountains, you phone isn’t going to get full bars. And that means it’ll be searching for a signal often. That kills your battery. If you do want to keep your phone on in case you get separated from your group, we highly recommend you pack an external charger. You’ll also (most likely) be using your phone for photos, and you don’t want to miss a shot because your battery is dead.
- Pack water: You’re walking around the Land of Oz for nearly two hours (and that doesn’t include the time you’re standing on line or on the shuttle buses). So, we highly recommend that you pack a bottle of water in order to stay hydrated.
You can purchase drinks in Kansas and Emerald City, in case you forget to pack it.
- Carry a poncho: Land of Oz is an all weather event. The vignette shows may be altered or moved based on weather, but the event won’t be canceled.
We were lucky to have the most beautiful sunny weather when we went. The next day, it poured and guests walked the Yellow Brick Road in ponchos, carrying umbrellas. That made for gorgeous photos because the park wasn’t as crowded as when we went. But, it did mean they needed to dress appropriately.
- Take your time: I’ve said this so much throughout this post, but my best tip to you is to take your time. The cast will interact with you and won’t rush you. The skits happen on a loop, so if you do miss one, you’ll have a chance to see it again.
You’re going to get as much out of this as you put in. So if you pack your patience and really enjoy your time there. The cast and staff aren’t going to rush you. So, if you don’t rush yourself, you’ll have a great time.
More Wizard Of Oz In Beech Mountain:
If you haven’t had enough of the merry old Land of Oz, you can drive over to the Beech Mountain History Museum (503 Beech Mountain Pkwy). The museum has a good Land of Oz display with a diorama of the original park, tons of photos, props, and more.
The museum is free to enter (although it does accept donations) and is a great way to see some memorabilia, plus learn about the area.
Where to stay for Land of Oz:
Beech Mountain is mostly a skiing town. Besides a popular general store, Fred’s General Mercantile, and Famous Brick Oven Pizza, which a pizzeria/arcade/mini golf course, there’s not that much to do there.
So, if you’re coming for Land of Oz, but you’re staying in the area for the weekend because it’s a long drive, we recommend staying in Boone, NC instead. That’s a little less than an hour away (the distance is short, but mountain roads take longer). There are a ton of hotels in Boone, since it’s the home of Appalachian State University.
Personally, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Boone. It was two blocks away from downtown Boone, had complementary breakfast (which you know I love), and was really affordable. It was also an easy drive from Boone to the other day trips we took in the area: Linville (for Linville Caverns and Linville Falls), Sugar Mountain/Banner Elk (for the Wilderness Alpine Run Coaster), and Blowing Rock (for, of course, The Blowing Rock).
Have you been to the Land of Oz? Leave us your Land of Oz review in the comments.