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Dr. Seuss's world comes to life in Springfield

As we enter the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss, our daughter’s eyes light up as she takes in the bright colors and delightful characters. Around the corner, the museum’s first room, lifted straight from the pages of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” is full of yellows, purples, blues and greens—and shelves of Seuss books, classics and obscure titles alike. Our 2-year-old grabs “Hop on Pop,” plants herself on the floor and happily turns the pages, as other children stream past her toward the Cat in the Hat and other characters in the next room.

This is my favorite memory from the afternoon we spent among the Things, blue turtles and multicolored fish at the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss, the only museum in the world dedicated to the legendary children’s book author and illustrator. Opened in summer 2017, the museum is located in Seuss’s hometown of Springfield, Massachussets, roughly five and a half hours from Buffalo. It was the first stop on our vacation to Boston last summer, though the museum, along with other attractions in Springfield and nearby, would be worth a long weekend on their own.

Dr. Seuss's world comes to life in Springfield | Buffalo Magazine

Born Theodor Geisel on March 2, 1904, Seuss published more than 60 books under his pen name, including “If I Ran the Zoo,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” and our daughter’s favorite, “There’s a Wocket in my Pocket.” The museum pays homage to all of his iconic characters—most recently adding a permanent Grinch sculpture just before Christmas—and how his boyhood in Springfield influenced his works.

“The whole museum has become a portrait of him, using his characters to make it fun, and also using local history of his life here to humanize him and bring it home, so people can think about him as a kid and where his ideas may have come from,” said John Simpson, project director of exhibitions, who developed the initial concept for the museum and worked with an outside firm to bring it to life.

On the first floor, children can immerse themselves in the worlds Seuss created by bobbing around Truffula trees, sitting on the seven-humped Wump of Gump and coming face-to-face with the Lorax. It’s a highly interactive space, with whimsical instruments for kids to try and an ABC wall that makes letter sounds.

Our daughter loved “baking” in his grandparents’ bakery, drawing on a touchscreen wall in his childhood home and building with blocks in the Forest Park Zoo, based on the public park located a few blocks from Seuss’s home. And, despite being housed in a stately historic landmark, I was particularly impressed by how downright Seussian the entire space felt because of its vibrant hues and eye-catching murals, as well as the curving red-and-white path that leads you between rooms.

Meanwhile, upstairs, we got a deeper look at the man behind the imagination with artifacts and drawings donated by Seuss’s stepdaughters, Leagrey Dimond and Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, and his great-nephew, Ted Owens.

“It’s not just a museum that brings his books to life,” said Kay Simpson, president of the Springfield Museums. “It’s also a museum that gives you a glimpse of who he was as an artist and family man.”

It was incredible to see Seuss’s studio and sitting room recreated with his original chair, drawing table, colored pencils and other art supplies, and picture him, lost in thought, dreaming up Sam-I-Am and Marvin K. Mooney. Don’t forget to check out Seuss’s collection of fanciful hats, proudly and prominently displayed on one of his desks. Elsewhere on the second floor, you can see rare family photographs and read letters sent between Seuss and Owens (often complete with a doodle or two).

Afterward, head outside to the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, which opened in 2002. During our visit in July, the bronze sculptures were roped off because they were too hot to touch, but during cooler temperatures you can get up close and personal with such characters as Horton, the Whos, the Grinch and Max—and Dr. Seuss himself.

If you have more time, your Seuss ticket also grants admission to the other four sites that make up the Springfield Museums: a science museum, history museum and pair of art museums. Admission to the Seuss museum is timed, so you’ll want to check in there first or pre-purchase online, and then explore the others as time allows. In addition, the Seuss museum is one of three stops on the Iconic Illustrators Trail, along with the Eric Carle Museum and the Norman Rockwell Museum, conveniently located about half an hour and an hour by car from Springfield, respectively.

But for us, with a new pop-up book in tow and plenty of rhymes in our heads, it was time to continue on to Boston—where we read Seuss stories at bedtime for the rest of the trip.

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