The Rocky Steps and 9 Other Pop Pilgrimages
There are countless places across the country where you can visit a building, park or other landmark that was featured in film, a song or somewhere else in pop culture. And then there are some places that become so intertwined with the film, painting or song that people feel the need to re-enact the source material. Here are some favorite pop culture pilgrimages.
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1. The Rocky Steps.
By far the most famous pilgrimage. In fact you could define the entire genre by this simple act, replayed over and over and over again every day by visitors from around the world– following in the footsteps of Rocky Balboa by running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and holding your arms up at the top in celebration.
How to do it: Visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art, have a big breakfast and go!
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2. Ferris Bueller’s Trip to Art Museum
People try to re-enact many of the events from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but none more than the visit to the Chicago Art Institute. Standing in a line watching Sunday in the Park with George, holding hands and walking through the museum like children, and getting deep in thought looking at paintings– it’s all part of the experience.
How to do it: Go to the Chicago Art Institute at 111 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, and find Sunday in the Park with George. We recommend not bothering children’s school groups, but feel free to form your own Ferris chain with your friends.
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3. Field of Dreams, Go the Distance
If you build it they will come. And they do. And they walk into the cornfield. Mostly they like to sit on the bleachers. And sometimes they play ball. The field of dreams is real, and it’s located in Iowa.
How to do it: Visit the field of dreams at 28995 Lansing Road in Dyersville Iowa. Admission is free and they are open from April 1st through November30th from 9am to 6pm every day.
Can’t make it to Iowa? Check out this aerial view without leaving home.
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4. Walking Abbey Road
It’s the album equivalent of the Rocky Steps– the most imitated image in music history. Abbey Road is the only tourist attraction where people show up just to cross the street. It’s just outside EMI Studios and anyone can go, as long s you can get there. Can’t make the pilgrimage yourself?
How to do it: Fly over to England, and head to 3 Abbey Road, St Johns Wood, London England. Make sure you wave at the webcame after you cross.
Just pop on the Abbey Road webcam and have a toast every time someone recreates the legendary walk across the street.
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5. Falling Down the Exorcist Steps
The Exorcist is one of the most terrifying horror films ever made, and the climax of the film occurs when one of the main characters hurls himself to his death and tumbles down the steep, foreboding stone stairs. Karras, the priest who is determined to save young Regan, is given his last rites and dies at the bottom of the 97 steps. And you can visit this cheerful spot, as many have, and recreate that fatal tumble yourself in photographs.
How to do it: Visit the intersection of 36th Street NW between Prospect Street and M Street in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C.
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6. Standing on a Corner in Winslow Arizona
If you’re wondering why Winslow Arizona sounds so familiar, just start humming. The pop song, Take it Easy, written by Glen Frey and Jackson Browne and made famous by the Eagles starts off there– standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona. It’s a lesser known pop culture icon, but that just makes us want to go there even more. Thousands of people head there every year and have their picture taken on the corner, and there’s even a festival that’s already in it’s fourteenth year. But if you head there, you’ll find a statue and a mural featuring flat bed Ford, of course.
How to do it: Take Interstate 40 into downtown Winslow and head for the intersection of Kinsey Avenue and Second Street.
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7. Hanging at the Quick Stop
Fans of Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob and Kevin Smith can’t resist the urge to visit the actual Quick Stop, located in Leonardo, New Jersey. Some pilgrims to the sacred spot are content to just stand outside, put their leg up on the wall, maybe have a smoke. Others feel the need to sing, dance, or re-enact full scenes from the movie.
How to do it: Visit 58 Leonard Avenue (between Vanderbilt and Viola) in Leonardo, NJ right off Route 36 near Sandy Hook.
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8. Be an American Gothic
You remember that famous painting– American Gothic by Grant Wood. You should. It’s one of the most famous and most imitated paintings in American culture. The unforgettable couple in the photo are a scary older man who happens to be holding a pitchfork and a rather stern looking woman by his side. The inspiration for the painting was a very real house (called the Dibble House, named for its original owners) that happens to be still standing in Iowa. Not only can you visit the house, you can rent costumes to dress like the painting’s subjects and pose in front of it.
How to do it: Visit 300 American Gothic Street in Eldon, Iowa. Admission is free and they even provide the clothes for you. Eldon is located on Hwy 16 six miles south of Hwy 34 between Ottumwa and Fairfield, Iowa. Once in town, continue south through town to 2nd St, then follow the brown signs to the American Gothic House. Visit the official website online.
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9. The Opening of Louis CK’s Louie
The only television pop culture pilgrimage on our list is also the newest. Even though Louie has only been on FX since 2010, you can still find people anxious to recreate the entire opening credits scene. Maybe not as many people as the Rocky steps…yet…but here are a few dedicated fans who not only re-enacted the scene, but filmed it and added their own personalized credits.
Watch the original below.
How to do it: Start out by exiting the West 4th Street subway station, right outside the IFC Center theater on 323 6th Avenue near Bleecker Street. Head over to Ben’s Pizzaria at 123 MacDougal Street (at the corner of West 3rd), have a slice and then walk to the Comedy Cellar at 117 MacDougal Street, all in New York, NY.
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10. Nixon’s Famous Departure
It’s not really a “pop” pilgrimage, but we kept it on the list because it’s such a cartoonish re-creation that it felt like pop to us. If you visit the official Richard M. Nixon presidential library in Yorba Linda California, you can walk around Army One, which was the Presidential helicopter during the time Nixon was in office. Among other trips, the helicopter is particular famous for being the scene of the Nixon’s departure from the White House on August 9, 1974. On that day, President Nixon resigned and flew in the helicopter from the South Lawn of the White House to Andrews Air Force Base, but not before posing for one final photo- with his arms raised and fingers up.
Now, recreating that famous image has become a pop pilgrimage all its own.
How to do it: Visit the Nixon Library at 18001 Yorba Linda Boulevard in Yorba Linda, California. For more information visit the website here.
Other Pop Pilgrimages: Not every pop pilgrimage becomes a photo archive, but still worth a mention:
- running across The Stand By Me Train Bridge in Burney California,
- re-creating the Rudy moment when entering the Notre Dame stadium “This is the most beautiful thing my eyes have ever seen.”
- walk on the “doosy” pothole from Groundhog Day in Woodstock, Illinois
- sit on the Forrest Gump bench (although there are disputes about whether this is actually possible