“I pledge to say: I’m from Tacoma. Not ‘I’m south of Seattle.’ You’re from Tacoma and this is a beautiful city,” said local author Marguerite “Peggy” Cleveland, whose new book, “100 Things to Do in Tacoma Before You Die,” highlights everything from restaurants and oddball museums to hidden-gem trails , all accessible within about 20 minutes of downtown.
“It’s really just underrated as a travel destination,” said the retired military officer, who hopes the book attracts attention to Washington’s third-largest city from both in-state and cross-country travelers.
Cleveland’s father served in the Navy and her husband was an infantry officer, so she has uprooted 33 times. In each place, she explained, your time is limited but also long enough that you can settle in and explore far more than you would on a two-week vacation.
Published by Reedy Press, a small publishing house in St. Louis that owns the “100 Things” series and has commissioned dozens of titles for cities ranging from Mobile, Alabama to Bend, Oregon, each edition is broken down into five categories: food and drink, music and entertainment, sports and recreation, culture and history, shopping and fashion.
Cleveland had “100 percent creative control” over the selections, but chose to keep each category to a clean 20. Additional tips are scattered throughout, and a few listings are broad, such as “explore the eclectic food offerings in Parkland” (No. 17), noting Marzano Italian Restaurant along with Marvel Deli and Parkland Place Bakery, and “explore a neighborhood business district” (No. 68), of which there are 15.
Some choices could have landed in multiple categories. Bob’s Java Jive, for instance, is found in the entertainment section, and Cleveland focuses on the dive bar’s music history and consistent karaoke schedule.
The News Tribune spoke with Cleveland, who lives in Steilacoom, in early October about her background (spoiler: she’s not from here!), why she hopes her perspective pays off, and how she collected her 100 things.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
HOW DID YOU COME TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
I think it’s probably a little controversial that I wrote this book! I was invited to write the book by Reedy Press. The book is for locals but also for people visiting the area. As a military person, when they come to the area, their time here is limited. They have the fresh eyes of the tourist, but they also have the knowledge of a local. You’re not just here for a week — you live here for two to three years. Their families are super excited: ‘Where are they moving next?!’
WHY DID YOU END UP STAYING IN TACOMA?
When we moved to this area eight years ago — stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord — it just felt like home. The community is super welcoming. We’ve lived in a lot of places all over the world. In the US, people have their family and their friends and their lives, so sometimes it can be difficult to break into that. Because the base here is so big, people are just really welcoming.
When it came time to move, with my mom, I never knew exactly how she felt. I’ve got the ‘go’ bug — I’m really ready to go see something new. For me, it’s always been that way. I’ve seen and done everything we could do in this area. We’d get out on weekends as a family and take weekend trips. In Tacoma, living in this area of Washington and the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been here eight years now and I don’t even feel like I’ve scratched the surface.
WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT FALLING SHORT OF 100 THINGS?
100 things was just the beginning!
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE?
It was really important for me to capture the uniqueness of the Tacoma dining scene. I met Kris [Carlson Tweten] with Tacoma Aroma. She epitomizes the scene — people who go out and support these restaurants.
Mentioned: The views at Copper & Salt Northwest Kitchen at the Silver Cloud Hotel at Point Ruston (No. 1), roving Filipino chef and fellow retired military spouse Jan Parker (No. 4), House of Mandoo at Pal-Do Market in Lakewood (No. 8).
I’m 60 now, but Pretty Gritty Tours and Grit City Magazine, they recommended a few music folks, including Danno Presents.
My boys are college-aged now, but when we were first here, we got out and did a lot of this stuff. I also write for Northwest Military about travel and things to do. That’s how I found out about a lot of these other things. You’re always trying to come up with something new that people haven’t heard about before.
Mentioned: the Gig Harbor gondola ride (No. 21), an escape room modeled after Mayan ruins (No. 26), Emerald Queen Events Center (No. 29), downtown Tacoma’s theater district (No. 30).
DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING NEW?
The economic business districts: I didn’t really know about it until writing the book. It’s almost like the wine scene with sub-AVAs. Hilltop, Lincoln District — this is like another little Main Street, this cluster of restaurants and a dry cleaner. Some are historical; each has their own little vibe about them.
Mentioned, as new to this reporter: Sequalitchew Creek Trail (No. 48), a Steilacoom secret — until now, joked Cleveland; digital GeoTourist guide to Puyallup Tribe Walk (No. 51), Karpeles Manuscript Museum near Wright Park (No. 78).
WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS TAKE WITH THEM?
I see Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and say, ‘What’s Tacoma?’ I’m naturally curious as a traveler. I just love the diversity of people coming together. I’ve learned so much that I wasn’t really exposed to in other places that I’ve lived.
People really, really love this city. ‘Live like the mountain is out, South Sound proud.’ People are really passionate about this town, supporting it and loving it. When you write a little book like this, it wasn’t about the money. I’ve really grown to love this city. My hope is it gets the national spotlight.
100 THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA BEFORE YOU DIE
Book available for purchase locally:
▪ Pacific Northwest Shop, 2702 N Proctor St., Tacoma
▪ Pine & Moss, 1100 Station Dr., DuPont
▪ Paper Luxe, 2053 Mildrest St., Fircrest and 4729 Point Fosdick Dr., Uptown Gig Harbor
Book signing events with author Peggy Cleveland:
▪ Silver Cloud Hotel Tacoma, 5125 Grand Loop, Ruston – Oct. 20, 5-8pm
▪ Pine & Moss, 1100 Station Dr., DuPont – Nov. 5 & 18, 10am-5pm
▪ Thurston County Fairgrounds, 3054 Carpenter Rd., Lacey – Nov. 18, 5-9 pm