Located in northern Georgia, Marietta is a city that is also one of Atlanta’s largest suburbs.
Although the state capital is just 32 kilometres to the southeast, Marietta is rich in history and culture itself, particularly from the state’s antebellum and Civil War periods.
Spreading out from a historic main square and courthouse from the 1830s, Marietta grew quickly, even after the Western and Atlantic Railroad’s main hub was shifted to nearby Atlanta.
Survivors of several fires and the trauma of the war are six historic districts dotted with heritage buildings and an impress array of museums, while Kennesaw Mountain is just a short distance away too.
Let’s check out the 15 best things to do in and around Marietta Georgia.
1. Ghosts of Marietta Tour
A great way of orientating yourself to Marietta, and uncovering its multitude of landmarks, is by joining the Ghosts of Marietta Tour.
Touring the city’s most historic streets and burial sites, your guide will reveal the stories of some of the city’s ghosts, from civil war soldiers to nineteenth-century residents.
Taking place after dark, these tours are full of atmosphere, and are either led by lantern on foot, or take place aboard a historic trolley bus, which is able to take in even more of this historic city.
Even if you’re not convinced by tales of the supernatural, these tours are still an excellent introduction into all Marietta has to offer.
2. Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art
Opened in the 1990s, the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art sits inside a grand Greek Revival style building complete with a tall portico of columns that once acted as the city’s main post office.
Used for the courthouse scenes of the film Selma released in 2014, its gallery space has a warm and homely feel to it.
The museum is the only one in the greater Atlanta region to specifically focus on American artworks, with a permanent collect that ranges from the earliest days of the United States in the eighteenth century to modern paintings and sculpture.
3. Marietta Confederate Cemetery
While you may have already visited the Confederate Cemetery as part of the Ghosts of Marietta Tour, you may want to take more time over this almost sacred place in the history of Georgia.
Next to the City Cemetery, the Confederate Cemetery is the largest for several hundred kilometres.
It is the burial site for around 3,000 soldiers that fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War – the ‘rebel’ states that broke from the Union.
Divided into sections by state, the cemetery also houses a six-pound (3 kg) field gun used during the war and captured by union forces in Savannah, Georgia.
4. Oakton House
The oldest house to be continuously lived in in Marietta, Oakton House was constructed in 1838 at the very beginning of the city’s existence.
It was used by the Confederacy as a headquarters building during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in 1864, which failed to stop Union forces led by General Sherman from marching on Atlanta.
Its large gardens are partly laid out as a formal garden with box hedging, while the property also boasts its original barn, smoke house, well, and milk house.
5. Marietta Museum of History
Also known as Kennesaw House, the structure that houses the Marietta Museum of History was built of red brick in 1845 as a cotton warehouse.
Covering the upper two floors, the museum has an eclectic and expansive collection that covers a wide-ranging series of themes from the city’s first two centuries.
While the Civil War period is strongly represented, there are also displays detailing the lives of the region’s native Americans before they were forced from their ancestral territory, and of Georgia’s gold rush.
Exhibits include a rare bible written in the Cherokee language, and militaria displays from the Civil War up to more recent conflicts.
6. Kennesaw Mountain
Rising to a maximum height of just over 500 metres, Kennesaw Mountain comes someway short of Denali (Mount McKinley) that tops out at 6,900 metres and is the highest peak in the United States.
However, it is the highest point in the Atlanta urban area, making it an attractive proposition for those looking for vistas across the region.
It is also a great destination for those wanting to tackle one of the many hiking trails around the forested slopes of Little Kennesaw Mountain.
Part of the Appalachian Mountains, we’ve already seen the important part the mountain played during the Civil War. The mountain is part of a battlefield park, that preserves the site of the battle, and recreates artillery positions.
The mountain and park are approximately 20 minutes northeast of Marietta by road.
7. The Big Chicken
A well-known landmark full of folksy southern wit and charm, the Big Chicken is a giant representation of a chicken 17 metres tall, which has advertised a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant since 1956.
Spend any time in Marietta and you’ll probably find you receive street directions based around the Big Chicken. Unbelievably, pilots are also said to use the structure as a reference point when coming in to land at Atlanta’s international airport.
