Historic Marietta, Ohio, is the site of the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory and one of two one-time capitals of the Buckeye State (the other is Chillicothe). My husband and I try to make the roughly three-hour trek every year, always staying at the Lafayette Hotel. Situated at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, it’s named for the Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution who visited Marietta in 1825. Renovations haven’t destroyed its "character" as a riverboat hotel.
The streets of downtown Marietta are lined with unique shops and restaurants. Treasures abound, for instance, in the American Flags & Poles store; Rossi Pasta sells wonderful all-natural products (tomato basil garlic linguine is our favorite).
Lunch may be at Marietta Brewing Co., a brew-pub on Front Street where the brews are quite quaffable (try George’s First Pilsner or, if you prefer a heavier taste, Marie’s Last Oatmeal Stout) and the food is great.
To get rid of the calories, we walk to Hamar Village just across the Muskingum; this place was founded in 1785 with the establishment of Fort Harmar and is connected to Marietta by a pedestrian bridge. Plenty of unusual shops dot the island such as Harmar Vintage Toys.
Another must-see is the Campus Martius Museum on Second Street. The name is Latin for "field of Mars," a military camp where legions of ancient Rome once trained. This three-floor museum is located on the original site of the stockade built by the city’s founders between 1788 and 1791.
Sometimes, we stop at the Ohio River Museum & W.P. Snyder Jr. The museum includes three buildings, and we always hop aboard the William P. Snyder Jr., docked on the Muskingum River. It’s the last intact steam-powered "pool-type" stern-wheeled towboat in the United States.
If time permits, we’ll go for a 90-minute ride on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler, which is docked by the Museum. The 112-mile Muskingum, by the way, is the longest river in the Buckeye State.
Dinner is likely to be in the Lafayette Hotel’s Gun Room, or perhaps at the Levee House Café on Ohio Street; in warm weather, we sit outdoors and watch the Ohio River flow by.
Later, we might drive to nearby Point Park in Parkersburg, W.Va., and catch a sternwheeler at the Blennerhassett Museum for a 20-minute cruise to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. There, we’ll tour the Blennerhassett Mansion, built by a wealthy Irish aristocrat who settled there in 1798, and take a guided tour of the island in a horse-drawn wagon.
Just across the Ohio River in Williamstown, WV, is the Fenton Art Glass Co.’s production facility and gift shop. The showroom filled with beautiful hand-blown glassware is worth the trip, and on weekdays visitors can take a 40-minute guided factory tour, where workers show off their glassblowing and pressing skills.