What to do in Chicago during a pandemic


Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP

Residents enjoy the warm weather with a stroll along the Lakefront Trail near Oak Street Beach, Wednesday afternoon, March 25, 2020, in Chicago, despite a stay-at-home order from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker during the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

The daily lives of millions throughout the country came to an abrupt halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bars, restaurants, other businesses and even schools were all shut down. 

On June 26, Chicago entered Phase Four of its reopening plan, which allows outdoor and limited indoor dining. With phase four, people are allowed to attend performances and museums with limited capacity.

Choose Chicago provides a lengthy and detailed list on which businesses and attractions have reopened, along with their restrictions.


Chicago restaurants are currently open with an emphasis on carryout and delivery services and the appropriate safety measures. Bars and breweries that don’t serve food can only offer outdoor seating.

Diners can only have six people at each table for two hours. Customers must wear face masks at all times — while they’re interacting with the employees, when they aren’t sitting, and when they are picking up their carryout orders.

It’s encouraged for restaurants to have contactless payments and pickups. It’s recommended that customers make reservations ahead of time. Customers should also wait in their cars or remain outside while waiting to be seated.

Tourism and attractions

Some tours and attractions are open for the public with appropriate safety and social distancing practices. Many lakes and river cruises, including Mercury Sightseeing Cruises and Chicago’s First Lady, are setting sail. Other tour companies like Chicago Greeter, Urban Kayaks, and Chicago Tours are also resuming their services.

Zoos and museums

The Lincoln Park Zoo is now open with required free time reservations. Millennium Park opens while some amenities and attractions remain closed. Skydeck Chicago opens only for the weekend, Friday through Sunday, with timed tickets as a requirement.

Various museums have opened also, including the Field Museum, American Writers Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography. The Art Institute, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Shedd Aquarium are also open, but you must buy your tickets in advance. Masks are required and the capacity and hours will be limited.

Parks and gardens

The parks and gardens are open, except for beaches and parks east of Lake Shore Drive. The Lakefront and The 606 are open for exercise and transit with safe social distancing. Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park are both open with some amenities still closed. The Chicago Botanic Garden has opened with some restrictions and the Chicago Riverwalk has fully reopened. 

Theaters and performance venues

Music and performance venues will reopen with capacity restrictions. Reggies is open for outdoor dining with live music. Andy’s Jazz Club, Zanies, and the Music Box Theatre are also open. The Jazz Showcase will only be open from Thursday to Sunday.

In the retail world, both essential and non-essential stores are open. The indoor capacity will be limited to only 25%, and 50% for essential stores. Essential stores include those that sell groceries and medicine, hardware stores, greenhouses, and garden centers.


Various hotels are open, including The Peninsula Chicago and their award-winning restaurants. Sophy Hyde Park has opened to the public along with its restaurant and lounge. Guests are required to wear their masks whenever they are in common areas which can include the dining rooms of the dining areas and the check-in lobby. 

According to Choose Chicago, phase four allows indoor gatherings of up to 50 people and allows up to 100 people in outdoor gatherings. Movie theaters and performance venues are limited to 50 guests or 50% capacity. Museums and zoos are limited to 25% capacity with tours up to 50 people. Gyms are also open with 50% capacity with everyone wearing masks.

Discover something new

According to Thrillist, a new food hall has been added to Chicago’s skyline. The food hall is a part of a $1 billion renovation of the Old Cook County Hospital building and its surrounding area.

Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall is Chicago’s first post-pandemic food hall that features 12 restaurants; many of these restaurants are minority-owned. There are a variety of offerings, from pizza and BBQ to Nepalese and Vietnamese cuisine.

You can also participate in the “largest aerial adventure course in North America,” per Thrillist. The gigantic 300-acre outdoor adventure park called The Forge: Lemont Quarries opened in Lemont. The park features four ziplines, kayaking and canoeing, five miles of hiking trails, laser tag, and much more. The park even has an amphitheater that will be used in 2021 for concerts and films.