History meets adventure in Marietta

Miles from Columbus: 126
Population: 14,085
Founded: 1788
Learn more: mariettaohio.org

For a glimpse at how Marietta celebrates its rich history and prime real estate, take in the panoramic view at Front and Greene streets downtown. Here you can see where the city nestles into the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers.

Red-and-white sternwheelers churn past the grassy hill of Ohio Riverfront Park (a favorite local sunset post-up), while families stroll down streets lined with American flags and overflowing petunia baskets. A bronze marker recalls a French dignitary's post-Revolutionary War visit that inspired the name of the Lafayette Hotel, which has anchored the walkable riverfront since 1918 and provides great evening views from a rooftop pop-up bar.

"A lot of things have happened in a very small area," says Lynne Sturtevant, author of several local history books, including "Haunted Marietta." "The past is just part of the whole vibe."

day trippin'

10 a.m.Explore the region's well-loved wilderness with a rented bike or kayak from Marietta Adventure Co. (219B Second St.). A go-to resource for local trips, owner Ryan Smith recommends his 2.5-mile Indian Acres paddle for novices and offers a guided version at sunset.

2 p.m. Locals flock to Tampico (221 Second St.) for authentic Mexican cuisine. Can't make up your mind? Try the Fajita Tampico, a steaming plate of chicken, steak, shrimp and chorizo.

5 p.m.Sip local ale at Marietta Brewing Co. (167 Front St.), a downtown centerpiece with live music on weekends. Dark beers abound, but don't sleep on George's First Golden Ale, a light beer with sweet malty notes.

8 p.m.Sublime storyteller Lynne Sturtevant walks groups through the city's most mysterious blocks during Ghost Trek, which starts from Front and Greene streets on Friday and Saturday nights.

10 p.m. Drink like a tycoon inside the Lafayette Hotel's Riverview Lounge (101 Front St.). Manager Angelia Thompson suggests sipping a Riverview Cooler, fashioned with peach schnapps and grapefruit juice, while you ogle an ornate bar embedded with model sternwheelers.

Leave your car in the hotel lot and set out exploring on foot. History buffs and the just plain curious can spend days exploring sites preserved next to mom-and-pop businesses and along shady residential streets. Locate Revolutionary War gravestones and a 1,500-year-old Hopewell burial complex at nearby Mound Cemetery, or take a mile-long walking tour of shops, homes and brick streets in Harmar Village, a residential pocket directly west of downtown.

For a more modern experience, grab pasta and burgers on the patio of upscale pub The Galley, then spread out blankets during Music on the Levee, a concert series on Friday and Saturday nights through September. Even those who want to discover the kayak-friendly rivers and bike trails that weave through town can find tips and gear at nearby outfitter Marietta Adventure Co.

Vintage Village

Like a wooden time machine, the Muskingum River footbridge links downtown Marietta with Harmar Village, a residential district founded in 1785 and preserved with historic sites and peculiar mom-and-pops.

Start by perusing hardwood tables, vintage cupboards and a tree filled with hanging bicycles at Found Antiques (113 Maple St.). On the same block, find classic games and dolls stuffed into retired railroad cars at Whipple's Whimsical Toys and a kitschy trove of pop marketing inside the Marietta Soda Museum. Leave time to sip fountain Cokes and hear local legends from bawdy, jovial owner Ralph "Pee Wee" Waldeck. (Just don't call him Ralph.)

To get a sense of Harmar's heritage, head a few blocks south to see two stories of Victorian Era clothing and furnishings preserved inside the Henry Fearing House Museum (131 Gilman Ave.) and a nearby post office opened in 1837.

When to go: Celebrate iconic transport from Sept. 6 to 8 during the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, when a colorful paddleboat fleet stands at attention at a riverfront party with fireworks and live tunes. ohioriversternwheelfestival.org

Where to stay: The Lafayette Hotel (101 Front St.) is living history that offers comfy modern lodging, including several rooms with sitting areas and balconies overlooking the Ohio River (book early for summer). After checking in, gawk at trimmings like a vintage rifle collection in the dining room, then exploit a prime riverfront address for urban exploring. lafayettehotel.com