Once-Abandoned Wizard of Oz Theme Park to Re-Open Next Month

Courtesy of Land of Oz
Courtesy of Land of Oz

Somewhere over the rainbow in "Eastern America's Highest Town," a once-grand Wizard of Oz theme park is reopening its doors.

For a couple of short windows each year, the previously abandoned Land of Oz in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, opens its emerald-colored gate to visitors. Glimpses into this '70s-era theme park used to be rare after it shuttered in 1980, but the family-owned site is now ramping up its event schedule, with plans in the works for a brand new event this October.

Die-hard fans won't have to wait until fall, though. For a few days in June, the park will open for "Journey with Dorothy," an interactive event that started five years ago. Tickets are almost sold out, but some are still available for June 1.

"[Journey with Dorothy] has grown drastically over the past couple of years because of the demand of people wanting to attend the event," Sean Barrett, the artistic director and PR representative for the Land of Oz, tells Mental Floss. "For 2018, Journey with Dorothy will have a pop-up museum exhibit by the parking area at Beech Mountain Resort featuring many of the park's original costumes and props on display as well as the addition of the Miss Gulch character in Kansas."

Land of Oz was initially developed by the Carolina Caribbean Corporation (CCC), the same group that brought Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West theme park, to North Carolina. Actresses Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher both attended Land of Oz's opening in 1970, and in its first season, the park saw 400,000 guests, including Muhammad Ali. Billed as the "anti-theme park," Land of Oz had no roller coasters, but instead offered performances and attractions which aimed to give guests "an emotional experience."

Dorothy and other characters ride in a fake hot air balloon
Characters at Land of Oz in the '70s
Courtesy of Land of Oz

Dorothy and characters in costume at Land of Oz in 1970
Courtesy of Land of Oz

However, the park was mismanaged over the years and CCC eventually went bankrupt, according to the park's history page. Things continued to take a turn for the worse when the park's Emerald City caught fire in 1975, followed by the looting of several key pieces of movie memorabilia, including the original gingham dress worn by Judy Garland. Under new management, the park shut down in 1980.

Over a decade later, a group of former park employees decided to re-open Land of Oz for a reunion, which reignited interest in the property. That event morphed into "Autumn at Oz," which has been held each year for one weekend in September ever since. Tickets for that event will go on sale this summer.

Park organizers are keeping mum about what the new October event will entail, stating only that more details will be released this summer.

The truly Oz-obsessed may want to extend their yellow brick road pilgrimage and head to Oz-Stravaganza in Chittenango, New York, which will be held June 1-3 this year. A museum called All Things Oz is located in the same town, and there's another Oz Museum in Kansas—naturally.

Harry Potter Fans Are Waiting 10 Hours or More to Ride Hagrid’s Roller Coaster

Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando

Muggles will do anything to be a part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Orlando opened up its newest ride this week at its version of Hogsmeade, the village that surrounds Hogwarts castle. Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure takes wannabe wizards and witches on a twisting, high-speed flight through the mystical Forbidden Forest.

Diehard fans began waiting overnight outside the park in anticipation of the ride, and it looks like just about everyone had the same idea. At 8:30 a.m. on opening day, the line was already eight hours long, and quickly stretched to 10 hours long by 10:30 a.m., CNN reports.

The line is worth the wait for many fans of the franchise. As Potterheads already know, Rubeus Hagrid, beloved friend of Harry Potter and the gang, has a special affinity for mysterious creatures. So who better to see the beasts of the forest with than the half-giant?

Participants on the ride can choose to sit in Hagrid’s sidecar or in the driver’s seat. The winding track includes appearances by some of our favorite wizards, like Arthur Weasley, and creatures benevolent and otherwise, such as Cornish pixies, massive spiders, and the three-headed dog, Fluffy.

Fans aren’t the only ones wanting to experience the ride. Some of the stars of the film series had a little reunion in Orlando this week to celebrate the opening, including Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood).

Unlike the fans, however, they have magic (fame) to keep them from having to wait in 10-hour lines.

Happy riding, Potterheads!

[h/t CNN]

Show Off Your Love of Art With a Frida Kahlo Action Figure

Frida Kahlo Action Figure
Frida Kahlo Action Figure
Today is Art Day

If you're in the market for an action figure based on a real person, you've got plenty to choose from: Everyone from Snoop Dogg to the Pope is getting their own figurine these days. Now, Frida Kahlo has joined the ranks of icons who have become immortalized in plastic.

In 2017, Canadian art website Today Is Art Day (known for its Vincent van Gogh action figure) started a Kickstarter to give Kahlo the action figure treatment. The toy features the artist with a monkey pal on her shoulder, as well as a detachable heart and the faint smell of roses. The packaging has fun facts about the artist, along with some miniature artwork that can be cut out and affixed to a miniature easel.

“Not that I don’t like the great books and reproductions of artworks but, I think it’s more engaging to have a Frida Kahlo action figure on your desk rather than an art history book on your shelf," ‘Today Is Art Day’ founder David Beaulieu told Lost at E Minor during the Kickstarter campaign.

The Frida action figure is available on Amazon for $30.

Frida Kahlo Action Figure

Frida Kahlo Action Figure

[h/t Lost at E Minor]

A version of this article first ran in 2017. It has been updated to reflect current availability.

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