Our visit to the Land of Oz and Aberdeen, SD have been sponsored by Visit Aberdeen SD
The brick under my foot felt strange – can it be it? Could I be stepping the something surreal and magical, the road was running away in front of me as far as I could see. My kids laughed and chased each other down the yellow brick road. I stepped under the “The Storybook Land The Land of Oz“ sign following them.
Follow the yellow brick road,
Follow, follow, follow.
L. Frank Baum, the author of Wizard of Oz, only lived in the Aberdeen for three years. He owned a novelty store called Baum’s Bazaar. Baum also published a weekly newspaper, the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. The Wizard of Oz started as a collection of stories L. Frank created to entertain his four sons, and the book was published while he lived in Aberdeen.
The Story of the Land of Oz
Wylie Park started its existences in 1971 as a picnic spot, a playground, a campground, and a walking zoo. In 1973 the Storybook Land was built in the Wylie Park with only two exhibits – Pumpkin House and the Old Lady who lived in a shoe. Every following year aded more rides, exhibits, expanding and improving. In 1990, the yellow brick road started making its way through the park. In 1994, the first structure Dorothy’s House opened in the Land of Oz. The park continues to evolve and greets 200,000 visitors every year.
About Aberdeen, South Dakota
Aberdeen was strategically planned and built to accommodate growing railroad. It was officially founded on July 6, 1881 – the date of the first arrival of a Milwaukee Railroad freight train. In 1907 the first passenger train left the station in Aberdeen to arrive in Minneapolis. Aberdeen became a hub city – at some point, nine railroads went through this town.
Farming is the leading business here, but this town is full of family businesses like banks and grocery stores passed on from generation to generation. Popular Super 8 hotel chain started in Aberdeen.
We stayed at the AmericInn – one of our favorites when exploring the Midwest. always clear with the spacious rooms. The front desk also has great suggestions for local dining.
While planning your trip from Minneapolis to the Black Hills/Yellowstone, or from Winnipeg or Northern Minnesota to Sioux Falls/Omaha area, Aberdeen is a fantastic pit-stop! If you are taking a trip to the Black Hills from Chicago, you will definitely enjoy a few hours (or a day) in Aberdeen. We visited this town on our way to Medora in North Dakota and sure appreciated a day at the park.
To The Land of Stories
Did you know that no every kid these days knows of the Land of Oz?
I don’t know what I was expecting to happen when I walked into the Land of Oz. Surprisingly it wasn’t the Tin Man or Dorothy (or at least not right away). It was still a Storybook Land, but just not the one I was expecting.
Welcome to Storybook Land!
Another sign screamed at us from the side of the road. Don’t forget to stop by the Gift Shop. Now I feel like I am in the themed park. Here comes the ticket booth.
However, instead of going through the building, we walked around it and came to a large area filled with Fairytale characters.
“That is fairytale odd!” I exclaimed. “Where is ticket booth?”
“No tickets,” our guide Laura laughed. “It’s a free park!”
Storybook Land Castle in the middle of the field sprung a bridge across a fishpond. On the top of the tower, I could see Rapunzel’s blonde head with the prince frozen in the mid-climb to the high tower. Inside the castle, there was a stage surrounded by rows of benches. The Storybook Theater often hosts programs for kids. However, today the scene was all ours and the boys couldn’t pass the opportunity to get silly.
On the other side of Wylie Park, I could see a large brown Farm House.
Old McDonald had a farm
Not only it had a white picket fence, but it also was fully stocked with BA-BA here and Mu-Mu there. My kids ran from an animal to animal, taking a full lyrical inventory.
Three little pigs built their houses on the side of the road – there was a house made of straws and the house made of sticks.
My husband patiently posed next to a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. “We finally found it!” I mentally labeled the photo for a later Facebook post.
The cutest yet a giant shoe was sitting on the side of the road. There was a lady who lived in a shoe…
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
It’s hard to imagine but this shoe has been sitting for over fifty years!
Why is it Free?
Parks and Forestry Department maintain the Wylie Park. It’s funded by the city of Aberdeen and supported by individuals and businesses. The Sertoma Club has supported The Storybook Land for years through the fundraisers and events. However, it’s also hard to miss family dedications to family members on landmarks, characters, and benches.
How About The Rides?
Are the rides free too? No, the only things you have to pay for here are the rides and food. A punch card will get you access to a roller coaster.
“Carousel?” My 4 years pulled my hand toward a large carousel. Next to it was the balloon ride and I knew this will be out next stop.
