Land of Oz in NC: What it’s like to visit the once-closed theme park

Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road at Land of Oz

Land of Oz features an immersive experience based on the iconic story of the Wizard of Oz, including characters, the yellow brick road and a visit to Emerald City (photos and compilation by TheSmokies.com)

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There’s something about an old attraction that is really fascinating.

Many entrepreneurs bring their visions to the mountains, and sometimes only a handful of businesses survive.

While some are left to rust and be reclaimed by the mountains, others rise from the ashes and offer folks like me a rare glimpse into the past.

And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, that rare glimpse can be a fully immersive experience.

beautiful landscaping surrounds the yellow brick road
The landscape of Beech Mountain, North Carolina inspired the vision for the Land of Oz theme park in 1970 (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

What is the Land of Oz?

The Land of Oz is a privately-owned theme park in North Carolina that is open only on special occasions. 

The park is located within the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and offers an immersive experience inside the Land of Oz.

Just like you can explore Harry Potter world at Universal Studios, or the Star Wars universe at Disney.

In North Carolina, you can walk down the yellow brick road and explore the Land of Oz.

Why is the Land of Oz abandoned?

This is a frequently asked question. However, the short answer is, it’s not.

Still, the Land of Oz is open only for events or on special occasions.

During the rest of the year, it is under 24-hour surveillance and heavily monitored by park management.

Alaina poses with Glenda the good witch
Land of Oz was a fully functioning theme park in the 1970s, and today it is open to the public on special occasions (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

The fascinating history behind the Land of Oz

The Land of Oz was built by the Carolina Caribbean Corporation. The Robbins Brothers hired Charlotte-based designer Jack Pentes to bring tourists to the mountains in the summer and fall.

Pentes said the area reminded him of The Wizard of Oz, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The park officially opened in 1970. Pentes hoped to have Judy Garland at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, but she, unfortunately, passed away prior to the opening.

So, he designed an overlook in her memory and had a sculptor create a bronze likeness of the actress as Dorothy.

In its first season, the Land of Oz welcomed 400,000 guests and was named “The Number One Tourist Attraction” by the Washington Post.

The theme park had one ride, a ski lift that was designed to look like a hot air balloon. Guests could visit a real-life Land of Oz, yellow brick road and all.

The natural landscape of the area reminded the park designer of the Wizard of Oz (photo by Alaina O'Neal/TheSmokies.com)
The natural landscape of the area reminded the park designer of the Wizard of Oz (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

But then the park experienced hardships

By 1975, Carolina Caribbean went bankrupt due to other failed investments.

That December, the Emerald City Amipitheater stage was set on fire.

Many of the attraction’s prized possessions were stolen, including props, costumes and even the Judy Garland bronze bust.

To date, these items have never been recovered.

Despite all odds, the park reopened in 1976, but was poorly maintained. Character houses and Emerald City were in bad enough shape that they had to be demolished, and the Balloon Ride was dismantled.

The Land of Oz ultimately shuttered in 1980.

dorothy and the cowardly lion dance
Throughout your visit to the Land of Oz, you’ll meet characters from the story as they perform songs (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

The resurgence of the Land of Oz

In 1988, a group of original employees held a small reunion at what remained of the park.

This was enough to spark interest in the old theme park, and in 1991, Oz hosted a special one-day event.

A couple of years later, the event was moved to the fall. Today, that event is known as Autumn at Oz.

Can you visit the Land of Oz?

Yes, but only for private tours and the Autumn at Oz festival.

The festival features arts and craft vendors, food vendors, pony rides and, most notably, a walk-through of the park, which includes live musical performances along the way.

Land of Oz also offers private guided tours, available seasonally.

Read Also: When will Ghost Town in the Sky reopen: The latest 2021 update

the wizard is exposed behind a curtain
The journey ends at Emerald City, where the characters finally meet the man behind the curtain (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Is the Land of Oz worth it?

In all honesty, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when I bought my tickets for the Autumn at Oz event this year. But, I was pleasantly surprised.

The musical journey begins in Kansas, just like the story and movie.

While characters are staged throughout your walk-through adventure, you can stroll through leisurely at your own pace. As the tornado comes, you make your way through the storm cellar and then come out on the other side in Oz.

Along the way, you meet your favorite characters including the cowardly lion, scarecrow, Glinda the good witch and the wicked witch of the West. And you ultimately end up in Emerald City.

