It’s hard to find a theme park more legendary than North Carolina’s Land of Oz. Of course, it’s popular since the Wizard of Oz is such a nostalgic and well-known story, but most of the lore comes from the fact that it’s rarely open to visitors. Most of the time the only chance to get inside Oz is during the fall for their annual Autumn at Oz festival. But, this June, they’ve decided to open every weekend for a special Journey with Dorothy Tour that’s proving to be wildly popular.
It’s technically sold out (apparently their website crashed the day the tickets went on sale, so many people logged on to buy them) but if you can snag a ticket on the black market, you’ll get to take the chairlift to the mountaintop park, where Dorothy will meet you at the Fountain of Youth. From there, she’ll take you on a journey down the Yellow Brick Road, letting you actually live out the experience of exploring Oz.
If you’re not able to score a ticket to the Journey with Dorothy, you can always plan to hit up Autumn at Oz. The fall event takes guests through the book, from the tornado in Kanasa, over the rainbow, to Oz, where you’ll meet munchkins, flying monkeys, and Toto. Given the popularity of the annual festival, they’re able to add on new attractions and events each year. Every visit to Oz provides a slightly different experience.
The history of the park is actually quite interesting; it was only open for a decade and had no real rides, but it remains, to this day, insanely popular. It started off as a ski resort called Beech Mountain, and the Land of Oz was only meant as a way to operate the property during the summer. Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow in the film, broke ground on the park in 1968. Construction was designed to work with the woodland, and so houses for the characters, a stage, and shops were placed throughout the forest, along with a yellow brick road. It opened in 1970 (Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher cut the ribbon) and was an immediate hit.
But, a series of tragedies kept Oz from lasting long. Grover Robbins, who was the heart and soul of the project, died shortly before it opened, and that was just the start of the bad luck. In 1975, part of the park was set on fire, destroying huge swaths of the attraction. Also, the museum was robbed of many of the Wizard of Oz props and costumes. Management decided to give it another go, but the changes to the park led to a drop in attendance. By 1980, the park was closed for good. But it wasn’t long before people began to reminisce about the glory days of Oz. In 1994, original cast members from the park held a reunion, which turned into the Autumn at Oz festival.