Somewhere, way up high, there’s a yellow brick road you can walk along and meet the characters from the Wizard of Oz.
Land of Oz is a theme park operated at the top of Beech Mountain, North Carolina. It opens three weekends a year in September, for an event called Autumn at Oz. There’s also a special event, “Journey with Dorothy,” that has a limited run in June.
This is a review of Autumn at Oz in September.
- How Was Land of Oz Created?
- Are There Rides?
- Entering Land of Oz
- Logistics Before and During Autumn at Oz
Important Details You Need to Know When Visiting During Autumn at Oz
- Photos with Dorothy
- Once You Enter the Emerald City You Cannot Go Back
- Don’t Miss Meeting the Wizard
- The Scenic Lift and Observation Deck Offer Views of the Mountains
- There are No Refunds
- The Park Does Not Do A Good Job Posting Details and Times
- The Park is not Wheelchair or Stroller Accessible
- Pets are Not Allowed in Land of Oz
- Feel Free to Dress Up
- Is Autumn at Oz Worth It?
How Was Land of Oz Created?
Harry and Grover Robbins wanted a way to turn Beech Mountain Ski Resort into a year-round attraction. They noticed an area of the mountain that resembled The Wizard of Oz and teamed with a local architect, Jack Pentes, to help. Since an Oz-theme park was a dream of Pentes’, he was quick to jump on board.
The park opened in 1970, a few months after Judy Garland passed away. It closed in 1975 after a mysterious fire destroyed two buildings, costumes, and equipment necessary to run the park.
Its revival was slow. In 1991, it briefly reopened as part of Beech Mountain’s Independence Day celebration. Later, an annual Autumn at Oz event was organized as a reunion for the original park employees. Fans of the story caught on and began showing up. From here, Journey with Dorothy began in 2011, and Autumn in Oz launched in 2012.
Are There Rides?
There are no rides at the park. Land of Oz is a true theme park which is an amusement park with structures and settings based on a central theme. You are truly immersed in the story, characters, and setting of the Wizard of Oz.
When the park opened in 1970, there was a ski lift modified as a balloon ride that took visitors to the park entrance at the top of the mountain. The ride was dismantled after the fire in 1975 and never rebuilt.
Even though there may not be roller coasters and merry-go-rounds, it’s still a fun place to visit. From the moment you step through into the Gale farm, you’ll find yourself inside the Wizard of Oz.
Entering Land of Oz
When you reach the entrance, you’ll first walk along a short trail with posters and information sharing its history. One of the first stops is Judy Garland’s Gazebo with views of the nearby mountains. Judy Garland was expected to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony for Land of Oz but sadly passed away a few months before the date.
To honor her, Pentes built the gazebo in her memory.
From here, you’ll enter the Gale Farm and pass by Professor Marvel’s cart, the farm itself, and Dorothy’s house.
Stay to See the Show with Dorothy and the Farm Hands
I’m not sure how frequently the show runs, but it’s at least every hour. It starts with the farm hands who will become the Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow dancing and singing in front of the red barn.
Next, Dorothy enters looking for Aunt Em. The mean neighbor kicked Toto and is threatening to harm him. She needs Aunt Em to fix it.
Dorothy sings Somewhere Over the Rainbow, then visits Professor Marvel for help before running off.
After this, you’re encouraged to enter the house where Aunt Em yells at you to take cover in the cellar. There are a lot of steps down, then it turns into a ramp with several turns in a black room with neon psychedelic patterns, strong fans, and the scene from the movie with the tornado playing over and over.
Designed to disorient and give the effect you’re in a tornado, I’d say it does the job nicely. The “tornado” exits in a replica of the house that’s tilted and looks like it’s been through a storm. As you exit onto the porch, you’ll find yourself in Oz.
Walk The Yellow Brick Road
Photos don’t convey the color and brightness of Land of Oz. I couldn’t figure out how they got everything so bright and saturated. It threw me off for a bit.
