Any child who’s ever cracked open a Dr. Seuss book has asked the same question: What if it was all real? What if Horton really had heard a Who, if Wockets really could fill your pockets, and if the Cat in the Hat really did just show up on random doorsteps and act like the worst Airbnb guest of all time?
Well, kids (and the kids at heart), that dream’s come true, thanks to the folks at Dr. Seuss Enterprises and L.A.-based entertainment company Kilburn Live. Together, they’ve transformed 15,000 square feet of the George R. Brown Convention Center into an interactive playscape that brings the best of the beloved author’s books to life.
And the Dr. Seuss Experience, open now through August 15, is as whimsically wonderful as you could imagine.
Excitement begins to bubble the moment you enter the hall inside the convention center and walk between the larger-than-life banners, each blazoned with a different beloved character from the many books. After walking up the ramp and through the doorway, you’ll be hit with a sea of pastel-colored suspended balloons, evocative of graduation-gift favorite Oh the Places You’ll Go! (don’t worry, parents, these balloons are all plastic, so there’ll be no unexpected popping and scaring of young visitors).
These balloons form a huge maze, which acts as the centerpiece of the Dr. Seuss Experience. Venture through its easy turns or stroll around its outer perimeter, and you’ll come upon a series of doorways that act as portals to eight other Seussian stories.
Some rooms are packed with activities, like If I Ran the Circus, where you can take a spin on a real carousel—after showing off your most Barnum & Bailey-worthy act, of course —and stop the Grinch from stealing presents by grabbing them off a moving conveyer belt in his snowy room. My pick? Play a Seussian version of “I spy” in the Is There A Wocket in Your Pocket room. Don’t worry if you can’t remember the book by heart, a friendly recoded voice will guide you through this search and find; just make sure to snap a selfie with the chill Bofa on the sofa as you hunt for Nook Gases hidden on the bookcases and the Jertain tucked behind the curtain.
Other areas prove a relaxing respite from the action like my favorite room, the enchanting forest of Truffula trees, where you can swing from the tufted saplings as birds chirp softly in the background. Even with its zany colored package and pink lighting, it’s a genuinely peaceful and contemplative spot (unless, I was told by a staffer, children are in there with you). And basically, everyone took turns showing off their yoga poses on the Lorax’s infamous “Unless” stump—one of several Instagram-worthy spots in the various rooms—next door.
Clever use of high-tech AV also adds a special touch to the Cat in the Hat room (you know there’d be one) where animated video of Carlos K. Krinklebein swimming about his fish tank adds a more lifelike dimension to the animatronic titular character caught mid-balancing act in the corner. Other times, though, it can feel a bit, well, jarring—seriously don’t stare into a Sneetch’s eyes for too long.
If the stylistically Seussy design scheme and color palette isn’t enough to draw the rooms together, quotes from each of the featured books papered in large letters along various walls definitely does the trick. Another touch I appreciated? The Lone Star State-themed goodies in the experience’s gift shop, including, our personal favorite, a “Castronaut” t-shirt featuring an astronaut-suit wearing Cat in the Hat, his signature red-and-white-striped hat balanced atop the helmet and bowtie snugly in place too.
At almost 30, I’m clearly not the target audience here, but that sure didn’t stop me from chasing down the costumed character versions of Cat in the Hat and the Grinch for photos ops. And if the Dr. Seuss Experience can so easily have me tapping into my inner child, just imagine the joy it will bring your young readers.
Thru Aug 15. From $26.25. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas. More info and tickets at experienceseuss.com.