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Get Outside! The Best Things to Do in Marietta, Ohio

Are you looking for the perfect adventure town for your next outdoor vacation? A town where you can paddle, bike, and hike during the day, and indulge in some fine eatin’, strolling, and shopping as the sun goes down?

things to do in marietta ohio
The best things to do in Marietta Ohio are outdoors!

Marietta, Ohio may not be at the top of your adventure-town bucket list right now, but it will be!

Marietta’s unique location at the confluence of two beautiful rivers, along with its proximity to Ohio’s largest national forest and the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, makes it one of the most scenic Midwestern communities you’re likely to come across.

Throw in more than 30 miles of in-town trails, nine covered bridges, and a walkable and bustling downtown, and you’ve got an adventure destination that will keep you moving.

Here are some of our favorite things to do in Marietta, Ohio, and yes, most of these are outdoors!

Where is Marietta, Ohio?

Downtown Marietta Ohio from the roof of the Lafayette Hotel.
Downtown Marietta Ohio from the roof of the Lafayette Hotel

Marietta is located in southeastern Ohio, 11 miles northeast of Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Marietta was the first permanent settlement of the new United States in the Territory Northwest of the Ohio River. The area is part of the Appalachian Plateau, which consists of steep hills and valleys. The nearest major international airport is 125 miles away in Columbus, Ohio.

As I’m more partial to road trips, I should also mention that the back roads surrounding Marietta are incredibly scenic.

If you’re visiting Marietta, be sure to hop on the Covered Bridge Scenic Byway that runs from Marietta to Allendonia for 35 miles. There are several places along the route to hike and camp, or just enjoy the beauty of Ohio.

A Few Tips for Visiting Marietta, Ohio

flowers planted in a bicycle basket in Marietta, Ohio.
Downtown Marietta is beautiful!
  • If you’re not camping in Wayne National Forest, be sure to stay downtown. There are a couple of great hotels that are right in the center of the walkable downtown. Marietta may not be a huge nightlife destination, but it is beautiful at night, and staying downtown will allow you to take in the sites. We recommend the Historic Lafayette Hotel, which has a ton of character, is supposedly haunted, and will give you an awesome view of the river. You can even capture a great cityscape from the roof!
  • The best time to visit is spring and fall. Isn’t that the case all over the place? Spring is beautiful in southeastern Ohio. Flowers are blooming, everyone is outside, and the weather is mild. Summer is hot but great for kayaking and canoeing. Fall is crisp and cool, and there’s a pretty colorful foliage season.
  • Visiting in the summer? Pack sunscreen and bug spray, especially if you’re taking advantage of all the awesome outdoor activities.
  • Visiting in the spring? Don’t forget your raincoat!

Your First Stop: Marietta Adventure Company

A bunch of bikes outside of Marietta Adventure Company in Marietta, Ohio.
Marietta Adventure Company is located right downtown.

Located on Second Street in the heart of downtown, Marietta Adventure Company can help you plan the perfect outdoor adventure on land or water. Whether you’re looking for trail advice, rental equipment, or a full guided paddling tour, this is the place to go.

Ryan and Hallie, who own the shop, are passionate about the outdoors and their hometown. Both grew up in Marietta and moved away as young adults to explore the outdoors in other parts of the country.

Marietta, and its opportunities for outdoor adventures, drew them back before too long. In 2011, they opened Marietta Adventure Company, and have been inspiring locals and visitors to explore the outdoors ever since.

Ryan is excited to see more and more people enjoying the rivers that surround Marietta on two sides — “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of kayaks on the water since we opened in 2011. Prior to our opening, you would rarely see kayaks on the water and since our opening, kayaks are a regular fixture around  Marietta. I think we really opened people’s eyes to the opportunity.”

A man unloads kayaks from a trailer in Marietta, Ohio.
Unloading the kayaks for a paddle on the Ohio River in Marietta.

We were lucky enough to rent kayaks and bikes from Marietta Adventure Company, and the process was so easy!

Go Kayaking on the Ohio or Muskingum River

The overall consensus is that you can’t visit Marietta, Ohio, and not get out on either the Ohio or Muskingum Rivers.

Marietta was founded on river travel and commerce, and today it attracts a huge number of recreational boaters and paddlers. Marietta Adventure Company provides kayak rentals, but not transportation to and from the river.

