Although it did not feel like beach weather Friday, Chicago's 22 beaches officially opened after being closed for more than a year.
Swimming will be allowed from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with lifeguards on duty, unless the weather gets dangerous. Beaches will remain open until Labor Day.
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All traditional beach amenities will be available except for drinking fountains, which remain off-limits.
Also starting Friday, Navy Pier is extending hours and fully reopening to the public.
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Maggie Daley Park will fully reopen Friday as well, along with all of its signature attractions, including the climbing wall, mini golf area and the play garden. Visitors can even rent rollerblades and scooters to enjoy the space.
And Chicago's water taxi service will also resume Friday along the Chicago River.
The city is loosening more restrictions every day, and just in time for tourists and others to enjoy the holiday weekend.
As travel picks up, many are choosing Chicago for their weekend getaway. Downtown hotels are booked and busy. Room rates are up about 50 percent compared to last year.
"It is shaping up to be one of the busiest weeks of the year so far, and really, since the pandemic," said Michael Jacobson, president and CEO, Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association. "We are seeing more bookings."
A beach hazard statement is in effect Friday for high wind and waves, but that didn't stop James Sullivan from surfing. He does admit the conditions are not to be taken lightly.
"This is a little too choppy right now," he said. "I prefer to be a little cleaner, I just like, uh, kind of like the free motion of being on the waves."
Chicago police and park district officials even closed off part of the trail along the water Friday morning because of the waves crashing on the path, from Ohio to Oak Street.
Laura Bodien braved the weather to run, although she initially wanted to go back inside.
"I have my trusty running partner, and he said, 'no, let's go!'" she said.
Even winter runners had to bundle up.
"I run all year long, so you know it's a lot more difficult to run when it's below zero," Greg Amoroso said.
But he agreed Friday didn't feel all that far off.