Over the Rainbow: Visiting the Land of Oz park in North Carolina

Follow the yellow brick road and take a peek inside the Wizard of Oz theme park that was once the Southeast’s number one attraction

Do red Converse count as ruby slippers? Trying to channel my inner Dorothy as we follow the yellow brick road.

Throughout my childhood, I had seen photos and heard the stories of my family’s visit to the Land of Oz theme park in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. As a lover of the Wizard of Oz film and the books as a child, I always wanted to visit, too, but it sadly closed in 1980. The Land of Oz now opens for 3 weekends per year for its Autumn at Oz event. But first, a quick look back at Oz’s original run.

The Land of Oz park has a colorful albeit somewhat sad history. One of it’s developers, Grover Robbins, passed away shortly before the park’s opening in 1970. He and his brother, Harry, also developed the still operational Tweetsie Railroad near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and the now defunct Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley, NC. Their dream was to turn the site of their ski lodge into a year round attraction based on the Wizard of Oz.

The original Land of Oz park, credit: Emerald Mountain Realty

The Land of Oz opened to great success and Debbie Reynolds was on hand with her teenage daughter, Carrie Fisher, for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Photos from Oz in it’s prime had a distinctly seventies aesthetic: Dorothy in a minidress and knee socks, oversized mushrooms that looked like they were from the set of HR Pufnstuf, and psychedelic faces on apple trees. In 1975, a fire, possibly started by disgruntled employees, destroyed most of the Emerald City , including the amphitheater, restaurant, gift shops, and original costumes on display from the 1939 film. Many items were also stolen from the park at that time, including the original dress Judy Garland wore as Dorothy. A new company took over management but soon realized it would be too costly to remain open. The emerald gates closed in 1980 and the park became the target of vandals and urban explorers: swiping one of the park’s 44,000 yellow glazed bricks was the ultimate souvenir.

This story has a happy ending, though!

In the mid-nineties, a reunion of former park employees became an annual tradition. The public became increasingly interested, which developed into the Autumn at Oz event that is held on weekends in September. Proceeds from ticket sales go back into maintaining the park and expanding offerings each year. Meet all of your favorite Oz characters, see a stage show, check out the “Over the Rainbow Overlook”, and buy Land of Oz souvenirs! Buy your tickets well in advance–this is the largest Wizard of Oz festival in the country and usually sells out! Here’s a look inside our trip over the rainbow…




The Land of Oz opened to great success and Debbie Reynolds was on hand with her teenage daughter, Carrie Fisher, for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Photos from Oz in it’s prime had a distinctly seventies aesthetic: Dorothy in a minidress and knee socks, oversized mushrooms that looked like they were from the set of HR Pufnstuf, and psychedelic faces on apple trees. In 1975, a fire, possibly started by disgruntled employees, destroyed most of the Emerald City , including the amphitheater, restaurant, gift shops, and original costumes on display from the 1939 film. Many items were also stolen from the park at that time, including the original dress Judy Garland wore as Dorothy. A new company took over management but soon realized it would be too costly to remain open. The emerald gates closed in 1980 and the park became the target of vandals and urban explorers: swiping one of the park’s 44,000 yellow glazed bricks was the ultimate souvenir.

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This story has a happy ending, though!

In the mid-nineties, a reunion of former park employees became an annual tradition. The public became increasingly interested, which developed into the Autumn at Oz event that is held on weekends in September. Proceeds from ticket sales go back into maintaining the park and expanding offerings each year. Meet all of your favorite Oz characters, see a stage show, check out the “Over the Rainbow Overlook”, and buy Land of Oz souvenirs! Buy your tickets well in advance–this is the largest Wizard of Oz festival in the country and usually sells out! Here’s a look inside our trip over the rainbow…

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Once you arrive at Beech Mountain, you’ll check in and either take the free shuttle to the top of the mountain or buy a ticket for the scenic chairlift ride. We opted for the shuttle ride, which was brief: those sharp, hairpin turns up the mountain were enough to make wish I had brought my own flying broom but we arrived at our destination within several minutes. The shuttle drivers were super friendly and even played a little Oz trivia while guests boarded the bus.

