Autumn at Oz, a “Wizard of Oz” theme park that opens for a short period of time each year, will celebrate its 80th anniversary this Friday to Sunday.
The experience guides you through the “Wizard of Oz” plot with stops in Kansas and Auntie Em’s house, The Yellow Brick Road and The Emerald City. It’s bizarre and magical.
I went last weekend, and I wish I’d known a few things beforehand (the website is sparse). Here’s your complete guide to Autumn at Oz.
Getting there: The address on the website, 889 Elderberry Ridge Road, takes you to a parking lot in downtown Beech Mountain. It’s a 2.5-hour drive from Charlotte with beautiful mountain views.
Where you check in, you can either hop on the shuttle (which plays the “Wizard of Oz”) for free or pay $12 to ride a ski lift to the top. The time you buy your ticket for corresponds to shuttle times, so plan to arrive early just to be safe. I arrived at 11:30 a.m. for my 11 a.m. ticket — they did warn I was “cutting it close” but everything checked out fine.
The layout: Once you reach the actual theme park, you’re guided through the three main areas: Kansas and Auntie Em’s house, The Yellow Brick Road and The Emerald City, in that order. There’s only one way in and one way out; the track is linear, and once you leave one area, you can’t go back.
Kansas: When you enter Kansas an attendant will hand you a ticket that gets you access to Auntie Em’s house. To prevent crowding, they only allow a certain number of people in the house at one time, so you get to go when your number is called (for example, I was 68 so I went with people who had ticket numbers 1-100).
There are some cash-only snacks, photo ops with Auntie Em and skits to check out before you go through the house.
The Yellow Brick Road: You literally follow The Yellow Brick Road and meet all the Oz characters. They pose for photos and do a interact with everyone there.
The Emerald City: The final stop includes bathrooms, a show, seating, shopping and food.
Highlights: The characters and The Yellow Brick Road were by far the best parts of the experience. The costumes are sharp, and the characters are personable.
Food: The first stop, Kansas, has one tent with drinks, popcorn and fried apple pies — all cash-only. Emerald City has the typical festival vendor-type foods (pizza, hot dogs, wraps, barbecue, etc.) that won’t wow you, but if you’re hungry, it’s enough to hold you over.
1.) Bring cash. Most vendors accept cards, but wifi and cell signals are spotty, and when I went, they couldn’t catch a signal long enough to use their card readers.
2.) Explore Beech Mountain after for lunch or dinner.
3.) Unless you’re a mega fan, don’t spring for VIP — you get to see quite a bit with general admission.
Who should go: Go if you’re a big-time “Wizard of Oz” fan or if you just need to see this unique event for yourself. It’s not wheelchair or stroller friendly, so keep that in mind.
Tickets: Saturday is sold out, but there are hundreds of spots between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday and Sunday. General admission starts at $55. Get yours here.
Timing: I spent exactly one hour at the theme park, but checking in and shuttling up/down took an additional 45 minutes or so. If you’re shopping, sitting through all of the shows, etc., I’d expect it to take up to three hours.
GPS address: 889 Elderberry Ridge Road, Beech Mountain, NC 28604