From short paddles, lasting one to two hours, to full-day or overnight adventures, there’s a stretch of river that is perfect for you in Marietta, Ohio.

kayaking marietta
Our crew kayaking on the Ohio River in Marietta.

Our group took a short paddle starting from Indian Acres on the  Muskingum River and ending across the Ohio River in West Virginia.

One highlight was getting a fish-eye view of the stately W.P. Snyder Jr., a steam-powered, sternwheel towboat, which is the last of its kind, at least in the United States.

For a more in-depth tour of this restored historical landmark, you have to visit the Ohio River Museum (temporarily closed).

The W.P. Snyder Jr. rom the river in Marietta.
We got a fish-eye view of the W.P. Snyder Jr. from the river in Marietta.

After paddling under several bridges and a smiling, Midwestern sun for a couple of hours we were ready to stretch our legs.

We beached the kayaks on Buckley Island, which is actually in West Virginia, and learned a bit about its sordid past. The 3.5-mile-long island is part of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

The island is completely forested and is an important habitat for migrating and nesting birds, as well as several species of endangered freshwater mussels.

That wasn’t always the case, though. Since European settlers came to the area, Buckley Island has been home to an amusement park, a working farm, and a sanitarium known as the Pestilence House, where chronically ill and diseased patients were sent to recover, or more often, to die.

We wandered around a bit and admired the views of Marietta, and then headed back out on the water. Kayaking both the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers is one of the best things to do in Marietta Ohio.

Explore Marietta on Two Wheels

marietta college
Getting ready for our bike tour of Marietta, Ohio.

Marietta has a thoroughly walkable downtown, allowing visitors to take advantage of dining, lodging, shopping, and cultural attractions without getting into their cars.

If you want to explore a little farther afield and get a nice workout, I urge you to consider biking around town. Bring your own, or pop into Marietta Adventure Company and rent a bike and helmet for the day.

Start Westward in Marietta, Ohio.
Start Westward in Marietta, Ohio

Here are some sites in downtown Marietta, Ohio that you won’t want to miss:

  • Riverfront Bike Path. Journey 3.5 miles on a paved path that hugs the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers. This is a thoroughly delightful ride with fabulous views of the city and the waterfront.
  • Ancient Earthworks and Mound Cemetery. More than 2000 years ago, the Adena people built ceremonial roads, mounds, and burial grounds in what is now Marietta. Mound Cemetery was built by Marietta’s founders around the original Adena burial mound. There are steps leading to the top of the mound, and the cemetery contains the graves of 37 Revolutionary War veterans.
  • Memorial to the Start Westward of the United States. Located right off the bike path on the Muskingum River, this iconic local state commemorates the beginning of westward expansion in the United States. It was carved by Gutzon Borglum, who later went on to carve Mt. Rushmore. The statue was dedicated in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • Marietta College – Your bike ride won’t be complete unless you take a spin through the 90-acre campus of Marietta College. With tree-lined streets, lovely brick buildings, and plenty of spots to relax with a picnic.

Hike or Bike Marietta’s In-Town Trails

You don’t have to stick to the roads to enjoy the best things to do in Marietta, Ohio.

The Marietta City Trail Network includes 30 miles of groomed singletrack for all levels of mountain biking and hiking. According to Ryan, of Marietta Adventure Company, Marietta, Ohio has more miles of mountain biking and hiking trails than anywhere else in the state.

“We are the self-proclaimed mountain bike capital of Ohio. We have some short beginner/family-friendly off-road trails at Gunlock Park and the Kroger Wetlands in addition to the River Trail which is a fairly level, paved path through downtown. We have kids’ bikes and kids’ trailers for bikes available to rent at the shop. From the shop, you can access the River Trail and are within a few blocks of many of the off-road trails around town.”

Mountain Biking Marietta, Ohio
Mountain biking in Marietta, Ohio / photo credit: © Nathaniel Knobel

Our short foray onto the Marietta trails took us on the Chimney Trail and Lookout Loop.

After meandering in the woods for a while, I even forgot that we were within city limits. We spotted lots of wildflowers, a tiny bit of poison ivy, and a turtle trying to blend in with his surroundings.

The views from the top of the lookout loop were impressive, reminding us that, despite our wilderness surroundings, we’re still in the city.

