Off to See the Wizard
Get the feeling you're not in Carolina anymore when the old Land of Oz theme park springs to life this fall for the annual "Autumn at Oz" celebration.
The 17th edition of the celebration takes place Oct. 2-3 atop Beech Mountain in the High Country of North Carolina.
Over the years, visitors from near and far have made pilgrimages to see the wizard and take a leisurely stroll with their favorite characters along the park's iconic yellow brick road.
"Autumn at Oz" begins with a hayride or shuttle from the town of Beech Mountain up to the enchanted forest. Once there, attendees are treated to live music, a tour of Dorothy's House, a mini Oz museum, dance troupes, souvenir vendors and face painting. A highlight for many is the panoramic view from the Judy Garland Memorial Overlook Gazebo, from which they follow, follow, follow the 44,000 yellow bricks that wind around the mountaintop.
Along the way, there are visits with the Tin Man, Dorothy, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, Professor Marvel, Auntie Em, Uncle Henry, Glinda the Good Witch and the Wizard. The Wicked Witch of the West is also on hand with her Winkie guards and flying monkeys.
"We encourage fans of all ages to come dressed as their favorite Oz character and enjoy a nostalgic stroll through this unique place in time," says event coordinator Cindy Keller.
The top of Beech Mountain, at 5,506 feet, is an ideal place to venture over the rainbow. Its rock outcroppings and gnarly, windswept trees inspired the creation of the Land of Oz theme park, which operated from 1970-1980.
"The elevation and elements have provided us an environment unlike any other," Keller says. "We have huge boulders, ancient trees and giant ferns. It really is an enchanted forest."
"Autumn at Oz" has three sessions daily. The sessions are at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Tickets are $16.50 in advance and $20 at the event, if not sold out.
Advance tickets are available online, and total ticket sales will be limited this year for the first time ever.
Children age 2 and under are admitted free, but the property is not wheelchair accessible or accommodating to large strollers.
"Discount tickets are available to nearby Grandfather Mountain, and folks are encouraged to stay on Beech Mountain and make a weekend of it," says Keller.
For information or tickets, call (800) 468-5506, or visit the website www.AutumnAtOz.com.
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