Our Guide to Guides to Portland

From a class of Llewelyn Elementary Third Graders, to zinesters, to Portlandia's, there's a guidebook for what to do in Portland.

By Kristin Belz June 6, 2013

Llewellyn Elementary School third graders recently published an online guide to Portland which will put Zagat's and Fodor's to shame.

If you live in Portland, you know that when summer comes, so do the visitors. They’re afraid of the rain, but they’ve heard people rave about how great Portland is from July 5 through September. So we prepare for friends and relatives to venture within our Urban Growth Boundary and to ask us for help discovering what we live with every day.

“What’s all this about Portland I keep hearing?” we keep hearing people from other places say to us. (“Is it really just like that show Portlandia?”) That’s OK. There are guidebooks to help us answer their questions and lead them around town. First off is our summer guide to how to entertain five types of visitors (5 Perfect Portland Days).  

A range of new guides to our real (and fictional), beloved Portland.

Six Guides to Portland for you and your visitors

  • The Third Grade Guide to Portland - This is hands down the most refreshing guide out there today, and absolutely tops in charm. It's the recently released, online only (at this point) publication from, yes, third grade students at Llewellyn Elementary School in Sellwood. They embarked on the effort as a six week class project in "persuasive, place-based writing." I'm persuaded; I give them an A+. They've evidently gotten an inquiry from local publishers Pinball about doing a kid's guide to Portland in print, so there is some hope of hearing more from these kids. Many of the graphics are amazing, in a childlike (of course – they are, after all, children) but utterly winning and savvy way. 
  • Walking Portland - Becky Ohlsen leads us on 30 tours, covering the city via the best transportation method we have. The guide (from Wilderness Press) is not too big, not too small, not too boring, not too weird. The graphics lack the spark of the Third Grade Guide, and photos are few, but the maps are clear, and the tours well-researched and informative. You might find yourself walking the sidewalks with nose in book as Ohlsen guides us step by step, but you'll learn a lot along the way.
  • Zinester's Guide to Portland  - The "low/no budget guide to living in and visiting Portland, Or" is exactly what it says it is. Put together by local indie publishers Microcosm, it unpretentiously captures the DIY spirit and easy vibe of Portland without any arched-eyebrow hipsterness. This fifth edition is a welcome update of the series (and it's only $5.95). 
  • This is Portland - the city you've heard you should like - A pamphlet sized book (also published by Microcosm), this is Alexander Barrett's extended letter home after having moved to Portland for "a year and one month." It is an excellent, text-driven snapshot (light on graphics) of the city at a point in time – May 2013. If you're a newcomer to Portland, it's the letter home you're too busy to write yourself. If you're an old-time resident, it's a look into what those green-haired, skinny-jeaned young people are up to.
  • Zagat's Guide - Finally, the group who crowd-sourced restaurant reviews and guide books before the internet existed has come to Portland.
  • Portlandia - A Guide for Visitors - Fred and Carrie (you know, Armisen and Brownstein) put together a satirical guide to their show, I mean, to our fictional city. 
Filed under
Show Comments