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Marietta Ohio is a wonderful destination for history lovers. From the Sternwheelers, to Indian Mounds, to historic homes and properties – and a growing arts and music scene – there’s a lot to explore!
Marietta is located where the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers meet in southeast Ohio, near the border of West Virginia. Established in 1788, it’s the oldest, permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. The area is steeped in history, and it’s exactly the type of destination that my husband and I love to visit.
Lafayette Hotel, Marietta, Ohio
Our stay began by checking in to the historic Lafayette Hotel in the downtown historic district. The property, built in 1918, is directly across the street from the Ohio River.
Walking into the property, you feel as though you’ve stepped back to the showboat era. The décor in the lobby and public areas feature memorabilia of bygone days while the rooms are decorated in Victorian or showboat themes.
I was thrilled when we exited the elevator on the fourth floor and entered our air-conditioned corner room to find beautiful period furnishings that included a heavy four-poster bed with steps, wing chairs, a writing desk and armoire. Painted glass shade lamps graced the end tables that flanked the bed on each side and the large, tiled bathroom was bright and spotless.
Our stay was off to an amazing start.
We spent a few minutes settling in before heading out to meet my brother, sister-in-law and nephew for an ice cream cone at the Cone and Shake at the Oasis ice cream stand on Pike Street, a two-minute drive from the hotel.
The Cone and Shake has ample of parking and while they don’t have indoor seating, you’ll find plenty of covered picnic table seating outdoors.
We talked for about an hour before my 5-year old nephew had enough and wanted to know what we were going to do next. He’s obsessed with putt putt golf so we headed to the Pioneer Golf Center.
Things to Do in Marietta Ohio
Next we drove through the historic area, got a glimpse of the Mound Cemetery and stopped to play at a park beside the library. A sucker for Carnegie libraries, the Marietta Public Library caught my attention for another reason as well.
Opened in 1918, the building is the only library in the United States built on top of an Indian mound. Mounds and earthworks built by the Hopewell people are plentiful in Marietta and while I had hoped to take the self-guided walking tour of the mounds, my husband was not as interested as I was. I’ll save that tour for another trip to the city.
We finally called it quits, drove back to the hotel, and climbed into our bed with the lace-draped panels for a great night’s sleep. We awoke early for a delicious breakfast in the Gun Room, onsite at the Lafayette.
Marietta Ohio Walking Tours
The Marietta Historic Homes Walking Tour highlights some of the key properties in the historic district and is a great tour for those interested in history or architecture. Visitors can stop into The Castle, a large Victorian-style home with an adjacent carriage house, during operating hours for a guided tour of the property.
The Campus Mauritius Museum shelters the Rufus Putnam House. It was built in 1788 by Marietta’s founding father and was his home until his death in 1824.
The guided home tour is available during normal museum hours. The museum brings early American history to life through hands-on, interactive exhibits, carefully curated memorabilia, and experienced docents. I needed to spend much longer in the museum than I had time for. Another attraction to return to.
The Marietta Historic Churches Walking Tour started at the First Congregational Church, one of Marietta’s oldest churches.
We didn’t stop to take a peek inside this building, but we did stop to tour St. Mary’s Catholic Church, or the Basilica of St. Mary the Assumption.
Built in the early 1900’s and opened in 1909, this exquisite property with carved wood motifs, stained glass windows and ornate paintings, is a must-see.
Learning About the Ohio River
We concluded our morning with a sightseeing tour on board the Valley Gem. The sternwheeler carries passengers down the Muskingum River to the Ohio River for a leisurely 90-minute sightseeing excursion.
Only the first 30 minutes feature the sightseeing portion. After that, you can sit back and enjoy the view – or fall asleep, as my husband did.
We also took the opportunity to have lunch on board in the Portside Café. My husband opted for a hot dog while I got a chicken sandwich and fries to share.
The Valley Gem is located beside the Ohio River Museum (this museum is currently closed as of September 2023). Visitors can stroll the grounds and three buildings that make up the museum and highlight the Ohio River and steamboat era.
Guided tours of the W.P. Snyder Jr, are also available. This is a steam-powered, “pool-type,” stern-wheeled, towboat once owned by the Carnegie Corporation and the last intact vessel of its kind in the US.
Bite-Size Pieces of Marietta History
Throughout Marietta, you’ll notice historic markers and plaques that share tidbits of history about the properties located along the historic downtown and beyond. The markers are made at Sewah Studios in Marietta. The only factory of its kind, Sewah Studios cast aluminum historical markers that can be found in each of the 50 states and several foreign countries.
In addition to the walking tours, museums, home tours, parks, monuments, boutiques and shops, there’s also a Marietta Ohio Covered Bridge Driving Tour. The tour led my husband and I through the backroads of Washington County.
The winding roads and hilly landscapes reminded us more of nearby West Virginia or Kentucky, than Ohio. Though there are nine covered bridges on the tour, we found only five before it began to rain and we called it quits.
Food and Entertainment in Marietta
If you’re looking for a great place to eat in Marietta, The Galley offers good food in a comfortable, casual atmosphere. The Galley is on the main floor of The Adelphia Music Hall, a busy venue for up-and-coming bands and entertainment. On the 3rd floor of the same building is The Hackett, a boutique hotel. The property is a great attraction for those looking for good food, cocktails, and incredible music.
Exploring Parkersburg WV Across the River
After exploring Marietta, we headed across the Ohio River to Parkersburg, West Virginia. My husband had spent quite a bit of time in Parkersburg a few years ago working for a local company. We’d previously explored some of the city, but there were a few things we missed.
Our first stop in Parkersburg was Henderson Hall. This property is unique because it belonged to the same family for five generations and they saved everything.
Today you can tour the property and see furnishings original to the home. The grounds include a carriage house and other outbuildings, including one where the servants would have slept.
Our next stop was to Holl’s Chocolates, a family-owned business that specializes in Swiss chocolates. Everyone who enters the store receives one free sample.
I tried the Sea Salt Caramel and have to say if I lived near Vienna, I’d be tempted to stop in daily for that nugget.
Along the river, you’ll find Point Park. Located behind the floodgates, this park is a popular venue for concerts and special events. It also offers an amazing view of the Ohio River. You’ll also find the local Parkersburg Visitor Center located here.
For more things to do in Parkersburg, check out Road Trip to Parkersburg: 10 Places to Visit in this West Virginia Town.
If you’re ready to plan your trip to Marietta, visit www.mariettaohio.org.
If you have the time, you’ll definitely want to stay for more than a day. Find great rates on area hotels and properties with Hotels.com: Download the free Hotels.com app and enjoy up to 50% savings with Secret Prices!
And I have many more suggestions if you’re looking for things to do in Ohio!
Thank you to Marietta CVB for hosting my stay.