Whether you’re Team Superman or Team Batman, root for the Justice League or the Avengers, superhero fun goes beyond the silver screen and video games.
Here are five places around where you can get up close and personal with a superhero:
1. In the Flesh
Where else can you literally walk up to Captain America, Wolverine or Spidey and shake their hand? Why, at Marvel Super Hero Island at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. Little ones will be awestruck to see their heroes arrive by motorbike to greet fans only to have to zip off to save the day somewhere. This section of the Islands of Adventure theme park focuses on all things super hero and includes a realistic 3D journey through the streets of New York City with your friendly neighborhood Spiderman, where you’ll sling webs right alongside the masked menace (see if you can spot Stan Lee’s cameo). You can also experience Hulk’s rage on the Incredible Hulk Coaster and drop 150 feet on villain Doctor Doom’s Freefall.
2. Step Inside Smallville
If the Man of Steel and his alter ego Clark Kent are near and dear to your heart, then you’ve probably watched the now completed CW TV series “Smallville,” which followed a young Clark Kent before making the “leap” to Superman. The show, which had a dedicated fan base, was filmed in Canada and you can actually scope out some of the more iconic sites from the series like the Kent Farm, the Daily Planet and Luthor Mansion.Most of the filming locations are in Vancouver, such as the Daily Planet, which is actually the 1930’s art deco Marine Building in the city’s downtown. (If you take a spin through the revolving doors, will you come out wearing a red cape? It’s worth a shot.) The Kent Farm, with its yellow house and famous red barn, is a real farm located at 839 248th Street in the Vancouver suburb of Langley, while the Luthor Mansion is actually in Victoria at the Edwardian historic site of Hatley Castle. You might also recognize it as Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters from the “X-Men” movies.
3. Men in Wax
Want to envision what your heroes might look like in real life? Madame Tussauds in New York has some pretty good replicas in their special Avengers exhibit. Take a 360-degree walk around the wax figures of The Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America (returning in September), Thor and even S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury. Visitors get to visit the secret S.H.I.E.L.D. command center where they’ll find Captain America and Iron Man standing at the ready alongside a crouching Spider-Man and 15-foot-tall Hulk. Before you leave, stop by the “Contamination Station” to make sure you weren’t exposed to the same gamma rays that turned Dr. Banner into his green alter ego and take your turn wielding the mighty hammer Mjolnir alongside Thor. The exhibit also includes a 4-D movie with special effects that puts you in the middle of a Stark Industries press conference and lets you battle alongside the Avengers against a couple evil villains who make an unexpected appearance.
4. From the Pencil to the Big Screen
The Simpson’s Comic Book Guy fits in just perfectly at ToonSeum—a Pittsburgh museum dedicated to all things comic book and cartoon art. While small (it’s about 1,000 square feet), ToonSeum features roughly 100 works of art that rotate depending on the exhibit. The museum is hosting “When Universes Collide: The Ultimate Superhero Smackdown,” (through September 20), which features the artwork of some of America’s most beloved super heroes. ToonSeum director Joe Wos notes that the exhibit “allows us to introduce fans of the movies to the source material— the original art from the comic books and the animated cartoons. “ The exhibit covers 70 years of super hero animation history and features the work of artists like Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Darywn Cooke and Adam Hughes.
5. Marvel in the Midwest
Finally, for folksy Americana-style take on super heroes, visit the Hall of Heroes in Elkhart, Ind. This quaint two-story museum designed to look like the original Hall of Heroes from Super Friends celebrates 75 years of super heroes’ comics, toys, film and animation with an impressive collection. Inside, you’ll find a replica bat cave from the 1960’s Batman TV series, the only surviving original Batman Costume worn by Adam West, a shield used in the Captain America movies signed by the cast, and 55,000 super hero comic books from 1956 to the present. Come Halloween, they host the Hall of Villains Super Villain Haunted House where the museum is taken over by Dr. Doom, The Joker, Venom, Catwoman, Scarecrow, red Skull, Harley Quinn, Black Adam, Gorilla Grodd and more the super heros’ nemeses.
Lyn Mettler is an Indianapolis, Ind.-based travel writer. You can find her at www.GotoTravelGal.com or on Twitter at @GotoTravelGal.