Ohio’s First Adventure: Marietta

Kayaking the Muskingum River with Marietta Adventure Company

Marietta, Ohio is a sleepy town along the Ohio River in the South-East corner of the state. Before my visit, Marietta (or Ohio for that matter) was not really on my travel radar. My compass almost always points West to the mountains, but I am so glad I took the opportunity to visit Marietta. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of outdoor activities in Ohio. It’s no wonder that National Geographic named Marietta Ohio’s Best Adventure Town!

Marietta is the oldest city in the state of Ohio (founded in 1787) and the first American settlement of the Northwest Territory. Marietta’s history goes back even further to the Hopewell and Adena tribes, who left behind ceremonial mounds which you can still see today. Marietta grew popular as a riverboat town, and still celebrates their steamboat heritage.

Historic Bike Tour with Marietta Adventure Company

What to Do in Marietta

You will be surprised at the variety of activities to explore in Marietta. I spent 48 hours and could have easily filled twice that amount of time!

Kayaking in Marietta

Kayaking the Muskingum River with Marietta Adventure Company

Marietta Adventure Company has everything you need for a day of adventure on local water. They offer guided tours, rentals, shuttle service and kayak sales. Even if you have your own boat and shuttle, they have some useful links on their website that you should check out.

When I visited, we had a short guided tour from our launch on the Muskingum River, into the confluence of the Ohio River, past downtown Marietta, a quick stop at Buckley Island and on over to West Virginia, where the van picked us up. In addition to the guided tours, it looks like they will have some special events, like full moon paddles, in the summer!

Marietta Adventure Company

Biking in Marietta

Historic Bike Tour with Marietta Adventure Company

Marietta Adventure Company also offers bike rentals and sales. We were given a historic bike tour by one of the owners, who said they are considering offering these tours in the near future. I hope they do, because it was a great experience. We all commented on how comfortable the cruiser bikes were, too! As someone who occasionally bike commutes in Chicago, I found the wide streets and low traffic to be very relaxing for our ride around town.

The paved River Trail follows the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers for 3.5 miles through town. The Marietta Trail Network has over 20 miles of groomed single-track and the Marietta unit of Wayne National Forest features technical mountain bike trails if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush!

Hiking in Marietta

Wayne National Forest

Marietta offers excellent hiking opportunities, including the Frontier trail right in town, and nearby Wayne National Forest. We hiked part of the Archer’s Fork loop with a forest ranger, where we saw natural arches and caves in just a short hike. The North Country Trail also passes through this area.

Less than an hour away, you will also find Hocking Hills State Park, which is a beautiful park filled with waterfalls and hiking trails.

Ghost Tours

Ghost Trek with Jessica from Hidden Marietta

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, Hidden Marietta offers tours chock full of history and ghost lore. We joined the owner, Jessica, for an evening ghost trek around town. As we strolled through the Front Street area for about 2 hours, Jessica (in 1800’s apparel!) regaled us with stories from Marietta’s past, which was quite scandalous at times!

Marietta College Planetarium

I was really excited to visit the Anderson Hancock Planetarium for a special show with Dr. Bragg. The planetarium holds public programs each month, so check the website for details. (Tip: bring a sweater!)

Covered Bridges

Hune Bridge, Wayne National Forest

Nine covered bridges remain in the Marietta area. You can plan a self-guided tour with help from the Marietta CVB.

Festivals in Marietta

Marietta Sweet Corn Festival – this July festival celebrates the agricultural history of the region, with music, food and entertainment.

Rivers Trails & Ales – it’s just what it sounds like – a celebration of paddling, biking and local ales. Taking place in August, RTA offers fun for the whole family.

Ohio River Sternwheel Festival – this September festival seems to be the talk of the town. The Lafayette Hotel keeps a running wait-list for this big weekend, which brings dozens of authentic sternwheel boats, and over 100,000 visitors to town!

Where to Eat in Marietta

Blue Cheese Chips at The Galley

Marietta has a great variety of dining options, from casual cafes to trendy bistros. Here are the places I visited in Marietta:

  • Busy Bee – located in Harmar Village, this small cafe uses fresh ingredients from local farms. Great breakfast spot to fuel up for outdoor adventures!
  • Harmar Tavern – Harmar Tavern offers a classic menu of American favorites, including the “soon to be famous” bologna sandwich. Great patio for outdoor dining!
  • Third Street Deli – I had a delicious Southwest chicken panini from this deli! Grab a picnic lunch before heading out on a hike.
  • The Galley – this restaurant in the Hackett Hotel was the most upscale that we tried, although still casual. Really enjoyed the blue cheese chips appetizer!
  • The Gun Room at Lafayette Hotel – hearty breakfast menu with a ton of classic breakfast options.
  • Over the Moon Pizza – this was my favorite spot! Not only was the pizza delicious, but the owner, Moon (a former mayor of Marietta) entertained us with stories of growing up in Marietta, and his encounters with Bigfoot.

Over the Moon Pizza

Where to Shop in Marietta

Front Street

Marietta’s historic district has no shortage of charming shops to browse during your visit. Boutiques like The Cook’s Shop, Rossi Pasta, S|P Curated and Karen’s Crafts have a wide variety of items to bring home as souvenirs.

Where to Stay in Marietta

  • Historic District – I recommend staying in the historic district for a more authentic experience, as well as being in walking distance of great food and drink.
    • Lafayette Hotel – (Dog-Friendly!) check out my review here.
    • Hackett Hotel – the Hackett Hotel is another great option for your visit. This 5-room hotel is in a building with a long and colorful history (hint: more ghost stories!) The building also houses the Galley restaurant and Adelphia music hall.
    • If B&B’s are more your style, check out the options here!
  • Chain Hotels – if you prefer chain hotels (no judgment, I love my SPG and IHG points, too!) you will find plenty of options near the interstate.

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Ohio's First Adventure

I was hosted by Visit Marietta to learn about the variety of outdoor adventure opportunities in Marietta. These are solely my personal opinions/experiences and I was not financially compensated for this post.

This post is also part of the Weekly Postcard. Click the photo below to check out other posts this week!

Two Traveling Texans
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17 thoughts on “Ohio’s First Adventure: Marietta

  1. What a great time in Marietta. I think my favorite experiences were the kayaking and the city bike tour, along with dinner at the Galley Restaurant.

  2. I’ve never heard of Marietta, OH. It looks like a lovely town with lots of wonderful activities. My mother is from the Cleveland area, so this is a side of Ohio I have never experienced. Nice post!

  3. Great post, Leigh! I agree – those cruiser bikes were super comfortable, and since I live in the mountains, where biking is a challenge, it was super relaxing for me as well.

  4. I am not that familiar with Marietta (or Ohio) and have to admit I kept saying “wow” when I was scrolling down and reading your post. There are so many cool things to do in the city. Plus, I with beautiful facades and good food. I have to experience Ohio too. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  5. How fun! I’ve never really considered a trip to Ohio, but after your description of adventures, I’m pretty sure I’d fall in love with Marietta! I love to kayak and just be on the water. I also make it a point to go on biking tours whenever I travel abroad…but I might have to make an exception for doing one state-side!

    • Isn’t it funny how we approach international travel differently? I’ve made a better effort this year to be a tourist in my hometown and around the Midwest and it’s been really fun!

  6. I can’t believe they still have nine covered bridges! Those are such a disappearing piece of American history. I’m going to have to make a trip to Marietta (and it may just be during that River Trails and Ales Fest…).

  7. What an absolutely adorable little town! I had no idea what a cool history it had. My hometown of Louisville, KY has a steamboat history too! I bet they’re linked from way back in the day 🙂

  8. I love small towns like this! They’re so under-written about in the blogging word, so this is wonderful! This town looks so lovely, I would love to take the ghost tour and learn about the history of the town. Love how many outdoor activities the town offers too!

  9. What a great guide. You did so many things in just 48 hours. Like you I have never thought about visiting Ohio, but your great article has shown me there is more than just gloom there. I will surely check it out if I get the chance.

  10. So many active ways to see the area! I’m so impressed at what you packed in. I have been to Ohio but not to Marietta it looks such a charming place. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  11. I had no idea there was so much in Marietta. It really looks like a great place to visit. I would love to do some hiking there. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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