In the latest bucket list to hit the shelves, 100 Things to Do in Portland, OR Before You Die, Ann Smith and Allison Symonds offer a basic guidebook of things to do in Portland and the surrounding area. Smith, a native Oregonian, has lived in Portland since 2000 while the Symonds just moved here in 2014. The preface invites both tourists and inhabitants to enjoy the wide range their 100 favorite haunts, but, with few exceptions, the half-page introductions to each of these places sound more like sales pitches than someone sharing their firsthand experience and tips.
“The Hawthorne neighborhood epitomizes everything Portland is known for: quirky, unique, a little bit hippie and a little bit hipster.”
While it’s clear that this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of activities in Portland, the title implies that these are the ones not to miss. Yet, some of these are as vague as “eat at a food cart” and “drive through wine country.” What food carts are the best? What vineyards are the most spectacular? Only one food cart is mentioned by name, and it’s a separate entry. For the rest, people will need to turn to Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other methods to razzle dazzle their tastebuds and get drunk on scenery.
Almost a third of the 100 items are food and drink. The other categories include music and entertainment, sports and recreation, culture and history, and shopping and fashion. There are some obvious attractions, such as the zoo, but there are also some more hidden treasures such as the swifts at Chapman Elementary. Overall, this book would have been better as a list on a travel site.
Sarah Hutchins is an English Instructor and freelance writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She earned a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Antioch University and a Bachelors of Arts in English from Portland State University. Her sagging bookshelves suffer from a peculiar fate: for each book read and removed, three or four magically appear in its stead. The books that find a permanent home on these same shelves are typically classics, French literature, philosophical novels and essays, and magic realism.
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