Travel

North Carolina’s Land of Oz

Take a walk down memory lane and the yellow brick road! Share your stories and photos from visits to the Land of Oz theme park.

land of oz

Between 1970 and 1980, Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow could be found right here in North Carolina at Beech Mountain’s Land of Oz. If you were a child in North Carolina back then, or if you had children or grandchildren, you likely made a visit to the Emerald City.

Do you remember those visits to the Land of Oz? Did your summer vacation include a stroll down the yellow-brick road? Did you take a ride in the hot air balloon? Did you run into the Cowardly Lion or did you see Dorothy’s ruby red slippers?

Share your memory of those visits and tell us what you remember about your trip to the Land of Oz. We’ll post those memories and accompanying pictures here. Scroll down to see reader-submitted stories and photos, along with a gallery of images taken by acclaimed North Carolina photographer, Bruce Roberts, at the Land of Oz in the 1970s.

From Our Readers

I was the drummer/percussionist with the 30-piece orchestra that recorded all of the wonderful music for “The Land of Oz”. The music and lyrics were composed by North Carolina’s Loonis McGlohon and composer/song writer Alec Wilder. My family and I were there many, many times, and I recall now that I was the most amazed with the reactions from the parents of the children as they walked the Yellow Brick Road. How many times I watched the expressions of the parents faces as they watched the Scare Crow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man as they sang and danced to the musical vignettes penned by Loonis and Alec. I have the original recording of that music and I cherish those days many times over.

My family in the hot air balloon ready to "float" over the "Emerald City". I was in the balloon in front of this one. This was on June 24, 1972.

The stage at Emerald city where all of the characters came to meet "The Wizard"

-Jim Lackey from Charlotte, N.C.
The April 2011 issue of Our State really tugged at my heart as you requested readers to share pictures and stories of the Land of Oz. I’m sure mine is one of the many families who visited that magical place and took that journey down the yellow brick road.

My two daughters, Kimberly and Lori, now 43 and 41, were young girls and our vacation to the Land of Oz was a wonderful family adventure for which we planned and budgeted for a year.

The year was 1977, and Kimberly was 9 and Lori, 7. During the five-hour drive up from Georgia, in a time before cell phones, electronic games, and DVD players, we talked, laughed, played silly car games, and sang.

In pulling out these Oz pictures, I am transported back to those golden days of hiking and camping in North Carolina and the sweetest memories of my home state. At Oz, my girls believed, and so did I. (I still do.)

Thank you for the beautiful remembrances and for allowing me to share these happy times through our family pictures. -Judie Baker Hockman from Atlanta, GA.

Kimberly Hockman Schroeder, 9, and Lori Hockman Quinlan, 7 in 1977.

Lori and Kimberly with Dorothy

Land of Oz Show - 1977

I had never heard of The Land of Oz until my daughter’s dance instructor, Melissa Queen, told the class about it. My daughter, Hannah insisted we had to go. She’d been a Wizard of Oz nut like me since she could put a DVD into her DVD player at 3 years old.

So, my husband & I decided to take a weekend trip to Beech Mountain & check it out. It was great! We took the hayride up the mountain & saw the beautiful moutainside scenery. Our kids had such a good time! Dorothy’s house was the best, especially walking out into Munchkinland and onto the yellow brick road!

We plan to go back & enjoy it again. We’ve only been that once, but it was definitely something everyone that is a Wizard of Oz fan should see!

Hannah & Emma walking down the yellow brick road. There's even a munchkin beyond them sitting in the trees!

Hannah & Emma with Dorothy. Emma was more interested in Toto in the basket.

-Jennifer Parrott & family from Creedmoor, N.C.
My daughter Erin, then age 4, went to the Land of Oz in October 2010. Wizard of Oz has always been her favorite movie. She wears her Dorothy dress all the time. It was a magical day for her to see the characters and to walk the yellow brick road. I would highly recommend this to anyone, young or old.

Just follow the yellow brick road...

The face painters were awesome! Erin is such a beauty!

