CATEGORIES On the Scene

If you've ever been to Philadelphia, you've probably asked someone -- between bites of a Philly cheesesteak -- "Where are those steps that Rocky runs up?"

It's one of the most iconic images in movies: Rocky Balboa trudging up the 72 stone steps leading to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, his arms raised to the heavens as he reaches the top, while the epic song 'Gonna Fly Now' plays. The scene epitomizes the blue-collar sentiment of the city and defined the southpaw brawler from Kensington that catapulted Sylvester Stallone to stardom.
If you've ever been to Philadelphia, you've probably asked someone -- between bites of a Philly cheesesteak -- "Where are those steps that Rocky runs up?"

It's one of the most iconic images in movies: Rocky Balboa trudging up the 72 stone steps leading to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, his arms raised to the heavens as he reaches the top, while the epic song 'Gonna Fly Now' plays. The scene epitomizes the blue-collar sentiment of the city and defined the southpaw brawler from Kensington that catapulted Sylvester Stallone to stardom.

Written by Stallone, 'Rocky' was released in 1976 and was as much an underdog as its title character, who was given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fight the world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Made on a modest budget with a then-unknown Stallone as the lead, 'Rocky' was a surprise hit, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1976. It also won three Oscars, including Best Picture, and spawned five sequels. (You can decide which ones were warranted.)

Location as Character: The "Rocky Steps," as most people like to call it, have had different meanings whenever they've been highlighted in the franchise. In 'Rocky' and 'Rocky II,' they symbolize Rocky's dedication and drive, but also his connection to the city. In 'Rocky III,' when a statue of Rocky is revealed atop the steps, the now-champion sees the steps as a moment in his life in which things were simpler. And when his longtime trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) dies, Rocky lets his frustrations show on the steps when he hurls his motorcycle helmet at the statue. In 'Rocky V,' Rocky takes young fighter Tommy Gunn (real boxer Tommy Morrison) under his wing, and while training, the teacher shows his age as the student beats him up the steps. Finally, in 'Rocky Balboa,' Rocky shows he's still got it as he takes on the steps -- this time, with his dog Punchy.

Historical Significance:
Named number 13 on E!'s 101 Most Awesome Moments in Entertainment, the Rocky Steps is one of the most popular tourist sites in the City of Brotherly Love. Along with regular Joes taking their own jog up the steps (in fact, two Philadelphia Inquirer journalists spent a year interviewing people who ran up the steps for their book 'Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America's Most Famous Steps'), Allen Iverson has gone up them while dribbling a basketball for a Reebok commercial back when he played for the Philadelphia 76ers; and the giant monthly bike ride, Critical Mass, usually ends with the riders hoisting their bikes and running up the steps. Then there are the countless TV and movie parodies through the decades, ranging from 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' to Eddie Murphy's version of 'The Nutty Professor.'

Rocky Statue:
Commissioned by Stallone in 1982 for 'Rocky III,' a bronze, 10-foot-tall statue of Rocky was placed at the top of the steps. Soon after filming, a discussion in the Philly art world began over whether the statue was really "art," which led to it being moved to the Philadelphia Spectrum (now know as the Wachovia Spectrum). The statue would return atop the museum steps throughout the next 10 years for cameos in 'Mannequin' (1987), 'Rocky V' (1990) and 'Philadelphia' (1993), but it finally was brought back to the museum for good in 2006, before the release of 'Rocky Balboa.' It now stands near the foot of the steps to the right of the museum.

Directions: The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located at 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. From the New Jersey Turnpike, take exit 4 (Route 73), go 1 mile on Route 73 north and take the exit for Route 38 west. Take Route 38 west to Route 30 west and follow signs for the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. After crossing the bridge, follow the signs for I-676 west. Take Benjamin Franklin Parkway exit (22nd St., Museum area) on the right side. At the end of the exit ramp, turn right onto 22nd St. and get into the far left lane. The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is a boulevard with two outer lanes and two inner lanes. Turn left onto the outer lanes of the parkway. The Museum will be in front of you on the hill.

From I-95 north, exit onto I-676 west then follow directions above.

Visitor Info: You can go anytime. But to get the full experience -- wake up at 4AM, gulp down five raw eggs, wear a ratty grey sweat suit and have 'Gonna Fly Now' playing on your iPod.