The Land of Oz is one of fiction’s most timeless and lasting creations, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Land of Oz Theme Park in Beech Mountain, North Carolina.
This theme park was opened in 1970 in order to keep people coming to the adjacent Beech Mountain Ski Resort in the summer months, and with the intent to create an attraction that honored L. Frank Baum’s original book, unlike most other Oz-themed projects which glorified the 1939 musical. To this end, the park featured actors in costumes that reflected the illustrations in the book, more than the iconic film characters.
The original attraction required attendees to ride a ski lift to the top of the mountain (a bus shuttle was available for those afraid of the lift), and the park began with visitors passing through the Kansas farmhouse, while experiencing a “tornado.” (Two duplicate homes were adjacent - “before” and “after” - with the latter being tilted, interior items askew. A special effects “tunnel/stairway connected the houses.) Guests then walked down a Yellow Brick Road as they encountered characters and events from the book, such as meeting the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and Cowardly Lion (each with their own original musical song and dance), which then culminated in a meeting with the Wonderful Wizard of Oz himself in the Emerald City. Dorothy “left” Oz in one of the “air balloons,” a suspended track-system ride, circling near the mountain’s edge, consisting of metal baskets supported under metal/tarp “balloons.” Also, as part of the Yellow Brick Road, there was a dramatic “lookout,” with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains, and a bust of Judy Garland. Printed on the stone base was film-Dorothy’s concluding speech about her “own back yard.”
As the park grew in popularity, its theme changed to reflect more of the film’s style. It even opened a small museum that featured props and costumes from the movie, including one of the many gingham dresses Judy Garland wore throughout the 1939 film. Also of special note, was the jacket worn by Professor Marvel in the film, which turned out to be none other than “Oz” author Frank Baum’s (found in a Hollywood thrift store by the movie’s costumer.) Some have claimed this to be a legend, but the jacket was displayed as such by the museum, and several people involved in the film have verified it as factual. As the years passed, the park lost much of its success in the face of dwindling attendance. A 1975 fire destroyed several structures in the Emerald City section of the venue, along with park offices, which were rebuilt. Several items were eventually stolen from the museum, including the dress that Judy Garland wore in the film. The park finally closed in 1980.
The Land of Oz fell into disrepair, and most of the structures were vandalized or otherwise destroyed. In the late ’90s, the park was partially restored, and is now opened once a year for the “Autumn at Oz ” celebration in October, which draws upwards of 8,000 attendees. Subsequent events have been added, which often change on a yearly basis.
The park occasionally opens in the summer for a few days. For those looking for an extended experience, Dorothy’s House is also available for overnight rentals.
Know Before You Go
From Boone, NC, take NC 105 towards Linville and Banner Elk. Follow 105 for 15 miles and then turn right onto NC 184. Follow NC 184 to Banner Elk's only stoplight, then turn left onto NC 194/184. NC 184 will veer to the right after Lees McRae College and become South Beech Mountain Parkway. Follow NC 184/Beech Mountain Parkway into the town of Beech Mtn.
The park is now on private property and can only be accessed during events or with advanced permission of the owners.