Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on October 20, 2023.
The Land of Oz is one NC bucket list-worthy attraction you can easily miss. This former Wizard of Oz theme park sits at the top of Beech Mountain Ski Resort, and each year, it transforms into one of the High Country’s most popular events.
After skipping along the Yellow Brick Road on our way to see the Wizard in North Carolina, we want to share how you can join the fun, too. This guide is based on our personal experience (during a media invite to Autumn at Oz) with some essential tips to help you enjoy the fantastic Land of Oz and other nearby places.
If you’re looking for something specific in this guide, he’s how we’ve organized it:
- Where is the Land of Oz?
- What is the Land of Oz?
- The History of the Land of Oz (in 15 Fun Facts)
- How to Visit Today?
- Essential Tips Before You Visit the Land of Oz
- More Things to Do Nearby
You can tap your toes and skip ahead to any of the above sections or continue reading about how to find the Land of Oz and its intriguing history.
Where is the Land of Oz?
1007 Beech Mountain Parkway, Beech Mountain, NC
- The Land of Oz is at Beech Mountain Ski Resort in Western NC.
- The mountain town of Beech Mountain is within a quick trip from a few places, including:
- For weekend getaways, the town is roughly 3 hours from Greensboro and four hours from both Raleigh and Durham.
So What is the Land of Oz?
The Land of Oz was originally a theme park based on the book “Wonderful World of Oz” made famous by the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. Visitors today can still follow the yellow brick road and visit with their favorite characters along the way.
It is currently only open on special occasions like Autumn at Oz. We’ll share more about that family-friendly event shortly.
The History of the Land of Oz (in 15 Fun Facts)
- In the 1960s, Grover Robbins and his brothers Harry and Spencer Robbins (owners of Tweetsie Railroad, among other attractions) bought land at the top of Beech Mountain.
- They enlisted Jack Pentes, an architect from Charlotte, to envision a park that would take visitors away from the turbulent 1960s. His idea became the Land of Oz.
- The Land of Oz theme park opened in the 1970s in the ski resort town of Beech Mountain as a seasonal attraction for fans of the Wizard of Oz.
- Guests could pretend to be Dorothy and experience each part of her journey, from the tornado in Kansas to picking up new friends on the road to the Emerald City.
- Developers used 44,000 painted bricks to replicate the famous yellow brick road.
- Actress Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher were part of the ribbon-cutting on opening day.
- Land of Oz was the most successful theme park on the East Coast the year it opened.
- Visitors could ride in an artificial hot air balloon on a ski lift to get a birds-eye view of the park.
- The original museum held props from the movie, including one of Dorothy’s dresses.
- In 1975, a fire destroyed several buildings and many of the costumes.
- A new management company rebuilt the park, but it never fully recovered and closed permanently as a year-round attraction in 1980.
- The abandoned Land of Oz theme park was victim to vandalism and decay in the years it was closed.
- Autumn at Oz began in the 90s as an event for former park employees, also known as “Ozzies.”
- In the early 2000s, owners opened the event to the public because of growing interest in visiting the park.
- Now Autumn at Oz is an annual fall event that has grown from one opening weekend to three.
How to Visit Today?
Land of Oz is only open during special events throughout the year and through private tours. It is under 24-hour surveillance to discourage people from visiting when it is closed.
Autumn at Oz
Autumn at Oz is the annual Wizard of Oz festival for people of all ages. The park is open three weekends in September.
You can explore the park and experience the story, from the twister in Dorothy’s house in Kansas to the colorful world of Oz and, eventually, the Emerald City.
Meet the cast of characters along the yellow brick road, including the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow.
Tickets are sold by time slots that range from 11:00 am until 4:00 pm. Kids under 2 get in for free.
Here are the dates for Autumn at Oz 2023:
- September 8-10
- September 15-17
- September 22-24
A free shuttle bus is the most affordable way to get to Oz, right behind being swept away by a tornado. For an additional fee, you can take a Beech Mountain Resort ski lift up to the entrance. Another extra perk not included in the ticket price is the “Over the Rainbow” Overlook.
10 Essential Tips Before You Visit Land of Oz
- The dates for Autumn at Oz are limited, so plan your trip early.
- Buy your ticket before making the trip in case it sells out.
Here are a few more tips to make your trip enjoyable:
- First, take the ski lift: A free shuttle bus will take you up to the Land of Oz theme park, but the ski lift is faster, and you will get a chance to take in the mountain views.
- Plan for 2-3 hours minimum: While the ticketed visit is only for one hour, you will need time to get up to the mountain, park, and get in line to be admitted.
- Be patient and respectful of others: This is a limited event, so many others are just as excited at the chance to see the Land of Oz. So be patient if you are taking photos or waiting to take a picture with a character.
- Bring an extra layer: The top of the mountain can be chilly, even if it felt a lot warmer before the drive up. That’s why you should bring a jacket or sweater, just in case.
- Dress up: The organizers encourage guests to dress up as their favorite Wizard of Oz character.
- Buy gifts and food: Support the event and local businesses at the event by purchasing food and souvenirs from them.
- Bring your kids: Autumn at Oz is a great family activity, but remind your younger kids that the characters (especially the Wicked Witch of the West!) are wearing costumes and pretending.
