That Time We Visited Metropolis, Illinois for Superman

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

Ever have those times when you have a lot going on, and your head is just full of things to say, but you have no ability to get it all out? That’s been most of June for me. The last two weeks have been so busy that whenever I found time to sit down and write, I didn’t have the mental energy to form coherent sentences.

I started the month with a horrible sore throat and cough, spending almost two weeks very sick and miserable. Strangely, no one else in the family shared in this illness, which really puzzled me. How was my immune system the only one that failed?

Luckily, I did get better just in time for Aaron’s birthday. This year, he wanted to go to the Superman Celebration weekend in Metropolis, IL for his birthday. Neither of us had ever been to this event, and he had several online friends who would be there. So I arranged to have the kids stay at Camp Grandma and we made the six hour drive to southern Illinois to find the town with the giant 15ft Superman statue in front of the county courthouse.

Metropolis, IL

Things I learned on this trip:

1. The Superman Celebration event is not quite the large, international event that we thought it would be. When the main hotel was booked full for the event, we thought that this would be a HUGE event. We worried about parking and how much it would cost.

Turns out, there’s only one hotel IN the town (not counting the casino’s hotel on the river), and parking most definitely wasn’t a problem. We stayed at the other hotel about three miles outside of the town and drove in each day. No one charged for parking, and there was plenty of it available on any street. This is a small town, with a downtown area spanning only a few blocks each direction. There were empty storefronts next to small businesses trying to stay alive.

Scary bridge over the Ohio riverAnd just before you get there, the scariest bridge over the Ohio river. The road is metal grates, and it’s barely wide enough for two cars.

As for the event itself, it did have some notable celebrities as guests (Dean Cain, Billy Dee Williams), but the overall feel of the celebration was more “small town street fair” instead of what we expected. It was just as easy to buy a funnel cake or a snow cone as it was to buy a Superman t-shirt. There were few vendors from outside the area, and artist booths were located right near the BMX stunt bike show and mechanical bull.

Dean Cain at MetropolisHi, Dean Cain!

2. Southern Illinois is a lot more southern than I would have guessed. This is the same state where Chicago is located, right? I wasn’t expecting Metropolis to feel like a small southern town, although I probably should have considering it’s just across the river from Kentucky.

And when talking to people there, Aaron and I were definitely the outsiders…I mean, beyond the costumes and all. More than once, someone would smile and say to us (in a fairly thick southern accent), “You’re not from around here, are ya? I can tell by your accent.” I never knew a Columbus, Ohio “accent” could be so distinctive, but it let the others in town know that we had traveled far to be there.

Despite being different than expectations, we still had a good time that weekend and the town was welcoming. Aaron enjoyed meeting up with friends he knew from online groups and cosplaying as various superheroes. Of course, there was a Superman everywhere you looked.

Supermen, everywhere!Including all varieties of Superman!

He even talked me into dressing up in costume one evening, too.

At the Superman CelebrationThe guy in the middle makes art using spray paint – how cool is that?

Metropolis does have a couple of really interesting museums, too. One is the Superman museum, with an unheard of amount of Superman memorabilia, art, props and costumes from movies and TV shows, autographed photos, and so much more. One of the capes that Christopher Reeves used was there, along with his flying harness and wig. (I had no idea he wore a wig as Superman.) It was an amazing collection crowded into every possible corner of the small space, and I was really impressed at how many one-of-a-kind items they had on display.

I have no photos of the really cool stuff. I’m sorry to say that I was so busy looking at all of it that I forgot to take any pictures. You’ll just have to trust me that it was amazing.

The other museum (owned by the same person, I believe) is the Americana Hollywood museum. It was probably four times as large, and had memorabilia for nearly every genre movie type out there, including sci-fi, horror, westerns, superheroes and special sections for Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Tarzan, and the “classics” like Gone With the Wind and Casablanca. This museum had few original pieces from movies, but rather had a massive amount of collectibles and replicas. (Although I did see some original costumes from a few movies.) The superhero room was basically a giant tribute to all of the superhero toys – I couldn’t believe how many they had!