The yellow brick road, lined with technicolor flowers shines in front of you.
Along the way, your favorite characters are ready for photos. They all have queues, but the lines move quickly. It starts with Glinda, then others along the way. There are even flying monkeys lurking near the wicked witch’s castle who will be happy to pose if you’re brave enough to ask.
Throughout the journey, attendants are strategically located to assist with photos. Each character has a station for their photos. When it’s your turn, you hand your phone or camera to the attendant, and they’ll take the photo for you.
The characters also take time to interact with everyone. Kids loved the personal time with their story idols.
Besides the characters, there are additional areas set up to stop and grab a photo. The blue pond was a favorite location, and there is also a waterfall.
When you reach the gates to the Emerald City, a brave soul from the crowd must ring the bell and be berated for ringing it and not knocking. But it’s all in good fun. When the door opens, the children all know to say they’re with Dorothy and that gets them right in.
Interact With the Character Actors
The actors are phenomenal. If there was a word better than phenomenal, I’d use that.
They stay in character, and somehow seamlessly take visitors’ modern-day statements and weave them into Land of Oz.
One man asked the Wicked Witch if she had seen “Wicked” and she quickly replied, “I have heard of this propaganda that portrays me as a pathetic and likeable person. Bah!”
When Professor Marvel noted there were so many people new to “Kansas,” someone mentioned, “yeah, we could finally get tickets.” He replied, “I’m not familiar with tickets to Kansas, I think someone took your money from a lie young man.”
This effortless blending of anything thrown at them into the Oz-speak adds to the delightful feeling you’ve somehow walked into a book or movie.
Logistics Before and During Autumn at Oz
Check the website in late May or early June and act fast since tickets sell out quickly. There are people that attend this event annually and look forward to it.
There’s also a Facebook page where a lot of information is shared and several members will be happy to answer your questions.
At the time of purchase, you’ll pick the day and time you would like to attend.
How the Timing Works
Tickets have a date and time. The times are 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm.
Individuals can enter the park anytime from the start of the time they purchased on. If you purchase a 12 pm ticket, you can enter anytime from 12 pm until they shut down entries. However, you cannot enter at 11:50 am.
When you arrive, follow the directions on the website to Beech Mountain Resort. Once you turn into their entrance, there will be attendants guiding you to a lot and parking spot.
From here, you can walk to the check-in area.
At check-in, a knowledgeable person will provide all the information you need, note where bathrooms are located, answer any questions, provide your wristband, and give you anything else you purchased.
The wristbands are color coded for the entry times.
Reaching the Land of Oz Entrance
There are free shuttle buses that will take you up the mountain to the park entrance. You can also pay for a round-trip ticket on the ski lift. You’ll need to sign a waiver and be okay with heights.
Upon reaching the entrance, there’s another staff member who will check your band and give you a ticket with a number on it. Hang on to this. You’ll need it to enter the Gale home and go through the tornado.
The Gale Farm
After the show where Dorothy and the farm hands sing, to help pace out attendees, they only allow a certain number of people to go into the Gale home which serves as the entrance to Oz. This is where the ticket you were handed when you reached the park entrance comes in.
There’s a number on the house “now seeing 60”, which means anyone with a ticket that has 60 or below on it can enter.
It’s still going to be crowded in the house. As you wander through Oz, you can get away from the crowds by skipping ahead to the next character or are for photos and then backtrack.
Important Details You Need to Know When Visiting During Autumn at Oz
Photos with Dorothy
Dorothy is not one of the characters stationed along the yellow brick road for photos. She poses for pictures at the Gale Farm in a specific area at specific times. After the show at the farm, wait a bit and there will be an announcement that she’s going to be in a location for 10 minutes for photos.
I didn’t see her anywhere once I entered Oz and was there for 2.5 hours. There are photos of her and the other characters interacting in the park online, but it’s not clear if that was during a special showing for media, another event, or if it only occurs at specific times.