The Big Chicken is now so famous that it contains a gift shop, where you can purchase souvenirs including a board game and T shirts.
8. Gone With the Wind Museum
Set within the walls of Brumby Hall, which was built in 1851, the Gone With the Wind Museum evolved out of a private collection of memorabilia relating to the book by Atlanta-born Margaret Mitchell, and the resulting 1939 film starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.
Its exhibits include the cream and black Bengaline honeymoon outfit worn by Leigh in the film, and the author’s own copies of the book.
Displays tell the story of the film’s black cast members, including Hattie McDaniel. She was the first African American to win an Oscar, for her role as Mammy. Sadly, she was unable to attend either the film premier, or the Oscars ceremony, because of segregation.
9. Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History
Located in Kennesaw, roughly ten kilometres from Marietta, the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History probably needs to further explanation as to its contents.
Among the fine collection of civil war items and artefacts, visitors won’t fail to notice the General, the engine of a steam locomotive used in the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862.
Another important moment during the civil war, the chase saw a group of Unionists wreak havoc on the rail lines to Tennessee onboard the General while being chased much of the way by Confederate soldiers in another locomotive called the Texas.
Another exhibit is the French ‘Merci’ boxcar, which arrived in 1949 full of gifts from France to thank Americans for their efforts in Europe during the Second World War.
10. Farmers market
Running right around the year on Saturday mornings, Marietta’s farmers market has somewhere in the region of 50 different stalls each week.
In addition to a huge range of vegetables, all grown locally in the most part by small time producers, shoppers can sample freshly-baked breads, enjoy freshly-squeezed lemonade, and take home artisanal soaps, honeys, and preserves.
The market is located on a traffic free site in a parking lot on Mill Street, right in the heart of Marietta.
11. William Root House Museum and Garden
Among several buildings claiming titles as the oldest in Marietta, the William Root House Museum and Garden is said to be the oldest home in downtown Marietta.
Fully restored to its original 1845 appearance, the museum it contains details the life and times of the Root family, as well as the slaves that served in their home.
Set out as if the occupants have only just left, the interiors are decorated with authentic pieces of regional furniture for the time.
Outside, the original cookhouse has been recreated and contains a stove from the era of the building’s construction.
The garden is planted with vegetables for the table, alongside medicinal herbs that would have helped William Root in his job as a pharmacist.
12. Strand Theatre
Also in downtown Marietta is the Strand Theatre. Built in 1935, it is an unusual survivor from the city’s art deco period, when it was built as a cinema complex.
Today, the building is a multi-use space with a busy schedule of events. It puts on classic movies – Gone With the Wind among them, concerts, comedy nights and live theatre performances.
On the fourth floor, you’ll also find the Brew with a View bar.
13. Marietta Square Food Tour
If you’re thinking of taking a tour of Marietta but aren’t sure about the Ghosts of Marietta Tour, how about this food tour instead?
Centred on Marietta Square, the historic centre of the city, it takes tour members to seven different eateries.
Aiming to highlight the fantastic food available at locally-owned and run restaurants, bakeries, and food stores, you’ll be a world away from the Big Chicken here.
Lasting around three hours, each stop is accompanied by the sort of knowledge only ever known by locals themselves, giving you further insight into the city.
The foods dished up as part of the tour include everything from traditional southern plates to specialities from Colombia.
14. Six Flags White Water
Six Flags White Water is a water park suitable for all the family. Toddlers are catered for with age-appropriate pools, while those with a few more years under their belt can take on the full gambit of slides aimed to get the adrenaline flowing.
Spanning a total of 280,000 square metres, this is one of the top water parks in the entire United States.
As well as a number of slide-based attractions, Six Flags has a wave pool called the Atlanta Ocean, and a lazy river known as Little Hooch after the Chattahoochee River.
Six Flags White Water lies on the western side of Marietta, around five minutes by car from the downtown district.
15. Chattahoochee River
The Chattahoochee River is an important green space for both humans and native species that shouldn’t be missed when planning a trip to Marietta.
Flowing across metropolitan Atlanta, those staying in Marietta can easily access it at Johnson Ferry.
Here, visitors can choose between around four kilometres of walking trails, a covered pavilion perfect for enjoying a picnic, and a boat launch should you be interested in exploring the site from the water instead.