My kids love to pretend to be spies. Whether they are sneaking around the house, the backyard, or playing with their toys, there is often some dimension of espionage in their play. On a recent trip to Washington D.C., with an interest in all things spy-related percolating inside my children’s imaginations, we walked into the International Spy Museum in search of fun and lessons in the history of espionage.
And since my kids love to pretend they are spies, the highlight of our trip to the museum was a visit to the fictional land Khandar. While in Khandar, visitors participate in a mission to find a “trigger man” and discover who is behind the operation. On this mission, kids (and adults) make their way through the city streets and buildings (hallways and rooms), as listening devices and other means of spyware are used to bring down your adversary. (Make sure you follow the directions, or you’ll wander aimlessly through the exhibit without knowing your next objective. Which is what happened to me as I followed behind my 3 year old.)It’s a chance to actually be a spy.
Along the way, visitors learn about famous cases involving spies, the history of spying, and historical artifacts. My kids especially were interested in learning more about Harriet Tubman’s spying during the Civil War, since they read a biography about her earlier this year.
Another highlight was the current exhibit on Bond Villains, which includes movie clips and instructions on how to be like James Bond. There is even a chance to be like Bond, as you test how long you can dangle from a helicopter flying over the city.
My kids – ages 10, 8, and 3 – all had various reasons to love the museum. My 3 year old loved running around and pushing buttons. If you have a kid that loves buttons and turning dials, then this is a great place. My 10 and 9 year olds enjoyed their spying mission and walking through the halls. My 10 year old is getting into the James Bond age and thought reading about the all of the villains was a lot of fun. He really wants to watch all the movies now.
My wife and I also enjoyed the museum. We enjoyed the challenge of figuring out who the “trigger man” is. I love all things history related and could have spent much longer reading and listening to the various tales of espionage.
A few things to keep in mind when you visit:
- The museum is geared towards older kids and adults. While younger kids will enjoy it, adults will enjoy it much more without younger kids in tow, since it’s hard to complete the mission if you are racing after a three year old.
- The museum can get extremely crowded, due to its popularity, and the more crowded it is, the harder it is to really appreciate the exhibits and interactive nature of the museum. Try to time your visit for early morning or a weekday to minimize the crowd factor.
- The gift shop is not to be missed. In addition to books, t-shirts, and traditional memorabilia, there are great spy accessories and toys that are fun for all ages (hollow books, invisible ink, etc.) and at a variety of price points.
The Spy Museum is located at between 9th and 8th Streets at 800 F Street.
Museum hours vary throughout the year. For up to date hours, click here.
Tickets: Ages 12-64 ($21.95) 65 and up ($15.95) 7-11 ($14.95) 6 and under (free).
Disclosure: My family was given tickets in exchange for a review. The words and thoughts behind this post are my own.