The writer L. Frank Baum made the state of Kansas famous around the world but he wasn’t born there and never lived there. His classic children’s book, The Wizard of Oz, was set in Kansas and became an instant success. It eventually was made into an even more successful movie with some of the most memorable movie lines of all time, including: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Wamego, Kansas is a small town with a classic American main street. A quick look around the town, though, reminds you that this one seems to have a unifying theme. First, there’s the Oz Winery, and then you see a restaurant called Toto’s Tacoz, a yarn store called The Wicked Stitch, and The Oz Museum which features over 2,000 items related to the world L. Frank Baum created in The Wizard of Oz. The museum has just about anything you could think of that involves the classic book and the movie. There’s also a section near the end of the exhibit with some more recent items from the movie The Wiz, and the musical Wicked.
There is another interesting connection to L. Frank Baum and Oz next door at the Columbian Theatre. The beautiful old theater opened its doors in 1895 and hosts a full season of musicals and plays. It also houses some original oil paintings from the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. A Kansas banker bought them after the Fair closed and they are some of the very few surviving objects from that epic US event. Interestingly, Baum was known to have attended the Fair and to have based his Emerald City on the inspiring White City built to house the World’s Fair’s exhibits. When I visited the museum, I was able to see the gorgeous paintings and view many items of interest on display on the ground level of the building.
After enjoying the museum and theater, I recommend that you walk directly across the street and follow an actual “yellow brick road” with emerald lampposts to Friendship House. This is a great place to eat lunch! I loved their amazing cinnamon buns and tomato soup.
Beyond the restaurant is a beautiful park which showcases 2 statues from the Chicago World’s Fair. If you have time, visit the museum at the park and take a tour of the old Dutch mill. Above all, enjoy your visit but remember, “there’s no place like home.”
This is the first stop on our Kansas Trail!
Rebecca Blake Beech