For a magical journey into a beloved fantasy, visit the Land of Oz theme park in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. While the park was once decrepit and the yellow brick road lay in ruins, today the private garden is enjoying a resurgence of popularity and nostalgia during its regular autumn celebration.
The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz is one of the most beloved movies of all time. Originally released in 1939, the musical fantasy tells the tale of Dorothy's dream of "somewhere over the rainbow" where life is better and more magical than modern society. Along the way to the Emerald City, Dorothy - played by Judy Garland - encounters numerous friends and overcomes great odds as she discovers "there's no place like home."
The movie's signature song, "Over the Rainbow" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the movie was nominated for various other awards. In recent decades, the movie's popularity has continued to grow and it is one of the most familiar stories of all time. Many fans have nostalgic memories of the magic of the movie, and the opportunity to visit a theme park based on the film can be a dream come true.
About the Land of Oz Park
The Land of Oz theme park was the project of Jack Pentes and Grover Robbins. The park opened in 1970 and was wildly popular for years. Attractions included:
- A scenic section of the Yellow Brick Road winding through lovely gardens.
- Costumed characters including the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, the Wicked Witch of the West, and the star of the park, Dorothy.
- An Emerald City to explore.
- A fantasy balloon ride offering scenic vistas of the park and the surrounding mountain landscape.
- Dorothy's cottage, complete with period furnishings and familiar memorabilia.
Due to a general decline in amusement parks in the 1970s and a lack of innovation and change in the park itself, the Land of Oz closed in 1980. The park was subject to vandalism and decay like any abandoned amusement park, but enough interest in its restoration existed that it was eventually refurbished as a private garden in the Eagle Mountain community that now rests atop Beech Mountain.
Today the nostalgic park has slightly different attractions but no less nostalgic appeal. As a private garden, popular features of the park include:
- Restored fountains and water features including a pond and waterfall.
- Picturesque gazebos and other garden features.
- The restored Dorothy's cottage, available for rent to visitors.
- A small museum of movie artifacts and memorabilia.
The Land of Oz is still open to the public, but only during one early October weekend a year. The annual Autumn at Oz festival includes tours of the garden and Dorothy's cottage, as well as a visit to the memorabilia museum. Costumed characters still roam the park during the festival, and many guests also dress up as their favorite Wizard of Oz characters. For years, cast members from the movie were invited to the annual event, but such visits have become more difficult to arrange in recent years.
Other popular activities during the annual festival include face painting, a petting zoo, magic shows, concessions, and more. Specific events may vary from year to year based on popularity and availability. The cost to attend the festival is generally low (past ticket prices have been a mere $5), but high crowds and inclement weather may present difficulties.
Rent the Land of Oz Theme Park
Guests who once enjoyed many a childhood visit to the Land of Oz can be part of the fantasy again by renting Dorothy's cottage. The charming three-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage is fully furnished and can be a romantic and enjoyable escape for a weekend. Rental rates can be steep, however, and prices for holidays and peak periods such as summer and ski season can be high. Weekly rates are typically more cost effective.
Though the Land of Oz theme park only exists now as a private garden with one annual weekend festival open to the public, it is still a popular attraction and a nostalgic pilgrimage for many Wizard of Oz fans. While there may be no place like home, Oz can still be a great theme park getaway.