-Briana Shelton from Marion, N.C.

Thank you for the stories and pictures. What joy filled my heart when I saw them. I remember as a child going and riding the hot air balloon — seeing the characters and believing. Even now as an adult, I go to Beech Mountain and remember. I hate my children and grandchildren will miss out. Again, thanks for refreshing my memories of a very special time of my life. —Beth Ward from Durham, N.C.
Oddly enough, our journey to the Land of Oz was pure happenstance in the summer of 2010.

My husband and I were out looking for places in the mountains to take photographs and were riding around the Beech Mountain area. We stopped in a likely place but soon discovered that the trees and power lines were blocking the view. We started to climb back in the car when we saw a man with a pair of binoculars came ambling out of the woods.

We struck up a light conversation and asked him if he knew of any good overlooks for photo opportunities. He smiled and said he used to live in the area and pointed us in a direction upward and said, “You need to go to the Land of Oz.” He said it was falling apart, to be careful but he was sure we’d find some great views up there. We laughed and he assured us it is a real place, or at least it was.

So, feeling like rube explorers being sent out on a snipe hunt, we headed off in the direction he suggested. And we found it. What’s left of it. The remnants, however, were so surreal. It was as if Disney Land had been swallowed by the Rain Forest.

I wish it could be refurbished and brought back to at least a portion of its former splendor. It haunts you — and it beckons you to follow the yellow-brick road once more. I’d like to go back.

Jo Gehres checking out a face in a "Land Of Oz" tree

The yellow brick road. Who can resist?

-Ginger Gheres from Angier, N.C.
I was so happy to see your effort to collect stories and photos of Land of Oz. My very first memory is from Land of Oz (or as I called it, “Wizard of Oz Land,” a place that not many other people knew about and even made me doubt it existed for a long time). I was two years old at the time, back in 1974.

I remember being beside my Dad and there was something going on and I couldn’t see because I was so little. Dad picked me up and put me on his shoulders so that I had a pretty decent view of – guess what – two gigantic dancing mushrooms! And they were purple and far away, on a stage. Looking at some of the photos that folks have posted, I realize that I did not fabricate this memory, and I even recall now seeing “Dorothy,” too. Thanks so much for doing this feature and giving me assurance that my first memory is real and not the product a youngin’s overactive imagination.
-Kimberly Griffin from Durham, N.C.
My husband Danny and I visited Land of Oz on June 22, 1973. Our daughter, Kimberly, was four and our son, Kenneth, was two. It was the only time that my grandfather, Fred B. Hartley, of Blowing Rock, went on a trip with us. It was truly a wonderful adventure for all of us. Danny, Kimberly, Kenneth, and I returned to Oz on August 14, 1975. It was even more exciting the second time as it meant more to the children. For me, it was such a fun addition to a beautiful walk through the mountain woods. -Jean Nall from Greensboro, N.C.

Kenneth Nall and Kimberly Nall with Dorothy on August 14, 1975

Kenneth Nall shares a look with Dorothy and the Lion (Photo taken in 1973.)

Kenneth Nall, Kimberly Nall and their mother, Jean Nall, at the Emerald City on June 22, 1973. It was a little frightening for them.

Our family visited Land of Oz, Grandfather Mountain, and Tweetsie on this vacation. I recently had our old slide pictures transferred to discs, and found these pictures.

My mom Alice Jones, my sister Joni, me (in red pants), and my brother Jason.

The scarecrow performs for the crowd.

-Jann Fisher from Waynesville, N.C.
My husband and I took our son to the Land of Oz in the summer of 1976. It was a magical place! We’ll never forget the balloon ride, the tornado (which seemed very scary and real at the time), all the amazing characters and, last but not least, the unforgettable Yellow Brick Road.

My husband worked for Boren Brick in Pleasant Garden (near Greensboro), where the yellow bricks were made. They were fired with a yellow glaze on the brick and not painted. When we revisited the Land of Oz a few years ago (with our son and his family), we noticed that some of the bricks had been replaced and were painted yellow (probably because some were broken or missing and there were no more specially made glazed ones).

