Rocky Movie Sites Walking Tour, Philadelphia

Rocky Movie Sites Walking Tour (Self Guided), Philadelphia

There's hardly any other character, fictional or real, as iconically Philadelphian as Rocky. Indeed, this American sports drama franchise, centered on the boxing career of Rocky Balboa, released in 1976, has become synonymous with and arguably done more for the city of Philadelphia than anyone else since Ben Franklin.

The cultural phenomenon was created by Sylvester Stallone, who wrote, directed and starred in the movie, and had actually spent his formative years in Philadelphia, too. The city is featured prominently in all of the six Rocky sequels and spin-offs, pretty much like a stand-alone character.

The Rocky Steps, 72 stone stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is surely one of those places that die-hard fans wouldn't wanna miss for the world – a chance to run up, humming “Gonna Fly Now,” and then raising one's fists in the air, reaching the top. At the bottom of the stairs they can pose for a picture with Rocky Statue, the triumphant bronze sculpture originally commissioned for Rocky III, towering nearly 10 feet tall.

The Bonwit Teller & Co. department store, whose exterior appears in Rocky II, albeit no longer in residence, is yet another prominent site, much as Rittenhouse Square, a popular spot through which Rocky and Adrian, his wife, strolled after finding out they were going to become parents.

One can also try and re-enact Rocky's iconic training montage, running through the Italian Market, the nation’s oldest and largest working outdoor market, in a hope that the local vendors would waive and toss them fruit just as they did in the film.

And if one wants to eat, Rocky-style, they can always grab a cheesesteak at Pat's King of Steaks, or check out, for a more substantial dinner option, Adrian's Restaurant (Victor Cafe in reality, one of the oldest eateries in town) featured in Rocky Balboa, Creed, and Creed II.

For a true taste of Rocky's Philly, the City of Brotherly Love that has never been ashamed to root for an underdog, follow in the footsteps of the Italian Stallion with the help of our self-guided walking tour.
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Rocky Movie Sites Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Rocky Movie Sites Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Philadelphia (See other walking tours in Philadelphia)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.3 Km or 3.9 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Rocky Steps
  • Bronze Rocky Statue
  • Bonwit Teller & Co.
  • Rittenhouse Square
  • Italian Market
  • Pat's King of Steaks
  • Adrian's Restaurant (Victor Cafe)
Rocky Steps

1) Rocky Steps

It is due to the iconic scene from the 1976 film Rocky that the 72 stone stairs leading up to the entrance of the Museum of Art in Philadelphia have been popularly dubbed as the "Rocky Steps". Ardent fans of the movie often mimic Rocky's famous climb, a metaphor for an underdog defying all odds or an everyman rising to a challenge.

In essence, this scene is also metaphorical in illustrating the “from rags to riches” life of Sylvester Stallone himself – creator of Rocky – once a child in foster care, homeless young man, sleeping in a bus shelter, who then wrote a story of Rocky, held onto it, despite all temptation, until finally landed a lead role and eventually became the highest paid actor in Hollywood.

According to Sly, the idea of the scene emerged when the film crew, bound by a tight budget, identified the steps one night while searching for filming locations around the city. Boxer Joe Frazier, however, who made a cameo appearance in the film, claimed that the steps scene was taken from his own training regimen and felt he was never duly credited for the way he inspired this and other parts of the movie.

Initially, Stallone imagined that Rocky should carry his dog Butkus up the steps, but the big bull mastiff proved too heavy for the task. Still, the commanding view opening from the top of the stairs (of Eakins Oval, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and Philadelphia City Hall) prompted him to re-shoot the scene without the dog.

Thirty years later, though, in the 2006 film Rocky Balboa, he did lift the dog, a smaller one, named Punchy, when he reached the top of the stairs. The closing credits of Rocky Balboa show a montage of dozens of people running up the steps. That same year, at the unveiling ceremony of the Rocky Statue at the foot of the stairs, Philadelphia Mayor John Street called the Rocky Steps one of Philly's biggest tourist attractions and said that Stallone, a native New Yorker, had become "the city's favorite adopted son".
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Bronze Rocky Statue

2) Bronze Rocky Statue

Standing on a pedestal in a grassy area near the foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps is one of the three copies of the Rocky Statue ever made (the other one is in the possession of Sylvester Stallone himself and the third is at the Schomberg Studios Gallery in Denver, Colorado). The original 2-ton, 10-foot (3-meter)-tall bronze statue, created by sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg, was initially placed, for a short while, atop the Museum's steps for the filming of Rocky III.

