Have you or your children ever imagined what it would be like to be a real spy? With the Spy in the City program at the International Spy Museum you can participate in a mission to take down a secret agent by following clues on a handheld tablet on the streets of DC.
Admission to the museum is not necessary to participate in Spy in the City The cost of the tablet is $14.95 and you can decide whether to work together as teams of 2 or more or use headphones for independent spy work (disposable headphones are available at the tablet pick up or you can bring your own).
Our family of 4 shared one tablet and while it was a little difficult to hear the directions a few times due to traffic noise, we found that it was fun to work together to read and decipher the clues.
Spy in the City is recommended for kids 10 and up but my 8 and 9 year olds really got into it. There is a lot of reading involved both on the tablet and on landmarks around town so kids who can read independently will get the most out of the experience. Kids 10 and under will probably do best with an adult or older sibling as a partner rather than working alone. This activity is all outdoors and requires about a mile of walking so choosing a day with good weather is essential to the success of your mission.
Tickets for Spy in the City can be purchased online* or in person in the lobby of the International Spy Museum. Once you pay you will be directed through the gift shop to pick up your tablet. The staff will give you a brief overview on how the tablet works and then send you outside to receive your mission briefing and your first clue. The tablet has many “spy features” on it that kids will enjoy.
They will scan fingerprints, use spy dust, tune to different frequencies to intercept messages, decipher secret codes and use the tablet to “listen through walls”. The clues were easy to follow and took us to various spots in the surrounding area of the museum. A map always popped up when you needed to find a new location and the clues gave good prompts to lead us to our destinations. Our entire spy experience took us about an hour and 15 minutes.
Once you have solved your mystery and your suspect has been apprehended (which you will watch via spy camera on your tablet) you return your tablet to the Spy Store – which has a great selection of spy related toys, books and gear for kids and adults. If you fill out the customer survey after turning in your tablet you will receive a coupon for 20% off one item.
The International Spy Museum is located in Penn Quarter just a few blocks from the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro stop. There are many family friendly restaurants nearby including the Shake Shake, Ella’s Woodfired Pizza, and Luke’s Lobster. To make a full day’s outing nearby you can explore Ford’s Theater, the National Building Museum, the National Archives and many other kid friendly destinations.
Break out your trench coats and disguises and head downtown to become spies in the city!
*A note about online tickets – Online tickets are sold for particular time blocks – on the hour every hour. If purchasing your tickets in person it is not necessary for you to begin at the top of the hour. You can begin at any time as long as the equipment is available.
Photos by Kim Engstrom.