What wonderful memories were made there. Hopefully, the Land of Oz will continue to mesmerize young and old alike, even if it’s for only a weekend in the fall.
-Brenda Varner from Thomasville, N.C.

A visit to the Land of Oz is one of the few family vacations I can remember from childhood. I grew up in Virginia, but the summer of my 7th year, we visited the Land of Oz, Grandfather Mountain, and Tweetsie. The best part, by far, was Land of Oz. I can still remember everything from that day — it was foggy and drizzling, but I had a blast! I also remember being confused by all the Dorothys and asking my mom why there were so many of them. Thanks for the memories!!
-Cassandara Sabo from Dublin, VA
One of the memories I have of Oz is of my blue toad stool. I had to give a speech in a college speech class, and my speech centered around an adventure in Oz with the toad stool as the prop. I hope this becomes an exciting place for new generations.
-Debbie Lesley from Salisbury, N.C.
Oh..it was the summer of 1976. My parents, my boyfriend, and I made our first trip to Land of Oz. I can remember how beautiful it was there to walk down the yellow brick road and ride the hot air balloon. The most awesome part of the park was going into Dorothy’s house and how real the tornado was. It really felt like we were flying the air and then we landed to come out to see the witch’s feet sticking out from under the house. To this day I still have the booklet that my parents purchased and I like to look at it from time to time and relive the day I was there. Wish it had never closed.
-Frances Humphrey from Burlington, N.C.
I have many wonderful memories of visiting the Land of Oz. Since I was so young, it seemed very real to me. I remember holding Dorothy’s hand, and walking down the yellow brick road with my sister and brother. I also remember the museum that displayed an original Dorothy dress from the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. There was also a bust of Dorothy and Toto that was displayed in a gazebo.

Now, I am an adult and still a huge Oz fan. My family and I attend the Return to Oz weekend on Beech Mountain every October. I have enjoyed reliving those special memories and making new memories with my daughter. Seeing the Land of Oz with her the first time was a treat!
For me The Land of Oz was like walking through the pages of my favorite book. I hope that every child who loves Oz as much as I do has the opportunity to skip down the yellow brick road.

This is a picture of my sister, Susan, my brother, Michael, Dorothy, and me.

This picture was taken from the hot air ballon ride. I think these pictures were taken in 1975.

-Melissa Queen from Butner, N.C.
When I was getting married, my friends wanted to do something for me. We met early one morning and started on our adventure. As we were traveling, I was given clues to a puzzle that I had to solve. With each correct answer, I was given a special gift. Together, the gifts were the final clue to tell me where we would be spending the day. Of course, all my clues were Wizard of Oz-related.

I never dreamed that we were actually going to the Land of Oz. When we arrived at the Land of Oz, I was so shocked. We then got a special tour and acted out scenes of the movie. Then, I had a special wedding shower with a wonderful lunch with some of the greatest friends a girl could have. Now I have been married for 1 & 1/2 years, and I still have my ruby slipper on my Christmas tree every year. The ruby slipper was my last clue on my wedding shower adventure.

My friends, in their special costumes, at my wedding shower.

My buddies, with Dorothy, at the Land of Oz.

-Kelly Wike from Taylorsville, N.C.
A Message from the Cowardly Lion: Every year this magical place, the Land of Oz, opens for one weekend. It is called Autumn at OZ, and is the first weekend of October. It is a huge party with movie characters, music, food, and Oz treasures!!! About 8,000 people attend each year. You get to walk in Dorothy’s house, and skip down the yellow brick road, and meet your favorite characters. Watch out for the tornado! Be careful! The Wicked Witch is always watching you!

All the kids dress up and most of the parents do, too. The Beech Mountain Chamber does a great job with this event. The mountain is beautiful that time a year, with mums, pumpkins, and scarecrows. Don’t forget to visit Fred’s General Store — its such a great place. There are several good restaurants and hotels, or you can stay in Banner Elk — just a few minutes away.

