2020 Blog Year-In-Review: Supporting Local and Exploring Your Backyard

2020 was not the year I thought it would be. A year unlike any other. And while there was whole lot of negative happening, there was a lot of good that happened too. I try to focus on the positive, and hope you try too—though I know that may not be as easy to do depending on how your year went.

There are things about 2020 that I hope stick around in the years to come—like flexible / remote work, continued focus, support and love for small businesses, the creativity and innovation of individuals and businesses, the kindness of some people, and of course increased sanitation and hygiene lol. There are things 2020 really made me miss—like board game nights, big family dinners, and in-person events lol.

And of course, the things I (we) hope go away forever. COVID-19… and any other contagious virus really.

Go and stay away please! 

I’m grateful Mike and I were still able to work throughout 2020. I’m grateful we still had our health. I know others weren’t as fortunate. It’s been such a struggle for so many this year—my parents included. They were still healthy, thank goodness, but like many, their little restaurant business was seriously impacted and those struggles will likely carry through into 2021. I truly do hope for a better year for everyone! I also can’t write a 2020 look-back and not acknowledge and thank all the frontline workers who worked so hard this year to keep everyone going—from healthcare to grocery store workers and everyone in between. Absolute heroes.

I always like to look back at which of my blog posts seem to resonate throughout the year. I think seeing most viewed, most shared posts can give you a sense of what people cared about, searched for, needed help or guidance, during that period of time. So it was interesting to see what seemed to resonate in 2020.

There were some clear trends in my top blog posts of 2020—a desire to support local, exploring right in your backyard, even daydreaming of a time when international travel would be okay again.

Thank you so much for reading, sharing, and using my blog posts this year, to help you find whatever it was you were looking for. Thank you for following along on social media. Thanks for subscribing to my newsletter! Thank you for your kind words—comments, messages, replies. I’m grateful for this community!

With that said, 

Here are my Top 10 Most Viewed Posts of 2020!

(counting down from 10 to 1—oo, the suspense!)

Linda Hoang Blog Year in Review 2020
Reflecting on top posts of 2020!

10. Things to do in Arizona / Local Foods To Eat in Maui

Visit Mesa Arizona Travel Guide Things To Do Mesa Gilbert Fresh Foodie Trail
Picking oranges in Arizona!
Joeys Kitchen Loco Moco Plate Maui Hawaii Food Travel
Hawaiian Loco Moco in Maui!

I thought it was interesting that my old international travel blog posts were among the top viewed posts of 2020, ironically when international travel was strongly advised against (and during some periods of time—banned). I like to think that the reason my 12 Things To Do in Mesa, Arizona blog post from Feb 2019 and my 12 Local Foods to Eat in Maui, Hawaii from May 2019 were popular in 2020 is because imagining a post-COVID time when it was safe to travel again was somewhat of a therapeutic exercise for many. Certainly my list of places I’d like to go in 2021 (maybe later 2021 and beyond, if we’re being optimistic) is long.

Related Blog Posts

9. Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free Eating in Edmonton

Harvest Room Fairmont Hotel Macdonald Gluten Free Dining
A lot of attention in 2020 for my friend Sharman's guest post on Gluten-Free Eating in Edmonton!

One of my dear friends Rachel was diagnosed as celiac just before the pandemic hit, so it’s been an interesting year seeing her navigate what she can and can’t eat. I was happy to report confidently to her that the Vietnamese beef noodle soup (with rice noodles) from my parents’ restaurant King Noodle House Pho Hoang, was a delicious gluten-free meal she could have! I am able to confidently report on certain gluten-free dishes in Edmonton thanks to my other dear friend Sharman, who in April 2019, guest blogged an Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free Eating in Edmonton, which ended up being one of my most viewed blog posts this year in 2020. We’re thinking the Guide will be getting an update in 2021 (some of you have asked and also recommended new spots—thank you!) but in the meantime I’m glad that it could not only be used as a delicious resource for those dealing with celiac disease in Edmonton, but also as a way for those looking for gluten-free food, to support small Edmonton businesses during the pandemic. 

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8. Explore Edmonton from Home: Spin the Wheel of Local – Support Edmonton Businesses

Note: apparently the wheel doesn’t load on some Android phones (of course lol). 
Try this link if you can’t view the spinning wheel above!

Early on in the pandemic I quickly started blogging and posting on social media about different small businesses people could consider supporting. This wasn’t a new thought at all—so while trying to think of a creative or different take on ‘support local’, I came up with this ‘Spin the Wheel of Local‘ idea in March 2020. I listed 100 different Edmonton small businesses—from restaurants to home goods stores and more—and embedded this fun digital spinning wheel to randomize how you might choose to support a small business! I did this for Edmonton and a version for Calgary as well and I’m so glad to see that the Edmonton version was one of my most visited blog posts of the year. Another indication of your desire to support local during this pandemic. 

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7. Shop Local: Guide To Women-Owned Businesses In Edmonton Area

You wanted to not only support local this year, but support local women business owners too!

