Sure, the Wizard of Oz primarily takes place in the Land of Oz, but since Oz is, sadly, fictional, the closest we can get to lollipop-wielding Munchkins and glittery Good Witches is probably Kansas, where the main characters Dorothy Gale and Toto live. You know, before a tornado lifts up their house and flies it somewhere over the rainbow.
There are plenty of Oz-themed attractions all across Kansas (there's no place like home, after all), but no town has more Emerald City flair than Wamego. It's home to the Oz Museum, along with a few other themed stops worth making if you're in town. So slide on those ruby slippers, oil up any rusty joints, and head out along the stretch of K-99 that's known as the Road to Oz... it's the closest thing we've got to a yellow brick road! And do make sure to keep your eyes peeled for flying monkeys.
The official Road to Oz section of K-99 starts just north of Alma, at the intersection of K-99 and I-70. Pull off the main interstate onto the smaller road and head north to Wamego!
Fill up on grub before spending the afternoon at the Oz Museum at Toto's Tacoz. The decor melds elements from the Wizard of Oz with a beachy, South-of-the-Border twist, which is pretty unique. But, the food is the real reason to stop in. The West Coast-style Mexican fare is extremely fresh... and all of the dishes on the menu are named for characters from the movie. The joint is super accommodating to veggies and kids alike, so there's something for everyone here. Pro tip: there are supposedly 30 Totos hidden around the restaurant... try and spot as many as you can!
The Oz Museum is as much a chance to experience the enchanting world of the Wizard of Oz as it is a monument to the lasting popularity and cultural influence of the book and movie. Follow the yellow brick road through the museum and past the comprehensive displays of exhibits that go beyond the famed 1939 MGM film starring Judy Garland. You'll learn about other adaptations as well, including an earlier version starring Laurel and Hardy and later retellings, including The Wiz and Wicked. See a first edition copy of the book, written by L. Frank Baum, gander at Swarovski-studded ruby slippers commissioned to commemorate the film's 50th anniversary, wander through the Haunted Forest and past set pieces from the Munchkin Village, and much, much more. It probably goes without saying, but the Oz Museum also has a great gift shop where you can pick up some one-of-a-kind memorabilia.
Wine and the Wizard of Oz... it's a strange combination, but one that really works. Again, the wine names are all cheeky references to the film; get in touch with your inner Glinda with a taste of Witch Gone Good, a "sweet, tropical blend of Vignoles and Seyval with notes of guava and mango", or go darker with the Cabernet Sauvignon they call Drunken Munchkin or Flying Monkey, a peppery Zinfandel. And you can't go wrong with Ruby Slippers, the Sangiovese. They even offer blush and sparkling wines as well. Visitors get two free tastings, and can add an additional 3 wines for $8 or 5 for $12 (they make a lot of wines, so it won't be hard to find 5 that tickle your fancy.) They even have a deli case with chocolate and cheese to pair with your drinks.
For a more historical look at the background of the Wizard of Oz, pop into Wamego's historic Columbian Theatre. The second floor contains six massive oil paintings that came from the Chicago World's Fair, which provided L. Frank Baum the inspiration for the Emerald City (the centerpiece of the fair was known as the White City... get it?) Plus the whole aesthetic of the theater has that whole turn-of-the-century atmosphere that really transports you back to when Baum wrote the story.
If you're planning on spending the night in Wamego, your best bet for accommodation is the Victory Inn Bed & Breakfast. It oozes Victorian charm and coziness, but still has free high-speed WiFi and, in some rooms, Jacuzzi tubs. Comfortable beds and a hearty, home-cooked three-course breakfast add to the experience. The friendly hosts and common areas like the reading room don't hurt, either. And, of course, if you're still looking for that touch of Oz, they have a No Place Like Home suite you can book :)
Make one final stop on your way out of town... at this replica of Dorothy's house, complete with Wicked Witch legs sticking out from below it. It's a great last photo op before you leave this real-life Oz.
Head out of town on K-99, as the Road to Oz Highway keeps going until just south of Frankfort. It's a more scenic drive than the highway, and Frankfort is a cute little town worth exploring as well. There might be no place like home... but Kansas ain't half bad, either!