The road wound and brought us to Dorothy’s house. Can we go in? The house didn’t seem like much and might’ve done well on the Tiny Houses Show if anybody actually lived in here. Half of the house was gated, filled with the items commonly found in homes in the early 1900s.
The big clock hung on the Wallpaper covered wall. An iron stove with a few pots and pans sat in the corner surrounded by other dated objects. There were also pictures of hurricanes and infographics of what to not to do during catastrophic events.
From Kansas to the Oz
There was also a white door. As my 4-year old pulled the handle, he seemed to awaken a roar on the other side. We already heard about the hurricane simulation that would take us from a house in Kansas to the Wonderful World of Oz. Step into the dark and we were instantly surrounded by the winds. Small screens alongside lit up with scenes of hurricane scenes. There was also a flying cow. Suddenly the windy roar subsided and changed to a different melody. We pushed the door and walked out onto a bright sunny scene (oh, wait that was because the day was sunny!) and a yellow brick road.
The Munchkin Land
What can tell you that you are in the Munchkin Land better than red and white striped legs in pointy shoes sticking from under the house – Congratulations! You just crashed The Wicked Witch of the East with your Flying House!
This tiny village is filled with tiny houses and little figures. What a perfect place for a 4-year-old when everyone is his size and he is free to explore mini houses
What’s next? Make your way through the welcome party – munchkins frozen in their excitement seemed thrilled to be liberated – and follow the yellow brick road.
The Yellow Brick Road
While I didn’t follow the yellow brick road with a book at my side, I did come across the tin man and his tin house, the scarecrow sitting next to his home in front of the cornfield. While not fully grown yet, this corn is harvested by Aberdeen Convention and Visitors Bureau and commonly used to build corn decorations every fall.
Motion-activated scared lion attempted to scare Toto away. The trees of the haunted forest urged us to run for the hills. My 4-year old son found it incredibly amusing and sat down, waiting for their screams to end.
We spotted flying monkeys carrying Dorothy and kids climbed the rocks near a castle of the Wicked Witch of the West. Suddenly the yellow brick road ended.
“Oh-oh!” My 4 -year-old exclaimed! “What happened?”
To the side of the road was a Hot Air balloon with a basket underneath. The Big powerful Oz froze in time escaping his own land while my son was trying to figure out why the road suddenly came to an end.
Can you spend a day here with your little ones?
When driving through South Dakota, this is a fantastic stop any family would absolutely appreciate. This hidden gem town has everything a small town has to offer, yet the Storybook Land is a place your kids will remember for years. Depending on the weather you can easily spend a couple of hours or a whole day here. The park itself is free and easy to explore.
However, there is more fun to have at the park, and a few dollars will go a long way. A punchcard gives you access to the park’s rides. The Balloon Ride and kids’ favorite carousel are great but a roller coaster is pretty cool too.
Don’t miss a train ride around the park. That’s a single easy way to explore the park and everything it has to offer while riding an adorable train cart. The other side of the Wylie park offers Mini Golf, Go-Karts, Water Races and more. You can also rent a bike to ride around the park. I voted for the tandem bike, however, others wanted to chase each other on the Go-Karts and Water Races.
The Gift Shop
Every place has it, and the Storybook Land is not an exception. However, this was a great way to remind me about all things Oz. Are you a fan? Want to connect kids with this timeless tale? Consider these gems I found:
Walking out of the Storybook Land was hard. We spent most of the day here and knowing that we explored just about every corner of the park, it seemed like the Fairytale none of us wanted to end.
I dragged my feet down the yellow brick road toward the parking lot. Do I have to leave?
To echo my thoughts, my 4-year-old turned to me, “Mom, can we come back here tomorrow?” I smiled because the Yellow brick road is Magic…
Drive or Fly?
Drive. The Aberdeen Regional Airport is currently served by Delta Air Lines, but there are no direct flights from Chicago
How Long to Stay Here
A couple of hours, a day or two. Aberdeen is a great stop on the way to the Black Hills and will entertain you with whatever time you have
Will you need a car to get around?
Yes! Everything is relatively close, yet you will need a car.
Storybook Land, Dacotah Prairie Museum, Granary Rural Cultural Center, Aberdeen Aquatic Center.
Local food not to be missed.
Twist Cone ice cream (get an eyeball ice cream), Palm Garden Café (great chocolate shoppe, café, and sports memorabilia museum), Thatzza Pizza (huge and delicious pizza), Jimmy's Pizza of Aberdeen (try pheasant pizza)