An Adventure in Espionage: The International Spy Museum

My Internet handle has 007 in it for a reason. I adore mystery, detective stories, and spy movies. Action, adventure, espionage, and daring - if I had a dose of those items on a daily basis I'd be a happy woman indeed. (If not a bullet-riddled one. I'm not saying I would make a necessarily good detective. Although I did win "Best Sleuth" at our staff Christmas murder-mystery party this year... even though my husband says I should have won "Most Annoying" instead. But that's just a matter of opinion. I was SUPPOSED to be a nosey gossip journalist. I'd say that's a win for me.)

Yay - my award from our Christmas party this year. I am officially a genius. LOL

I'm not an obsessive 007 fan - indeed, I'm more of a Nancy Drew mystery gal myself - but one thing I certainly did enjoy was the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. What a cool place!

Washington D.C., things to see in Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. is truly a beautiful city!

It all began on a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. I was at a conference (because aren't I always?) and my last session of the day, a session on technology, had been cancelled because the technology wasn't actually working. This can be a problem when you are there to learn about... technology. All of my colleagues were in other sessions, and I wasn't sure what to do with myself. I thought I'd go for a stroll back to the hotel we were staying at, change into some comfy 'exploring' clothes, and return to meet my friends in plenty of time.

things to do in Washington D.C., museums in Washington D.C.
The International Spy Museum in Washington D.C.

However, I was totally derailed when I wandered past 800 F Street, NW. At this point, I would have turned, crossed the street, and continued down the street to my hotel, but I noticed a giant sign sprawled across the front of a building, theater-style. The glowing sign read "International Spy Museum". 

What's a girl who loves mysteries to do? I went in.

Admission was $19.95 USD. A little pricey but I paid anyway. I will give you a spoiler alert - it was worth the price. The museum has a lot of interactive features, activities to accomplish (missions, if you will), and an extensive exhibit. I could have stayed a LOT longer than I actually had time for, so if you go, plan for a few hours to enjoy both the interactive aspects and the gallery exhibits.

The "School for Spies" courtesy

One of the first things that happened when I entered the exhibit space was that I became a spy. I was issued a cover identity, scanned, and led into a room with a few other visitors where we were briefed on the art of spying and what we were there to do. After our briefing, we were led into the museum to attend "School for Spies", learning about some of the major spying devices, some legends of the trade, and all other sorts of classified intel. 

During my foray into the spy museum, I discovered that some of the biggest names in history had affiliations to the spying world; people I would never have imagined. The museum taught me about codes, from the earliest forms to some of the more sophistocated modern codes systems.

Some of my favorite artifacts were tools from the 1960s to the 1970s - artifacts that we joke about, but truly existed. A radio inside a shoe, a pen with a poison compartment, a book with an embedded camera for taking surveillance photographs... they were all there! I desperately wanted to take photos of every item there, but sadly, photography is not allowed. Boo-urns...

Shoe transmitter at the International Spy Museum courtesy

What I didn't get to try were the Interactive Spy Experiences - I just didn't have the time, and plus, they cost extra money. However, the International Spy Museum offers a variety of programs from a one-hour training session within the museum itself, to a "Spy City Tour" which takes you around Washington, D.C. for a tour of some of the capital's tasty top-secret tidbits.

I highly recommend this museum for families as well as individual travellers. The price might dissuade you from entering, but if you are a fan of mysteries and intrigue like I am, you won't be disappointed!


  1. Thanks for this informative description of the International Spy Museum. It has been on my bucket list for awhile, but has moved up a lot due to your post.

    1. It was very interesting! I wish I could have stayed longer, actually, and if I go again, I am signing up for the interactive experiences Have fun if you do get to go!!