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Where History & Headlines Collide: 36 Best Things to Do in Marietta Ohio

Although Marietta is a small city in Southeastern Ohio, it has a lot to offer residents and visitors alike. It’s full of rich history and the kind of small-town charm that you can only experience in the Appalachians — such as the mutual kindness between everyone.

Also, Marietta is filled with natural beauty and tons of indoor and outdoor activities and places to see. As a matter of fact, National Geographic Adventure named the city as one of the Top 100 Adventure Towns.

To help you create unforgettable memories, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to the best things to do in Marietta Ohio.

The History of Marietta Ohio

The earliest inhabitants of what are now Marietta Ohio and Washington County were the Adena and Hopewell Indian cultures over 2,000 years ago (around 100 B.C.). They disappeared around A.D. 500, and Native American tribes didn’t arrive in Washington County until around 1650.

The Delaware, Mingo, Shawnee, and other tribes settled here, creating villages, cultivating crops, and making the area their home. They remained until about 1850.

Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption | photo via @mattxanderpete

Marietta Is Established

In 1788, the Ohio Company of Associates — led by General Rufus Putnam — founded Marietta as the first Northwest Territory settlement. A group of 48 Revolutionary War veterans followed him from New England.

They chose the name Marietta in honor of Queen Marie-Antoinette because France provided vital aid during the war.

As they built up the town, they made an effort to preserve the local Indian mounds. Putnam built a house that still stands and is protected within the Campus Martius, which was originally built to protect the residents from Native American attacks.

Part of the Underground Railroad

Although Marietta and Washington County had a small part in the Underground Railroad, local activists were reliable conductors from 1795. They used the Muskingum River as a major byway in the 1800s.

It’s possible to see some of the Underground Railroad sites or visit the Belpre Historical Society’s permanent exhibit.

A Riverboat Town

Since Marietta rests on the banks of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers, it quickly grew and became a trading center for the Northwest Territory and the rest of Ohio.

The city lobbied to be the first capital of Ohio when it sought to become a state in 1803. Although it lost to Chillicothe, Marietta was still the main access point into the state.

The city’s location was also the reason it thrived in 1811 as steamboats started churning in rivers across the country. This boom was strengthened by commerce, ship building, and settlers passing through. Marietta continues to celebrate this riverboat legacy today.

Ohio River Sternwheel Festival | photo via @bruce_wunderlich

Current Day Marietta Ohio

Marietta and Washington County have done well to preserve many historical sites. Because of that, it’s a great place to learn about the westward expansion of America.

The city is still a cultural and political center, and it’s surrounded by natural beauty. As a result, there are a variety of things to do in Marietta Ohio that pique every interest.

Indoor Things to Do in Marietta Ohio

Many historic buildings in Marietta are open for tours, making them fantastic indoor activities when the weather isn’t ideal. You can find theatrical entertainment as well. We’ve highlighted three of them for you.

Peoples Bank Theatre

Opened in 1919, the historic Peoples Bank Theatre celebrates creative expression, entertainment, and history near the center of walkable downtown. It was originally called the new Hippodrome Theatre, but it underwent a renovation in 1949 with a name change to The Colony Theatre.

Despite renovations over the years, the facility still has its original carpet, stage fire curtain, and tile. Now, the theatre hosts a wide array of live entertainment — concerts, film events, theatrical performances — which you can watch from the comfort of 1920s-era reproduction seats.

Peoples Bank Theatre | photo via @xmissxmandyx

Anchorage Mansion Tours

Built in 1859 by Douglas Putnam, The Anchorage is a 22-room Italianate villa with a grand bell tower in the front. You can see the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers and a major section of Marietta from the tower.

The foundation was made of solid rock, the walls were built with 24-inch-thick sandstone, and the oak wood used throughout the house was locally grown.

After being the Putnam residence, The Anchorage was owned by Edward MacTaggert, who restored and furnished the villa with worldwide treasures. The house has been home to many other prominent Marietta residents.

Private group tours are available between April and November by appointment.

The Castle

One of the best examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Ohio, The Castle is an 1855 house museum that provides a range of community-oriented and educational opportunities for everyone. It was once the home of Theodore Davis, a former state senator.

On the exterior, you can see an octagonal tower, stone-capped spires, and trefoil attic window. The interior features floor-to-ceiling shutters on the bay window of the parlor and a scagliola fireplace. It’s furnished with historical items from the area and Victorian Era.

Tours are available from April to December.

The Castle | photo via @audcrow

Outdoor Things to Do in Marietta Ohio

Since it’s surrounded by nature and historic sites, there are plenty of outdoor activities in Marietta, Ohio. Here’s a look at three of our favorites.

Broughton Nature and Wildlife Education Area

Accessible via the Marietta Trail Network and three entrances with ample parking, the Broughton Nature and Wildlife Education Area is a mostly undisturbed 800-acre park and preserve.

The natural habitats include three ponds, a natural stream with a waterfall, and a large meadow. It has many recreational activities — such as disc golf on two courses, mountain biking, and hiking. The park even has picnic areas.

Broughton Nature and Wildlife Education Area | photo via @timeout_to_the_trail

Ancient Earthworks and Mound Cemetery

When the ancient Adena and Hopewell Indian cultures disappeared, they left 95 acres of ceremonial burial mounds, passageways, and embankments.

The founders of Marietta knew that these earthly artworks were important, so they made an effort to preserve them. In fact, they built another mound around the original site.

Some of the ancient ceremonial structures still stand, including the 30-foot Conus Mound in the Mound Cemetery. At the top of the cemetery are graves of the founding Revolutionary War veterans, including Rufus Putnam and Benjamin Tupper. Actually, it has the highest number of Revolutionary War officer graves in the nation.

Also nearby is the Ancient Earthworks, an archaeological site that resembles an Aztec temple. You can tour both areas.

Mound Cemetary | photo via @sleepy_f

Washington County Fair

In early September, you can enjoy an assortment of activities and events during the Washington County Fair. It includes a Fair Parade that stretches from the Ohio Riverfront Park on Ohio St. to the Washington County Fairgrounds via Front St.

Families with children will love the livestock exhibits with cows, goats, horses, poultry, rabbits, and sheep. Other events include truck and tractor pulls, a horse pull, harness horse races, a flower show, a pie baking contest, and the Little Prince & Princess contest.

Seasonal Things to Do in Marietta Ohio

No matter when you visit Marietta, you’ll find something to do. We’ve listed three activities or places to experience in each season.

Spring Things to Do in Marietta Ohio

Pioneer Golf Course

After the cold of winter, you might be anticipating some spring golf weather. Fortunately, the Pioneer Golf Course has been serving Marietta since 1997.

It has a 9-hole public course and affordable prices on golf cart rentals. Pioneer has a driving range and an 18-hole mini-golf course as well.

Pioneer Golf Course | photo via @hannahlbonnell

Trolley Tours

Starting in May, Trolley Tours of historic Marietta are available. The tours start and end at the Armory on Front St. where parking is free.

Included are stories about the city’s founders and the many historical sites, historic homes, and other buildings — including Victorian downtown shops, museums, churches, and Marietta College.

Currently, you can only make reservations via phone: (740) 350-9852.

Trolley Tours | photo via @melanie_tienter

Hidden Marietta Ghost Tour

If you’re interested in learning about the spooky and weird sides of Marietta history, book a ghost tour with Hidden Marietta. It offers walking tours on Front St, throughout the historic Harmar Village neighborhood, and on Putnam St.

You can go on paranormal investigations and take in-depth building tours, such as The Anchorage and The Lafayette hotel. As a bonus, tarot readings are available.

Hidden Marietta | photo via @viva_la_melisa

Summer Things to Do in Marietta Ohio

Canoeing, Kayaking, & Boat Tours

Summer is the best season to hop into a canoe or kayak and paddle the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers. You can go to Marietta Adventure Company to rent single or tandem kayaks, or purchase your own. The staff can recommend paddle routes too.

Instead of paddling yourself, you could ride the Valley Gem Sternwheeler. This boat tour company provides narrated sightseeing tours, murder mystery dinner cruises, sunset dinner tours, and special holiday-inspired cruises.

Valley Gem Sternwheeler | photo via @eliolsen2.0

Marietta Sweet Corn Festival

Celebrating the area’s agricultural history, the city hosts the Marietta Corn Festival at Muskingum Park in downtown around mid-July.

The festival promotes higher education and local agriculture through free family fun, live entertainment, and delicious food. Usually, it has a cartoonist, coin hunt, cornhole, face painting, magician, merry-go-round, and petting farm.

All of the proceeds go toward funding scholarships for high school seniors.

Rivers, Trails and Ales Festival

In August, the Rivers, Trails and Ales Festival (RTA Fest) is designed to appeal to locals and visitors. This event is an all-in-one package, combining the charming aspects of downtown with easily accessible outdoor activities — mountain biking, road biking, and paddling.

The activities are designed for participants of all ages, fitness levels, and backgrounds. There’s a bike parade, town scavenger hunt, and tortoise and hare race. Don’t forget to cool down with the locally crafted brews available downtown as well.

Fall Things to Do in Marietta Ohio

Hardly Able Carriage Company

Located on Front St. across from the Schafer Leather Store, Hardly Able Carriage Company typically operates from May to October. We think that fall is the best time to take a horse-drawn carriage ride because the colorful leaves are beautiful throughout Marietta.

The horse-drawn carriages are available on a first-come, first-served basis and drive along Front St. and Greene St. to Ohio St. Although the rides aren’t guided tours, they’re a fun way to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Hidden Hills Orchard

Less than 15 minutes from downtown via SR-26, Hidden Hills Orchard has more than 5,200 dwarf trees that grow 22 varieties of apples — including Gala, Golden Delicious, and Honeycrisp. You can pick your own apples from August to November, or grab a bag of pre-picked apples.

The orchard makes award-winning cider with the apples too, and it has about 80 cherry trees and 150 peach trees.

Hidden Hills Orchard | photo via @wyscarver_farms

Sweetapple Farm

Even though it’s not within Marietta, the Sweetapple Farm is only about 20 minutes west in Vincent, which is still part of Washington County. The farm offers a plethora of fun fall activities for a fee.

Every admission includes access to the animal areas, corn maze with three games, kids hay maze, garden area with a giant xylophone, huge bird nest, picture areas, and wooden milking cows.

Pumpkin picking and 25-minute hayrides are available for an additional charge, and you can buy DIY scarecrows and fresh food in the market.

Sweetapple Farm Market | photo via @katieespurling

Winter Things to Do in Marietta Ohio

Campus Martius Museum [Ohio River Museum]

When it’s too cold to spend time outdoors, visiting museums is one of the warmest things to do in Marietta Ohio. Campus Martius Museum is situated at the corner of 2nd St. and Washington St.

It was built in 1928 on the site of the original stockade that was erected between 1788 and 1791. It protected the founders’ series of row houses during the Ohio Indian Wars, which lasted from 1790 to 1794. The stockade was dismantled after a treaty was signed in 1795.

Within the museum are the Ohio Company Land Office and Rufus Putnam House.

Campus Martius and Ohio River Museum | photo via @marnilynn22

Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption

Since 1838, people have gathered in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption, a gorgeous architectural sight. It has ornate decor, such as art glass and an altar of carved Italian marble.

Visitors of all faiths are welcome, and you can even take a self-guided tour between certain times as long as you don’t interfere with masses, funerals, or weddings. Guided tours are available at no cost as well, but donations are welcome.

Prearranged lunches are available, and you can check out unique items at the Divine Mercy Gift Shop.

Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption | photo via @1000holyplaces

Marietta Ice Festival

In mid-January, downtown hosts the Marietta Ice Festival. It attracts thousands of residents and visitors who want to see the ice sculptures made by a local artist.

You can watch a live sculpture carving and hit the shops and restaurants. When it gets dark, the sculptures are lit up, so you’ll want to attend the full event to experience everything.

Free & Cheap Things to Do in Marietta Ohio

While you must purchase tickets to do many things around the city, there are numerous cheap and free things to do in Marietta, Ohio too. Consider these if you’re on a budget.

Biking & Hiking Around the City

Did you know that Marietta is central to six trail systems and over 200 miles of trails for hiking and biking? One of these is the city’s own Marietta Trail Network, which features 18 miles of off-road trails that connect to several parks and offer scenic views of the wooded hills and valleys.

Another option is The River Trail, which is a 3.3-mile paved trail that stretches from the Harmar Bridge to the Indian Acres Boat Ramp. It follows the Muskingum River, offering relaxing views of the water.

Marietta Adventure Company and the Marietta Harbor offer reasonable bike rental rates, but it’s free to walk or hike the trails.

Marietta Adventure Company | photo via @knicklucas

Parks & Playgrounds

Most of Marietta’s parks and playgrounds are free to visit, and they’re terrific places to spend time with significant others and kids. Buckeye Park, East Muskingum Park, Indian Acres Park, and Flanders Field Park are a few worth visiting.

There’s also Devola Playground, which is a complex with a swimming pool, playground, ball fields, and basketball and tennis courts.

Ohio River Sternwheel Festival

In September, Marietta holds the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, its largest event of the year. It includes live music, fireworks, food, and a 5k run and walk.

You can watch the Queen Genevieve Scholarship Pageant and Little Miss & Mr. Sternwheel Pageant, which are time-honored traditions.

Ohio River Sternwheel Festival | photo via @bruce_wunderlich

Fun Things to Do With Kids in Marietta Ohio

Children aren’t always interested in history and house museums. Instead, keep your kids entertained with these fun things to do in Marietta Ohio.

Betsey Mills Club

A historic community center, the Betsey Mills Club is dedicated to offering a variety of community-based events, educational services, and other programs.

For instance, it hosts pool therapy, yoga, dog obedience classes, Zumba classes, and warm water arthritis workouts.

Classes and activities are available for all ages, but children particularly love the programs.

Children’s Toy and Doll Museum

Founded in 1976, the Children’s Toy and Doll Museum is filled with dollhouses that were once displayed in the Campus Martius Museum. The historic items were moved to two train cars in 1989 and again in 1996 because more display space was needed.

The current location is an 1889 Eastlake/Queen Anne-style home that has been renovated. With nine rooms, the museum has several new displays every year to feature a wide range of toy and doll collections.

The Wilds

Since it’s located about 50 minutes north of Marietta in Cumberland, The Wilds is an awesome day trip idea for kids. This 10,000-acre adventure park offers open-air safari tours that take you close to animals from around the globe, including endangered and rare species.

During the 2-plus hour tours, kids will love learning about the wildlife that they see roaming in the natural setting. The vehicles stop at the Carnivore Center and Lake Trail as well. In addition, The Wilds has many specialty tour options.

The Wilds | photo via @global_exhibitor

Local Restaurants in Marietta Ohio

Although it’s small, Marietta has dozens of restaurants. We’ve featured some of the best and most unique places to eat in Marietta Ohio below.

Boathouse BBQ

With an impressive dining room and spacious patio, Boathouse BBQ has been serving locals and visitors since 2007.

This premier barbecue joint boasts more than 12 awards for its wings, chili, and ribs. However, the menu features a massive 72 items — including burgers, seafood, and steak.

You get a river view while eating on the patio, and you can play some cornhole too.

Boathouse BBQ | photo via @adventuresoverobjects

Austyn’s

Serving dishes from around the world, Austyn’s has a wide-ranging menu of fresh seafood, pasta, hand-cut steak, and fresh desserts.

Some favorites include the ocean feast, Maryland crabcake, beef of filet, and cut of lamb. Moreover, it has a long selection of beers, cocktails, and wines to pair with your meal.

Austyn’s | photo via @itsalwaysabbyhour

Gun Room Dining Room

Located within The Lafayette hotel, the Gun Room Dining Room is one of the most distinct restaurants in Marietta Ohio.

It serves breakfast most days and features riverboat-related decor, some of which was made for WWII. What it’s famous for, though, is a collection of 1795-1880 handcrafted long rifles, which are on display.

Breweries & Wineries in Marietta Ohio

Marietta isn’t known for its craft beverage scene. However, there’s a brewery, wine shop, and nearby vineyard where you can enjoy tastings and meals.

Marietta Brewing Company

Proudly making handcrafted beer, Marietta Brewing Co. is located downtown. It was originally a pre-prohibition brewery by another name but opened in its current location in 1997.

Ever since, it has been making tasty beers and food, including burgers and pizzas. On top of that, the brewpub has live music frequently.

Marietta Brewing Company | photo via @eatingwv

Marietta Wine Cellars

Although it’s a wine shop, Marietta Wine Cellars is worth visiting. It has more than 30 varieties of wine, so you’re bound to find one that suits your tastes.

In the back of the shop is a meat and cheese deli, lounge with a full kitchen and bar, and soft-dipped velvet ice cream.

WineTree Vineyards

Less than 15 minutes south of Marietta in Vienna, WineTree Vineyards is an award-winning vineyard and winery. You can take a tour of the winery, and enjoy samples of the wines in the tasting room.

The tasting room staff make the experience informative and fun. Before you leave, you can purchase your favorites from the gift shop.

Shopping in Marietta Ohio

In walkable downtown Marietta, you’ll find a host of distinct boutiques and specialty shops. Some of them have been around for more than 100 years. Because of that, it’s easy for shopping to be one of the best things to do in Marietta Ohio.

Baker & Baker Jewelers

Since 1918, Baker & Baker Jewelers has established itself as one of the jewelry industry’s most trusted names. The luxury jewelry store has served generations of families with the finest designs, diamonds, and treasured gifts.

From classic to contemporary to unique, you can find jewelry for every occasion at competitive prices.

Schafer Leather Store

Founded as a local harness store in 1867, Schafer Leather Store has become a trusted shop for all your leather needs. It’s the oldest store in Marietta Ohio that has remained owned and operated by the same family — five generations of Schafers.

It has a selection of more than 4,000 boots for all ages, and among its other products are belts and buckles, clothing, gloves, handbags, hats, knives and sheaths, jewelry, umbrellas, and wallets.

Schafer Leather Store | photo via @rwatsonboots

Green Acres of Marietta

After a visit to Marietta, a woman fell in love with an empty store on Front St. Her life wasn’t going as planned in California, so she took the leap to move and open Green Acres of Marietta. Now, it might be one of the coolest shops in the city.

The mix of products include antiques, jewelry, home decor, glassware, collectibles, handmade items, guy stuff, and repurposed items.

Unique Marietta Ohio Hotels & Lodging

While the places to stay in Marietta, Ohio are plentiful, a few of them exceeded our expectations. Check out these places for a comfortable home away from home or outdoor adventure.

The Lafayette

One of our favorite hotels in Marietta is The Lafayette, a historical landmark situated downtown on the Ohio River. It’s named after Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette, who visited the city in 1825.

The 77 guest rooms have their own unique themes, and hotel amenities include a fitness center with cardio and strength training equipment. Throughout the hotel, interesting riverboat artifacts are proudly displayed, especially in the Gun Room Dining Room.

The Lafayette also serves lunch and dinner in its Riverfront Bar & Grill.

River Rock Cottage

Vacation rentals are abundant in Washington County, but River Rock Cottage in Marietta made a big impression on us. This lovely Victorian-style home has 3 bedrooms, 5 beds, and 2 bathrooms, accommodating six people with no problem.

It’s only about half a block from historic Harmar Village, so plenty of shops, restaurants, and activities are within walking distance.

Castle Care Campground

Camping is a fun way to explore Marietta Ohio and soak up the area’s natural Appalachian landscape. Resting on the banks of the Little Muskingum River, Castle Care Campground spans hundreds of acres that have been managed by the same family for decades.

It has 20 full-hookup sites for RVs and is open all year with short and long-term camping rates.

Frequently Asked Questions About Things to Do in Marietta Ohio

Where is Marietta, Ohio?

Marietta is situated in Southeastern Ohio where the Muskingum River meets the Ohio River. It’s part of Washington County and is the county seat.

How far is Marietta Ohio from me?

If you’re visiting Marietta from Columbus, the drive will take about 2 hours. The trip takes about 2 hours, 40 minutes from Cleveland, just over 3 hours from Dayton, and about 3.5 hours from Cincinnati. Driving from Toledo to Marietta will take just over 4 hours. From across the Ohio River in Parkersburg, West Virginia, you can expect the drive to take only about 20 minutes.

What is Marietta Ohio known for?

Marietta is known for being the oldest city in Ohio, established in 1788. Also, it was officially the first permanent settlement territory on the north and west sides of the Ohio River. The city’s location on two rivers and history in the steamboat industry earned it the nickname Riverboat Town. You can learn all about this history at the Campus Martius and Ohio River Museums and at the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.

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