Chicago beaches officially open on Friday, May 29, Memorial Day weekend. While sitting on the sand is fine, red flags are flying along the lakefront, warning beach goers that lifeguards are not on duty this weekend.
"The red flags are an indication that people should not be in the water," warned Alonzo Williams of the Chicago Park District. "As I look out on the beach right now, I do see people on the beach, and there are a couple of people in the water, so that's huge when you are talking about public safety."
The Chicago Park District is asking beach visitors to wear masks when they are not swimming, Williams said. They also want people to social distance, wash their hands, and stay home if they are sick.
With the warm weather and weekend forecast, beach goers are already flocking to the waterfront.
"I'm glad we get to come back with our friends and stuff because last year was kind of taken away from us," said Xavier Martinez, a Triton College student. " So it's cool, we used to go to the beach a lot and just hangout and stuff. I'm excited. It's like a Summer, finally."
While the water remains off-limits, other Chicago attractions, like the Chicago Architecture Center and Buckingham Fountain, are ready to fire up again and welcome back visitors.
The Chicago Architecture Center, which has been closed since the end of last summer, opens Saturday. The galleries offer new and updated exhibits, including models made by architects from around the world.
"It's so exciting to get the opportunity to welcome people back," said Deb Rodak, Director of Sales at the Chicago Architecture Center. "It's uplifting for us, we hope it's uplifting for them. We hope they can use our center as the center of their exploration of Chicago."
In Grant Park, Buckingham Fountain will flow again Saturday afternoon. A virtual celebration is scheduled for 2 p.m. The "Switch on Summer" event will be live streamed on ComEd's Facebook page.
"I am thrilled that we are finally able to bring this exciting event back in a way that is not only safe, but supportive of our ongoing reopening initiatives," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who will be part of the event.
So what does all of this mean? Angelia Lewis, a Wisconsin visitor at Buckingham Fountain, summed it up Friday.
"After being shut down for so long, it's almost like a volcano erupting after a long time," Lewis said. "That's kind of like how we are.....we've been under pressure in this pandemic, and we're ready to erupt. I think the fountain symbolizes all of us in a way."
The warm weather and loosened restrictions pulled Chicagoans out of their homes and into the streets. On the North Side, the city's al fresco dining plan is a lifeline for local restaurants.
"This is amazing," said Sarah Eddy, who was dining. "I am a huge fan of the closed streets, I hope this continues for summers in the future."
Visitors are also returning to the Windy City.
"A lot more masks and restrictions here, but I'm enjoying it," said Lance Wagner, who is visiting from Dallas. "Beautiful weather."