Over the Rainbow

Teresa poses with Morgan White, a tour guide dressed as Dorothy, at the Land of Oz Theme Park in Beech Mountain, North Carolina.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz. The memorable film about the adventures of Dorothy and her dog, Toto, hit the big screen in 1939. It became an instant classic.

The musical fantasy was adapted from author L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz series. The first book in the series, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was initially published in 1900. 

For decades, movie-lovers have been captivated by Dorothy and Toto. When a Land of Oz Theme Park opened in 1970 in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, it became one of the country’s top destinations, drawing 4,000 visitors on opening day.

But a fire and the death of the owner forced the park to close for several years. It has now re-opened on select days in the summer and fall.


Teresa and “Dorothy” stroll along the yellow brick road at the Land of Oz Theme Park in North Carolina.


In honor of the film’s 80th anniversary, I recently visited the Land of Oz and toured some of the attractions.

On my “Journey with Dorothy,” I entered a replica of her tiny Kansas house, where I was greeted with dim lights and loud sounds. After making my way through several twists and turns along a dark pathway, I finally stepped out of the “twister.”

The floor was cleverly tilted at a 15° angle. I felt like I had walked through a tornado.

Once I was outside, the famous “yellow brick road” surprised me and the other visitors with its bright color. Our tour guide, Morgan White, was dressed and sounded exactly like the original Dorothy in the 1939 film.

Our group traveled down the road together, helping Dorothy with her journey. The yellow bricks, about 55,000 in total, added to the feeling of adventure and uncertainty.

“Children seem to really like the beginning of the yellow brick road because they don’t expect it,” White said. “But when they see it, the yellow pops right out, and they immediately remember it from the movie. They all want to skip down the road.”


Teresa in front of one of the decorated trees near the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle


Visitors walk past trees strung with vibrant flowers. Brightly-colored mushrooms sprout up from the grass.

Near the Wicked Witch’s castle, I was surrounded by gnarly trees with warty noses. The tour finally led to the Wizard of Oz’s green gate. He was waiting behind it.

“Everyone seems to have lots of fun going through the wicked house because, again, they don’t expect it,” White said. “I hear a lot of people laughing as they go through, and I love that!”


Original copies of seven of the 14 novels in L. Frank Baum’s best-selling Land of Oz series. The first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was published in 1900.


The park’s site was chosen because the original designer, Jack Pentes, thought that Beech Mountain looked like Oz, with its steep cliffs, waterfalls, and moss-covered boulders.

Pentes decided to build Oz into the mountain’s natural landscape. On top of the mountain, visitors are almost literally “over the rainbow,” as Dorothy was in The Wizard of Oz.

According to artistic director Sean Barrett, smaller theme parks in the U.S. have Wizard of Oz sections. “But the Land of Oz is the only park that is fully functioning,” he explained.

This year, the North Carolina park is expecting about 25,000 visitors. “In September, we'll have our ‘Autumn at Oz’ event—one of the largest Wizard of Oz events in the world,” Barrett said. “We’re going to have the Emerald City set up, so we’re really excited for that.”

If you’re planning to visit the park then, you’ll also get to see original props and costumes from the movie.




Photos courtesy of the author