BEST GIFT SHOP EVER! Okay, now that I have that out of the way, let me tell you about one of new favorite museums.
Where we went, and who was coerced into going:
While in DC over spring break, we visited the International Spy Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of espionage artifacts. We also visited the Air and Space Museum, so we continued in the vein of geeky, techy adventures.
WHY did you go there, exactly?
Both kids have watched all four movies in the The Spy Kids series multiple times, and wish they were Carmen and Juni Cortez. (Which would make me Carla Gugino in a black leather get-up. I could live with that.) Naturally, The Girl wants to be a spy when she grows up. Considering her skill at lying with the face of an angel, I would say she has a good shot.
Okay, what was so cool about it?
If you are even slightly intrigued by spies, their gadgets, and their undercover adventures, you will love this place. When you arrive, you choose your “cover,” adopting a name and back story. The Boy took this task seriously, writing down all the details of Yuan Zheng, the 39-year old dentist he had become.
Most of the museum experience is passive – looking at the collection of espionage artifacts behind glass. But I found the displays of disguises, weapons, invisible ink, and buttonhole cameras really intriguing. You can also watch videos describing different facets of espionage, like surveillance and picking locks.
You’ll learn about the history of espionage from its beginnings, in 400 BC, to modern day cyber threats. Some of the artifacts, like the lipstick pistol, looked like they came straight out of a James Bond movie, but they were REAL. I was also taken off guard to find out about the long history of espionage; there’s a 1777 letter by George Washington authorizing a spy network in New York.
With just a few “hands-on” exhibits, like the crawl-through air duct and the computer kiosk used to access satellite surveillance, The Girl surprisingly lost interest in an hour. This is definitely an experience best suited for ages eight and up, and The Boy wanted to see everything.
And did I mention…the BEST GIFT SHOP EVER?! Save time for shopping this fun and extensive selection – in 5000 sq. ft. — of spy gadgets, disguise kits, movies, books, clothing, souvenirs and more. I may even try their online store closer to Christmas…
How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):
All ages can relate to something within these exhibits. At least for an hour, anyway! Our experience was greatly enhanced by the fact that we arrived when it opened in the morning. The crowds built up during the day, and some of the galleries were feeling a bit claustrophobic by the time we left two hours later.
Hey you! Go BIG!:
800 F ST NW, Washington DC, 20004
Disclaimer: The International Spy Museum hosted our visit.