Navy Pier welcoming back visitors as Open Chicago plan loosens restrictions for restaurants, theaters, festivals, more

Navy Pier holding fireworks show Saturday dedicated to healthcare and frontline workers

Saturday, May 1, 2021
Chicago restrictions loosen further, guests return to Navy Pier
This first weekend since the loosening of indoor capacity limits in Chicago feels like a turning point for many restaurant and bar owners whose businesses are finally hitting the r

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's starting to feel a little more like it used to in Chicago.

This first weekend since the loosening of indoor capacity limits in Chicago feels like a turning point for many restaurant and bar owners whose businesses are finally hitting the right notes.

At City Winery in the West Loop, the city's eased indoor restrictions means the audience for Friday night's performance could go from 50 to 100 people.

"I think people are feeling more comfortable as they're being vaccinated, more comfortable going out, and kind of getting back to the things that they once loved and they've been missing for the last year," said Dane Conroe, marketing director at City Winery Chicago.

Navy Pier welcomed back visitors to some of its outdoor spaces and attractions Friday as part of its phased reopening.

The gates officially opened Friday morning after being closed for months and visitors can now enjoy the outdoor spaces, the Centennial Wheel, tour boats and cruises and more.

"It was a day in history, really," said visitor Christina Hannah. "We were creating history."

The rides and attractions at Navy Pier have been closed for more than a year, including the famous Ferris wheel.

Navy Pier reopened its outdoor areas and attractions Friday, bringing Chicago one step closer to getting back to normal.

"It's really nice to be out here because the last year has been nothing, but you're in a historic time period because of something terrible; today it's historic because it's something great and something fun," visitor Candy Hannah said.

Boat tours are back and some restaurants are open, great news for the thousands of employees.

"It's really exciting," Eric Gierzynski with Shoreline Sightseeing. "We had to end last year pretty early. Last year was a very interesting, challenging year so we are excited about being able to offer our award-winning architectural river tour as well as our skyline light tour and mostly we're excited about people getting back to work."

As the weather warms up, tourists and residents alike are ready to head outdoors and enjoy what the city has to offer.

"I think it's huge," said Navy Pier visitor John Ernst. "Summertime in the chi there is nothing better than summer here in Chicago and I think Navy Pier opening, having all of those landmarks open up, seeing fans in Wrigley is huge and just having tourists and the locals being able to come and enjoy this wonderful space, it's just awesome for the city."

The fireworks are also back. Saturday night a special fireworks show will be dedicated to healthcare and frontline workers.

Visitors should note, precautions will still be taken.

"People are still encouraged to maintain six feet of distance between themselves and other parties and we are also still mandating face masks on the pier just given that it is a place where there are a lot of folks coming in and out so keep your face masks while you are on the pier," said Navy Pier spokesperson Payal Patel. "We are doing thorough cleanings of our rides and attractions and high touch surfaces. When you get in a gondola on the Centennial Wheel, it will be completely wiped down."

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday indoor capacity at restaurants and bars can immediately increase to 50-percent or 100 people per space.

Capacity for other venues including convention spaces, places of worship and farmer's markets will be 25 percent.

WATCH: Mayor Lightfoot announces loosening Chicago COVID restrictions

Mayor Lightfoot announced loosening some Chicago COVID restrictions Thursday.

At Bulls and Blackhawks games, fans are now allowed with 25-percent capacity or about four-thousand fans, as long as the number of cases stay low.

"This is happening, make no mistake, because people are getting vaccinated," said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

Under the new regulations:

  • Restaurants and bars: Indoor capacity can increase to the lesser of 50% or 100 people.
  • Spectator events, theater, and performing arts: Large indoor venues, including the United Center, can now operate at 25% capacity.
  • Meetings, conferences, and conventions: Large indoor venues can now operate at the lesser of 25% or 250 people.
  • Places of worship: Large indoor venues can now operate at 25% capacity.
  • Festivals and general admission outdoor spectator events: Operate at 15 people per 1,000 square feet.
  • Flea and farmers markets: Operate at 25% capacity or 15 people per 1,000 square feet.
  • And along with Navy Pier reopening, festivals are back, starting with the Windy City Smokeout on July 8

    Navy Pier has been temporarily closed to the public since Labor Day.

    The areas that will be open to the public are Navy Pier parking garages, Polk Bros Park, Peoples Energy Welcome Pavilion, North and South Docks, Pier Park (including select rides and attractions), East End Plaza, tour boats and cruises, the new Sable hotel, and select restaurants at limited capacity.

    RELATED: Vax Pass: Chicago considering vaccine passports for entry to summer festivals, concerts, events

    To encourage people to get vaccinated, Chicago is considering a vaccine passport that could be announced next month.

    Restaurants open during the initial reopening phase include Billy Goat Tavern, Giordano's, Harry Caray's Tavern, Margaritaville, Odyssey, Offshore Rooftop and Bar, Shoreline Sightseeing, Seadog and more.

    The hours of operation will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

    To celebrate the reopening, Navy Pier will be hosting a 10-minute fireworks show every Saturday in May at 9 p.m. until Memorial Day Weekend.

    Outdoor events

    The relaunch of the ninth season of Night Out in the Parks this summer will feature more than 100 of Chicago's talented artists and organizations performing in over 350 outdoor cultural arts events. This year's experience will reconnect diverse audiences across all of Chicago's 77 community areas with the arts and cultural landscape of the city.

    Movie screenings in 100 parks will kick off on July 6 at Oakdale Park in the Washington Heights community.

    For additional information about Night Out in the Parks, visit

    Buckingham Fountain will also soon be switched back on. Visit for more information.

    Maggie Daley Park's 18-hole, Chicago-themed miniature golf course, and ribbon will be open daily, starting April 30.

    Drive-in events at Soldier Field will also continue, in addition to other typical annual fundraisers.

    The Shared Streets program, which closes local streets to through traffic, will be returning this year to provide people with more comfortable space to walk, bike and roll. The 2021 program will launch this Spring on Leland in the Lincoln Square neighborhood and will be expanded to other streets where there is community support.

    RELATED: Chicago Loop Alliance sees increase in foot traffic, proposes closing State St. to vehicles over summer

    Windy City Smokeout will be the first street festival to return to the city's roster of summer events. The annual festival, which features dozens of local and national BBQ pitmasters and restaurants is expected to host up to 12,500 people per day. The outdoor fest will take place in the parking lot of the iconic United Center, with an impressive musical lineup featuring country superstars and up-and-coming talent.

    All vendors, performers, ticketholders and staff will be required to be fully vaccinated. For non-vaccinated attendees, proof of a negative COVID PCR test will be required within 72 hours of entry to the event.

    City officials reminded residents that 6-foot social distancing requirements and mandatory face coverings still remain in effect in Chicago.

    WATCH: Navy Pier spokeswoman gives details on reopening

    A Navy Pier spokeswoman gave details on the attraction's reopening Friday.

    If reopening metrics remain stable or continue to decrease for the next two weeks and Chicago reaches the criteria set by the state, the city will join the state in moving to the Bridge Phase.

    Suburban Cook County also announced some restrictions easing Thursday.

    Navy Pier has been closed since Labor Day.

    Full reopening guidelines can be found at