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The Ohio River Sternwheel Festival in Marietta, Ohio

Bruce Wunderlich

Frolic on the river in Marietta

The Ohio River Sternwheel Festival is just one attraction in this quaint city steeped in history.

This southeastern Ohio city was a destination in 1788 as the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. Now, Jim Gottfried ’92 says, it’s becoming one again, this time for live music. Not only can it be found in the historic and recently reopened Peoples Bank Theatre, but Gottfried also notes the Lafayette Hotel and Adelphia night club as venues that feature live music regularly, everything from country to blues to heavy metal.

That’s not to mention the festivals, the biggest of which is the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, always the weekend after Labor Day. In addition to live music and a world-class fireworks show that draws as many as 100,000 people, the festival features upwards of 30 sternwheel boats, including many that race on the festival’s closing day.

For those who want a more personal experience with the Ohio or Muskingum rivers, there are kayak, paddleboard and boat launch sites as well as some rental options.

When it’s time to dry off, tours of historic Marietta are available via horse-drawn buggies, trolleys and even Segways. Rick Guimond ’80, who has lived in town since 1982, recently took his first trolley tour and says he “couldn’t believe all the history tidbits they shared.”

Where to stay

The grand Lafayette Hotel is steeped in the history of the region. It stands on the site of the former Bellevue Hotel, built in 1892 and destroyed by fire in 1916. Back in those days, a room went for $2 or $3 a night. After the fire, a businessman rebuilt on the site and opened the Lafayette in 1918.

Where to eat

Classic diner meets locavore culture at the 74-year-old Busy Bee Restaurant. The menu is stocked with breakfast and lunch classics, including the ½-pound Wimpy Burger, but leave room for house-made desserts that change daily.

And don't miss

The Broughton Nature and Wildlife Education Area, where you’ll find something to do in all four seasons, whether scoping butterflies in summer or ogling the turning leaves in fall.