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

By Diane Pathieu, Stacey Baca and Eric Horng

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.

“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.