Travel Thoughts By Kim

By Kim Pritt, Contributor Posted 15 April 2023 at 3:00 pm

Downtown Chittenango, NY with their quaint yellow brick sidewalks

Let’s go on an adventure together… to the Wonderful Land of Oz!

Did you know you can visit the Wonderful Land of Oz without leaving New York State? You don’t have to ride a house in a tornado. You don’t have to wear magical ruby slippers. You only need to take about a two and a half hour drive – give or take, depending on the route you take – to Chittenango, NY. And…you just might encounter a wicked witch, a cowardly lion, a scarecrow looking for a brain, a rusty tin man, and a sweet girl named Dorothy while you’re there.

Chittenango is the birthplace of L. Frank Baum – author of the Wizard of Oz books. The small village of Chittenango embraces their connection to the famous author with Oz-themes everywhere you look – including yellow brick sidewalks, a lovely Oz-themed public library, and the All-Things-Oz Museum. Just outside the village, they have an Oz-themed casino with an active tornado in the lobby and the Wicked Good Pizza place next door. There are several other Oz-themed shops in and around the village making sure that you can experience Oz anytime you want in Chittenango.

Their big claim to fame is the Oz-Stravaganza festival held the first weekend in June every year – this year’s festival is June 2-4. They have all kinds of costume contests and activities for young and old, alike. One end of town is dedicated to vendors, food trucks, music, and carnival-type rides and games. All the Oz characters come to life and wander around the village for photo opportunities and to delight the kids. They also have guest appearances by authors and others giving talks and book signings. The village is small enough that you can walk all over to experience all the different parts of the festival.

Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Tim Man on the lookout for the Wicked Witch at the Oz-Stravanganza Festival in June 2017.

The weekend is capped with a big parade. I attended in 2017 and the Grand Marshall that year was Jane Lahr – daughter of Bert Lahr, who played The Cowardly Lion in the movie. I got to meet her and have a nice conversation with her. Come as you are or dress like your favorite Oz character – you won’t be out of place at the Oz-Stravaganza. The closing ceremony usually includes a balloon lift-off to take Dorothy back to Kansas. Unfortunately, the year I was there the threat of severe afternoon storms caused them to cancel the balloon lift-off. I will have to go, again, sometime to see that part!

But, Oz isn’t all that Chittenango has to offer. Back in the early days of the Erie Canal, Chittenango Landing was known for building and repairing canal boats. They have a wonderful Canal Boat Museum that is open to the public and they give school children tours to teach them all about building canal boats. Also, just four miles down the road is Chittenango Falls with great walking trails. Then, another five miles or so is the lovely village of Cazenovia with wonderful shops, restaurants, and a stunning lake.

One of my favorite things about the entire weekend was visiting The Wild Animal Park just north of Chittenango. It is an awesome park with lots of opportunities to get up close and personal with various animals that you can feed and pet. There are also some animals in enclosures for your protection or theirs. They also have snack huts and a bounce house for the kids, as well as a nice picnic area overlooking a lake. It is one of the better animal parks I’ve ever been to and is well worth the two hour or so drive. 

Remnants of dry docks unearthed and restored at the Canal Boat Museum. The dry docks were used to repair canal boats in the early days of the Erie Canal

That’s me feeding one of the giraffes some carrots at the Wild Animal Park outside Chittenango, NY

I highly recommend the Chittenango / Cazenovia area for a quick get-away. Whether you go the first weekend in June to participate in the Oz-Stravaganza or just go anytime to enjoy a bit of Oz and all the other wonderful things to do in the area, you’re sure to have an awesome time! And….it isn’t that far to make a day trip to the Wild Animal Park and a walk down the yellow brick sidewalks in Chittenango.

Check out these links for my blog with more info and photos from my time in “Oz” and for the official 2023 Oz-Stravaganza Festival website:

Visit to the Land of Oz:

Wild Animal Park Adventure:

For more info on this year’s Oz-Stravaganza Festival: 

Happy Adventuring!