Chicago outdoor dining, outdoor attractions return with warm weather

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Who's ready to have some outdoor fun with temperatures warming up the next few days? Anyone? If so, you're not alone.

To get started, you may want to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is back open after a voluntarily closure since Jan. 4. The zoo is now open seven days a week from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Reservations are required, and it's free.

"It's been a great day in the sun at the zoo, seeing all our favorite animals, and finally having a fun activity to do instead of being indoors. We love it!" exclaimed Paige Flory, a zoo visitor and nanny holding a 2-year-old girl.

The zoo is operating at 25% capacity, said Director of Guest Services Chris Jorgensen. Protocols are in place, especially for indoor exhibits. They ask that all visitors follow the rules.

"Be sure to bring facial coverings, be aware of social separation, and enjoy your time at the zoo," Jorgensen said.

Once you reserve a spot online, you will receive an email. Two entrances, one on the east side of the zoo, the other on the west side, are now open. Once you get there, you must have your confirmation email with the bar code so staff members can scan your reservation.

"I think the zoo has done a really great job. Everyone is masked up. They have volunteers timing people going indoors," said Stacy Ackley, a Winnetka resident who was visiting with her two children. "So I think the planning piece helps put us at ease. The weather helps too."

Ah, yes, the weather. The sunshine has rooftops, like Raised Bar, ready to go with wonderful food, fun cocktails, and capacity limits. But you might want to call now and make a reservation.

"Friday, Saturday, we're booking about 10 days in advance. So for people looking to come in, I would definitely plan ahead," said Emmanuel Hunter, bar general manager.

"People are excited to get back out and enjoy themselves," Hunter said. "People want to get around their friends again, and life as we know it pre-2020."

Venues across the city, whether that a rooftop or a sidewalk patio, are getting ready.

In Lakeview, they're taking down the winter tent at Cafe El Tapitio, and cleaning off the sidewalk. They're ready to open the patio, especially with the forecast hitting temperatures in the 40s, 50s, even 60s.

"As soon as the sun comes out everyone wants to drink margaritas, and we got plenty of those," said Mauricio Parra, owner of Cafe El Tapitio, a family-owned neighborhood staple since 1974.

"We're just getting ready for the sunny weather, " Parra said. "The great weather that Chicago is known for- not! But we got that optimism, and I think people are more than ready to go out and enjoy themselves."
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