Get your fill in Philly
John Huxley discovers Rocky film locations and fascinating museums in this historic city.
INCE its foundation more than three centuries ago, Philadelphia has been called many things: “the city of brotherly love”, “the cradle of liberty” and “the birthplace of America”.
But this hot, humid Sunday morning, a quick check of visitor queues, selfieshot backdrops and souvenir stores suggests the city’s main attraction is a fictional movie star – boxer Rocky Balboa.
A larger-than-life, bronze statue of the heavyweight, played through six gory films by Sylvester Stallone, stands on the steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, arms outstretched in celebration.
“Running up the steps, striking the pose, getting the money-shot, has become a rite of passage for every visitor to ‘Philly’,” our guide says. “But be prepared to wait in line.”
The statue is one stop on a walking tour which explores the city the boxer called home.
We also see the Italian market he ran through and Pat’s King of Steaks, where he stopped for “Philly” cheesesteak, a local speciality. We see Penn’s Landing, where he jogged, and the zoo where he proposed to girlfriend Adrian.
Fortunately, for those wanting to learn more about the city, its real people and their role in history, there is an escape – the bench hurdled by Rocky in Independence National History Park.
As anyone who has visited its civil war battlegrounds will attest, no city in the world does history better than the Americans.
The park visitor centre has mobile apps, guided tours, explanatory and exploratory movies and plenty of beautiful brochures – all free. The nearby Liberty Bell Centre tells the story of the cracked icon that symbolises freedom.
But the highlight is a free, guided visit to Independence Hall, the former Pennsylvania state house. It was here that the Declaration of Independence was drawn-up and in 1776 adopted, as America severed ties with Great Britain.
In the original hall, our guide Larry McClenney who, despite his Scottish-sounding name, is a tall, erudite, black man from