Superhero fans might not be able to visit Superman’s Smallville, Kan., or Batman’s Gotham City, but destinations that celebrate favorite comic crime-fighting heroes abound. Pack your cape for adventure; then tour these action-packed, quirky and even educational superhero sights across America.
1. Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure, Orlando, Fla.
The Florida theme park offers entertainment in superhero proportions at its Marvel Super Hero Island, where thrill-seekers enjoy Marvel Comics-inspired rides, shopping and restaurants amid unique comic book-style architecture. Big like its namesake, the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster boasts corkscrews, loops and subterranean dips that will leave your head spinning. And in 2012, the Marvel comic mecca opened “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man,” a reengineered multi-sensory 3-D experience for Spidey fans featuring web-slinging, simulated action.
2. “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” Foxwoods Theater, New York, N.Y.
In this hit Broadway musical, the web-slinging superhero leaps off the comic book pages and onto the stage. Debuting in 2011, the sweeping production is one of the highest grossing Broadway shows in history. The story rivets the audience with music by Grammy winners Bono and The Edge. Spider-Man’s gravity-defying stunts are set against a backdrop of Tony-nominated sets and costumes.
3. ToonSeum, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Located in Pittsburgh’s cultural district and billed as “a museum with character,” the museum celebrates the art of cartooning. Its galleries showcase original comic book art featuring Spider-Man, Superman and other comic legends. A Hulk-smashed doorway leads into the Lou Scheimer Gallery and comic library. Fans of the Batman epic “The Dark Knight Rises” immediately will recognize the ToonSeum building, where part of the movie was filmed in 2011. Regular offerings include book signings, children’s programs and cartooning classes.
4. Madame Tussauds, New York, N.Y.
The famed wax museum lets fans unlock their own powers alongside lifelike statues of Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and other Marvel Comics superheroes. Open since 2012, the exhibit’s stunningly realistic wax figures each took $300,000, a team of 20 artists and up to four months to create. Visitors can enter the “Contamination Station” to see if they’ve been exposed to mutating gamma rays that turned Dr. Bruce Banner into his green alter ego, represented by a 15-foot-tall wax version of the Incredible Hulk. They also can wield Thor’s mighty hammer or step behind Captain America’s indestructible shield. The grand finale is “Marvel Superheroes 4D Experience,” a 3D film complete with 4D special effects simulating water, wind and earthquake tremors.
5. Metropolis, Ill.
No traces of kryptonite in this mild-mannered southern Illinois town, which in 1972 declared itself the official hometown of Superman. Visitors receive a superhero welcome thanks to a colossal 15-foot-tall bronze Superman statue in the middle of the town square. Its Super Museum features more than 20,000 Superman artifacts amassed by super collector Jim Hambrick. On the second weekend of each June, the town hosts its Superman Celebration, when fans compete for a $1,000 prize for best costume, test their Superman IQ and meet famous Superman film and TV celebrities.
6. Comic-Con International, San Diego, Calif.
Although comic book conventions are held across the nation, the San Diego Comic-Con is the oldest and largest. More than 130,000 fans attend the four-day summer event, some even in costume, to see the latest trends in comics, gaming, television and film. For superhero fans, it’s the place to hob-knob with A-list comic industry celebrities. In recent years, Comic-Con has branched beyond comics and into other areas of pop culture, but comics are still king.
7. Superhero Walking Tour, New York City, N.Y.
Ever dream of seeing the real-life skyscraper Spidey’s character perches on in New York City? What about the office where Bob Kane worked to co-create Batman? Celebrity Planet’s “superhero tour” takes die-hard fans on a two-hour walking tour of the bustling city that has become a crossroads for superheroes defending humanity against diabolical villains and ferocious aliens. Guides lead comic buffs past movie landmarks, such as the battleground scene for “The Avengers,” and pivotal places in comic history. At the tour’s end, fans can kick back and toast their favorite superheroes at a bar decorated with comic art.
8. Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, Baltimore, Md.
A haven for pop culture and comic fans, Geppi’s offers a selection of 750 comic books, plus toys and collectibles from the 1700s to present. One entire room is dedicated to American comic book art, and takes visitors on a journey from the Golden Age of comics (when Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman were created) to the Silver Age (marking the creation of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four) to the modern era of darker, more complex heroes. Guests view America’s story through riveting comic covers. The museum is located on the second floor of Camden Station near Camden Yards.
9. The Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum, Elkhart, Ind.
Holy superhero collection, Batman! This museum founded by comic book enthusiast Allen Stewart showcases one of the largest comic book and superhero memorabilia collections in the world. Highlights include a replica of the Batcave from the 1960s “Batman” television series, more than 50,000 comic books from the 1940s to the present, original DC/Marvel comic artwork, movie and TV props, and toys. The two-story museum’s exterior is a re-creation of the Hall of Justice from the 1970s animated “Super Friends” TV series. Tours are available by appointment only.
10. Mile High Comics, Denver, Colo.
Devoted comic aficionados travel from across the world to lose themselves in 35,000 square feet of comic book bliss. An additional 30,000 square feet of space holds millions of reserve comic stock, making Mile High the largest comic book store in the world. More than 200,000 comics tower over guests’ heads at owner Chuck Rozanski’s mega-store. Collectors can find treasured DC comics dating back to 1940 and Marvel comics back to 1944. Masses gather for the store’s monthly no-minimum-bid collectables auctions, special events and autograph sessions with top comic artists.
Superhero travel bonus:
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland’s airport is probably the only place fans can shout, “It’s a bird, It’s a plane, It’s Superman!” and really mean it. A 7-foot-tall Superman statue greets travelers at the airport’s baggage claim area. A related exhibit highlights Superman points of interest around Cleveland, the birthplace of the fictional Superman character, and pays tribute to Superman creators Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster.