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.

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Historic Lafayette Hotel – Marietta, Ohio

Visitors to Marietta, Ohio have a variety of lodging options to choose from.  The historic Lafayette Hotel stands out as a unique choice that is rich in history and character, with the best location for exploring the historic district of downtown Marietta.

Lafayette Hotel

Lafayette Hotel Location

The Lafayette Hotel sits at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers. I had a lovely corner room with windows on two sides where I could see barges gliding past in the morning.

Lafayette Hotel

The hotel is at the end Greene Street, which is the heart of the historic district, where you’ll find many shops and restaurants. I was able to park my car (free parking!) and walk most places during my visit. I love walkable towns, and there is even a CVS within walking distance if you forgot something at home. The location makes this a great place to stay, especially during festival weekends. See if you can snag one of the rooms with a balcony!

Front Street

Lafayette Hotel History

Upon our arrival, we were given a tour by the manager, Sheila, who showed us many different rooms and gave us the history of the hotel. This site dates back to the Bellevue hotel in 1892, while the current building dates back to 1918. Here and elsewhere throughout the town, you will find flood markers showing the various historic floods in the region. As someone who grew up along the Mississippi River, I found this particularly interesting and am now wondering if my hometown has flood markers.

Lafayette Hotel

The Lafayette has taken great measures to maintain a historical appearance, and one neat feature is the hidden safes built into the furniture. In my room, the antique desk hid two spots for valuables. In the photo below, you can see the decorative column piece slides out to show the hidden compartment. Without a tour from the manager, I definitely would not have found these secrets!

Lafayette Hotel

The Lafayette would be of particular interest for ghost-hunters, as there are quite a few ghosts roaming the halls of this hotel. You can get all the details on a ghost trek with Hidden Marietta, who also runs an old-time photo shop in the ground floor of the hotel.

Everywhere you look, there is a piece of history with a story behind it.

Lafayette Hotel Phone Booths

Lafayette Hotel Amenities

The Lafayette Hotel is not a luxury hotel, but an affordable historic hotel. However, the rooms are surprisingly comfortable, given the age of the property. The hot water was instantly hot, great water pressure and nice bath amenities.

The hotel has two restaurants, the Gun Room and the Riverview Lounge. There’s also a very nice rooftop deck where you can take a drink from the bar to enjoy a relaxing summer evening overlooking Greene Street.

And last but not least, the Lafayette Hotel is dog-friendly! During my visit, Bailey stayed nearby at Boxer’s Beds and Biscuits but the front desk at the Lafayette Hotel assured me she would be welcome on our next trip, with no dog fees and no size restrictions!

Lafayette Hotel Rooftop

Stay tuned next week for details on all of the fun outdoor adventures I had while visiting Marietta, including hiking, biking and kayaking!

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Lafayette Hotel Marietta I was a guest of Visit Marietta during this trip. These are solely my personal opinions & experiences and I was not financially compensated for this post.

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