Maria from MetropolisAnd a replica of Maria from the silent film, Metropolis!

It was fun, it was a little silly, and it was a nice escape from reality for a few days. I don’t know if we’ll ever go back again, but it was definitely worth going once.

Superman in Metropolis

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  1. As a local I really enjoyed your description of the Superman Fest. I work at one of the local hotels and I always say it amazes me how far people drive for a small town fair. I met a man this year who has attended for over 20 years. I suppose if your a huge fan meeting the stars is neat. I would just like to say we share the same state as Chicago but it's a world away. I am so thankful for that. Loved your writing!!

  2. Heather says:

    Iam from metropolis il, home of superman! Yeah were a small little town. Yes that bridge is a little take the interstate bridge most of the time! Iam glad you had fun here! I really wish you could have brought him several years ago the celebration was awesome then! We use to have it in the park it was so big and had so many venders, not just the same old food stands! Maybe oneday we can that all back! Glad you had fun here in metropolis! Have a blessed day!:-)

  3. Also as a local, it is funny to hear a tourist's experience. If you do visit again, you'll have o check out the other bridge that's much bigger and not steel because unless you're used to "blue bridge" it's the scariest thing on earth! But also, there are about 4 hotels in Metropolis 🙂 Glad you all had a good time despite the tiny, not much to do, town that hosts the Superman Celebration

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience. Metropolis is my home town.

  5. Ok well glad they enjoyed themselves since its right across the river from Kentucky. And that bridge is my favorite bridge just because its blue. And I also like southern Ill even living across the river in Kentucky. And last superman is my favorite hero and our metropolis may not be like the one in the movie but its great to.

  6. Hey! I'm related to the spray paint dude!

  7. So, I’m her husband, and the reason we decided to go to Metropolis. The last thing either of us ever wanted to do was offend anyone – we were surprised that the festival was more of a Small Town Festival event than a big convention-type experience, which is what we expected. I expected more out-of-towners, more costumes, and larger dealers areas, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy what we got in the town.

    We really did have a lot of fun for our three days there, and we certainly aren’t opposed to the idea of returning, although it was an awfully long drive, and our travel budget for going to geeky events isn’t unlimited. I quite liked the town, thought we had a very warm reception from everyone we met, and *loved* having several meals at the Roadhouse. (And I’m trying to replicate the Kryptonite drinks at home.)

  8. The spray paint dude is AWESOME! I was so impressed with his work, and encouraged him to open an online Etsy shop so more people could appreciate and purchase his work.

  9. “How was my immune system the only one that failed?”
    You took one for the team?
    Skye recently posted…5 Fantastic Comics About Race and Social JusticeMy Profile

  10. Interesting read, Metropolis is my home town to.

  11. chad davis says:

    I am from southern Illinois. My father back in 1973 lived and worked in Metropolis . He was a manager for the local phone company. He played his part as town mascot for some time. He made appearances as Superman for the town and was in several media publications. I enjoyed growing up as a kid knowing my dad played this part and shared in this experience. I tell my children this now that their grandfather was Superman and they get a kick out of it. It has been years since I was last in Metropolis. My father last wore the costume when he acted a parade marshal for an event in Sumner Illinois. That was sometime in the early 80’s. I have several keepsakes from that time. There will always be a part of Metropolis with me.

    • missy reno says:

      Wow what a great childhood.ONLY GEORGE REEVES IS SUPERMAN TO ME………he worked Hard….AND a GREAT actor….BE4 Superman came OUT….HE would of finishED a HEAD….IF…. LL…..DIDNT come into the PICTURE….and mess with his mind….MAY HE FIND PEACE..and move on…Everyone loves superman…WHO ever plays him.but i LOVE GEORGE……..THE AMERICAN WAY……1959……