The Best and Biggest Little Town in Ohio
By Justin McIntoshPublished July 1, 2012
There’s an old adage among writers that you can’t write about home until you leave it behind.
It has something to do with perspective, I’m sure, but that’s never been an issue for me when it comes to my hometown:
I’ve pretty much always been convinced Marietta’s the coolest damn small city in the state.
News last month out of National Geographic that my city was once again named one of the country’s 100 best adventure towns only emboldens my feelings further.
As the article rightly states, there’s no shortage of fun to be had in “the biggest hamlet ... in Ohio’s Appalachian foothills, bucolic Marietta.”
For starters, Marietta is, and I hate to use this word … picturesque. My hometown boasts more miles of brick streets than any other city in the state and its stretches of riverbank are mostly publicly owned, which means greater access to waterways. Smaller tributaries curl past farms, covered bridges, dozens of miles of single-track mountain bike trails, and the area is home to the state’s only national park.
Large oak trees dot the front yard of nearly every home, most of which seem to fall on the historic registry. Even our cemeteries are gorgeous.
With all this quaintness, you’d be surprised to learn that the nightlife isn’t lacking. There’s always something interesting to do, whether it’s a comic book convention, live blues at the historic Lafayette Hotel, trolley tours, house shows, ghost walks, pedicab rides, food carts (yes, food carts!), a hookah bar, the newly created Rivers, Trails and Ales festival, or the long-standing Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, which annually draws nearly 70,000 people to this “sleepy” river town.
Dining options aren’t scarce either, with options ranging from Mexican or Mediterranean, high-end Asian fusion, pub grub or a cafe lunch on a patio overlooking the Ohio River.
Getting downtown from my late-19th Century house was a leisurely bike ride through the scenic Marietta College campus and over to the bike and walking trail, which stretches along both major rivers.
Marietta’s always been a drinking town, too. Prior to the prohibition there was something like 1.5 breweries for every thousand people. Today, that number stands at a meager one, but the Marietta Brewing Company stands tall with its infamous Raspberry Wheat and George’s First pilsner. Second Street’s The Galley offers even more variety with its 24 taps, and its adjoining music venue, the Adelphia, has hosted shows as diverse as Southern Culture on the Skids and NPR’s Mountain Stage.
When the heat of the summer becomes too much, we rush to the rivers. Kayaks, speedboats, jets skis, rope swings – hell, even sternwheel boats. Anything to get us away from asphalt and into the water.
When I was looking for something more intense, I’d head out for a game of pickup soccer or, more often, Jugger, a sport based on a post-apocalyptic movie from the 1980s. It’s sort of like if rugby players picked up staffs, long swords and a chain with a large ball on the end and tried to crush whoever carried the ball ...er, dogskull.
It’s cliché to say small town living means you know everyone else, but it’s true in Marietta. Plus, there aren’t many places this size where you can grab beers with doctors, fire-breathers and fire-spinners, chefs, piercers, comic book writers, tattoo artists, college science professors, graphic designers, photographers – maybe even the mayor – in any given night.
If you ever decide to experience my hometown for yourself, I know more than a few people who’d be happy to take you out.
You know, because, Marietta’s just so damn cool like that.
For more information about the coolest little town in Ohio, visit www.mariettaohio.org.