That desire to support local businesses continued with a twist—many of you wanted to not only support local this year, but to support local women-owned businesses too! That’s why my March 2019 blog Guide to Women-Owned Businesses in Edmonton and Area came in as one of the most viewed posts of 2020. Originally written for International Women’s Day (I did a follow up for International Women’s Day 2020 just before the pandemic was announced as well—a Guide to Edmonton Area Dining + Shopping Itineraries / Crawls Featuring Women-Owned Businesses), I wanted to make it easy for people specifically looking for a way to find, celebrate, and support women entrepreneurs and business owners in the Edmonton area, particularly on International Women’s Day, or any day, and remember being blown away by just how easy it was to come up with the initial list. I still get suggestions for additions, so if you’d like to be added, or know of a woman-owned or co-owned business in the Edmonton area you think should be on the list, feel free to let me know!

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6. Guide to Instagrammable Walls of Calgary

Instagrammable Walls of Calgary - Murals - YYC Beltline Urban Mural Project BUMP Festival - Mono Sourcil
Artist: Mono Sourcil / Location: 119 12 Ave SW.
Instagrammable Walls of Calgary - Murals - YYC Beltline Urban Mural Project BUMP Festival - Sarah Slaughter
Artist: Sarah Slaughter / Location: 806 12 Ave SW.

 I’ve always explored my “backyard”—whether it was the Edmonton area, or across Alberta—and shared about it, but 2020 saw a LOT more of that, which I was grateful for. A lot of my blogging business prior to the pandemic had actually been pretty travel-focused, so I had been concerned about what a halt in travel would mean for my year, but thankfully a focus on exploring your own province (and your own communities) was thrust into the spotlight this year, which meant visiting and letting people know how to safely experience places around Edmonton, like Leduc or Stony Plain, road trips between Edmonton and Calgary, Calgary and Canmore and the Rocky Mountains, took up a chunk of my pandemic summer. I had previously blogged a Guide to Instagrammable Walls of Calgary back in 2017 but this year teamed up with Tourism Calgary to update it following the 2020 BUMP (Beltline Urban Mural Project)—when a whole bunch of beautiful new walls were added to the city. Visiting these walls ended up being a perfect, pandemic-safe activity to do as they were all located outside, and something you could do on your own, within your household or co-hort, and something people were excited to use my guide to do in 2020!

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5. Explore Edmonton’s River Valley Swing / Windermere Swing 

Explore Edmonton River Valley Swing Highlands Kinnaird Park
Such a beautiful river valley!
Brandy's Landing - Edmonton River Valley Swing Windermere
Taking a swing at Brandy's Landing!

But you don’t have to leave the Edmonton area to find fun! That was evident in how popular my two blog posts about two of Edmonton’s river valley swings were in 2020. The North Edmonton River Valley Swing I wrote about in August 2019 and the South Edmonton River Valley Swing I followed up with in June 2020. It’s amazing how something as simple as a swing near the water can bring so much joy for people (me included!) It’s also amazing how different Edmonton’s river looks in June compared to August, lol. It was a lot of fun “adventuring” to find both of these swings, and also getting reports of other swings popping up along the river valley in the city. Again, an activity that could be done safely, at a distance, and outdoors, during the pandemic—which proved to be of great interest for readers of this blog.

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4. #AdoptAShopYEG: ATB Neighbourhood Hop

Adopt a Shop YEG - ATB Neighbourhood Hop Shop - ATB Financial - Explore Edmonton - Travel Alberta
In 2020 I teamed up with ATB a few times to support small biz!
Edmonton Tote Bag - Explore Edmonton - Support Small Businesses - Adopt A Shop YEG
The ATB Neighbourhood Hop saw a collective spend of over $22,000.

In 2020, I was just blown away by how the community came together to support small businesses. Seriously. While “support local” has been a popular mantra over the years, it had never been more important than during this pandemic, which threatened to shutter (and sadly did shutter) so many small businesses. But whether it was through social media shares or actual spending—you wanted to help. You wanted to keep a business you love in business. That’s why my blog post and #AdoptAShopYEG: ATB Neighbourhood Hop support local initiative with ATB Financial was one of my most popular blog posts of 2020. Collectively, nearly 250 people “adopted” different neighbourhoods and spent over $22,000 at over 64 small businesses in Edmonton. Not only did you spend, but you shared that shop local sentiment, and spirit of the initiative on your social media too. In less than a two week period, the #AdoptAShopYEG hashtag was shared over 500 times, reaching over 700,000 users, with an estimated 3 million post impressions. You wanted people to support businesses in their local communities and you weren’t shy about sharing that! You helped make a difference. Because I do believe this support local ripple effect made a difference. Thank you. 

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3. Guide To Edmonton Area Face Mask Makers

Elyse Makes Masks - Edmonton
Elyse Makes Masks
Art by Aeris Face Masks Edmonton
Masks from Art by Aeris.

