It’s hard not to be fascinated by the secret world of spies. How to they carry out their missions? What are they after? And, living in the DC area, it’s easy to wonder “could I know any?”
The International Spy Museum in Washington DC delves deep into these questions with demonstrations of secret codes, exhibits full of tools spies have used from the earliest days of espionage to the present, the portrayal of spies in movies, the methods used to identify spies among us, and even celebrity spies.
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What to Expect
A visit to the Spy Museum starts off by immersing you in the world of spying right away. Take an elevator that glows with different colors up to a room where you choose your secret identity, learn the details of your new persona, and watch a movie about spying.
What to See & Do
Then, with your new name, it’s off to Spy School where you learn about gadgets and test your skills at identifying things that could give you away like surveillance cameras and people who may be listening.
There’s even an opportunity to crawl through an airshaft where kids (and adults) can listen to visitors but must stay quiet themselves.
Secret History of History
Next, move onto the Secret History of History and learn about spy techniques used throughout the ages from The Trojan Horse to Ninjas to codes stamped on rolls of leather. Learn about how leaders throughout history relied on intelligence gathering, double agents, and secret codes.
This part of the museum consists of several rooms demonstrating how spies worked in different eras and conditions.
Spies Among Us
Then, explore Spies Among Us to discover lots of famous figures you didn’t know were spies as well as spies who seemed at first like ordinary people. There are lots of artifacts to see, including mundane objects like a real mailbox that was used for drops and more interesting items like cars used to smuggle people and lipstick guns.
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There are also several films throughout that give a lot of additional information about the real world of spying from those who were actually involved.
There is also an exhibit on spying in the 21st Century. The Spy Museum also has rotating exhibits and a current favorite focuses on James Bond movies.
Spy in the City
Beyond the museum itself there are options for other spy experiences, including Spy in the City which takes you out into the blocks surrounding the Spy Museum with a tablet for an interactive mission that is really fun or Operation Spy for kids 12 and up.
Tickets & Pricing
The ticket pricing may vary according to the date, but these are the approx general admissions rate.
You can buy the tickets 45 days in advance.
- Adult(13-64): $28.95
- Youth (7-12): $18.95
- Child (6 and under): $0
- Senior (65+): $25.95
- Military: $25.95
- College: $25.95
Hours & When to Go
- Monday to Friday: 10:00am – 6:00pm
- Saturday: 9:00am – 7:00pm
- Sunday: 9:00am – 6:00pm
It is less crowded during early mornings so if you wish not to go with bigger crowds, 9:00am or 10:00am are the ticket schedules that you should purchase.
If you want to buy souvenirs or the latest spy gadgets for your kids, head towards The Spy Museum Store where they have various cool stuff from apparels, board games, puzzles, toys, and many more.
Museum Restaurant & Food Nearby
For a quick drink or snacks, you may go to The Spy Museum Store where they have chilled drinks for sale. Otherwise, L’Enfant Plaza Food Court is the best place to go to grab a bite.
Good to Know Before You Go
- The museum is geared towards kids ages 9 and older. Younger children will need to have some help along the way to make it more enjoyable.
- Kids below 18 years of age are required to be accompanied by an adult
- Umbrella strollers and compact travel strollers that fit within these dimensions are allowed: 30” length and 25” width and 43” height.
- No food, drink, and chewing gums are allowed inside the exhibits except bottled water.
- Travel compact and light. There are limited free storage lockers so make sure to bring just what you need and use a smaller bag
- Be sure to ask for the interactive Family Guide that sends kids on a scavenger hunt throughout the museum to find (and break) various codes and look for different objects.
- Make sure to bring your Military or College ID if you purchased these ticket categories
- The International Spy Museum offers other programming for the whole family. You can see their current schedule online.
Parking & Getting There
The International Spy Museum is located at 700 L’Enfant Plaza, SW Washington, DC 20024.
The Museum is one block from the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro. There are also several garages and limited street parking near the museum.
You may also reserve a Pay Parking Spot online to get a convenient parking at the L’Enfant Plaza Garage.
Things to Do Nearby
- Visit L’Enfant Plaza and check out wide choices of restaurants and shops.
- Stroll along the District Wharf and breathe in some fresh air as you walk along the beautiful waterfront.
- Go paddleboarding or kayaking when you visit District Wharf
- Explore restaurants nearby!
- Stop by at National Harbor which is just a water taxi ride away.
- Put on your ice skates and try out The Wharf Ice Rink.
- Get upclose to the local scene by visiting The Municipal Fish Market
There are lots of interactive things to do in the Spy Museum from crawling through an air shaft to pretending to be James Bond holding onto a moving bar in the wind to computer challenges throughout.
The guide really kept my kids interested and wanting to move through the museum. We also tried Operation Spy, which was long, but a great add on to a visit or just to do on its own.
For anyone curious about spies really operate, a visit to the Spy Museum is well worth a visit!