Go down The Rabbit hOle in North Kansas City

The one-of-a-kind interactive children’s museum features 45+ exhibits from its in-house team of local artists.

In a scene from Kathryn Jackson's "Tawny Scrawny Lion," a lion holds a bouquet of flowers to rabbits on a branch. A cauldron contains copies of the books, opposite a rocky ledge

Each display comes with copies of the books that inspired them, with plenty of space to sit + read together. | Photo by KCtoday

You may miss The Rabbit hOle just driving by, tucked away in North Kansas City’s Iron District — but that’s nothing compared to how lost you can get inside.

The immersive children’s literature museum has received national attention, as well as support from nationally known authors like Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). We toured the museum ahead of its grand opening on Saturday, April 27 — but doors are open right now.

Inside the warehouse at 919 E. 14th Ave. is a 150,000-sqft winding wonderland of 45+ life-sized, interactive exhibits. Think: A tottering statue of Madeline on the railing, a life-sized recreation of the great green room from “Goodnight Moon,” mechanical panels telling the story of “Strega Nona.”

“Children’s culture is often diminished,” a representative of The Rabbit hOle told us. “It’s an attitude of, ‘It’s good enough for kids.’ That something has been so painstakingly crafted, appreciating the culture of children’s literature and trying to build upon the culture of children’s literature — that’s the whole thing.”

That painstaking craftsmanship is carried out by an in-house team of local artists and fabricators, who designed everything on display. The team, which works out of a studio directly behind the museum, continues to work on new exhibits + artworks to add to the collection.

A full-sized display of "Where the Sidewalk Ends," with two children looking over the edge of the sidewalk.

Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is one of the almost 70 stories to which The Rabbit hOle earned rights + permissions. | Photo by KCtoday

The Rabbit hOle has been in the works since 2016, when co-founders Deb Pettid and Pete Cowdin closed the beloved Brookside bookstore Reading Reptile to focus on the museum full-time — and every second of planning is evident.

One exhibit, dedicated to pioneering Black children’s author John Steptoe, is partly modeled after the New York cathedral where he’s interned, with stained glass designed by the author’s children. Their voices can be heard reading his stories via loudspeaker.

Several of Steptoe’s out-of-print books are available to read. When the museum’s letterpress + print shop opens, it will begin reprinting works from among the almost 70 rights and permissions they’ve acquired, allowing older works to re-enter circulation.

A green bedroom with a starry window, bed, lamp, porridge, and a portrait of a cow jumping over the moon above a fireplace.

When you’re in the great green room, make sure you listen to the phone. | Photo by KCtoday

So, what’s the verdict? While we toured, children of all ages ran from exhibit to exhibit, and grown-ups were moved to tears — not at all an uncommon experience for The Rabbit hOle. “This is going to be a national treasure,” one visitor told us. “I am absolutely certain of that.”

And more is planned. An on-site bookstore will host authors and illustrators, and a retro automat cafe will serve storybook-inspired food later this month. Eventually, the central blue tree will even burst from the top of the building.

Inspired by large-scale interactive museums like St. Louis’s City Museum and Meow Wolf in the Southwest, The Rabbit hOle is already a must-see destination for visitors and locals alike — and not done growing. In fact, its April grand opening is just the first page.

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