In the summer of 1976, my whole family, including grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins, all took a trip to The Land of Oz theme park at Beech Mountain, NC. Even though the theme park was nothing like today’s theme parks with roller coasters and wild rides, my sisters and I all have special memories of the trip and following the yellow brick road.
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I am not a avid fan of the Wizard of Oz and I can’t tell you the last time I ever watched the movie. But there is just something about that trip we took as children that all of us remember so fondly today. Maybe it was the magical environment of the place or just because we think of our dad who we lost several years ago. Whatever it is, visiting The Land of Oz theme park as a child certainly made an lasting impression on us.
Last week my husband and I took a day trip to celebrate our anniversary a few days early since we both have to work on the actual date, July 2nd. I had been watching tickets sales for the special event for a couple of weeks and was finally able to snag some open slots for the Journey with Dorothy tours.
I really wish I could share some great pictures of our trip from 1976 but since digital prints were not invented yet and film had to be developed on tiny prints of thick paper that was usually fuzzy and out of focus anyway (remember the photos from our childhood). You will just have to enjoy the current ones I was able to take.
I’m sure a lot of you have never even heard that there was a Wizard of Oz theme park anywhere much less one hidden deep on a ski resort in Beech Mountain, NC. Well let me tell you a little bit of history of it.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road!
The park is privately owned and was only open from 1970-1980 before filing bankruptcy and closing for nearly a decade. Then starting about 30 years ago it has been reopened once a year in the fall to celebrate the books and the movie with the Autumn at Oz event.
Beech Mountain has an elevation of 5506 feet so it definitely sits secluded somewhere over the rainbow.
This year they held a special event for a few weeks called Journey with Dorothy to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the Wizard of Oz movie. Not only do you get to walk the yellow brick road with Dorothy, but members of the tour group are chosen to play the other characters.
Of course since my husband is so tall, he was immediately asked to play the Tin Man.
As a child, I remember spending a lot more time in Oz and the yellow brick road didn’t seem to be so hilly. The tours for this event were scheduled every 30 minutes so it was a much shorter walk than what it would have been back in 1976. There were also actors playing each character and in the end Dorothy would ride up in a hot air balloon. I also remember that the ski lift to The Land of Oz were closed in boxes decorated like hot air balloons but it is a very vague memory so I would need to get the pictures from my mom’s house to be sure I even remember it correctly.
I also remember there were a lot more trees with character faces on them. This is the only one we saw on our shortened tour.
For the special Journey with Dorothy tour, you start out your journey in “Kansas” with Dorothy singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow in her front yard of the farmhouse before you are ushered inside the house to avoid the coming tornado. The park has lots of sound effects throughout just like the movie.
Once you are in the old farmhouse, you follow the group through a maze down in the dark basement where snippets of the original movie is playing on the walls of the tornado. You come out of the basement to a lower level of the house that is destroyed by the “tornado” and try to balance yourself on the tilted and sloped floors to get outside.
Where you find the wicked witch and her ruby slippers underneath the house.
These were parts of the trip from my childhood I remember so well.
Since my husband was playing the part of the Tin Man, he was able to dance down the yellow brick road with Dorothy and the Scarecrow before meeting up with the Cowardly Lion. Of course his very short wife had a hard time getting a good shot of him and Dorothy or even working myself through the crowd and kids to get a full video of him singing his part. Either way, it was both hilarious and heartwarming at the same time, especially to watch the faces of the kids on the tour.
All of the guest characters did such a great job for the little kids on the tour and of course all of the grown-up fans of the movie and books too.
It was a great day to experience again some precious childhood memories for me and something totally new for my husband to experience.
Enjoy more adventures,