New Year's Eve 2021: Downtown Chicago fireworks to go on tonight despite COVID-19 surge

Navy Pier will also host fireworks show at midnight

ByDiane Pathieu, Tre Ward, and Maher Kawash WLS logo
Saturday, January 1, 2022
Chicago ready to welcome 2022 amid COVID surge
Chicago's downtown fireworks can be viewed along the Chicago River, with city officials hoping to spread crowds out along multiple bridges.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The New Year's Eve festivities are on in Chicago. It will be a busy night on the riverfront, where the city is planning its largest fireworks ever.

The free fireworks display can be viewed along the Chicago River from Wolf Point near the Franklin/Orleans Street bridge to the east of Columbus Drive to Navy Pier.

Barricades are up and security was spotted along the Riverwalk as many planned to take in the festive display at midnight.

There's no outdoor mask mandate, but city officials are hoping to spread out the crowds by spreading out the fireworks on multiple bridges along the Riverwalk.

Chicago New Year's Eve Street, Bridge and Riverwalk Closures

Beginning at 4 p.m., sidewalks will close to pedestrians on one side of each of the following bridges (pedestrians will have access to the sidewalk on the remaining side of the bridge and be able to cross until the bridges are closed for the display launch between 11-11:30 p.m.): Franklin/Orleans Street bridge (west sidewalk), Lasalle Street bridge (east sidewalk), Clark Street bridge (east sidewalk), Dearborn Street bridge (west sidewalk), and State Street bridge (east sidewalk).

At 4 p.m., the Chicago Riverwalk will close east of State Street to all pedestrian traffic. The remainder of the Riverwalk west of State Street will close based on public safety. Viewing will not be allowed from the Chicago Riverwalk.

Beginning at 11 p.m., expect complete closures of the Franklin/Orleans Street, Lasalle Street, Clark Street, Dearborn Street, and State Street bridges to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Also, at 11:00 p.m., eastbound Upper, Middle and Lower Wacker Drive will be closed to vehicular traffic from Lake Street to Stetson Avenue. Pedestrian traffic and viewing from Upper Wacker Drive will be permitted.

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Meanwhile, some people are a little on edge as they're dealing with another year of COVID casting a shadow on their New Year's Eve parties.

"Everything's been pretty much last minute because it's hard to plan in advance with COVID going on," Wendell Parker said.

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The latest COVID surge has scaled back plans for many people, with some now choosing to stay home and keep their circle small.

"We were hoping this year would be different but it isn't," said Merlyn Fruin. "We are doing a a really low key celebration. We're going out to dinner and then we're just gonna be at home watching the ball drop somewhere."

SEE MORE: CTA, Metra offering free New Year's Eve rides

But with vaccinations and testing widely available, others are going on with the party and stopped by to grab last-minute supplies from Doolins Friday.

The local staple said it's almost selling as many New Year's Eve balloons as it did before the pandemic. There was concern the spread of omicron would force many to cancel orders.

"So far we haven't had tons of changing in plans," president Nicholas Doolin said. "Most people are continuing to do what they wanted to do and they're going to do it safely."

Restaurants are also dealing with last minute changes. Offshore at Navy Pier now is now adding a vaccination or testing requirement for all 350 people attending Friday night.

"When we started selling tickets for this event, we didn't have plans to have a testing requirement or a vaccination requirement but that just goes to show how quickly the world can change," said Stephen Stoll, director of Maverick Restaurants.

Despite a COVID surge, Chicago restaurants like Bar Goa in River North want to make the best of Chicago New Year's Eve.

Another one of River North's newest restaurants is also trying to make the best of it. Bar Goa brings a unique cuisine never before seen in Chicago, its owner said.

"A little known fact about Goa is that while the rest of India was ruled by the British, Goa was being ruled by the Portuguese," said Manish Mallick, the restaurant's owner.

So the cuisine is very flavorful, blending spices from India and flavors from Portugal.

For New Year's Eve, Mallick is hoping those that want something a little more intimate, with good food and a lot of flavor, will choose his latest spot.

"As you can see, it's a small space; we want to keep it that way," Mallick said. "We don't want to pack it to capacity. We want to keep it as safe as possible for our guests; we want them to enjoy food, cocktails and music!"

There will still be a celebration after 9 p.m. Two different DJs will help ring in the new year.

"The first one is Sadanu, from 9 to 11 she plays, more on the Latin side. Then DJ Virgil plays Bollywood tunes," Mallick said.

Free public transportation on the CTA is also available Friday night starting at 10 p.m.