After 16 years and thousands of in-person events held across the United States and Canada, the Yelp Community team, like everyone else, was thrown the curveball that was 2020. This meant that our renowned — and, dare we say, epic — community gatherings had to head from the offline to online.
And did they ever. In 2020, the Yelp Community team hosted more than 1,480 free virtual events. The team’s creativity, passion for connecting people with great local businesses, and active local communities made the jump to virtual in a huge way.
These events included tours, behind-the-scenes experiences, demos and interactive opportunities. Many also incorporated affordable, optional event kits — with 100% of funds going back to the businesses — and most of the attendees were members of our Yelp Elite Squad, Yelp’s most prominent writers, photographers, and adventurers, who have continued to support and champion local businesses throughout the pandemic.
The 2021 event calendar is already chock full of even more great, free online happenings that you can take part in from coast to coast without leaving home, but before we get much further into 2021, we wanted to take a moment to highlight 20 over-the-top Yelp virtual events from last year, through the words of the intrepid community members who attended them.
1. History as told through Portland, Me.’s oldest cemetery
“Learn about and tour Portland’s oldest cemetery and learn all the things from who was buried there, why it is where it is, the differences in head/footstones, and stories about bodies quite literally falling down hills from inside the earth? Yeah — I’m stoked this was a thing and that I was able to attend!” — Brooke L
2. Learning about Yelp from its founder and CEO, followed by a coast-to-coast happy hour
“Over 500 Black and Gold Elites (10+ and 5+ year Elites) had the opportunity to shoot the breeze with Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, the Big Boss Man of Yelp, and he told us time and time again that he hears what we have to say, especially in the world of COVID-19.” — Dan R
3. Decorate-your-own macarons in the East Bay
“The macaron kits were $18 and included enough supplies to make 12 of the cutest macarons plus a bonus ready-to-eat Yelp macaron… It was incredible that Natalie was able to put together over 90 orders of macaron kits. Kudos to her! Also loved supporting a local women-owned small business. You go, girl!” — Susan D
4. Zooming up close to adorable goats in Philadelphia
“First off, these buggers are cute. They’re litter-box trained. They do tricks and use sign language for communication. Second off, we learned a lot about goats including their four-chambered stomachs, their cud chewing, and their ability to eat just about anything (but not tin cans). Definitely a top fun Yelp event.” — Bruce K
5. Instant ramen hacks from Michelin-rated D.C. ramen house
“Whenever I eat instant ramen, I try to turn it up as much as possible. Chef Liv took my ramen game to a whole new level, getting me to actually like an item I previously didn’t enjoy (I’m talking about you, bamboo shoots!). I enjoyed how interactive the event was and how Chef Liv made it relatively easy for us to cook along with him… My dish came out delish.” — Abegail A
6. Harnessing inner magic via tarot in Cleveland
“My key takeaway was a very basic one. Contrary to my novice and naive belief, reading tarot cards is not about telling one’s fortune. Rather, it is all about ‘gaining insight’ into the past, present, and future through interpreting the 78 cards in the deck. In short, tarot cards provide a new awareness of what you already know deep within… Five mystic stars.” — Al M
7. Spilling the tea on tea with celebrated Brooklyn tea shop
“Jamila and Ali patiently walked us through tastings for four of their loose-leaf teas, pausing in order to let us savor the tea… Being a featured Black-owned business in New York magazine and Food Network is certainly something to write home about, but it’s not nearly as exciting as being able to change hearts and minds of former non-tea drinkers all over the country.” — Brian L
8. Flying high on a trapeze in Santa Barbara
“They showed us two instructors swinging and catching. Wow! They even took the camera on a virtual run up the ladder to give us a bird’s-eye view… Anyway, guess who gave it a go?! Yelpers via the chat room wrangled Community Ambassador Richie to give it a go — live on the spot. No pressure. Boy, was he a good sport and did a brilliant job. He even swung by his knees. Is he a secret trapeze artist!?” — Lillian W
9. DIY henna with a Maryland master henna artist
“Although many people today use henna as a way of expressing their aesthetic means, it not only looks beautiful but comes with such an impactful meaning behind its history… I think what’s really unique about it is that even if everyone were to draw the exact same patterns or designs, it would still come out unique and completely different from one another. It’s definitely a very personalized form of art.” — Whitney L
10. Diving into deep dish pizza with Lou Malnati’s owner
“I’ve never seen a business owner who enjoyed their product quite as much!.. Marc shared his story of acquiring the business after the passing of his father shortly after he graduated from college (where he attempted to study dentistry for a week before transferring to business) and turning it into a world-renowned pizza empire… To watch the joy as Marc shared all this information with us was priceless.” — Einas S
