When it comes to The Buckeye State, the three Cs (Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus) tend to get most of the attention. Southeast Ohio is the most laid-back, rural part of the state. Interstate 70, Highway 33 and the border with West Virginia form an upside-down triangle shaped border around the region. Here are five cities and towns to visit in Southeast Ohio.
National Museum of Cambridge Glass
Miners Memorial Park
Salt Fork Lodge
Burr Oak Lodge
Twin City Opera House
Ohio River Museum
Peoples Mortuary Museum
Rufus Putnam House
Triple Nickel Diner
Conveniently located near the junction of Interstates 70 and 77, Cambridge is a small city of roughly 10,000. Most of the attractions are north of the Muskingum River and within walking distance. Wheeling Avenue is the main drag in the picturesque downtown area. Between 6th and 12th Streets, you’ll find beautifully maintained red brick buildings which house quaint shops and welcoming eateries where everyone seems to know each other on a first-name basis.
The city’s claim to fame for many years was its glass. To get familiar with the local history, you can start your visit at either the Guernsey County History Museum or the National Museum of Cambridge Glass. In the latter, staff dress in turn of the 20th century period costumes and are there to answer any questions you may have about the displays, which features pieces from 1902-1958. The glass is encased behind glass. Perhaps the most interesting display for non-locals is the Hollywood one, which features glass from Happy Days as well as other sitcoms and films. Even the king himself had a Cambridge Beverage set inside the Lisa Marie (Elvis Presley’s private jet, named after his only daughter). To see how glass is made nowadays, head to Mosser Glass for a tour, where you can watch the process from molding and blowing to packaging and shipment.
Named in honor of Queen Marie Antoinette of France, Marietta was the first permanent European settlement in what is now the state of Ohio. The city of 14,000 is surrounded (counterclockwise) by the Muskingum River, The Ohio River, Duck Creek, and the Appalachian Plateau. You can see West Virginia from Ohio River Park. If you are looking to cross it off your bucket list, you can even walk there via the Marietta-Williamsburg Bridge.
The majority of those historical markers that you see along the streets and highways of America are made in Marietta by Sewah Studios. You can get a tour of their small plant, which is a truly fascinating insight into how a small company of fewer than 25 employees manages to make more than 1,200 markers for more than 40 states from 100% recycled material. If you have $1,000 or so, they can even make one for you.
There are more formal museums you can check out as well, including the Ohio River Museum and the quirky but informative Peoples Mortuary Museum. The latter possesses early funeral customs dating back to the 1850s. Marietta also boats some beautifully restored pre-Civil War homes like the Rufus Putnam House and the (Gothic Revivalist) Castle. Both are available for tours.
Read more about Marietta here.
Check out Chesterhill for an authentic look into life in rural America. If Stephen King was from Ohio, he’d probably use this small village of fewer than 300 occupants as the setting for one of his stories. At less than one square mile, Chesterhill truly has all the basics. There may be two churches in town, but besides that, there is one of everything else. Cell phone reception is sketchy here, but you can get WiFi at the Chesterhill Branch Library. There’s one auto shop in town if you happen to have car trouble.
Roughly ten percent of the village is of African descent. You can learn about African American history in Southeast Ohio at the Genealogical Center. Keeping with the no more than one theme of this picturesque village, there’s one restaurant (the Triple Nickel Diner) and it’s worth visiting even if you just enjoy a slice of one of their famous pies. Although Chesterhill has fewer people than a subway car in NYC during rush hour, you can still get craft beer, fruit-infused wines, and pitchers of sangria at the Triple Nickel Diner. No avocado toast yet.
McConnelsville is in an idyllic village set along the Muskingum River in Southeast Ohio. It’s an ideal place for a relaxing dinner and an evening at the theater. The Twin City Opera House dates back to 1892 and is located in the heart of the downtown area. It’s a popular stop for touring country and bluegrass artists. You can catch a film there as well. The theater is also rumored to be haunted. Dozens of different paranormal investigators have applied their trade here. They host ghost hunts from time to time as well.
Outside of town, check out Big Muskie’s Bucket, which is located inside Miners Memorial Park. Now located less than ten miles from downtown, Big Muskie was the largest single bucket digging machine ever created. The awe-inspiring bucket is large enough to hold two Greyhound buses and is on display inside the park. There’s also an information center about the history of mining of the region. The Central Ohio Coal Company once employed nearly 1,000 people and is still active today. The memorial inside the park honors those miners who lost their lives on the job.
If you’re planning to visit all of the places in this list during one visit, Stockport is an ideal place to stay. It’s not only the closest thing Southeast Ohio has to a geographic center, but the small village of 500 also has an interesting history of its own.
You can stay at the Stockport Mill Inn, which is the last remaining mill along the Muskingum River. The mill shut down in 1997, but a few years later, it was reopened as the Stockport Mill and Restaurant on the Dam. As the name indicates, you can dine in their restaurant with breathtaking views of the river lock and dam. River view rooms have balconies, which are perfect for a relaxing view of the sunset after a long day exploring Southeast Ohio.
This post was sponsored by the Cambridge Guernsey County Visitors & Convention Bureau.
- During my stay in Cambridge, I stayed at the Salt Fork Lodge & Conference Center
- During my stay in Marietta, I stay at the Lafayette Hotel
- During my stay in Morgan County, I stayed at the Burr Oak Lodge
Have you been to Southeast Ohio? If so, what do you recommend? Leave a comment below!