Since 2002 the International Spy Museum, located in Washington, D.C.’s Penn Quarter, has offered the only collection of public exhibits in the world dedicated entirely to espionage across nations and throughout history. As soon as you arrive you’ll be given a “cover” identity and a mission to complete as you tour exhibits on spy gadgets and learn about famous spies before the 20th century, before and during World War II, and during the Cold War.
You can also immerse yourself in Operation Spy (recommended for ages 12 and older), in which you will be given one hour to locate a missing nuclear trigger before it falls into the wrong hands. Crack a safe, decode messages, and conduct a polygraph test of a suspect agent. Or arrange a visit with a group and compete in one of the museum’s scavenger hunts, complete with a decoder wheel and data-retrieval sheet.
Remember the chalk marks CIA mole Aldrich Ames left on a Washington, D.C., mailbox to signal his KGB contact? You can see the mailbox and other infamous espionage sites on a two-hour, museum-sponsored bus tour available every Tuesday and Saturday at 10:00 am.
International Spy Museum
Hours: The museum’s hours are subject to change; check the web site for the dates you plan to visit. Last admission for entrance to the permanent exhibition is two hours prior to closing. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Admission: Adults (ages 18-64): $19.95
Parking: There is limited metered parking on the streets around the museum. Five parking garages are located within a two-block radius, with fees ranging from about $10 to about $20 depending on time of day and length of time parked.
Metrorail: Red Line or Yellow and Green Line stops for Gallery Place/Chinatown. Exit at 7th and G Streets and walk one block south, one block west.