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Here’s what’s open in Chicago right now

Confused about what you can and cannot do throughout the city? Check in with our up-to-date guide.

Emma Krupp
Zach Long
Written by
Emma Krupp
&
Zach Long
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Just like the rest of the world, Chicago is still going through a cycle of closings and reopenings as the new year begins—and the switch-ups aren't over yet. As of January 23, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has moved the region of Illinois that houses Chicago to Tier 1 mitigations, allowing restaurants and bars to resume indoor dining and museums to welcome back guests. After several months under the strictest minitigations, the city is beginning to open back up again.

Though the loosening of restrictions is a welcome development for struggling local businesses, it does not signal the end of the pandemic. While vaccines are slowly being administered, a more contagious strain of the virus is present in the city after being found in a Chicago resident. The current forecast for widespread availability of the vaccine is sometime this summer, so if you're planning to eat out or visit a cultural institution, you should still be following the familiar precautions: Wear a mask and practice social distancing.

We've assembled the latest information about what's open in Chicago right now, according to the most recent regulations. Remember that not all businesses have decided to reopen—when in doubt, it's always best to call ahead.

RECOMMENDED: Can I travel right now? Chicago's emergency travel restrictions explained 

What’s open in Chicago right now

Essential businesses
Photograph: Shutterstock/Andriy Blokhin

Essential businesses

As always, essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies remain open. Currently, both may operate at a maximum capacity of 50 percent, which can sometimes lead to lines at the point of entry. What else counts as an essential business, you ask? You can read a full list here, but the category also includes gas stations, healthcare providers, hardware stores and laundromats.

Bars and restaurants
Photograph: Kevin Conway, Flightless Bird Creative

Bars and restaurants

When Pritzker moved Chicago back to Tier 1 mitigations, bars and restaurants regained the ability to offer indoor dining at 25 percent capacity (or 25 people per room, whichever is fewer). Parties are limited to four people, reservations are required and seatings are limited to a maximum of two hours.

Outdoor dining—whether under a heat lamp or within enclosed structures like pods, igloos, cabanas and tents—remains open with reservation, though bars and restaurants must close by 11pm. Masks are required at all times while interacting with servers and other staff, even while ordering outdoors or popping in to pick up a takeout order. If you're not ready to dine indoors, there are plenty of cozy outdoor dining spots to choose from. And if you'd rather stay at home, there's no shortage of takeout and delivery options.

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Retail businesses
Photograph: Shutterstock

Retail businesses

Retail stores are permitted to stay open under Tier 1 mitigation standards, albeit at limited capacity (no more than 40 percent occupancy, in most cases). That includes everything from clothing stores to big-box retailers offering groceries and pharmacy services, like Target and Walmart.

Museums and cultural institutions
Photograph: Michelle Kuo

Museums and cultural institutions

Chicago museums are slowly reopening, with institutions restricting capacity to 25 percent, requiring face masks and implementing other safety guidelines such as one-way paths through exhibitions. Reopening dates vary, so make sure to confirm current hours (and snag a ticket) before you set out to see some exhibits.

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Health and fitness centers
Photo: Under Armour

Health and fitness centers

Like retail stores, health and fitness centers may operate at no more than 40 percent capacity according to Tier 1 mitigation rules, and reservations are required. Indoor group fitness classes are limited to 15 people and locker rooms have reopened under more stringent cleaning guidelines. Guests must also wear a face covering at all times (even while exercising individually, no matter how far apart the machines are spaced).

Hair salons, barbershops and spas
Photograph: Shutterstock

Hair salons, barbershops and spas

Personal care services remain open with a 40 percent capacity limit, or no more than 50 clients at a time. Both employees and clients must wear facial coverings at all times during the appointment. Services that require the removal of face coverings—like facials and beard trims—may not be offered. If these services are offered, they should be performed in a different room and the employee administering them should wear a face covering and eye protection.