After the movie was released in 1982, a debate arose between the Museum and Philadelphia's Art Commission over the artistic value of the sculpture; the city officials argued that it was not "art" but merely a "movie prop", and eventually had the statue moved to the front of the Philadelphia Spectrum.

The Rocky statue was later returned to the Art Museum for the filming of Rocky V, and then brought back to the Spectrum. At some point, it was replaced with a bronze inlay of Converse sneaker footprints with the name "Rocky" above them.

In 2006, the Rocky statue was ultimately returned to the Art Museum, where it remains to this day as a popular photo opp. The unveiling ceremony, held on September 8, 2006, included live music, the debut of the first full trailer for Rocky Balboa, and a free showing of the first Rocky movie.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Bonwit Teller & Co.

3) Bonwit Teller & Co.

Those who saw Rocky II will certainly remember Rocky pulling up on the curb of the busy street corner, just a few blocks away from the instantly-recognizable Philadelphia City Hall, in his newly-bought car, walking up to the jackets in the window of Bonwit Teller & Co. and saying to his wife, “Yo Adrian, look at this here! Tell me that wouldn’t look great on ya, huh? This coat here? What about that one huh? Think it would look good on me? Is that great? Look at this black thing here with the tiger on the back. You like animals? I love animals. Black, I like black. Black’s kinda my favorite color. You wanna buy em? I say we get em before someone else buys em. What do ya say? Come on Adrian!”

In the 1970s, Bonwit Teller & Co. was a fashionable department store chain specialized in high-end apparel and became noted within the trade for the quality of its merchandise, much as the above-average salaries paid to both buyers and executives. It is probably for the latter reason that in 2000 the company went out of business, but its Philadelphia branch building and surroundings are still in place and look similar to what they did back then.

Here, as part of his spending spree sequence, in addition to buying his landmark black leather jacket (with a tiger print on the back), Rocky acquired a fur coat for Adrian and expensive wristwatches, including one for his brother-in-law Paulie.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Rittenhouse Square

4) Rittenhouse Square

This beautiful, lush park, nestled among the throng of giant downtown buildings in the heart of the most fashionable neighborhood in Philadelphia, was named after Philly’s own Revolutionary war patriot, David Rittenhouse, in 1825. The present layout of the square, with walkways running diagonally and meeting in the center, emerged in 1913; many of the bronze statues here also date back to that period.

Apart from its historical and architectural heritage, however, Rittenhouse Square is mostly popular these days for its association with Rocky II film. In the movie, Rocky and Adrian stroll along the southeast corner of the square after they learn from the doctor that they’re going to have a baby.

The couple head south, towards the intersection of 18th Street and Locust Street. Those keen to discover the exact route they took, should look for the elegant Barclay Condominium (remember the line, “I never use ’em”). This stone-fronted building is seen just behind the Balboas when they stop to face each other. Back in the day, when the scene was shot, the Barclay had a green awning over its front entry way, which is now removed and replaced with a much grander, upscale frontage.

Curiously enough, young Sly, his brother Frank, and their parents used to live in Rittenhouse Square for real, during the late 1950s, at the Chateau Crillon Apartments (222 S. 19th St., Philadelphia, PA). Also, according to a 1979 interview, Stallone actually stayed at the Barclay Hotel in between filming of Rocky II and Rocky III.
Italian Market

5) Italian Market

The South 9th Street Curb Market, popularly known as the Italian Market, is an outdoor market in South Philadelphia. The traditional rowhouses lining the street feature bright colorful metal awnings covering the sidewalks. On the ground floors you will find multiple outlets selling groceries, as well as cafes, restaurants, and bakeries. The owners, mostly ethnic Italians, originally lived right above; many of them still do.