It is a perfect fall family event that you and your kids will treasure. Be prepared to wait in line as it does get really busy during the 2-day event! I suggest getting there early on Saturday, taking the bus up to Oz, and the hayride down the mountain. Make a weekend of it, also visit wonderful Grandfather Mountain! Go shopping in Boone and Blowing Rock. WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD!! October 1st and 2nd, 2011.

Hope to see you there,
Your COWARDLY LION “I do Believe in Spooks! I do, I do, I do!”

The Cowardly Lion at Fred's General Store

The Cowardly Lion and friends wait to go to the Land of Oz

-Anthony Clifton from Thomasville, N.C.
I don’t remember the date, but it had to be the early 1970′s. The family across the street went with us to the Land of Oz. Our parents were good friends, and they had a daughter and son the same ages as my brother and me. We were best friends. Each year, we pull out our slides and watch them – there are several good pictures of us at the petting zoo, the show, and one of the witch in her house. I remember the ski lift taking us up the mountain. We lived in Rutherfordton, and it was easy to visit the mountains for quick daytrips and those are some of my favorite memories growing up. The Wizard of Oz was sort of like Tweetsie and I am sorry it is not longer around – I thought it was wonderful.
-Anna Olliff from Martinez, GA
In the early 1970s, our family visited the Land of Oz every summer with my parents (Bob and Jean Bowness), who lived at Grandfather Country Club (Linville, NC). For our children, visits to the Land of Oz were highlights of the trips. They were thrilled to see Dorothy and the Scarecrow “in person,” were terrified by the Witch, and delighted by the Cowardly Lion! I only wish The Land of Oz were still in business. We’d love to take our grandchildren there now!

The Cowardly Lion

The Wicked Witch

-Jane and Phillip Rhodes from Lake Santeelah, N.C.
I’m pretty sure my uncle, Tom Laneir, was the Tin Man at least part of the time at the Land of Oz.! I was born in 1970, so I don’t remember if we ever went there, but I remember talk of it, and talk of the Alpine Slide. He is still working in radio at 102.3 in Boone.
- Meredith Hall from Charleston, S.C.
I love the Land of Oz. We took our daughters there when they were young. They were absolutely in awe. They especially loved Dorothy. So sad that the park isn’t open now for us to take our grandchildren. I’d love to go back and experience the fun we had with our daughters…now with our grandchildren.
– Kathie Lee from Pisgah Forest, N.C.
We loved Land of Oz in Beech Mountain. We went with our young son, Steve, in 1971 and had a wonderful time. He was almost 6 years old and really enjoyed the entire experience. We went several other times before it closed and were so sorry to hear that it had shut down. My favorite part was the farm house. Even as an adult, I found that part fascinating. There was a sketch artist (L. Garland) who sketched our son and I cherish that picture. It hangs in our bedroom and our son is now 45 years old!

In the village at the base of the mountain was a shop with hand-crafted furniture. There was a hand-crafted dining room set made of black walnut and it was so beautiful! The entire set (large table, 8 chairs and a hutch) was selling for $800. I still think about that furniture and wish I had bought it but at the time we didn’t even have a dining room! Wonderful memories. We need more places like that. We later took other family members and everyone enjoyed their time at this magical place.

Drawing of Molly's son, Steve, made at Land of Oz in 1971.

- Molly Newton from Greensboro, N.C.
In 1976, we took our girls, Gina, age 6, and Ginger, age 3, to the wonderful Land of Oz in Beech Mountain, NC. We walked the yellow brick road to Munchkin Land and enjoyed presentations by Dorothy and all the characters we would see on our route to the Emerald City. Along the yellow brick road the mean Wicked Witch of the West jumped out at our 6-year-old daughter and frightened her. Her 3-year- old sister reprimanded the witch, "Don't hurt my sissy!" and the witch departed the scene. Needless to say, that day is a source of laughter to this day.

The trip down the yellow brick road was a grand experience for our family.

Gina and Ginger Griffin in Munchkin Land

— Norma Griffin from Monroe, N.C.

