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No method of transportation to Mount Vernon was more popular during the 19th century than riverboat cruises.

Throughout the century, the Potomac River was teeming with ships bringing both local residents and out-of-town visitors to George Washington’s historic estate. Not only was the picturesque cruise enjoyable, but it also was safer and more convenient than the perilous roads that had to be traversed on the 16-mile journey from the nation's capital to Mount Vernon.

This 1878 handbill advertised excursions to Mount Vernon on the steamer Mary Washington, provided by one of the local steamboat companies that contracted with the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association to offer exclusive cruise service to Washington's home.

In addition to serving Mount Vernon visitors, the steamboat also transported farmers’ goods to market, with convenient stops at several points along the Potomac River.

Steamer landing at Mount Vernon in 1915 (Detroit Publishing Co.)

Although automobile transportation eventually eclipsed the popularity of Mount Vernon cruises, boat companies continued to provide the service for the throngs of visitors who sought the scenic Potomac route to George Washington's home.

Today, the historic cruise to Mount Vernon continues to delight thousands of visitors to George Washington's home each year, as brand new excursion vessels have replaced the steamboats that once dominated Potomac. As the Spirit of Mount Vernon glides toward the Mount Vernon wharf, the elegant cruiser sails in the wake of the countless steamships, sailboats and pleasure craft that for over two centuries have transported guests to the national’s most popular historic home.

Elegant fifty-cent cruise, plus a quarter for the stagecoach

Take a Sightseeing Cruise of the Potomac Today

See Mount Vernon from a different perspective during this 45-minute narrated sightseeing excursion on the Potomac River.

Learn more and buy tickets