Over the years, as the city has gentrified, so has the Italian Market. Outdoor seating at cozy cafes, upscale gift stores and gourmet shops are thriving among the market's traditional produce vendors, specialty butchers and cheese mongers.

The market also plays a role in the culture of Philadelphia, especially after having been featured in Rocky and Rocky II movies, most notably in the running/training montage. As Rocky runs through the market, the stall keepers and people on the sidewalks can clearly be seen looking at him in bemusement. While this works in the context of the film to suggest they're looking at Rocky, in reality, they had no idea why this man was running up and down the road being filmed from a van. The famous shot where the stall owner tosses Rocky an orange was completely improvised by the vendor, who had no idea that a movie was being made and that he would be in it.

In 2006 Rocky Balboa film, the boxer is also seen shopping at the Italian Market for his restaurant, Adrian’s.

The market is open year-round, generally from 9 am to 5 pm, though outdoor stands and cafes often open earlier, and restaurants serve patrons late into the evening. Many businesses are open until lunchtime on Sunday, and closed Monday.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Pat's King of Steaks

6) Pat's King of Steaks

Pat's King of Steaks (also known as Pat's Steaks) is a Philadelphia restaurant specializing in cheesesteaks. This is the original shop founded in 1930 by brothers Pasquale ("Pat") and Harry Olivieri, who are credited with the creation of the cheesesteak. Harry's grandson, Frank, now owns the joint.

According to the family story, one day, the brothers, who had previously sold hot dogs, decided to try something different for lunch. Pat sent Harry to the market to get some inexpensive steak, which they thinly sliced and then grilled along with some chopped onions. The aroma attracted a regular customer, cabdriver, who asked to try the novelty. The brothers called it a steak sandwich, which would later evolve into the modern cheesesteak.

As of 1976, this Philly staple has been ever so popular with the hungry fans of Rocky Balboa. In the movie, this lively spot is where Tony Gazzo brings Rocky to grab a bite to eat. Decades on, Pat’s is still going strong and even has a memorial plaque fixed on the cement advising that “On this spot stood Sylvester Stallone filming the great motion picture Rocky. Nov. 21, 1975”.

Note the proper ordering sequence: after asking for a variety you want – the available varieties include Cheez Whiz, provolone, or American cheese, as well as plain (no cheese) – say "wit" or "wit-out" (i.e. 'with' or 'without' onions), a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Philadelphia accent.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Adrian's Restaurant (Victor Cafe)

7) Adrian's Restaurant (Victor Cafe)

Set in a quiet residential neighborhood near the intersection of Dickinson and 13th Streets in Philadelphia is the charming Italian eatery, depicted in Rocky Balboa as Adrian’s Restaurant. In reality, the place is called Victor Cafe. As you stand facing the front, walk to the left and around the corner, and then down a few steps to see the back of the restaurant featured in the movie.

Contrary to its cinematographic counterpart (Adrian’s Restaurant, according to its signage and menu, was set up in 1995), the prototype venue operates since 1918. Inside, the restaurant appears just as intimate as it does in the film, save the boxing themed walls, which in real life are decorated with the impressive collection of operatic recordings, photographs and other music and opera memorabilia.

Chosen by the Rocky Balboa production in 2005, Victor Cafe had both its façade and interior specifically outfitted to appear as Rocky Balboa’s property. Named after his wife Adrian, the restaurant had pictures of her hung on the walls, alongside photos of Rocky’s boxing career highlights as well as some real-life fixtures from Victor Cafe. Victor's owner Greg DiStefano said Stallone liked the vibe of the place so much that he decided to incorporate more of the Cafe’s décor into Rocky’s fictional restaurant than was planned originally.

The concept for Rocky's owning a restaurant was based on real-life boxing legend, Jack Dempsey, who opened a restaurant in Manhattan, New York in the 1930s. It is also due to this connection that Rocky is seen wearing a navy blue shirt with the large white DEMPSEY print across the chest beneath his wine-colored sport coat when he works at Adrian’s.

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