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“Only one thing wrong” 4 of 5 stars
Review of International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum
800 F Street NW, Washington DC, DC 20004 (Downtown / Chinatown)
202-393-7798
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$23*
and up
Ranked #65 of 471 things to do in Washington DC
Activities: Group tours/bus tour, Driving
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Attraction details
Fee: Yes
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: Opened in 2002, the International Spy Museum provides interactive exhibits and contains the most extensive collection of spy artifacts ever displayed.
Useful Information: Stairs / elevator, Activities for older children, Bathroom facilities, Wheelchair access
Mount Juliet, Tennessee
Top Contributor
211 reviews 211 reviews
159 attraction reviews
Reviews in 79 cities Reviews in 79 cities
131 helpful votes 131 helpful votes
“Only one thing wrong”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 20, 2011

Be Forewarned they don't allow cameras at all that is the only problem. Its kinda more for kids than it is adults but adults can have just as much fun as the kids. It can get a little crowded at times but we had no trouble using the computers and interactive stuff they had throughtout the museum it was interesting to me and my friend. It would have been better had we been able to take pictures.

Visited June 2010
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
SpyMuseumManager, Guest Relations Manager at International Spy Museum, responded to this review, April 12, 2011
Hello,

Thank you for visiting the International Spy. We appreciate you taking the time to leave your review. We do not own all of the Spy artifacts in the museum so for copyright reasons we can not allow our guest to take photos. Sorry for the inconvenience but I am sure you and your friend have photographic Spy memories and can recall every thing you saw. Thank you again for your visit and your feed back.
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dale city
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“By what i`ve heard, I honestly think the International Spy Museum was great!!!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 18, 2011

By what i`ve heard I think the International Spy Museum was completly awesome!!!!!!! I`m not really sure if it has kidd content it probaly has some unsuggested content in it that even scares me a little bit... Some thing said doorway to Hell or gateway to Hell ur somrthing like that!.!??????

I do not know why??? And they do not allow photos to be taken or strollers.I was a little suprised by that one...So it made some peoples trips miserable but mine was fine !!!

But I personaly would recomend this for 10 year olds or older...But some people say even thier twelve year old was bored while there!???But my daughter Lia who is suprisingly twelve and she LOVED it!!!!!!!!!!

Visited March 2011
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
SpyMuseumManager, Guest Relations Manager at International Spy Museum, responded to this review, April 12, 2011
Hello,

Thank you for your visit to the International Spy museum. We are glad to hear You and your daughter enjoyed your visit. The "Doorway to Hell" is one of the many real Spy related exhibits through out history that the museum covers. Thank you again for your visit and we appreciate your feedback. Have a great day!
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Alexandria, Virginia
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3 reviews 3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
“Triple Threat - Double Disappointment”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed March 5, 2011

My wife and I began our trip to the International Spy Museum this morning when the museum opened promptly at 10:00 am. There were enough people in line to get in that we took the opportunity to wait it out by having a snack in the Zola café. I found the café inexpensive for DC but other than that unremarkable. After about fifteen minutes when the line died down a bit we stepped in and each bought a Triple Threat package for Operation Spy, Spy in the City, and the museum itself.

The first thing we did was Operation Spy. This was a HUGE disappointment. From the description it seemed like it was going to be a very interactive, adventurous hour. From the start I realized that they had oversold the event in nearly every way. They literally oversold it. There were more people on this trip than there should have been. Well over a dozen adults and one child were in attendance. This diminished the experience greatly in that not only were we packed into the rooms like sardines but that everyone was having to take turns at the activities or they were skipped entirely as there was a schedule to maintain. Even if the group had been a more manageable six to eight people it still would not have been fun. The description says “crack a few safes, decode a few messages.” There was one measly safe which the tour guide left to the little girl and her family (who never did get it open) and nothing for us to decode (something I had been looking forward to). The story was rushed and implausible (for example the girl and her family didn’t open the safe at all and yet the tour just continues on as though we had). At no time did I feel like I was being immersed in a real spy adventure. Neither my wife nor I enjoyed this at all. Total time was one hour. If you do the museum skip this activity entirely – it is not worth the time or money.

The next thing we did was the Spy in the City. We did Operation Catbird. This is a self-guided tour of approximately eight or nine square blocks in the immediate vicinity of the museum itself. They give each person in the party an interactive GPS and issue you individual codenames. The GPS basically guides you in a circular tour of the area which takes about an hour and a half. The GPS is difficult to hear at times and does not have the most intuitive interface (and I would know – I design software). The story isn’t the most engaging and didn’t live up to my expectations. That said, my wife enjoyed herself very much and we both agreed that while the GPS experience wasn’t great that we got some good exercise and saw some neat parts of the city. Our total time was under two hours (we stopped for lunch along the way even). I wouldn’t discourage anyone from trying this activity but I also wouldn’t do it again or recommend it to anyone with child that would tire easily.

