Lonely Planet Writer

A Wizard of Oz theme park that shut down in 1980 is reopening this summer

With countless water worlds, adventure centres and theme parks of all shapes and sizes dotted across its vast expanse, there is no doubt that the United States of America offers a wide variety of entertaining activities for families of all ages. While some are major players in the tourism industry, attracting millions of visitors every year, others are more low key, niche and unique. One such example is the Land of Oz, a Wizard of Oz-themed park in North Carolina originally unveiled in the 1970s that is scheduled to open its gates once again this summer to lead guests along the Yellow Brick Road.

Familiar characters at the Land of Oz.
Familiar characters at the Land of Oz. Image by Land of Oz

Located at Beech Mountain, the Land of Oz was the first Wizard of Oz-based theme park to ever be built in the world, with ground being broken on the project in 1968. Opened two years later, the park cost upwards of $5 million (approximately $34 million by today’s standards), and included 44,000 glazed yellow bricks that were laid out to complete a winding road that spanned nine acres. The park’s only ride was a balloon journey that saw 24 replica steel balloons bringing guests along a circular track and down the side of the mountain, showcasing sweeping vistas and breathtaking views. Open for only a decade, the park officially closed in 1980 following financial difficulties and numerous changes in management.

Dorothy leads guests along the Yellow Brick Road.
Dorothy leads guests along the Yellow Brick Road. Image by Land of Oz

In 1994, public interest in the park led to an annual Autumn at Oz event, which saw the theme park reopening for a short period of time, with all of the funds raised going back into maintenance. Now, this idea has expanded to special events that are due to be held at the Land of Oz every Friday in June, as well as in September and October. Called “Journey with Dorothy”, the June events see guests skipping along the Yellow Brick Road, guided by Dorothy herself as they play familiar characters in the search for the Wonderful Wizard. “Autumn at Oz” provides a full cast of characters, live shows, collectable, craft, and food vendors, as well as other specialties. With both events, guests begin in Kansas, walk through the Tornado and come out in Oz.

A photograph from the theme-park taken in the 1970’s. Image by Land of Oz

“The Land of Oz has some of the most beautiful mountain views, as it is on one of the highest points on the east coast. The original design incorporated Oz into Beech Mountain’s natural landscape, so that combined with the views makes it seem otherworldly and completely magical – even after all of this time. Each event offers different programming experiences for guests,” said Sean Barrett of Land of Oz.

More information on visiting the Land of Oz is available at the official website.