My family took a week-long vacation to the mountains of North Carolina in 1971, and Land of Oz was our first stop. I don’t remember much because I was 6 years old, but I do remember the shouts to the people to NOT touch the mushrooms. I also remember the balloon ride because I was scared of heights. Now 39 years later, I wish I could take my child to the Land of Oz. It was an awesome experience.

I had the pleasure to see the yellow brick road again from the air. I’m an Aerial Photographer for NCDOT and we were surveying N.C. Highway 194 when I saw the famous yellow bricks again.

We visited Beech Mountain again for one of the Land of Oz festivals, but my father had just gotten out of the hospital with pneumonia and the weather was 36º, very foggy, and very, very windy, so we weren’t able to go in. I do hope soon to visit that magical place that brought an incredible movie to life.

Marty Smith at six years old, sitting at the well on the yellow brick road.

Marty Smith standing in front of a beautiful house. Not sure which one, but that was 39 years ago!

— Marty Smith from Dunn, N.C.
I will always remember the Land of Oz as the magical place where my larger-than-life grandfather rode the balloon lift more than 10 times with me, just because I was so enthralled by it. We drove a long way —over 300 miles — to come see that special place because The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie. I will never forget that magical gift from the most special man in my life. He is long gone now, but the memory of that wonderful day when I was about 6 years old will live in my mind’s eye forever. Thanks to a wonderful place for the most fantastic memory in my little six-year-old life. I would love to go back, but it just wouldn’t be right without my special grandfather there to relive that with me. Maybe one day in Heaven we can laugh and smile again, recalling our special day there.
— Dawn Dale from Statesville, N.C.
Being young parents of a baby who was not even a year old (not old enough to enjoy the story or movie called The Wizard of Oz), I insisted to my husband that we take our son to the Land of Oz. We went, hopped on the chair lift (with a baby in tow), and rode into The Wonderful Land of Oz. I’m sure people who saw us walking around with this baby thought we were some of the most irresponsible parents.

I guess the trip was more for me and no one else. I grew up watching Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.

Well, years have passed and my granddaughter got to go to the Land of Oz in October. They got up early on Sunday morning so they could be the first people in line since the lines get very long to ride to the top of the top of Beech Mountain. Morgan, my granddaughter, enjoyed the trip thoroughly and being eleven years old, she sure enjoyed the trip a lot more than her dad did 36 years ago.

Morgan and her cousins came home with their faces painted by someone who did a wonderful job creating some of the figures from the movie. She came home with some great pictures.

Morgan Shatley

Morgan Shatley

— Maxine L. Shatley from Crumpler, N.C.

I remember going to the Land of Oz in the 1970s as a kid. I was so scared of the twister and the Lion, but I loved the Land of Oz. It is such a wonderful place. I remember the characters, and as I got older I got into making costumes myself and the more I got into the Land of Oz, the more I loved the way the characters looked at the park in the early 1970s.

In 2009, I got a group of friends together and I recreated the costumes to look like they did in the ’70s, from Dorothy’s mini-dress and knee socks to the Scarecrow’s checkered pants. We have been going the past two years for the Autumn at Oz event and we go in the summer months to recreate the old publicity photos.

Dean Nixon as Tin Man and his wife, P.J., as Dorothy. Billy Ferguson as the Scarecrow, and David Spurgeon as the Lion.

Don't cry! The Wizard will fix everything! Dean Nixon as Tin Man and his wife, P.J., as Dorothy. Billy Ferguson as the Scarecrow, and David Spurgeon as the Lion.

— Billy Ferguson from Jonesboro, TN

Photographs from the Land of Oz

In the 1970s, acclaimed North Carolina photographer Bruce Roberts took his own walk down the yellow-brick road to capture these images of a day in the Land of Oz. For many North Carolina children at that time, a visit to the Land of Oz was like stepping into a fairy tale. Click on any image to view the full photo. To view more of Roberts’s work on his website, click here.

Dorothy in the Land of Oz

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