** This post was updated in 2021 with a recent trip back to Marietta.. My original travel to Marietta in 2017 was sponsored by the Marietta-Washington County CVB. All opinions are my own. Post contains affiliate links. **
Marietta is a small city that lies right along the Ohio River in southeast Ohio. While little in size and numbers, it’s bursting with local attractions. I’ve passed through Marietta many times on I-77, but stopping in the city for 3 days gave me an appreciation for its diverse attractions, gorgeous river views, and historic homes. I came up with five reasons you must visit Marietta, Ohio, but in reality, there are many more.
#1 Marietta has enough to keep the whole family entertained.
Like history? Marietta was the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. Founded in 1788, Marietta was named in honor of France’s Marie Antoinette, showing thankfulness to France for their contribution to a US victory in the Revolutionary War. Located at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers, this was Native American territory first. A large mound still stands at the center of town in Mound Cemetery.
To learn more about the history of Marietta, consider taking a tour through Hidden Marietta. On our tour, I learned that the above brick-laden Ohio Street was one of the first streets in town. It has a wild past as the home to brothels and bars, luring ship workers into town for a rowdy night. Now it’s just home to many tall tales, and this popular restaurant, The Levee.
Marietta is also home to many kid-friendly museums, such as The Campus Maritus Museum or the Ohio River Museum. Outside of the Ohio River Museum, you have the chance to tour a steam-driven sternwheeler, the WP Snyder Jr.
#2 Outdoor adventures are abundant
It’s no surprise to me that Marietta was named one of America’s Best Adventure Towns by National Geographic. The Ohio & Muskingum Rivers afford plenty of opportunities for putting your boat, kayak, or canoe to good use. There’s a picturesque bike trail that follows those same rivers for over 3 miles. The charming city also has 30+ miles of hiking and mountain bike trails. Nearby Wayne National Forest offers abundant trails as well.
No need to stress if you don’t have a way to bring your gear. Marietta Adventure Company offers kayak and bike rentals, as well as tours. We enjoyed a history-themed bike tour with Hallie, and a kayak tour led by Ryan. Both of these guides were friendly & helpful and extremely knowledgeable of all things Marietta.
For families with young children that may not feel comfortable kayaking, our family enjoyed a 90-minute sightseeing cruise aboard the Valley Gem Sternwheeler. This cruise departs from it’s dock next to the Ohio River Museum.
#3 Marietta is walkable
Once you’ve arrived and parked the car, the city is easy to navigate. Unless you are traveling out to Wayne National Forest, you shouldn’t need the car again! Feel free to walk along the river using the aforementioned bike trail, but you’ll also find plentiful sidewalks and a manageable business district.
The downtown is lined with cozy shops and great restaurants- there’s even a historic bridge to take you over to Harmar Village (currently under construction – 2021). Don’t miss the flood markers throughout the downtown. It’s a great reminder of just how mighty that Ohio River can be.
#4- Downtown accommodation
The Lafayette Hotel sits right on the Ohio River and is probably the most convenient property in Marietta. This historic hotel is full of quirks and fun details. In keeping with the history of the property, the well-made reproduction furniture adds to the hotel’s appeal. The Lafayette also offers a 3rd-floor deck to enjoy watching a sunset over downtown, or the numerous barges on the Ohio River (Marietta sees more boat traffic than the Panama Canal).
Tip: For families, book the VIP Suite. This room sleeps 6 in 2 double beds and a sofa bed. It also has 1.5 baths. Note – the hotel doesn’t have central air, and window units are as good as it gets. (I said it was historic! ;))
#5 Family-friendly Festivals
One of the most popular festivals in Marietta is the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival. The Sternwheel Festival is always the weekend after Labor Day. Can’t make it but want to see a sternwheeler? Various cruise ships dock throughout the summer. You can see the full list on the Visit Marietta Facebook Events page.
Enjoy a beer and some outdoor adventure? Marietta is also host to the Rivers, Trails & Ales Festival held every year in August. It’s a celebration of local community spirit, coupled with paddling and mountain biking, then finished off with Ohio-made craft beers. This would make a great weekend getaway for couples and singles of all ages.
Have I convinced you that you MUST visit Marietta? I adore this small town with big city charm. Have you been to Marietta? What’s your favorite attraction?