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Hotels and short-term rentals
Photograph: Spencer Lowell

Hotels and short-term rentals

Hotels remain open, though the only registered guests are permitted in hotel rooms. (Those superspreading hotel room parties you may have read about? Definitely not allowed.) Gatherings in common spaces are limited to 40 percent capacity or 50 people (whichever is fewer), including fitness centers. Meeting and event spaces may open at 25 percent capacity or 25 people (whichever is fewer).

You can still book stays through rental services like Airbnb, which has instituted increased safety and sanitation procedures. Keep in mind that non-essential travel is not recommended by the City of Chicago—you can read more about the city's travel and quarantine guidelines here.

Zoos, botanical gardens and other outdoor attractions
Photograph: Courtesy Maggie Daley Park

Zoos, botanical gardens and other outdoor attractions

Most outdoor attractions are currently hibernating through the winter, including the Lincoln Park Zoo, which expects to reopen this spring. Zoos, botanical gardens and sporting centers may reopen under current guidelines, but capacity is limited to 40 percent or 100 people (whichever is fewer). Face coverings are required, except during physical activity like running or biking, when social distancing should be observed.

Some activities, such as ice skating in Maggie Daley Park, are requiring advance registration. It doesn't hurt to call ahead to get the latest information about outdoor attractions throughout the city.

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Churches and place of worship
Photograph: Eric Allix Rogers courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Center

Churches and place of worship

Churches and places of worship must limit regular services to 50 individuals or 40 percent capacity (whichever is fewer). Facilities with multiple levels (such as balconies) that have dedicated entrances and restroom facilities can accommodate up to 50 additional individuals during regular services.

Under Tier 1 mitigations, special events such as weddings, wakes, potlucks and other community events must take place at 25 percent capacity, with no more than 25 guests indoors and outdoors.

Parks
Photograph: Shutterstock

Parks

Get out there and stretch your legs! Chicago parks remain open for strolls and other recreation, though certain facilities (playgrounds, pools, fitness centers and most of the facilities east of Lake Shore Drive) are closed. Additionally, many fieldhouses are open from 9am to 5pm on weekdays so that guests can use the restroom and warm up. Visitors should wear a face covering and practice social distancing while enjoying the city's parks.

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Trails
Photograph: Shutterstock

Trails

Want to fit in some outdoor exercise? The Lakefront Trail reopened in June for walking, running and biking every day from 6am to 7pm. Bloomingdale Trail (better known as the 606) is also open every day during those hours—just be sure to wear a face covering. If you're looking for a more nature-filled experience, try the North Branch Trail, which follows the Chicago River for 20 miles from within city limits up the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

Folks with cars can also visit hiking spots outside of Chicago like Starved Rock and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, which are open with basic safety precautions in place (you can read more about them here). Visitors centers are still closed, however, and it's always a good idea to confirm hours before making the trip. 

Farmers markets
Photograph: Shutterstock

Farmers markets

Most of the city's farmers markets have closed for the season, but a select few—like the Logan Square Farmers Market and 61st St Farmers Market—move indoors over the winter months, with facial coverings and social distancing measures required. Check out the city's website for a full schedule. And if your neighborhood market isn't running through the winter, don't sweat it; many vendors offer pick-up and delivery options to sate your local food cravings.

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Libraries
Photograph: Shutterstock

Libraries

Most Chicago Public Library branch locations are open (you can see a full list here), though patrons are encouraged to continue utilizing eBooks and audiobooks to reduce in-person browsing. If you plan to visit in person, wear a mask, check ahead to make sure the book you're looking for is in stock at your local branch and be prepared to wait in line outside if the location has reached capacity limits.

Public transit
Photograph: Shutterstock

Public transit

As an essential service, local transit options like the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace buses have remained open throughout the duration of the pandemic, though riders can expect operational changes like capacity limits and mask mandates.

Discover more ways to experience the city this winter

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