Discover Ohio’s Largest National Forest

Hune Bridge in Wayne National Forest.

The Wayne National Forest covers more than 250,000 acres in the Appalachian Foothills of Southeastern Ohio.

Within this gem of a wilderness, you’ll find 300 miles of trails, several covered bridges, five campgrounds, and an elaborate series of waterways for all kinds of recreational opportunities.

We explored the area on a day hike, where we checked out the so-called “Great Cave,” which was more of an overhang, but still really cool, the Hune Covered Bridge, and the Irish Run Natural Bridge.

Because we hiked on a warm day in May, it was awesome to be trekking through the forest, which was a good 5 degrees cooler than the open areas.

Irish Run Natural Bridge is one of the largest natural bridges in Ohio, at 51 feet long and 39 feet high. You can walk across it (we didn’t) or underneath it via a short, but steep trail.

It was delightfully cooler under the bridge — a perfect picnic spot on a warm summer day. You can actually, continue on this trail for another nine miles, looping back to your car. We returned the way we came, which brought our hike to about 3 miles.

Take a Trolley Tour Through Marietta

Explore Marietta by trolley! A 90-minute narrated tour will introduce you to Marietta’s history and will take you past some of Marietta’s most beautiful homes and historic attractions.

The tour begins and ends at the Armory located on Front Street in Marietta. Highlights include Victorian Front Street Shops; the beautiful First Congregational Church, Start Westward Monument, Return Johnson Meigs Home: Ohio River Museum, Campus Martius Museum: Mound Cemetery, and Marietta College.

This is a great tour for anyone new to the area and is one of our favorite things to do in Marietta Ohio. $10-$15 per person.

Things to do in Marrieta Ohio: Indoors

One of the many beautiful storefronts in downtown Marietta Ohio.
One of the many beautiful storefronts in downtown Marietta Ohio

If given the choice, I’ll almost always choose to be outside, but sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, or some shops and museums are just too awesome to pass up!

Here are a few indoor attractions in Marietta, Ohio that are worth exploring:

  • Campus Martius Museum: Campus Martius Museum was built on the site of the original stockade, built by the Ohio Company between 1788 and 1791. Learn about the founding of Marietta and the creation of the Northwest Territory. The museum experience includes tours of the two oldest buildings in Ohio: The Rufus Putnam House and The Ohio Company Land Office.
  • Adelphia Music Hall: The Adelphia hosts local artists as well as national entertainers every week. Dedicated to bringing a diverse assortment of entertainers to Marietta, the Adelphia has become the ultimate gathering place for all types of music lovers. Check their line-up before your visit!
  • The Castle: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Castle, built circa 1855, is one of Marietta’s most stunning historic homes. This Victorian showstopper has been beautifully preserved and is open for tours between April and December.

Where to Eat in Marietta Ohio

Here are a few of the fantastic restaurants we enjoyed during our stay in Marietta:

  • Busy Bee Restaurant: Pop in for a delightful breakfast made from locally sourced ingredients. Lots of vegetarian options too!
  • Harmar Tavern: Located on Maple Street, Harmar Tavern is comfort food at its best! The mac & cheese is divine!
  • Marietta Brewing Co.:Craft beer brewed on-site, fantastic pub grub, and a lively gathering spot. Cooper’s Copper Ale was just what I needed on a hot summer day!

Resources for Finding More Awesome Things to Do in Marietta Ohio

  • Marietta/Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau – Located right downtown at 119 Greene Street, this is the place to go to learn about attractions, events, and tours.
  • Marietta Adventure Company – As I’ve already mentioned, these guys are your link to the outdoors in Marietta. The whole crew is more than happy to answer your questions or help you plan your adventures.
  • Lafayette Hotel – I’m a sucker for historic hotels, especially if they’re right downtown. The Lafayette is a gem — it overlooks the river, the beds are comfortable (very important), and the staff is super friendly. Oh, and the prices are reasonable, with most rooms falling well under $100, even on the weekends.
  • Wayne National Forest – For camping, hiking, and backpacking information, check out the website for Wayne National Forest.
  • The best things to do in Ohio – in case you need some inspiration for your next Ohio road trip!

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things to do marietta ohio
Tara Schatz sits with her two dogs, Gatsby and Flynn.

Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She is the co-author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont and currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers and Vermont Explored, where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone.