15 Best Things to Do in Marietta, OH

Marietta, OH
Real Window Creative / shutterstock.com

Marietta is a quiet and quaint riverside town located in the scenic rolling hills of Mid-Ohio, right where the meandering Ohio River meets the Muskingum River.

Currently the seat of Washington County, the city was the first permanent settlement established in the state by the pioneers.

Because of this, the place is steeped in history and heritage displayed in various museums scattered on either side of the city.

And since the Muskingum River itself divides Marietta in half, there are tons of water-related activities and events that you are welcome to try or join in.

So if you are looking for a relaxing, small-town experience for your next vacation, why not spend a few days exploring this city?

Here are the 15 best things to do in Marietta, OH:

Ride Through the National Forest Covered Bridge Scenic Byway

View of National Forest Covered Bridge Scenic Byway
Brian Kapp / Shutterstock.com

Starting in Marietta, the National Forest Covered Bridge Scenic Byway is a 50-mile route that brings you to the most beautiful spots on this side of Ohio.

Using a motorcycle or a bike, this road is the best way to reach places, like the Wayne National Forest and the village of Woodsfield.

Along the way, you’ll cross several covered bridges, orchards, and the scenic countryside of the area.

While driving or cycling, make sure you keep a vigilant eye.

Some parts of the route remain tricky to navigate because of floods, and wildlife may occasionally cross the narrow paths, especially in the beautiful forested segments of the route.

If you get tired, there are various stops, campsites, and picnic grounds where you can stay for a while, take in the beauty of the surroundings, and recharge for the next leg of your trip.

See the Stars at Anderson Hancock Planetarium

Located in Marietta College, the Anderson Hancock Planetarium is open for those who want to see the marvels of space.

This place will rekindle your love for the stars, constellations, and the moon with its large dome glowing with pinpricks of light that accurately represent every part of the evening sky.

One of the best features of the planetarium is the Goto Chronos hybrid system, which allows viewers to see how the sky looked like millions of years ago, as well as the views of the stars from different parts of space.

So take a deep breath and explore the galaxies and nebulas while relaxing on the comfortable theater seats.

See the Displays of Castle Historic House Museum

View of Castle Historic House Museum
Wendy van Overstreet / Shutterstock.com

Wandering into the Castle Historic House Museum feels like entering a thriller film where someone gets murdered in the house.

But that’s just the first impression of many to this otherwise regal, Gothic Revival structure built in 1855.

Today, it stands as a solemn building with rich architecture and sprawling grounds that are sometimes used for summer camps and cultural trips.

Tours of the house are usually available during April, and you’ll get to see some of the items originally used by the castle’s residents.

There are also educational programs, teas and luncheons, and the abovementioned summer camps where learners and visitors of all ages are invited to join.

Make sure to participate in one of these activities for a more interactive method of learning about the historic castle.

Cool Down at Marietta Aquatic Center

While swimming in both the rivers is technically allowed, the dangers of hidden rocks and debris, unpredictable currents, and aggressive wildlife may put some people off.

The best alternative if you want to get wet and cool down during the hot summer months is a visit to Marietta Aquatic Center.

Seasonally open, this water park is home to an array of attractions for the whole family.

Try the towering slides, zero depth-entry pools, and splash playground with the kids!

There’s also a lazy river where you can just lie back on an inflatable tube or floatie and relax as the gentle currents move you around the whole route.

While snacks from outside are not allowed, there are many concession stalls that offer delicious snacks for those who need more fuel to swim and splash about.

Overall, this overlooked gem in Marietta is a must-add destination, especially if you’re bringing kids.

Tour the Magnificent Ohio River Museum

Outside View of Ohio River Museum
Wolfgang8741, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Ohio River Museum is a place that celebrates the history of the mighty Ohio River and how it has remained a significant body of water today.

With the display of artifacts, documents, and other ancient items, the museum aims to showcase how the river became an important part of the pioneer’s expansion efforts.

You’ll also find collections that highlight the Golden Age of steamboats as well as the natural history of this body of water.

The limited exhibits are also focused on the river, with poets, artists, musicians, and photographers displaying work inspired by the Ohio River itself.

One of the most anticipated parts of the museum tour is the ride on the W.P. Snyder Jr. towboat.

It is the only remaining steam-driven sternwheel towboat that still wanders the country’s river system, and it’s listed as a National Historical Landmark.

Make sure you stop over at this engaging and fun museum to understand how influential the river is to the people of Marietta.

Join the Riverfront Roar Festivities

Another fun and thrilling event in Marietta is the annual Riverfront Roar.

Every July, throngs of people come to the Ohio River Levee and watch as competitors from all over the country board their powerboats and race towards the finish line.

It’s an exhilarating scene, especially for those who have been following this niche sport.

After the race, you can listen to live concerts, eat tasty snacks from local concessionaires, and even join the Roar Run.

For those who are bringing kids, the traveling Columbus Zoo will make a stop in the city and offer close encounters with their friendly and exotic animals.

It’s a fun summertime event that really highlights the river-faring culture of the community, so don’t miss it during your visit!

Join the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival

View of Ohio River Sternwheel Festival
User: (WT-shared) 2old at wts wikivoyage, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The riverboat heritage of Marietta is evident in every corner of the city, but it stands out the most during the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.

This festive occasion started in 1976, and it aims to celebrate the town's river culture, and it’s done one weekend after Labor Day.

One of the most prominent highlights is the row of authentic sternwheel boats that lined the river bank—a welcome sight that locals and visitors alike can board and explore.

View of Ohio River Sternwheel Festival
Aparkswv, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s also live music and entertainment by talented local bands, tasty snacks and refreshments, pageants, and other family-oriented activities.

The highlight of the festival is the large, colorful, and bombastic fireworks display held during the Saturday of the event.

It’s a fun and charming occasion that receives more than 100,000 visitors every year, so join in the festivities and add the event to your itinerary.

Try Your Skills at Marietta Roller Rink

The Marietta Roller Rink is a local favorite visited by roller-skating enthusiasts.

With its spacious floor, colorful mood lighting, and friendly staff, the facility has become a top spot for laid-back gatherings and casual roller-skating competitions with friends.

And since it’s an enclosed park, the temperatures here remain comfortable even if you’re already sweating from hours of sliding around.

You might even catch Marietta’s own derby team practicing for matches and perfecting their strategies along the rink.

See the Sights of Broughton Nature and Wildlife Education Area

If you want to take a break from touring the historic homes and museums of Marietta, then a stop at the Broughton Nature and Wildlife Education Area is a must.

This 800-acre area is primarily used to conserve the local flora and fauna of the region, with environmental studies occasionally done within the area's confines.

But it’s also open for recreational activities, with many attractions for nature lovers and adventures seekers.

You can explore the well-maintained trails, a natural stream with a small and scenic waterfall,  two fishing ponds, and a large meadow.

For those who want more sporty activities, there are biking routes and repair stations as well as disc golf courses.

Explore the Halls of Campus Martius Museum

View of Campus Martius Museum
Snoopywv, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Campus Martius, or Field of Mars, was once a fortification used to protect the Ohio Company during the wars with native Indian populations who inhabited the area.

Today, the Campus Martius Museum is the only building left that was originally part of the fortification.

Listed under the National Register of Historic Places, this attraction houses bygone relics used in various US eras, primarily during the Northwest Expansion.

Tour the halls of this storied building and learn about the efforts of the pioneers in historical documents.

You can also check out artifacts from ancient societies that once called this place home and see machinery and tools that offer glimpses of life here during the 1700s.

Don’t forget to visit the other oldest building in Marietta, the Ohio Company Land Office.

Try Not to Get Spooked at the Anchorage

Another one of the significant historic homes in the city is the Anchorage, built in 1859 by Douglas Putnam for his beloved wife, Eliza.

It’s part of the Harmar Neighborhood, and it played a notable role as an alleged part of an underground railway system used by the escaping African Americans.

Today, it stands a stoic sentinel that houses relics from the era, such as furniture, photographs, and other wartime artifacts.

But perhaps the most well-known aspect of the Anchorage is the fact that it’s supposed to be haunted.

Afterdark tours are frequently booked by thrill-seekers who want hair-raising experiences within the 23 rooms of the home.

Some say Eliza still roams the halls at night, and there have been sightings of a lonely little girl flitting about the rooms, only to leave no trace if someone decides to investigate.

Fish for Game at Muskingum River

Kayaking at Muskingum River
Zwickie / Shutterstock.com

While the Ohio River has calmer waters and more fishing opportunities, it can get crowded.

The Muskingum River is a great alternative, especially for those who want a more thrilling adventure on the water.

Its narrower streams lead to more isolated spots upriver, where you can enjoy a relaxing and peaceful fishing experience.

Many charters in Marietta offer tours to these favorite fishing locations, so make sure to choose an experienced local who knows the way and the best practices for a bountiful catch.

You’ll have a great time catching the freshwater fishes swimming within the depths of Muskingum.

These include Flathead Catfish, Walleye, and White Bass.

Marvel at the Collections of the Children's Toy & Doll Museum

For a dash of nostalgia, the Children's Toy & Doll Museum is the place to be.

Here, you’ll find toys from the past as well as many beautiful dolls collected over the years by the museum’s owner.

Barbie dolls, G.I. Joe action figures, fairytale houses, and other memorabilia are displayed on the facility's shelves, bringing back memories of childhood for visitors and a sense of wonder for the kids.

Of course, there is a dedicated room where the young ones can play and see why some of these toys were beloved by their parents.

Make sure to stop by this hidden gem of Marietta and let your children appreciate the toys that you had during your younger years.

Catch a Show at Peoples Bank Theater

Outside View of Peoples Bank Theater
pasa47, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Aficionados of performance art will have a great experience here at the historic Peoples Bank Theater.

Built in the 20th century, this facility is the center for entertainment and live performances in the city, with a seating capacity of 500 people after renovations.

Several events are held annually here, such as theater plays, concerts by local bands, dance recitals, and orchestra performances.

And with the improvements done, you’ll find that the acoustics, viewing angles, and other amenities within the theater all come together to make a truly breathtaking experience.

It’s a must-visit place for lovers of sophisticated entertainment and even those who just want a feel of the local performance art culture of Marietta.

Before you visit this theater, make sure to check out the calendar of events to catch a show that you like.

Stay Awhile at Indian Acres Park

Indian Acres Park is one of the top city parks in Marietta, with many locals and visitors stopping to admire the grounds.

Since the attraction is a riverside facility, Muskingum is clearly visible from it and offers a great backdrop behind the verdant grasses and patches of trees in the park.

Bring your family over and have a nice, relaxing picnic under the shady trees of the park.

There is also a well-maintained skating park where you can try some moves and have fun with the friendly local skaters.

For bikers and runners, there are scenic trails going through the facility.

Baseball enthusiasts, on the other hand, will have a fun experience playing on one of the diamonds.

Final Thoughts

Marietta is the place to be for a relaxing vacation with an occasional thrilling and heart-pumping experience.

Reference this list when making your plans so you won’t miss the city's historical, natural, and amazing spots.