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Inspiration Is Around Every Corner in Philadelphia and Valley Forge

Philadelphia Skyline

In 1975, Sylvester Stallone, then a struggling 29-year-old actor, watched underdog boxer Chuck Wepner’s title fight knock down of Muhammad Ali. Inspired, he scripted the story of fictional underdog boxer Rocky Balboa in three-plus days.

Sylvester Stallone Rocky Photo Credit R.Rabena for Visit Philadelphia
Sylvester Stallone Rocky
Photo Credit R.Rabena for Visit Philadelphia

Hollywood loved his screenplay but not him in the role; Stallone insisted and changed his life forever. 
Filmed in 28 days, Rocky, released in 1976, won three Oscars, including Best Picture. Nearly 50 years later, the cultural phenomenon that launched five sequels and spin-off Creed franchise remains a magnetic global brand image for Philadelphia. 

To this day, visitors run up the 72 “Rocky Steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, recreating the finale of Balboa’s rousing training montages from Rocky and Rocky II. The steps and adjacent Rocky Statue attract an estimated four million tourists annually as one of Philadelphia’s top attractions.

In 2023, Philadelphia inaugurated December 3 as “Rocky Day” in honor of Stallone. 

Staged by the steps of the newly renovated, group-capable museum, the event also served as the grand opening of the adjacent Rocky Shop, selling licensed merchandise designed by Stallone. 

“Standing at the top of these steps you’re reminded that all things are possible,” Stallone told the huge crowd in attendance. “When you’re up there, you feel like you could be the champion of your dreams.”

Encouraging fans to “keep punching,” Stallone’s heartfelt sentiment aptly describes the opportunities for group success in the city that birthed a nation nearly 250 years ago.

Rocky Steps, Sunrise
Rocky Steps, Sunrise Photo Credit Kyle Huff for PHLCVB

Philadelphia Goes the Distance on Major Events

Just as Stallone trained six hours a day for five months before filming the original Rocky, Philadelphia is going all out on a multi-year run of headline sports and other event bookings.

“Philadelphia’s determination and tenacity has been inspiring for generations, igniting the foundation of a new and independent nation and giving birth to the now iconic success story of Rocky Balboa,” said Philadelphia CVB President & CEO Gregg Caren. “The city has a vibrant spirit that’s hard for visitors to miss. There’s no better backdrop to motivate groups of all kinds, drive connections and spark innovation than the city that started it all, Philadelphia.”

Bringing It Home Super Bowl Mural
Bringing It Home Super Bowl Mural.
Photo Credit Jeff Heilman

Philadelphia has long been associated with sports and its fervent local fanbase. Alongside PHL Life Sciences and PHL Diversity, PHL Sports forms part of the bureau’s pioneering convention sales and business development strategy focused on key verticals.

Chaired by Philadelphia Eagles president Don Smolenski, the division’s advisory board comprises leaders from across the local sports and hospitality spectrum.

Responsible for attracting large domestic and international sporting events to Philadelphia, PHL Sports’ current hot streak includes five National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships between 2023 and 2026. Along with the 2022 Men’s Basketball East Regional, these events were forecast to bring over 128,500 unique attendees to Philadelphia generating 76,000-plus regional room nights.

[Related: Meet Mike Kunda: Philadelphia’s Ambassador to Rockyland]

“Events must also resonate with our passionate, loyal sports fans,” said PHL Sports Executive Director Larry Needle. “They are part of Philadelphia’s mythology as one of the world’s great sports cities, along with the image created and maintained by Hollywood’s Rocky and Creed franchises.”

The action and ROI are year-round. In 2022, the Philadelphia Phillies’ World Series run produced 35,000 room nights and $78 million in economic impact. Returning to the playoffs in 2023, the team led the league in attendance with a gain of nearly 10,000 fans per game. Philadelphia’s 90th hosting of the Army-Navy Game in 2022 was a city-wide sellout, bringing in 50,000 visitors. The college football classic returns in 2027.

Lincoln Financial Field, the event-capable 69,696-seat home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, hosted three matches of last year’s inaugural English Premier League Summer Series, along with a friendly match between Germany and Mexico.

Mexico vs. Germany at Lincoln Financial Field
Mexico vs. Germany at Lincoln Financial Field Photo Credit Daniel Knoll

This year’s packed schedule includes the week-long WrestleMania 40 celebration in April, culminating in the two-day main event at Lincoln Financial Field. 

Like Rocky jumping for joy atop the museum steps, these and other events peak in 2026 with an event year like no other. Along with the NCAA Men’s Basketball first and second rounds, MLB All-Star Game, and PGA Championship, the eyes of the world will be on Philadelphia as FIFA Men’s World Cup soccer comes to town for the first time. 

Philadelphia will also be center stage on July 4, 2026 as America celebrates the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The debate, adoption and signing of this revolutionary document, along with the U.S. Constitution, took place in the city’s Pennsylvania State House, known today as Independence Hall. 

This banner year kicks off in January 2026 with the return, after two decades, of PCMA Convening Leaders. Founded in Philadelphia in 1956 as the Professional Convention Management Association, PCMA, the world’s largest community for meetings and events planners, marks its 70th anniversary with an anticipated 4,300 attendees and $8.6 million in economic impact.

“We couldn’t be more excited to launch America’s Semiquincentennial in 2026 than by hosting PCMA Convening Leaders in the city that founded our nation,” Caren stated in a release. “Two hundred and fifty years after America’s first convention, we will again convene with the brightest minds in the business events industry to spark innovation and growth opportunities.”

Philadelphia is also on pace to host its most citywides in two decades, with a projected million-plus conventioneers in 2026. 

[Related: PCMA Convening Leaders 2024 Sets Attendance Record; New Programs Launched]

Valley Forge Provides a Powerful Sense of Place

Valley Forge National Historical Park
Valley Forge National Historical Park. Photo Credit: VFTCB

On December 19, 1777, General George Washington and 12,000 Continental Army soldiers marched into Valley Forge after an epic year-long campaign against the British, then occupying nearby Philadelphia. Joined by 400 women and children, the battle-wearied troops set to constructing an encampment to rest and recharge. Comprised of 1,500 log huts and two miles of fortifications, it became the fourth largest city in the colonies at the time. 

In June 1778, inspired by Washington’s resilience, retrained by former Prussian officer Baron von Steuben, and with improved tactics and supply systems, the unified force resumed the fight and won American independence five years later.

Valley Forge National Historical Park Archway
Valley Forge National Historical Park Archway. Photo Credit VFTCB

Today, tour-capable Valley Forge National Historical Park is an enduring national touchstone that resonates throughout Valley Forge and surrounding Montgomery County. 

“Leadership is deeply rooted in the history of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania,” said Scott Higgins, director of sales for the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board. “We are a destination that inspires groups to come together, recharge and emerge as a unified organization.”

Dating to 1730, the full-service Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center is another local landmark rooted in history. Representing the ninth-largest conference facility in the Greater Philadelphia area, the 141-room property offers 30,000-plus square feet of IACC-certified space in 17 meeting rooms and two ballrooms. Amenities include the Farmer’s Daughter restaurant plus culinary, equine and other renowned teambuilding programs.

The recently opened 127-room Hotel West & Main Conshohocken Philadelphia, a Tapestry by Hilton property offers 6,276 square feet of space in five rooms. Other group bases include Alloy King of Prussia, a DoubleTree by Hilton, and Valley Forge Casino Resort. Unique offsites include the romantic Glencairn Museum and rustic John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, the circa-1762 first home of the famed naturalist and illustrator.


Discover Philadelphia

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About the author
Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.