International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum
This exhibit was a favorite for my bond fanatic boys.

By Sue Rodman
International Spy Museum
Where: International Spy Museum, | 800 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004 | 202.EYE.SPYU
When: Times vary by season. Check the International Spy Museum website
Cost: $19.95 adults, $15.95 Seniors (65+) Military & Law Enforcement, and $14.95 ages 7 – 11, Under 6 Free
The best deal is $27.95 combo ticket that includes the museum and one of the interactive experiences Spy in the City or Operation Spy

The International Spy Museum in Washington DC is one of the few paid attractions in the city and of course with three boys, it was tops on our list of things to see on a recent trip to DC. The museum houses artifacts from around the world and gives visitors a glimpse into the life of a spy.

What’s Your Spy Identity
Upon entry, choose a persona. Don’t just take a picture of the information, commit it to memory and begin to live your lie, it could be the difference between life and death. Throughout the museum there are kiosks to check your memory. My son thought he’d be fine just remembering his home country started with a J, up until the guard gave him five choices that started with a J and the evil eye. A week later, I’ve forgotten my name, but remember I’m 44 years old, born in California and on a 12 day holiday to a country I can’t spell or pronounce.  

International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum
At spy school, choose a persona and commit it to memory. Then learn how to live your cover.

The museum uses a combination of newsreels, artifacts, interactive kiosks and reading, to tell you about spying and a spy’s life throughout history. It’s very interesting for adults and older kids, but smaller children may get antsy. They’ll love crawling through the duct-work to listen in on conversations below, and there are interactive kiosks throughout where you do things like decipher a Navajo code (the only code that has never been cracked), but there is a good bit of reading.

Older kids and parents will want more time to really absorb the material and take a closer look at the invisibility inks, listening bugs, and weapons in the spy toolkit. The pieces I found the most interesting are the picture of a man holding a fake tank to trick air surveillance into thinking they had a fleet during WWII, a rectal toolkit (yuck), and a US seal that hung in an officials office for years before they discovered it was bugged.

Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years Bond Villains
As much as my boys enjoyed going through the Spy Museum, they really lit up when we entered the latest exhibit Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villians. My kids are huge James Bond fans, and have been working their way through the 50th anniversary collection they received as a gift for Christmas. The familiarity with Bond gave them a great reference point for everything they were seeing at the museum, and they enjoyed perusing the actual costumes, and props from the movies. This section is more kid friendly too with several interactive kiosks that get the kids moving, not just listening or watching. Defuse a live bomb or see if you can unscramble a code while your partner works to thwart your progress. If you can hold on to the rail of the bridge for 60 seconds in the blowing wind, you’ll earn a commemorative rubber bracelet.

International Spy Museum
The Bond exhibit has lots of interactive elements. Here my youngest is trying to decipher a code while my other son tries to keep him guessing.

I enjoyed how the exhibit showcases the connection between the James Bond movies and real spies. Displays ask if Bond elements are real or Hollywood. Real spies share their James Bond moments. You can participate in the exhibit at home with the Vilify Me App, where you design a lair even James Bond can’t penetrate.

We were given to this attractions for the purposes of review, as is common in the travel industry. The opinions expressed are my own and I only recommend places I would visit.