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After you step into the park, you step into the beginning of the Oz story. You’ll hear Dorothy sing “Over the Rainbow” and see Miss Almira Gulch try to take away Toto. Lots of little girls were decked out in their best Dorothy duds but many guests of all ages donned Oz gear and costumes. Not only are costumes allowed, they are encouraged. If you’ve ever had the burning desire to dress up like the Tin Man or Dorothy, now is the time!

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Beware Miss Gulch! Toto is safe in Dorothy’s arms for now.

Professor Marvel tells Dorothy to go home to a heartbroken Auntie Em.

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You’ll be welcomed into the Gale home by Uncle Henry and see several rooms, including the living room, a bedroom, and the kitchen. We found Auntie Em in the kitchen and my husband had to ask what was for lunch. She was very sweet and told us she had Dorothy’s favorite pie in the oven (you could even smell a little whiff of it in the air). From here, things get interesting as the cyclone hits…

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The twister scene from the movie plays out projected on the wall as you walk down a dark ramp with black light neon details. We came out the other side of the twister to see the living quarters are disheveled and turned upside down. The hallway leading out of the Gale home is uneven and off kilter. Definitely some trippy stuff! The Land of Oz has fully restored the tornado to “its original 1970s psychedelic glory” and I can’t wait to see the updated version for 2022! It doesn’t take long to realize we are indeed no longer in Kansas…

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Walking through the surreal Day Glo cyclone scene

Stepping out of the tornado tossed Gale home, a wild and evil cackle breaks through the crisp autumn air. Most guests were delighted, a couple of small children may have been alarmed but were no worse for the wear. The Wicked Witch of the West taunts passersby as we spot the ruby slippers on the Wicked Witch of the East peeking out beneath the Gale home. It’s time to start our journey down the yellow brick road…

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Lots of opportunities to meet your favorite characters abound as you follow the yellow brick road. I was excited to see Glinda the Good Witch and she was as lovely and as gracious as you would imagine. All of the characters we encountered were accommodating and very much in their element! We met the Mayor of Munchkinland and strolled down the yellow brick road and met all of our favorite characters. We put on our thinking caps and chatted about with Scarecrow about all of the deep thoughts he would have once he met the Wizard. The Tin Man and Cowardly Lion weren’t too far ahead. It’s like stepping into a storybook. If this doesn’t make you feel young at heart, I don’t think anything will!



Have your cameras read at all times because there are so many photo opportunities and unexpected surprises. The park looks and feels like you’ve stepped into a Technicolor daydream.

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We also opted for tickets to the “Over the Rainbow Overlook” atop Beech Mountain as you approach Emerald City. At 5,506 feet in elevation, you’ll get a picture-perfect mountaintop view. Once you arrive at the gates of Emerald City, you’ll see the remnants of the park’s only actual ride, a ski-lift turned hot air balloon ride. It’s apparent that the Land of Oz was more of an immersive entertainment experience that did not rely on roller coasters or carousels like most theme parks.



Our journey rounded out by seeing the “horse of a different color”, browsing the Oz souvenirs and merchandise, and seeing a stage show. I tried to whisper “there’s no place like home” and clicked my heels three times, but alas, we had to take the shuttle bus back down the mountain.

Autumn at Oz is a rain or shine event. Weather on Beech Mountain in September can range from mild and pleasant to downright cold (they’ve even had snow flurries during past events!). As I mentioned earlier, this is usually a sell-out event, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for when tickets go on sale. Other area attractions include Grandfather Mountain, Tweetsie Railroad, Linville Caverns, and no trip to the area is complete without a stop at Mast General Store. Private tours are expected to return to the Land of Oz in 2023.



