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.
From the macarbe to the tranquil, here is a list of nine things to do in Marietta.
Ohio River Museum
Peoples Mortuary Museum
Rufus Putnam House
Spagna's Italian Restaurant
See Where and How the Historic Markers are Made at Sewah Studios
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 per year for more than 40 states from 100% recycled material. If you have $1,000 or so, they can even make one for you.
Tour the City By Trolley
From May to October, Historic Marietta Trolleys offer 90-minute, narrated tours of Ohio’s first city. They start at 10 AM and are an ideal way to familiarize yourself with the city’s history. While you won’t likely have time visit the more than a dozen places the trolley will pass, you’ll at least get a better idea of how you might want to spend the rest of your time in Marietta. All tours start and finish at the Armory. The trolley is often chartered for private groups, so it’s best to make your reservations in advance.
Take a Trip Back in Time at the Peoples Mortuary Museum
The quirky and informative Peoples Mortuary Museum boasts early funeral customs dating as far back as the 1850s. Their 1927 Henney Hearse was featured in the 2009 drama, Get Low, starring Robert Duvall and Bill Murray. They also have Packards from the late 1930s and 40s on display as well as a reusable ice casket. It’s part of an operating funeral home, so it’s best to contact them ahead of time to make sure someone will be there.
Check Out Gothic Revival Architecture at The Castle
Marietta boats some beautifully restored pre-Civil War homes like the Rufus Putnam House and The Castle. The (latter) Gothic Revivalist structure was built between 1855-56. Inside, the historic house museum is fully furnished with Victorian decor. Tours are available from April to December. You can also rent The Castle for private events like weddings, birthday parties, etc.
Get an Ecology Lesson at the Ohio River Museum
The small but informative Ohio River Museum is dedicated to the history of the Ohio River and the golden age of the steamboat. Inside, you’ll find exhibits which chronicle the different types of types of cargo and passenger ships that have been operating since before Ohio was a state. Several steamboat artifacts are on display throughout the musuem as well.
Don’t leave without getting a guided tour of the W.P. Snyder Jr. The Snyder is the last of the steam-powered, stern wheeled towboats in the United States. This pool-type towboat has been docked along the Muskingum River since 1955. Tours are offered every hour on the half-hour.
Cruise the Muskingum & Ohio Rivers Aboard the Valley Gem
During the spring, summer, and fall, the Valley Gem offers public cruises along the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers. The 90-minute narrated cruises are the most popular. They depart at noon on most days. Once your reach the Ohio River, you’ll have Ohio on one side and West Virginia on the other. The galley kitchen serves sandwiches and other light snacks. There’s also a bar on board. If you’re looking for an evening cruise, the Valley Gem offers dinner as well as a variety of other themed cruises. Private chartering is an option as well.
Relive the Northwest Territory Days at the Campus Martius Museum
Before there was a state of Ohio, Marietta was the first permanent organized settlement of the Northwest Territory. The Campus Maritus Museum was built by on the grounds of the original stockade by the Ohio Company in the late 1700s. It’s named after a field camp where Roman legions once trained. Exhibits focus on the 1787 creation of the Northwest Territory and Marietta’s official founding the following year. The historical documents on display give visitors an insight into how the territory was created as well as what life was like in early Marietta. You can also find some artifacts from ancient civilizations who occupied Southeast Ohio before the creation of the Northwest Territory.
Tours of the Ohio Company Land Office and Rufus Putnam House are included with admission. These are the two oldest buildings in Ohio. The latter is the only surviving structure from the original fortification. The former home of General Rufus Putnam was built in the post-and-plank construction style of the late 18th-century and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The two-floor block house is encased within the museum which should prevent futher decay.
Explore the Local Food Scene in Marietta
While the Ohio River Scenic Byway (which turns into Third Street in the downtown area) is lined with mostly predictible chain restaurants, the downtown area between Front and Second Streets offers a plethora of dining and drinking options. For classic American fare in a setting reminicent of the grand steamboat era, check out the Gun Room. It’s located inside Lafayette Hotel, which is also the most conveiently located hotel if you want to explore the city by foot.
Dining in Marietta is not limited to the downtown area. Across the Putnam Bridge, Spagna’s offers old-school Italian fare and delectable desserts which warrant a cross country journey if you’re a dessert conniseur. If they offer the orange dream cake, take it! Portions are on the larger side. Even if you don’t have room, get it to go along with a business card in case you want to order a whole cake next time you’re in town.
Across the Marietta-Williamstown Bridge, Da Vinci’s is another option for classic Italian fare. Like Spagna’s, they also have patio seating, but some of their menu items stray from the traditional. Ever had German pizza? If you’re not from the area and looking to cross West Virigina off your bucket list, a leisurely stroll across the bridge followed by dinner at Da Vinci’s is an ideal way to do it.
Join a Haunted History Tour at the Anchorage Mansion
Hidden Marietta offers 60-minute history/ghost tours of the 23-room Anchorage Mansion. Built in 1859, this Italianate structure was the dream house of Eliza Putnam. Unfortunately, she died just a few short years later. Local legend has it that she never left. In fact, some locals refer to this mansion on the hill as Putnam’s Folly. The fact that it operated as a senior care facility from the 1960s to the 80s only adds to the local folklore.
As you walk the dark halls of the Anchroage, you can easily imagine yourself in a cheesy horror flick or as an elderly person about to take his or her final breath on one of the old wooden chairs you’ll see scattered throughout. The guides are enthusiastic and engaging. At the end of the tour, guests have the option to help them conduct a 30-minute paranormal investigation into some of the mansion’s most haunted areas. Tours are available from June to October.
This post was sponsored by the Cambridge Guernsey County Visitors & Convention Bureau. During my stay in Marietta, I stay at the Lafayette Hotel. For more info on the region, check out my post about towns and cities to visit in Southeast Ohio.
Have you been to Marietta? If so, what do you recommend? Leave a comment below!