Rotorua residents tested out life at Delta level 2 yesterday, waiting outside their favourite stores before they opened, or sitting down at a cafe for a coffee.
However, one tourism operator doubts the city will recover until Auckland is out of lockdown.
All of New Zealand, except Auckland, moved to alert level 2 at 11.59pm on Tuesday, while Auckland stays in level 4 until at least September 14.
Palmers Rotorua owner Sandy Cleland, who took over the gardening supply business a week before level 2, said vegetables were the hot-ticket items yesterday; one man left with a trolley of seedlings.
The first morning of level 2 had been busy and the store was "buzzing" with people who were ready to enter before it opened, she said.
The garden centre had a drive-through system for level 3.
The lighter restrictions were "hugely important" as more people would come in and many preferred to browse for their own plants.
She said the current restrictions did make things tricky, but "I'd rather have that than be in level 3".
"We're embracing level 2 on whatever terms that may be with open arms."
Buying the business was not an impulse decision, she said, and the settlement date was decided well before lockdown.
She had always had her eye on the Bay of Plenty and moved to Rotorua this year from Kapiti Coast.
"The timing of the Covid outbreak wasn't ideal ... now we're in level 2 we can hit the ground running."
Tak Mutu, of Mountain Bike Rotorua, didn't believe the city would bounce back the way it did last year, pointing to the large - now absent - Auckland market.
Last year was "phenomenal" and the numbers that flocked to Rotorua were "just massive".
He said when Auckland was in lockdown, other regions were more cautious to travel, and the Delta variant added to this.
He didn't think this weekend would be too busy, but some schools had been making inquiries about next week.
"Until Auckland opens back up again, we won't see a lot of people coming through."
The company would stagger opening up the services to ensure it had all the bases covered, he said.
The private tours, charters and the cafe in Te Puia started up yesterday.
Servicing bikes, the retail store and bike hires also opened and there were no longer tracks with any restrictions.
On Friday, the Redwoods and Waipa cafes would open, and Saturday would see the trial run of the public shuttles.
Meanwhile, in the CBD, Alyce Ryan, a loyal McLeods Booksellers customer said the shop was her first stop after the move to level 2.
"The girls here are fabulous, I love shopping here and couldn't wait to come down once we were out of lockdown."
McLeods Booksellers assistant manager Gaby West said while they had been in store for the past week processing online and phone orders, it was great to welcome customers back into the store.
"We had people waiting outside as soon as we opened," she said.
"We've had great support, we consider them friends as much as customers. It's the customers that make it a store so it's nice to have them back in."
She said they had worked hard to ensure they followed guidelines to keep themselves and customers safe.
"There's a bit of an adjustment period with this being Delta level 2 but we have our little stand set up with a blackboard asking customers to stick to the rules," she said.
"It is a little stressful that we have to enforce mask-wearing ourselves but we don't expect to have anyone who will object to it."
Capers Cafe + Store manager Dee McRoy said it was a slow start yesterday morning but this started picking up as the day went on.
She said people were "hanging out for an eggs benny and coffee" and many seemed to just enjoy being able to socialise again.
She said the opening hours had been cut from 7am to 5pm and they were not serving the dinner menu.
McRoy said being back was also good for staff, as they could only have four working at a time - half cleaning and half serving takeaway coffee.
Rotorua Central Mall general manager Peter Faulkner said the mall had "road cones for Africa" which were used to help mark the area to keep people socially distanced.
Faulkner said they had more security in place to encourage the use of masks and scanning in.
Wilson's Barber Shop owner Glen Atkinson said it was "fantastic" to be back and about a week's worth of bookings flowed in almost immediately after the level 2 announcement.
Lockdowns were tough for small businesses, he said, and while the wage subsidy helped,
"you never catch up".
"The support from locals has been great, just like last time, it's locals looking after locals."
Crossfit Rotorua owner Munro Waerea said there was a lot of excitement about classes starting back up today.
"We programmed home workouts for our members throughout lockdown but I think for many, myself included, it's getting harder to stay motivated so it will be good to get back to classes."
He said there was plenty of work being done to ensure the gym was safe, with things in place to make sure everyone is distanced, signing in and using good hygiene.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said shoppers were out and the CBD was "frenetically busy" and it seemed like there was a bit of catching up.
Rotorua Lakes Council buildings, facilities and services reopened yesterday.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said it looked like "a pretty normal day in the CBD", which was "heartening" to see.
There had been a "steady stream" of people at council facilities like the library and aquatic centre, she said.
"It remains very important to keep following the rules around signing in, wearing masks and distancing so we can transition back to level 1 as soon as possible."