Wendella Chicago boat tours resume, Harry Caray's reopens after shutdown during pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Wendella boat tours are back in business Friday in another promising sign as COVID restrictions are eased around Chicago.

The popular boat tour is already drawing a crowd of tourists.

"The city is opening up again. It's a sense of normalcy back on the boat," said Wendella Tour Guide Jack Palumbo.

The beloved Chicago tradition of dyeing the river green will not take place this year, but that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy time on the river.

With precautions in place, Wendella is officially kicking off their 87th season on the water.

"Our operations are really focusing on our COVID mitigation strategy making sure we give our customers a great experience, showing them Chicago but also keeping them safe and giving them peace of mind them and their family are safe are riding with us," said Andrew Sargis, chief of operations for Wendella.

On board, guests will see several protocols in place, including plastic guards at the bar, hand sanitizers, spaced-out seating and the crew disinfects the entire vessel after every trip.

"Everyone can be on the open-air upper deck, and obviously we know being outside is much safer than indoors... and it makes for a really safe, pandemic-friendly kind of attraction," Sargis said.

One hundred guests will be able to board each time. That's about a third of how many they can usually allow. You will have to wear a mask, get a temperature check and stay spaced apart, and only families sit together.

They're easy rules to follow for the Ancheta family. Mom and dad are both nurses at Bryan Medical center in Nebraska and have already been vaccinated. When they realized the tour boat season would open Friday they decided to stick around a little longer.

"We're excited, we extended our reservations because of this because you're just opening now," Christer Ancheta said.

The architecture tours are one of the city's most popular tourist attractions, and sellout crowds are a good indication that tourism is on the way back in Chicago.

"Chicago's awesome. We come here every year. It never gets boring," said Raul Ortega, who is visiting from Colorado.

While restaurants and bars along Chicago's Riverwalk have not opened yet, some people are enjoying the unusually nice day along the water, and there is even some foot traffic on Michigan Avenue.

It's also opening day at Harry Caray's flagship downtown location. After being closed for nearly five months, they are getting ready to serve customers again just in time for St. Patrick's Day weekend.

Harry liked to drink. So we wanted to be open St. Patrick's day weekend and we'll keep it going til Wednesday," said manager Jeff Thomas.

All signs of a city slowly coming back to life after a year of shutdown from the pandemic.

You can catch a boat tour every hour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with docks at 400 N. Michigan Ave and at Rush and Kinzie streets.

Tickets can be bought online, on the phone and at the on-site ticket office. For more information, visit wendellaboats.com.
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