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Visiting a Superman Museum at the Super Museum in Metropolis, Illinois

Its the only Metropolis in the country - and its home to the large collection of Superman memorabilia in the world.

By Jason Barnette | Travel writer and photographer with 15+ years of road tripping experience

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Affiliate Disclosure here.

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I slowly cruised down Market Street through Metropolis – it was a small town – and suddenly came to a stop in the middle of the street. My jaw hung open, and my eyes were fixated on the towering Superman Statue ahead. A car honked behind me, and I hastily pulled over – right in front of the Super Museum. Where in the world had I traveled this time?

Just a few days earlier, I had finished the most epic road trip of my life. It had taken me three months to travel from Charleston, South Carolina to Paducah, Kentucky – and I never once drove an interstate highway. With that exciting – but exhausting – trip behind me, I needed a place to relax a couple of days before heading home.

I had booked two nights at Harrah’s Metropolis. I’m not much for gambling, but they had a ridiculously awesome nightly rate in their comfortable rooms that I couldn’t pass. That’s what brought me across the Ohio River into Metropolis and one of the most exciting discoveries of the year.

The Metropolis Bridge – built for the railroad – crossing the Ohio River.

The Only Metropolis in the Country

In 1839, a local landowner and a wealthy merchant from Pittsburgh founded a small town near the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The founders believed the location would make it a booming area for trade and industry – so they named the town Metropolis.

The town – with a population less than 7,000 – never became the metropolis the founders envisioned. But the locals knew they had a very small claim to fame as the only town in the country named after Superman’s fictional home. In 1972, plans were announced to build an epic $50 million Superman theme park – but those plans never happened.

It didn’t stop the locals from banking on the DC Comics superhero. The local newspaper is called The Metropolis Planet – an homage to The Daily Planet. Statues dedicated to Superman and Lois Lane have been erected in the town. Since 1978, the four-day Superman Celebration has brought thousands of people into the only Metropolis in the country.

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The Super Museum in Metropolis.

Jim Hambrick – Founder of the Super Museum

Superman debuted in 1938, but it would be over twenty years later before his biggest fan received his first piece of memorabilia. When Jim Hambrick was five years old, his mother bought him a lunch box featuring a scene of Superman and a robot battling over a burning Metropolis. That lunch box – now on display inside the museum entrance – began a lifelong quest to build the most extensive collection of Superman memorabilia in the world.

Hambrick was just ten years old when he built the first display of his memorabilia. Using his bedroom as a one-room museum, he charged his classmates 5¢ for admission to admire the collection. It was only the beginning of his career as a curator of Superman collectible items.

In 1985 – after years of developing several traveling exhibits – Hambrick decided to establish a brick-and-mortar home for his collection. Leaving California behind, he moved halfway across the country to the only city named Metropolis. It took an entire year to pack his collection and another seven to complete the museum. In 1993, the Super Museum opened its doors.

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Visiting the Super Museum

I parked around the corner from the Super Museum’s entrance. It was a pleasant day, and I didn’t mind the walk. As I approached the entrance to the city block-sized brick building, I wondered how much admission would cost. Ten dollars? More like twenty. I might have even been willing to pay more.

“Five dollars,” Morgan Siebert told me. I couldn’t believe the world’s most extensive collection of Superman memorabilia – 75,000 items and growing – could be viewed for just five dollars! I happily handed over the cash and asked about the history of the museum.

“My dad started this museum about 25 years ago,” she replied. For the next fifteen minutes, I listened to her stories of her father, Jim Hambrick, and growing up along with the museum. Her barely contained zeal was contagious, and by the time I started my self-guided tour through the museum, I was bouncing with joy.

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It was more like walking through a toy store than a museum. Items filled the shelves of makeshift bookcases, covered the floors and walls, and covered tables. There were few interpretive panels – I can’t imagine how long it would take to create that much content – but it was still exciting to see each item.

It only took about half an hour to explore the various rooms of the one-story museum. But I’m also not the biggest Superman fan – I was more of a Batman fan as a kid. I probably could have spent an hour or two if I recognized all the items. The only things I could quickly identify were some of the costumes worn by Teri Hatcher in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

517 Market Street, Metropolis, IL | 618-524-5518 | https://supermuseum.com

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The Superman Statue behind the Massac County Courthouse.

Superman Statue

When Hambrick announced his plans to build the Super Museum in Metropolis, the city council decided to add to the experience. A fundraiser was started to build a statue in honor of Superman – and in 1993, the towering 15’ Superman Statue was dedicated.

Located beside the courthouse, it was one of the most surprising travel moments of the year for me. Of course, when I had found the hotel in Metropolis, my first thought was about Superman’s fictional home – but I never expected to see a town so devoted to the Man of Steel.

In 2020, the first of three phases of renovations were completed on the Superman Statue. 25 years of accumulated paint were removed, and a fresh coat was applied. Today, the statue stands just as proudly and prominently as when first built – a sight I’ll certainly never forget and look forward to seeing again someday.

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A retro car for the “Daily Planet” outside the Super Museum.

Where to Stay

Metropolis is a small town, and honestly, I would recommend staying across the river – about twenty minutes away – in Paducah, Kentucky. However, the small town does have a very charming downtown, a couple of good restaurants, and you might want to stay local for convenience.

My top recommendation would be Harrah’s Metropolis Hotel. One thing about casinos is that they always have great hotels – they want their guests to be very well rested when they hit the slot machines! The hotel was very comfortable for the two nights I stayed, and I will stay there again.

Another great place to stay is the Holiday Inn Express. Located beside the interstate, it’s easier to reach and offers fantastic rooms. Along with rooms with one or two beds, the hotel also features a suite with a king bed and sofa bed, perfect for traveling families.

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Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
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