11. Holiday home organizing in Riverside, Calif.
“I am about all things organization, but this class taught me things I never knew about and amazing techniques. She definitely took the stress out of organizing my holiday decor, and I am looking forward to implementing some new tips in the future… It has been a crazy year, so it will be wonderful to have an expert help me keep my sanity in our work-from-home situation.” — Kelly M
12. Behind-the-scenes tour at the Phoenix Zoo
“We were greeted with a funny sloth named Fernando. Fernando loves veggie biscuits, roses, and sleeping for 20 hours a day. And while Fernando was definitely a great first guest, the most memorable critter for me was Meatball, the wallaby. Be still my heart!.. What a fun way to spend a lunch break with some cute animals and some friendly Yelp faces!” — Joyce W
13. Traveling around the world via a New Jersey chef-curated candy box
“My sweet tooth immediately said ‘yes’ to this event, and I am so glad! Chef Tova herself is amazing — a young businesswoman, survivor of COVID-19, and food history enthusiast. She was kind enough to share her extensive knowledge of candy history with us through her presentation and candy trivia.” — Isobel L
14. A virtual road trip through the U.S. with Travelzoo
“It was great to learn about destinations in this region of the U.S. I’ve never visited. Perfect for this armchair traveler as a pandemic diversion, chock full of insider pro tips of main attractions, notable off-the-beaten-track sites, and luxurious lodging… I am drawn to Yelp for the food, travel, and like-minded-people elements. Tonight’s event brought together all three.” — Marie B
15. Selfies and self empowerment with Miss America Kentucky
“We started with a virtual tour of the Bluegrass Selfie Experience, and let me tell you, what an awesome place!.. Then the Miss Kentucky, Alex Francke, gave us tips on how to take the perfect selfie plus recommendations on apps that can make our photos look better. Alex was so well-spoken and personable!” — Samantha D
16. Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month in El Paso with cocktails
“Riccardo and Elena were so warm and welcoming… He showed us step by step how he prepares sangria for patrons while answering our questions. He shared personal anecdotes and fun tips to spruce up our sangrias (shot of brandy, anyone?). Next, we learned from Elena how to prepare wine margaritas. Super simple, and she also shared great tips!” — Jessica J
17. Making mochi in Seattle
“Ordering the mochi was easy, and the class was well paced and filmed in away that made it easy to follow along. I loved learning how to make mochi, and the end product was delicious. And yes, thank goodness there were only four! I could have eaten more. I can’t wait to try some of the other varieties now that I know how easy it is to make mochi. Nutella! Yes please!” — Jenny T
18. Giving gratitude through handwritten notes
“Handlettering? Always wanted to officially learn!.. Punkpost, a really neat women-run company that creates personalized cards and mails them to loved ones for you, hosted this unique event where I’m sure everyone learned something! Old-school handwritten cards brighten anyone’s day. This is such a lost art. Happy to see these ladies keeping it alive.” — Sari Marissa G
19. Decorating sugar skulls in Sacramento for Día de los Muertos
“I thought this was just going to be a sugar skull decorating course, but this was so much more! Maria from Casa de Español went into the background of sugar skulls, the components needed to set up an ofrenda, and the purpose of Día de los Muertos… Artist Andrea Rodriguez showed us common patterns to use.” — Nina Z
20. ’80s prom-themed whodunnit featuring rad costumes
“What happens when you take 12 Yelp staff, 200 Yelp members, put on some ’80s pop tunes, sprinkle in some Zoom, and then add in murder? You get a really fun ’80s prom-themed murder mystery party. Our CMs threw on some tubular prom outfits and played the part… and gave us a tricky puzzle to solve.” — Jeffrey S
Zoom fatigue? What Zoom fatigue? Now it’s your turn to join the virtual party. RSVP to free online events happening across the United States and Canada via our Yelp virtual events microsite.
Are you a business owner who is interested in hosting a virtual event? It is free for businesses to partner with Yelp on events. Fill out this form.