“formerly abandoned Wizard of Oz theme park”
The Land of Oz is a mostly now-defunct theme park located in the resort town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina. It was opened in 1970 by Grover Robbins, who had been successful with Tweetsie Railroad, and was fully operational until 1980. The park was based on the book rather than the film. In fact, during the designing phase employees were told not to watch the movie but rather read the book. The costumes of the actors were in fact based more on the book descriptions until later on in the park's history when they were changed to look more like the film. Visitors could take a walk down the Yellow Brick Road, "experience" the cyclone which struck Dorothy's house, and visit with the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, and the Wicked Witch of the West. The Yellow Brick Road led to a show at the Emerald City where the characters met with the Wizard. An artificial balloon ride, a specially modified ski lift installed by Goforth Brothers, allowed visitors to get a bird's-eye view of the park and mountain scenery before leaving Oz. A small museum showcased props and costumes from the film. These were jointly bought by the park and Debbie Reynolds from MGM. Land of Oz opened in 1970 with the intention of extending the ski resort to be a 'year-round' attraction by offering an attraction at the pinnacle of Beech Mountain. A ski lift was specially designed to become the hot air balloon ride which has since been redeployed to be a ski lift on the back bowl, now Oz run, of Ski Beech. In later years, characters from the story conducted tours, but the original design was for the visitor to assume the role of Dorothy - experiencing everything from Kansas to tornado to the meeting the characters on the yellow brick road to Oz. The visit culminated in Emerald City, where Dorothy appeared with her friends to meet the Wizard. The park was the top attraction in the southeast the first year. Its opening day in 1970 attracted 20,000 visitors. Dampened by the death of owner Grover Robbins a few months before the park opened, the driving force to keep the park as a special experience gave way to commercial necessities foisted on Carolina Caribbean Corp by the downturn in real estate sales. Emerald City burned on Sunday, December 28, 1975, destroying some artifacts, including the dress worn by Dorothy in the movie. There is some speculation that the fires were set by disgruntled employees who were angered at having been dismissed for legitimate reasons. Land of Oz finally closed in 1980. After the park was closed much of it fell into disrepair. Props were vandalized, stolen, or left to exposed to the elements. Some of the park was saved, including as parts of the yellow brick road, a few munchkin houses, some of the later costumes, and sections of the witch's castle were preserved. The owner of the land restored the park about ten years later. In the late nineties, former employees started the Autumn at Oz event as a reunion. Later this became an annual event, and in 2009 the festival had 8500 attending. In 2010 more of the park's original characters returned, the Fountain of Youth had green water, and vendors and face painters were added to the event. Gregory Hugh Leng was guest of honor. A museum now shows costumes from the movie and other memorabilia. The Yellow Brick Road has a few of its 44,000 bricks missing but once again takes visitors through the Enchanted Forest and Poppy Field. Dorothy's house, which can be rented for events, includes a basement intended to make visitors feel the experience of a tornado; the Wicked Witch's legs stick out from under the house. In 2011, the park hosted the International Wizard of Oz Club and some of the original 1970 cast returned to share photos and tales from the original inspiration of Jack Pentes.
For something that has been featured in news outlets such as Huffington Post and others, I expected the attraction to be a sight worth seeing. My husband and I bought our tickets months in advance with anticipation and excitement, deciding to make this our wedding anniversary get-away. The tickets were $35 each, but it was something unique so we weren't concerned about spending $70 for a special occasion.
Wow, how I wish I had that $70 back; I'd go to Target instead, it would be more entertaining and a lot warmer.
Our time slot was 2-4pm, we arrived around 1:45 to allot for time to check in. Upon arrival, everything seems fairly normal, a little disorganized as they had no one directing the herd of people on where to go or what line to be in. "Is this the line for the waiver sheets?" "Is this the line for the ski lift?" "Where do I go to get in line for the bus, if I don't want to ride the ski lift?" - incase you haven't picked up on it yet, the word "line" comes up a lot. Because, that's all this "attraction" was...a lot of standing around in lines waiting to see something, anything...which unfortunately never really happened. By the time we got on the ski lift and arrived at the "Land of Oz" it was 3:15. Okay, over an hour into our time slot and I've yet to see anything besides some port-a-potties and a few booths selling Swiss Miss hot chocolate and day old popcorn. But, I'm still hopeful....
Once we arrived at the top, ready to venture into Oz, all you see are a few tents set up, selling things like BBQ and Apple Cider. Ah! Then we realized where to go because we found a hand written sign with an arrow pointing us in the right direction. I have to assume that when the crew in charge of this event started planning and organizing, the entire marketing department was out of the office.
Once we found our way, we waited in line for another 15-20 minutes to take a picture with Dorothy before entering the fair grounds. Upon entrance of said fair ground, you are given a ticket number and told that they would call out for your number by groups of ten...as in "120 and under" then "130 and under". Fair enough, ours was 566.....at that time they were calling for "360 and under". Excellent. So, we looked around the SMALL grounds, including a face painting station, a booth for sweatshirts, more popcorn, and a "petting zoo" consisting of two donkeys, a goat and a sheep. So, we hopped in line for what we assumed was the museum, I say assume because we were given no direction. By the time we got to the entrance of the museum it was 4:10. The museum was actually just a Judy Garland stalker's collection of all things Oz that had been donated to the park....at least, that's what it looked and felt like, considering the museum was no larger than a 14 x 16 ft room with nick-nacks like "The Wizard of Oz" PEZ dispensers....or the "original copies of photos from the filming of the movie". Original copies, you say? Tell me more.