Overall, I was really blown away by the singing, dancing and costumes. It is clear that the current ownership is investing back into the park to make this event a high-quality, memorable experience for the guests.

the emerald city at the land of oz
Today, the park has an Emerald City section, even though it isn’t the original (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

And even if you’re not the biggest Oz fan, the attraction is located in a gorgeous setting with beautiful scenic views that will pull on your nostalgia-loving heartstrings.

I loved walking along the yellow brick road and thinking about everything the theme park has endured over the years. And how lucky I was to be able to experience it.

Read Also: Fun Mountain Gatlinburg: What remains of the abandoned park today

Can you dress as a character at the Land of Oz?

Yes, dressing up in character is encouraged at the park.

When I was there, I saw several folks dressed up in costume. But, keep in mind that the weather can be much cooler when you reach higher elevations.

Try to incorporate a jacket when planning your outfit.

the over the rainbow overlook at land of oz
The Over the Rainbow Overlook was added in 2021 (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

How much does the Land of Oz cost?

PrIces and availability vary by season at the Land of Oz.

However, At the time of this writing, general admission is $55 to enjoy the park during the Autumn at Oz festival.

VIP tickets are offered on select seasons (but not all) and start usually start at around $68.

Add-ons are available, like the Scenic Lift Ride or Over the Rainbow Overlook access. It’s only a $5 add-on and offers beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains at 5,506 feet above elevation.

Of course, prices are subject to change. Be sure to visit their website for the most up-to-date information on pricing and events.

Where is the Land of Oz today?

The Land of Oz is located at 2669 Beech Mountain Parkway in North Carolina.

Beech Mountain, not far from Banner Elk, is best known for the Beech Mountain Resort, which offers skiing in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the winter season.

The Land of Oz is about a 3-hour drive from the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Read Also: Are the Blue Ridge Mountains and Smoky Mountains the same?

Because of the uneven paths and walkways and stairs, the area is not currently wheelchair or stroller-friendly.

For more information about the seasonal events at the Land of Oz, please visit their website.

Did you know about the Land of Oz? Have you ever visited? Let us know in the comments below!

Click here to view the web story version of this article.

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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35 thoughts on “Land of Oz in NC: What it’s like to visit the once-closed theme park”

  1. My sister and I went in September for the Autumn in Oz and we were very happy with our visit! It feels just like you are
    In the story and the characters are amazing! Would recommend for everyone

  2. I had no idea & I have been
    around this area over 50yr’s❗
    But now that I do know , I
    intend on going soon , I do have family close by , so .

  3. I never knew this Attraction existed, nor have I ever been to North Carolina. I am a Huge Fan of The Wizard of Oz Story!

  4. OMG I went there when I was 6 yts old…and thought it was shut down forever..Can’t wait to schedule a weekend trip there with my kids 😃

  5. Would like to know when It opens next year. I and some girlfriends would like to plan a trip. Hotel 🛍️ n in or near park?

  6. I went as a child with my parents back when it was opened. I still remember it. Would be cool to see it again.

  7. I’m 49 years young and remember waiting every year for it to come on. I’m so excited to start planning a trip. 😀 Thank you. 🙇‍♀️

  8. My favorite movie of all times is the Wizard of oz I am 55 yrs. Old still love watching the movie, still cry when she has to tell them all goodbye before then send her home. I think ill miss you most of all scarecrow….i love it! I hope I someday will be able to afford to come see this great place.

  9. I was lucky enough to have been there shortly after it had opened. I was probably around 10 at the time (I’m now 60 as of three weeks ago.) My parents took me along with my two younger brothers. I also have pictures that my mom took while on the Yellow Brick Road. The house was on hydraulics (I didn’t know that at the time, way too young to know what hydraulics were) and it shifted when the tornado hit. They were speakers that had “tornado sounds” blasting through them as well while the house was moving. Everyone came out of the house dizzy and walking crooked. It was too funny! We didn’t get to ride the ski lift. It had started to lightning and the park closed it but the park itself stayed open. It was magical!

  10. I was lucky enough to experience this beautiful park when it was in full swing. It was one of my happiest experiences. Glad to hear there is some resurgence even if it is just for
    a month or special events.

  11. Went shortly after it first opened and several times thereafter with my family. Loved it. Was disappointed when it closed.