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Once you arrive at Beech Mountain, you’ll check in and either take the free shuttle to the top of the mountain or buy a ticket for the scenic chairlift ride. We opted for the shuttle ride, which was brief: those sharp, hairpin turns up the mountain were enough to make wish I had brought my own flying broom but we arrived at our destination within several minutes. The shuttle drivers were super friendly and even played a little Oz trivia while guests boarded the bus.

After you step into the park, you step into the beginning of the Oz story. You’ll hear Dorothy sing “Over the Rainbow” and see Miss Almira Gulch try to take away Toto. Lots of little girls were decked out in their best Dorothy duds but many guests of all ages donned Oz gear and costumes. Not only are costumes allowed, they are encouraged. If you’ve ever had the burning desire to dress up like the Tin Man or Dorothy, now is the time!

Beware Miss Gulch! Toto is safe in Dorothy’s arms for now.

Professor Marvel tells Dorothy to go home to a heartbroken Auntie Em.

You’ll be welcomed into the Gale home by Uncle Henry and see several rooms, including the living room, a bedroom, and the kitchen. We found Auntie Em in the kitchen and my husband had to ask what was for lunch. She was very sweet and told us she had Dorothy’s favorite pie in the oven (you could even smell a little whiff of it in the air). From here, things get interesting as the cyclone hits…

The twister scene from the movie plays out projected on the wall as you walk down a dark ramp with black light neon details. We came out the other side of the twister to see the living quarters are disheveled and turned upside down. The hallway leading out of the Gale home is uneven and off kilter. Definitely some trippy stuff! The Land of Oz has fully restored the tornado to “its original 1970s psychedelic glory” and I can’t wait to see the updated version for 2022! It doesn’t take long to realize we are indeed no longer in Kansas…

Walking through the surreal Day Glo cyclone scene

Stepping out of the tornado tossed Gale home, a wild and evil cackle breaks through the crisp autumn air. Most guests were delighted, a couple of small children may have been alarmed but were no worse for the wear. The Wicked Witch of the West taunts passersby as we spot the ruby slippers on the Wicked Witch of the East peeking out beneath the Gale home. It’s time to start our journey down the yellow brick road…

Lots of opportunities to meet your favorite characters abound as you follow the yellow brick road. I was excited to see Glinda the Good Witch and she was as lovely and as gracious as you would imagine. All of the characters we encountered were accommodating and very much in their element! We met the Mayor of Munchkinland and strolled down the yellow brick road and met all of our favorite characters. We put on our thinking caps and chatted about with Scarecrow about all of the deep thoughts he would have once he met the Wizard. The Tin Man and Cowardly Lion weren’t too far ahead. It’s like stepping into a storybook. If this doesn’t make you feel young at heart, I don’t think anything will!

Have your cameras read at all times because there are so many photo opportunities and unexpected surprises. The park looks and feels like you’ve stepped into a Technicolor daydream.

We also opted for tickets to the “Over the Rainbow Overlook” atop Beech Mountain as you approach Emerald City. At 5,506 feet in elevation, you’ll get a picture-perfect view mountaintop view. Once you arrive at the gates of Emerald City, you’ll see the remnants of the park’s only actual ride, a ski-lift turned hot air balloon ride. It’s apparent that the Land of Oz was more of an immersive entertainment experience that did not rely on roller coasters or carousels like most theme parks.

Our journey rounded out by seeing the “horse of a different color”, browsing the Oz souvenirs and merchandise, and seeing a stage show. I tried to whisper “there’s no place like home” and clicked my heels three times, but alas, we had to take the shuttle bus back down the mountain.

Autumn at Oz is a rain or shine event. Weather on Beech Mountain in September can range from mild and pleasant to downright cold (they’ve even had snow flurries during past events!). As I mentioned earlier, this is usually a sell-out event, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for when tickets go on sale. Other area attractions include Grandfather Mountain, Tweetsie Railroad, Linville Caverns, and no trip to the area is complete without a stop at Mast General Store. Private tours are expected to return to the Land of Oz in 2023.

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