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Travels in the Heartland: Off to see the Wizard at the Oz Museum

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Posted at 1:45 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 14:45:37-04

WAMEGO, Kan. (KMTV) — Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. Actually, you are in Kansas AND Oz. Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Wamego in northeast Kansas for your own adventure at the Oz Museum. Wamego, located about three hours south of Omaha, offers a fun trip to Oz and more.

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With more than 2,000 pieces of memorabilia celebrating the book series and the movie "The Wizard of Oz," the museum transports you to the Wonderful World of Oz.

You're greeted by a giant replica of the Tin Man (with his heart) and then you enter Oz, starting with Dorothy's house landing on the wicked witch’s sister.

As you make your way through Oz, you'll find outfits, cups, ruby red slippers and more at an exhibit about Dorothy's character.

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While some of the exhibits include actual movie props, most of the pieces are replicas or items based on the movie.

L. Frank Baum, the author of "Wizard of Oz," actually created a series of 14 books based on the mystical world. The movie "The Wizard of Oz" is based on the first book, "The Wonderful World of Oz." Other books include "The Patchwork Girl of Oz" and "The Emerald City of Oz."

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Aunt Jane's Nieces series written by Baum using a pen name

Baum also wrote other books, including the series "Aunt Jane's Nieces." He wrote the stories using the pen name Edith Van Dyne, because he didn’t think people would like young adult novels written by a man.

Life-size exhibits highlight characters from the movie, including the Wicked Witch, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow. Other displays feature movies based on the box office hit, including the African American-led "The Wiz."

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Walking through the forest toward the witch's castle offers a sense of fear to some people (my wife, Lisa). Will you encounter flying monkeys? Of course, there's a spot for selfies. Pose in the hot air balloon the Wizard uses to take Dorothy home.

After your visit to the Oz Museum, you may want to enjoy a Toto's Taco, Uncle Henry's Nachos or The Wizard Quesadilla at Toto's TacOZ, next to the museum. The restaurant features a Cal-Mex menu and has a display highlighting Oz characters in a tropical setting.

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While Dorothy may be the star of "The Wizard of Oz," Toto has his own gig in Wamego. Totos Around Town showcases one of Hollywood's most-famous canines with 15 decorated fiberglass sculptures.

Located around the city of 5,000, you'll find Toto decorated in patriotic colors, with flowers and even wearing a Wamego High School lettermen's jacket. Our favorite was one showing Toto reading a book.

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While Wamego may be best-known as the home of Dorothy, you can also enjoy other attractions. Take your own walk along the town's Yellow Brick Road to the city park, about two blocks from the museum.

Donated to the city, the Schonhoff Dutch Mill anchors the Wamego City Park. Built in 1879, the mill was used to grind grain on a farm outside of Wamego. It was relocated to the city in 1924.

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Dutch windmill at the city park

The Wamego Museum shares the history of the area, including the story of Walter Chrysler, who founded the Chrysler automobile corporation. The museum also includes a small living history town.

Nearby, a whale-shaped pond features statues once displayed at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The pond once served as the city's public swimming pool.

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The Columbian Theatre is one of Downton Wamego's attractions

More than 125 years old, the Columbian Theatre has served a variety of roles in downtown Wamego. Once home to vaudeville acts, and later movies, it also served as a community center during the Great Depression and World War II. It closed in 1950 and sat empty for about 40 years before a local group sought to restore it. Today, it's performance center featuring live productions.

During the renovation, they uncovered six large oil paintings that were brought back from the World’s Fair in 1893. The paintings were rolled up and stored under the stage. The immaculately painted works are 11 feet tall and 16 feet wide. Each represents a section of America or its history.

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Artwork at the Columbian Theatre

The theater's first floor includes a gallery featuring memorabilia from the World’s Fair, as well as special exhibits.

Before leaving Wamego, you may want to enjoy one more Oz experience with a stop at the Oz Winery. The downtown winery features white and red wines with names familiar to movie fans, such as Emerald City Lights (white) and Ruby Sippers (red). Whether you enjoy a flight of wines, buy a bottle for home or just browse, Oz Winery is a fun place to visit.

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You can buy your own ruby slippers at the museum

While you don't need to have your house flown to Oz nor do you have to click your heels and wish your way home, you will have fun during your visit to the Land of Oz. Some people may even want to wear their favorite Dorothy outfit for the occasion.

READ MORE: Travels in the Heartland


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