One new stop for us in Washington, D.C. during our roadtrip last summer was the International Spy Museum. With its exhibits, many of them interactive, it’s a great stop in particular for a family, or anybody interested in spying and espionage.
The Museum: International Spy Museum
Location: 700 L’Enfant Plaza, SW Washington, DC 20024
Cost: $26.95/$16.95/Free for Adult(13+)/Youth(7-12)/Child(0-6)
Reservations may be required: Check Website
Closest Subway Stop: L’Enfant Plaza (Green, Yellow, Orange, Blue, and Silver lines)
More Ways to Get to the Museum: Check Website
The International Spy Museum is a private, non-profit museum that is not associated with the Smithsonian Museums. Because of that, it does have an entrance fee (Smithsonian museums are free, so if you’re tight on time in DC and have a big group, consider those first).
That said, if you have young children that are interested in spying and espionage this museum is a must. As your kids get older, they may or may not enjoy it as much. If you like reading, there are a lot of cool artifacts to learn about, but most of the more interactive displays are geared towards elementary and middle school-aged kids.
Since we visited in July of 2021, there were plenty of Covid restrictions in place. It was necessary then to buy timed tickets ahead of time, and we arrived just before our designated entry time. At that time, the museum was a little more crowded than we would have preferred, especially given all the interactive exhibits, but it was also a July weekend.
Upon entry, we were taken up an elevator and entered the “Briefing Center,” where we were given a badge and told to use one of the computers to learn our cover story.
Note that one feature that they seem to have added since our visit is a personal stylus. With it, you can interact with the various computers around the museum. For a better look at what safety protocols they have installed, watch the Visit Video Guide.
After receiving our cover identity and learning about our mission, we were let into a room that had a bunch of spy artifacts. I found it mildly fascinating, but a true spy enthusiast would find it much more so. Here are a few displays showing various uniforms.
As you take a self guided tour from room to room, you have the option of interacting with 17 different computer stations to get more information on your mission.
A favorite display was the car showing how some East Germans escaped into West Germany. The Wall Museum we visited in Berlin is much cooler, but without traveling across the ocean, this exhibit will give kids a good idea of what it might have been like to cross the border illegally.
While the inflatable tank shown below was at first a little less than impressive, it was fascinating to learn that the US Army used them in WWII. I really enjoyed reading the story about how the “Ghost Army” tricked the Germans as far as the location, date, and number of troops that were to be involved on D-Day.
Speaking of vehicles, you also shouldn’t miss the James Bond Aston Marin car at the exit.
All-in-all, it was a fun museum. If you have children who are into spies and espionage, consider this museum the next time your travels take you to Washington, D.C.