As mask wearing became one of the top suggestions for preventing the spread of COVID-19, I put together a Guide to Local Edmonton Mask Makers in July 2020 that ended up being my third most popular blog post of the pandemic year. It got most of its traffic before masks were even mandatory. You wanted to keep people safe and you wanted to support local makers and businesses while doing so. There was really no shortage of mask makers, styles and designs to choose from (I’ll have to do an updated list of my favourite local masks!) and while locally-made masks end up costing a bit more than what you might find in a big box store, many of you wanted to support small in this way. And I’m so glad we did. 

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2. Where To Order Take-Home Christmas Meals In Edmonton (2020)

Edmonton Holiday Dinners - Take Out Meals - Christmas 2
Use and Share my Guide for Where to Order Take-Home Christmas Meals in Edmonton This Season (2020).

If ever there was a year to splurge and let someone else take care of your holiday meal, this would have been the year. And this year (2020), saw more options than ever for take-home Christmas meals by local Edmonton restaurants and caterers. I personally ordered my festive meals from Elizabethan Catering and Sunterra Market, plus non-traditional holiday meals including sashimi and Vietnamese soup. I know many of these holiday meal offerings ended up selling out—a truly wonderful way to end the year of tough business for many businesses. And I think just really goes to show a couple of things, like how much everyone wanted a break as 2020 came to an end (lol) and how much everyone wanted to continue supporting local businesses. Also an indication (hopefully) of how many people didn’t host Christmas gatherings, so it made a lot of sense to just pick up a ready-made meal for your own household. 

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1. Guide to Instagrammable Walls of Edmonton

Keep Edmonton Weird - Stadium Yards - Explore Edmonton - Instagrammable Walls of Edmonton - Travel Alberta
KEEP EDMONTON WEIRD!!!! Instagrammable Wall at Stadium Yards (near Downtown Edmonton).
Rainbow Road (Old Strathcona - 104 St. and Whyte Ave.) by Amos Kajner-Nonnekes.
Alixandra Jade Art & Design - Manchester Square - Edmonton Instagrammable Wall
Beautiful floral wall at Manchester Square (121 St. 107 Ave.) by Alixandra Jade Art & Design.

And coming in at #1 as my most visited blog post of 2020 is my Guide to Instagrammable Walls of Edmonton! To be clear, this Guide to Instagrammable Walls of Edmonton has actually been my #1 most visited blog post year after year since I first made it back in 2017. You. Love. Your. Instagrammable Walls!!

And why wouldn’t you? Again, as a reflection of the pandemic year, visiting Instagrammable Walls is something people could do safely, at a distant, by themselves, within their household or co-hort, outside. Heck, even for awhile there (when Edmonton case numbers were much lower), I was able to host physically-distant Instagrammable Wall walking tours! (Attendance capped at 10 participants per walk from the previous 25 max, from the previous free for all which at one point saw 50+ people come out to one walk lol).

I have so enjoyed cataloguing walls around town (and other cities) for you to enjoy too. And learning and sharing about the artists behind the walls. Admittedly my Guide could still use an update (I have saved a few walls for my walks, leaving them off the Guide, but I should add them now that they’re not really new anymore lol). I thank everyone who sends information and photos about new walls they discover to me too! And I am just so happy that YOU are so happy to explore your neighbourhoods, experience art, learn about artists, and share about it on social media. Thanks to everyone who share their Edmonton wall photos with the hashtag #IGWallsofYEG!

And if I were picking “the” Instagrammable Wall of 2020, it would have to be Alixandra Jade’s floral wall at Manchester Square (121 St. 107 Ave.), which ended up being probably one of the most Instagrammable areas of Edmonton this year. Would you believe I haven’t been to visit yet? lol there was so many people flocking to snap their pictures here, I decided to hold off—but it will be one of my first visits of 2021! Although it wasn’t technically a wall, I was also a big fan of Amos Kajner-Nonnekes’ Instagrammable ‘Alley’ (Rainbow Road) in Old Strathcona. And one of my new favourites in town—the Keep Edmonton Weird Instagrammable Wall at + by the team of Stadium Yards near downtown Edmonton. A must-visit! 

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Linda Hoang Blog Year in Review 2020
Reflecting on top posts of 2020!

So that’s my 2020 Blog Year-in-Review. A look at my top posts in a year unlike any other. I think what proved to be popular certainly reflected some effects of the pandemic—that desire to support local businesses, looking to your own city and province to explore and “travel” when you couldn’t really travel, searching for good food and finding things to do safely outdoors—like snapping photos with nice walls. 

If we expanded the Top 10 posts to Top 20, it would show more or less the same—lots of love for Guide to Edmonton Made Gifts That Show Your Love of the City (supporting local makers!), people wanting to know Dog Friendly Patios (which needs an update, I know!), trying to support Black-Owned Restaurants in Edmonton, and more of that provincial exploration, finding things to do in Sundre, Alberta, and so on.

What will 2021 look like? I don’t think we’ll ever get back to “normal” (pre-pandemic).

But I do look forward to a hopefully safer year and beyond. 

Thank you for being part of my little community! 

If you’re looking for more of an Edmonton food-focused Year-in-Review, check out Sharon’s blog post or Twyla’s Eat North post!


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