- Do not steal or damage property: The Land of Oz should be enjoyed by generations to come, so please do not damage scenery or take anything from the park. Be a good witch, not a bad witch.
More Land of Oz Events
Since 2020, summer events at Land of Oz have varied. At times, they’ve offered private tours and smaller events such as “Journey with Dorothy.”
Stay tuned as we await news on more Land of Oz events. We’ll keep you posted!
Read More: The NC Tripping Events Calendar
More Things to Do Nearby
After your trip to the Wizard of Oz theme park (and somewhere over the rainbow), stick around to discover fun things to do and see in Beech Mountain and the surrounding areas.
Beech Mountain Ski Resort
1007 Beech Mountain Parkway
There’s no shortage of outdoor events at Beech Mountain Ski Resort, the highest-elevation ski resort in Eastern North America.
- You can ski, snowboard, sled, or go snow tubing during winter. In addition, they offer equipment rentals and lessons for ages three and up if you feel a little cowardly hitting the slopes.
- In the summer, you can ride a mountain bike down the slopes or try your hand on their disc golf course.
- Aspiring anglers can fish at Buckeye Creek or Pond Creek (license required, available at Fred’s).
Beech Mountain Brewing
1007 Beech Mountain Parkway
Grab a refreshing drink at Beech Mountain Brewing. There are multiple parts to this local brewery, with a smaller taproom and a larger taproom and grill near the entrance to Beech Mountain Ski Resort.
The 5506′ Sky Bar is also at the top of the mountain near the Land of Oz entrance. The view here is worth the trip, no matter when you visit!
BMB offers several year-round beers as well as seasonal stouts and ales. Not a fan of beer? The Taproom and Grill has a menu of usual pub fare, including southern staples like fried green tomatoes.
More Things to Do in Beech Mountain
Here are some more things to do in Beech Mountain before and after your Land of Oz experience:
- Fred’s General Mercantile (501 Beech Mountain Parkway): This Western NC general store could be compared to the Emerald City, as it has everything you need, including groceries, tools, clothing, and ski rentals. Plus, they are open 365 days a year. They have a deli serving breakfast and lunch daily and a selection of brownies, cookies, and pastries.
- Emerald Outback Trails: This seven-mile network of trails is great for mountain biking, hiking, and trail running.
- The Beech Mountain History Museum (503 Beech Mountain Pkwy): Operated by the Beech Mountain Historical Society, this museum offers exhibits on the Beech Mountain community before the ski resort, the Cherokee population, and the Carolina Caribbean Corporation era from the 1960s-80s.
- Restaurants: Beech Mountain has more than a few great restaurants, too. Here are two that we love!
The quaint town of Banner Elk is just 15 minutes from Beech Mountain.
- Mountain views surround its downtown. There are a few areas for shopping and several restaurants, all within a few blocks of the town clock tower.
- Banner Elk is home to Lees McRae, a private four-year college spanning more than 450 acres in the mountain valley. If the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is open, you can learn about the wildlife in the area (but no flying monkeys).
- Between June and September, the Banner House Museum is open for guided walking tours where you can experience life in the 19th century.
- Apple Hill Farm (400 Apple Hill Road): About 15 minutes from Beech Mountain, you’ll find this mountaintop farm. Home to alpacas, llamas, and goats (oh my!), they offer guided tours so you can see the animals up close and learn about life on a working fiber farm.
- Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster (3265 Tynecastle Highway): If you want to find a unique attraction that matches Autumn at Oz, look no further than the alpine coaster at Wilderness Run. These two-person carts run down the mountain up to 27 MPH with three 360-degree loops along the 3,160-foot track. You control how fast you go as you descend through the forest. The attraction is open year-round. Advanced registration is required.
- Restaurants in Banner Elk
- Banner Elk Cafe & Lodge (324 Shawneehaw Ave): With two restaurants, an espresso bar, a bakery, a smoothie bar, and an ice cream shop, your whole family can find something at Banner Elk Cafe & Lodge. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week with a mix of American, Mexican, and Italian fare.
- Bella’s Breakfast and Lunch (142 Main St): This cozy cafe serves homemade breakfasts and New York-style sandwiches using locally-sourced meats, cage-free eggs, and organic produce. Bella’s is open seven days a week.
- The Pedalin’ Pig (4235 Highway 105 S): If you don’t know, now you know. BBQ is a religion around here, and no establishment is more iconic to the region than Pedalin’ Pig. With two locations in Boone and Banner Elk, you’re never too far from delicious pulled pork platters, a full lunch and dinner menu, and an iconic picnic special – a pound of pork, coleslaw, baked beans, buns, and sweet tea packaged up ready for the yellow brick road to Oz.
Sugar Mountain Ski Resort
1009 Sugar Mountain Dr, Sugar Mountain
Sugar Mountain Ski Resort is the largest in North Carolina, with 125 acres of skiable area, 21 slopes, a tubing park, an ice skating rink, and a public racing program. You can ski, go snow tubing or try snowshoeing.
There are things to do in Sugar Mountain beyond skiing, including mountain biking in the summer. Then, in the fall, take in the colors from 5,300 feet high in a scenic chairlift ride at the resort.
More Things to Do Before and After Land of Oz
Whether or not you’re in the area during a Land of Oz event, we’ve created a series of NC travel guides that will help you explore Beech Mountain and beyond!