Love Jones. Need I say more? One of my favorite movies of all time follows the journey of Darius Lovehall (Larenz Tate) and Nina Mosley (Nia Long), who play a hip, beautiful couple living in Chicago, struggling through the peaks and valleys of a pre-social media romance. Both characters are complex in their own way, yet they share deep-rooted similarities: love for the arts and poetry, and a palpable passion for each other, all told against the gritty and beautiful backdrop of the Windy City.
Chicago is the unofficial main character of Love Jones, as Nina and Darius tour the entire city carrying on conversations, romance and drama all over Grant Park. After the first time I saw the film, I was hell-bent on going to Chi-Town and visiting all the places they went, trying to replay the feelings that resonated. It’s a bit like wanting to go to Austria after seeing The Sound of Music in clothes made of old drapes. Regardless of my motivation, I wanted to go relive Love Jonesland and all the complexities it so aptly mirrored in the characters’ romance.
So one Saturday night, after watching that movie for the millionth time and polishing off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet Cake ice cream, I logged into my computer and booked a ticket. I spent three days walking, photographing and recalling all the moments in the movie that made me want to be successful, beautiful and in love in Chicago. I stopped in all the spots where big things happened, envisioning what writer-director Theodore Witcher had in mind for our modern day Romeo and Juliet.
The Spoken Word Lounge, 1200 W 35th St., Chicago, IL 60609
The Sanctuary is a cool-cat nightclub where the hottest poets in town share their spoken words and deep thoughts. The smoked-filled room makes for the perfect introduction into the poetic mind of Darius Lovehall as he shares with the audience his “Blues for Nina.” Unfortunately, the Sanctuary is just an illusion and doesn’t actually exist. But there’s a huge spoken-word scene in Chicago.
The Wild Hare
2610 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60614
Darius and Nina’s first date went down here. The Wild Hare is a Caribbean-inspired bar lounge located in the Lincoln Park section of Chicago. It’s particularly popular because of the live music that starts every night at 9PM. There’s a diverse crowd, from athletes wanting to enjoy an ice-cold Red Stripe to lovers conversing in the dimly lit corners of the venue. The walls are adorned with bright yellow, green and red hues and flags hanging from the ceiling. You can’t go wrong with the jerk chicken platter and a side of Jamaican beef patties. The Wild Hare’s mouthwatering menu is only enhanced by the sweet sounds of Bob Marley blasting through the speakers.
The Buckingham Fountain
301 S. Columbus Dr., Chicago, IL 60605
The lighting of the Buckingham Fountain is perfect for a romantic smooch. The fountain spouts everyday from 8AM-11PM, but contrary to popular belief, it’s not named after the palace in London.
Myopic Books 1564 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60622
The scene of the crime… Darius is caught with another woman amongst the books here at one of Chicago’s oldest and largest used bookstores in the heart of Wicker Park. Definitely not a high point in the movie, but dramatic!
Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP)
600 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60605
While the location isn’t featured in the movie, the essence of photography is peppered throughout, which makes MoCP well worth a visit. Although the museum change exhibits about five times a year, the current exhibition, Dandy Lion: (Re) Articulating Black Masculine Identity, is a must see. The photographs in this exhibit are reminiscent to Nina’s work (if she really existed).
Chicago Stepping Class
Darius and Nina showed off their chemistry while on the dance floor. If you’ve never heard of stepping or you’re just intrigued by the art, consider taking a beginners steppers class while in Chicago. Classes are $10-$15, but you won’t be disappointed.
Black Stone Hotel
636 South Michigan Ave. (lobby entrance on East Balbo Avenue), Chicago, IL 60605
The Black Stone Hotel has definitely been upgraded since the filming of the movie but still has its original charm. Go for a drink at the bar and see if you can snag a peak into the very room where the Annual Steppers Ball took place.
Chill along the shores of Lake Michigan
63rd Street Beach 6300 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, Illinois 60649
“You only get one true love… two tops.” Lake Shore Drive is the perfect spot to take in Chicago. Take a walk, think about the one that got away and how to get them back.