Culture + Style

When Travel Imitates Art: Spots Where Philadelphia Inspired Pop Culture

“Rocky” made The Philadelphia Art Museum one of the top pop culture places to visit in Philadelphia. (Photo: Getty Images)

The City of Brotherly Love has long played muse to artists of all kinds, and Philadelphia’s people and places have earned a permanent position in pop culture. Although the Main Line mansion of Katherine Hepburn’s character in the “The Philadelphia Story” was built on Hollywood’s MGM studio stages, there are real Philadelphia sites where you can walk (or jog) in the footsteps of iconic characters from page and screen.

Be a Contender

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has masterpieces by Michelangelo and Rubens and modern stars such as Cy Twombley. But a surprising number of visitors never make it through the front doors; they just jog up the 72 front steps and jab their fists in the air victoriously like Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky.” In fact, this re-enactment is one of the most popular things to do in Philadelphia. Whether you’re up for the stair challenge or not, have your photo taken with the two-ton bronze Rocky, located to the northeast of the steps.

The details: Keep your Rocky vibe going with a trip to the Italian Market and lunch at the uber-popular Paesano’s where the sandwiches are as big as your head.

Go Poe

Edgar Allan Poe is considered the father of the horror story. For six years, he called Philadelphia home and it’s here that he wrote his best work (sorry Baltimore). Visit the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site to learn more about his life in the nearly empty home where he wrote “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” At his Philadelphia residence, you can listen to these stories narrated by Steve Buscemi (among others) and take a selfie with the raven statue outside.

The details: The eight-minute film on Poe’s life is worth a watch.

Do Some Hard Time

Poe not creepy enough for you? Take a tour of The Eastern State Penitentiary, the place that served as the mental institution in the Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt film, “12 Monkeys,” and the hideout for Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox’s characters in “Transformers 2. Built in 1829, this prison was known for its Gothic architecture and Quaker reform ideals.

The details: Let the 35-minute free audio tour bring the prison’s stories to life and you’ll see why its 1971 closure was well past its peak.

Feast Famously

They don’t call it the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen for nothing. This Philly classic, think pastrami and brisket, has been featured in films including “In Her Shoes” (based on the book of the same name), “Jersey Girl” and “Philadelphia.” It’s been open since 1927 and, in addition to being cinematically celebrated, it’s on the circuit for campaigning politicians.

The details: Starting at $18, the sandwiches aren’t cheap, but they’re big enough for a few people to share and come with several sides.

Wander the Main Line

The Main Line is the name for where the affluent Philadelphia settled in the nineteenth century; it was accessible by the “main” train line. These charming communities include Rosemont, the model for the fictional town of Rosewood, in the “Pretty Little Liars” series of young adult books, now a popular TV show. A driving tour showcases the city’s rich past.

The details: On your Main Line tour, stop at the farmer’s market in the town of Ardmore Tuesday-Sunday for a snack of local artisanal cheeses and bread worthy of the sophisticated “PLL” girls.