Approximately 8 minutes later, I was sufficiently uncomfortable and decided we should go see what group number they were on....480....it's now 4:30....we've been here for two and a half hours and all we've seen at this point were piles of donkey shit and a bunch of little kids with their faces painted like fairies. To the person doing the painting....have you seen the movie? Maybe I missed the fairies.
Then, we are informed that the ski lift shuts down at 5:30 and the bus routes down the mountain stop at 6. Oh, okay. Guess we're walking down? Nope. This wife was channeling her inner Wicked Witch of the West and found a manager "kind enough" to extend the bus routes until 8. Thank you for not abandoning the hundreds of people on the top of Beech Mountain, your graciousness was noted.
Fast forward to 5:00ish...our group is called...so we wait in line to tour a house that had a room decorated like Dorothy's. No, you don't need to read that sentence again, it really does say "a room decorated like Dorothy's"....no other connection to the movie except for the hokey dolls sitting in a rocking chair in Dorothy's room, though I doubt Dorothy had a doll of herself. Never the less, we soldiered on. (In a line, at a colossal pace, of course.) Twenty minutes, a creepy Jigsaw look-a-like on a bike, and some black lights later, we had made it through the twister and were about to enter Oz.
Oz did in fact have a yellow brick road, and a munchkin land and some good photo-ops. Beyond that, the reality of the devastating situation my husband and I found ourselves in, was that we were simply walking (still in line formation) on a yellow brick road trudging from one character to the next to get a picture. Then, you were at the end. No, seriously, that's the end, and you find yourself questioning why you just spent $70 to stand in several different lines for over four hours in near freezing temperatures. Then you realize it's because you didn't yet know that Autumn At Oz was more disappointing than going through a drive-thru and finding out your order is wrong AFTER YOU'RE HOME....it's that disappointing.
Suffice it to say, this event is nothing but a money making scheme for people who like to dress up in costumes and pose for pictures with total strangers.
Take my advice, go to Target instead.
Because this event has gotten so popular, you need to order tickets ahead of time. They give you a ticket which allows you to enter at a certain time. If you just show up, you might not be able to get in. If you are a Wizard of Oz fan, this is a neat experience! Sometimes the weather is beautiful, and sometime it is foggy and freezing.
When the park was new, my parents took all 6 of the kids. I was next to the youngest. I remember the old ski lift chairs that took you above the park. I also remember Dorothy's house and feeling the tornado. I remember the fun we all had. Mom and dad also had friends that worked there for a time. Awesome trip and now that I know about Autumn at Oz I will try to bring my family in the future.
The park is not abandoned, just closed. Much of it is still there and you can even spend the night in Dorothy's house! Contact Cindy Keller at Emeral Mountain Realty for more information. The munckins spent the night in the house when they signed autographs and were guests of honor. I also did so on the 40th Anniversary of the park in 2010. Some of my items are in the museum which is a great honor thanks to Cindy! A lot of the park including the Yellow Brick Road is there. You can also get married there or have a party at the park. Contact Cindy in advance if you wish to do so. I also recommend you spend the night or week at the house in the summer, for good reason! People are stil stealing items for the park. PLEASE do not do this or #1 you go to jail and #2 you will destroy what a lot of volunteers have tried to restore for Autumn at Oz days each fall. Perserve the park so what you enjoy, your children and grandchildren can as well. This park was one of the greatest idea's for a theme park in America thanks to Jack Pentes!
I would love to see this!! I have been a Wizard of Oz fan since I was a little girl!! It should be re-opened!!
Here's a website to the realty group http://www.emeraldmtn.com/index.html.
But, there's a festival every autumn at the Land of Oz. Here's a link to that http://www.autumnatoz.com.
There is no way a park like this could exist today and for one reason INSURANCE! I am a licensed insurance agent, ugh in NC. The risks are just too great with a slippery road. Many times Dorothy used to ask guests to take off their shoes when walking down the Yellow Brick Road. This proves how dangerous it is. My advice is to get something you can attach to your shoes that will prevent you from falling. I cannot remember the name of the product but it is on line and will also help you from falling in ice and snow. GREAT PRODUCT to keep you safe and you need this on your shows if you are going to walk down the Yellow Brick Road when it is misty or wet!
Was neat to see once you can walk through see characters from the wizard of oz movie take a light jacket
Way too many tickets sold. The entire adventure from 1:45pm to 5:45 was no more than thousands of confused, cold and corralled patrons shuffling from one holding pen to another before finally traveling down the yellow brick road at a pace slower than airport security. If we had wanted to get a picture or short video of us skipping down the yellow brick road it would have been impossible for the press of people trudging from one photo op to the next. See the review from Ashley.b.neely for a detailed description of a day at Oz
Mick.hawley.3, the house got moved by a tornado, it's not in Kansas anymore!!!
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