Once You Enter the Emerald City You Cannot Go Back
Once you go through the gates to the Emerald City, you’re out of the park. If there’s a character you missed or a photo you’d like, you need to go back and get it before you walk through the gate.
Don’t Miss Meeting the Wizard
As you exit into the Emerald City, there’s a tent selling merchandise and a food area. Behind the food area is a larger tent where you can meet the Wizard.
According to other reviews, it sounded like there was supposed to be somewhere guiding you to the wizard. When I walked through, there was nothing but a sign for the shuttle buses back to the parking lot.
No obvious sign, no one pointing guests that way, nothing on the tent, zero. I don’t feel like I missed anything, but if you have a child, it could be a bigger deal that they never met the wizard.
The Scenic Lift and Observation Deck Offer Views of the Mountains
There were two add-ons offered at the time of ticket purchase, the “Scenic Lift,” and the “Observation Deck.”
The Scenic lift is the ski lift. The Observation deck is a wooden observation deck built as part of the resort offering mountain views.
While the views are beautiful on both, they are of the nearby mountains. You will not have a view of Land of Oz from either. There’s a small corner of the yellow brick road you can see from the observation tower, but that’s it.
The observation tower also has several stairs which were difficult for some attendees.
There are No Refunds
This is made clear on the website, ticket purchase page, and via an email after purchase. The event runs rain or shine.
The ski lift does not run in inclement weather. I would purchase your event ticket and then add the ski lift when you arrive. It’s the same price regardless of when you purchase, and tickets don’t run out. This way you’re not out $15 if the lift isn’t running.
The Park Does Not Do A Good Job Posting Details and Times
Prior to arrival, there was no indication there would be a show at the Gale Farm, nor were the times readily available. They may have been posted on-site, but with the large crowds, they were missed. I didn’t see anything indicating the show times.
Luckily, other attendees who come every year walked me through what to expect and where to go.
If the characters interact with each other for scenes in the park, or skip down the yellow brick road, I didn’t see it in the 2.5 hours I was there. I’ve seen photos online, but it’s not clear how and when this occurs.
How to get a photo with Dorothy isn’t clearly noted. There was an announcement after the show at the farm that she would be in a specific location for 10 minutes for “those with a pass”.
If you walked into the Gale home to enter the park immediately after the show to beat the crowd, you would have missed the notification.
The Park is not Wheelchair or Stroller Accessible
The yellow brick road is uneven and there are many steps leading to the cellar in the Gale house. Land of Oz website has specific information on its FAQ page.
Pets are Not Allowed in Land of Oz
The park’s website also notes that pets (dogs) are not allowed at the park. When I purchased my ticket, I saw a note to contact them if you have a service animal.
Feel Free to Dress Up
Dressing up as a character is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. There were many Dorothys at the park, and the ages varied.
There were also Scarecrows, Lions, and Tin Men, but Dorothy was by far the most popular.
And if you just want to dress with the theme, go for it. There were several, ummm…….sparkly witches and fairies maybe? Regardless, this is clearly an event to bring out your inner child and have some fun.
Is Autumn at Oz Worth It?
I thought it was well done and smoothly run for the price and it’s definitely something you can only experience in North Carolina. If you get a photo with every character, expect to stay in Oz for 3 or 4 hours. This includes from the moment you park to the time you’re back at your vehicle and assuming you stop at the gift store.
If you, or someone in your family, is a fan of the book or movie, then you must put this on your list. Given how unique it is and the fact it’s only once a year, I would say it’s one of North Carolina’s must-experience annual events.
Even if you’re not a devotee, if you know you’ll be in the area, it’s a fun morning or afternoon experiencing something unique. You could easily visit a cute mountain town like West Jefferson, and explore Boone and Blowing Rock before heading to Land of Oz as part of a complete trip.
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