Chicago’s Navy Pier, an iconic tourist magnet for the entire Midwest, is prepping its return as the city gets back to business during the coronavirus pandemic.
Only parts of the 50-acre pier’s park, walkway and outdoor restaurant spaces will be available Wednesday as part of the entertainment venue’s first reopening phase. Social-distancing ambassadors will roam the site on Lake Michigan, making sure visitors are keeping away from each other and wearing face coverings.
The phased reopening follows the state and city’s plan to restore economic activity after a nearly three-month mandated shutdown aimed at curtailing the spread of the coronavirus. Management expects to resurrect the entire pier that spans more than six city blocks in three phases, according to a statement Thursday.
Navy Pier, which originally opened in 1916, has long been a major attraction, drawing some 9 million people each year — the most visited site in the city. Its compilation of entertainment options ranges from the Chicago Children’s Museum to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater to the Centennial Wheel, a Ferris wheel reaching nearly 200 feet in height as a whimsical addition to the city’s skyline.
Most of those attractions, however, will stay closed through the first phase. Still silent for now are the fireworks displays, typically held off Lake Michigan twice a week during the summer. All large-scale events have been canceled for now.
Popular hangouts such as the Miller Lite Beer Garden and the Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion, as well as indoor dining and shopping, are expected to be available in what was referred to as “paced-out reopenings.”
The trendy Offshore Rooftop & Bar, the largest rooftop bar in existence, according to Guinness World Records, is not slated to open yet, and no one was available to discuss when it might.
The final phase, and there’s no timeline on it yet, will allow events again at the Aon Grand Ballroom, the Festival Hall and Crystal Gardens. The Sable at Navy Pier, a 222-key Curio Hotel by Hilton, is expected to open then as well, marking the first time Navy Pier has offered hotel accommodations.