  12. I was there as a 12 year old the year it opened. It was magical and remember the very cool balloon ride.

  13. Hi Taylor! Autumn of Oz is usually in September, but dates for 2022 have not yet been officially announced. Check landofoznc.com/autumnatoz for the latest details on the next festival! We usually like to book with VRBO when staying in the mountains. Hope you enjoy!

  14. Wow. Was there as a child myself, shortly after it opened. Remember it being really cool. (Not sure if people still say cool)

  15. I to was able to go the year it opened at the age of 12, what a wonderful place, the ballon ride, the characters, all brought to life. Simply magical!!

  16. I went the year it opened and the next year with my church group. My 8 yearold Grandson and I went this year. We had a great time. On the way home he said “When do we get to go back”. Hope we get to go back next year.

  17. I was there opening weekend in 1970… still have my original ticket…I’ve been back 3 times in the past decade and it gets better and more professional every year… well worth the price…

  18. This is an amazing place to visit. Even though the park opened when I was younger, I didn’t get to go. Now as a grandmother, my daughter and granddaughter started making this trip about four years. The place just seems magical. The cast is awesome and they seem to add new parts every year.

  19. When I was a small child back in the early 70′ s my parents myself and my grandparents went to visit The Land of Oz. I was to young to remember a lot but while walking the yellow brick road my grandmother fell and twisted her ankle. Had to be cared out. My parents still have pictures of us visiting there.

  20. Like come visit in 2022 don’t know when to apply for tickets, please give me inflo as soon it available,thanks

  21. I went with my now husband when it was abandoned and we had just started getting serious. it was the most haunting and magical experience of my life. Our photos are framed and hung around our home 15 years later. Most of the park had been dismantled or taken but we could spot faces in the trees and still walk the yellow brick road. Even when Oz was abandoned you could feel it’s magic.

  22. I went when I was 5 years old that was more than 48 years ago I still have good memories of it except for the witch that wanted to put me in her stew I was scared of her LOL

  23. My parents took my 2 brothers, 2 sister’s, and a friend on a weekend trip to Beech Mountain and The Land of Oz, back in the 70″s. I’ll never forget it. ♥️

  24. This is my first time hearing about the Land of Oz. I am very interested in coming to the festival!! We come to the smoky mountains at least twice a year sometimes more if we can get off!

  25. Its an amazing experience. Going to Autumn at Oz and doing a private tour give you two different experiences at The Land of Oz but both are great. Banner Elk is a beautiful small town in the mountains. I have spent many summers there and therefore enjoy the Land of Oz experience. Everyone in our family especially our granddaughters had a blast. Highly recommend it to everyone.

  26. My husband and I went for the first time in 2021 and was blown away from the whole experience. The singing was amazing. Dorothy was amazing as well as the others!!! It was an amazing time. It was cold so make sure u bring a jacket. I dressed up as Dorothy and loved it !!!

  27. I have been twice to Autumn OZ festival with my daughters & granddaughter. It’s a magical event. If you love the Wizard of OZ. It’s a trip you must take!!

  28. Was blessed to go as a child and still remember the characters singing and dancing at each stop. I even remember seeing Dorothy’s red slippers while there. What a wonderful memory.

  29. Oz was my favorite attraction when I was younger. Of coursed I loved the movie and watched it every year. Being able to experience what Dorothy experienced from the tornado, to the yellow brick road, to Emerald City, was a dream come true. There were talking trees along the yellow brick road. It was amazing and I have thought about it often. I have always wished I could take my children. I really would love to go back!

  30. Two Duke graduate students fell in love at Oz in 1973 and have been married for almost 50 years. I have to say it is a magic place. Thanks for the article and reminder. Returning in the Fall 2023 would be a nice anniversary. 😀

  31. I was a “Dorothy” in 1972 during college. What great fun. I am now 70 and remember it so fondly-my favorite memory? Signing autographs!

  32. As a student in college I once went on a lark to Beech Mountain and The Land of Oz. Though even almost a “grownup” I was blown away by the quality of the experience and will always fondly remember the visit. Among all of the quality sets and construction of the individual “stops” along the journey down the Yellow Brick Road I will always most remember the ride back to Kansas in the balloon. The ride included a short trip over the edge of a cliff where you felt you could see 4 or 5 states. What a magnificent view! To the cast and crew I thank you for your hard work and professional efforts that created a memory that an old man will always fondly remember and one that the “push button” generation will never get to have!

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