Finally we toured the museum itself. I was REALLY disappointed in this part. We stood around a few minutes waiting to be let in because we were told the beginning part was a guided tour. When we were let in we were told to take a few minutes to choose a cover identity for ourselves and memorize the details. At this point I started to get a little excited. I choose the pre-defined John Campbell identity from the wall and memorized the background details and practiced conversations in my cover identity with my wife. We spent about five minutes doing this. This essentially built me up to think that we were going to be doing something in cover. Maybe being interrogated or participating in some sort of adventure. Nothing like this ever materialized except a goofy multiple-choice, touch-screen quiz about surface details of the cover. Then they had us watch a short film and released us to explore the museum. No guided tour. The museum was cramped and PACKED. I mean PACKED. There was hardly any room to breathe much less move. Each of the interactive kiosks had lines to use them so we had to stand around and wait a lot. For the first floor of the exhibit the crowd was dense and slow moving. While there were some neat things to see and trivia to read I found the experience largely unimpressive. By the time we finished the first floor of the exhibit we had had enough. We weren’t the only ones either. By the time we made it to the second floor of the exhibit you could see people’s eyes glazing over and they began rushing through. We joined them. It was hot, we were tired, and frankly it wasn’t fun anymore. By this point we just wanted to get out. We rushed through the second floor in a fraction of the time we spent on the first. Total time was about three hours. Unless you are a MAJOR spy buff I would not recommend the museum tour.

Visited March 2011
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
SpyMuseumManager, Guest Relations Manager at International Spy Museum, responded to this review, March 25, 2011
Hello and Thank you for visiting the International Spy museum. You both must be great Spies since you chose the Triple Threat mission. The Operation Spy mission is an interactive mission which can be safely run with at the max 15 guest. We have been inspected and are up to code and make it a point not to include more than 15 guest for a mission for safety reasons. I am glad you all enjoyed the Spy in the City. During this time of year we can be busy and we do understand each guest view museums differently. The museum closes at 8pm during Springbreak season and it is self guided and guest are allowed to go to any area of the museum at anytime. The Spy world is interesting and the museum can be a lot to take in so to avoid the glazed over look we will let guest come and go in the museum all day with their ticket purchased for that day. We appreciate you both taking on a cover and picking a new identity. We do have operatives roving the museum testing guest on their cover, I apoligize to you and your wife if you both out spied us and we missed you. Again Thank you for your visit and your feedback. Your review helps us to improve our museum to insure guest have an enjoyable experience. Keep Spying and have a Nice day!
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Chicago, Illinois
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“Museum has a Doorway to Hell??? Why???”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed March 3, 2011

This weekend, our family made our first (and possibly last) visit to the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. Lots of cool spy stuff, but one thing was very disturbing. About mid-way through the exhibit was a large door ajar through which everyone must pass to proceed into the next section. The door was labeled either Gateway to Hell or Doorway to Hell…something like that. We are a Christian family and needless to say, my young children were very uncomfortable passing through that doorway and didn’t want to go. I was shocked at the text on the door, which seemed totally out of context. There was nothing to do with Hell anywhere in the museum, so why was this sign on the door? After much consternation, we decided to proceed as I explained to the kids that this sign made me angry, was stupid and out of place, and that we would have to discuss the issue later. Interestingly, the very next exhibit was not horrific; it contained toys and memorabilia from old spy movies and TV shows. Then it hit me: museum guests (particularly the young) were being subliminally trained to believe that the pathway to Hell leads to fun! --- Why is this message being perpetrated on paying customers? What is a “Doorway to Hell” doing in a spy museum? Why should Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith have to go through that door? Families have few entertainment options these days that are wholesome and uplifting, and unfortunately the International Spy Museum doesn’t make the list because of this one issue. I am considering urging a boycott as a matter of principle until this issue is remedied -- simply take the sign off the door!

Visited February 2011
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
SpyMuseumManager, Guest Relations Manager at International Spy Museum, responded to this review, March 17, 2011
Hello,

Thank you for visit to the International Spy museum. We would also like to thank you for taking the time to leave a review about your visit. I am sorry you and your family had an issue with the " Door way to Hell". The International Spy museum has Spy material, Spy situations and Spy history from all over the world and we try to cover all phases of the Spy world. Sometimes it is positive and in other incedents it may be negative. Here at the International Spy museum we attempt to cover the Spy world as acurately as possible and try to educate our guest on the subject as well. In order to do so we must cover the positive and negative phases of Spying. In the 1700's during Catherine the Greats reign Moscow's Butyrka Prison was built. During Stalin's and Felix Dzerzhinsky purges of the 1930's and 1950's this prison became the most feared symbol fo the Communist excesses when Spying was turned against the Soviet Unions own citizens. People were brought into the office to be interogated if they were deemed to be Spies, a cabinet with a wooden front (like the replica we have in the museum) would be pushed back and there where stairs that led to the dark heart of the Butyrka Prison where suspects were held under the most inhumane conditions and some even executed. This cabinet with the wooden front was known throughout the Soviet Union as " The Doorway to Hell". All this is explained on the exhibit. Hear at the International Spy museum we are not in anyway trying to offend, frighten or make anyone feel uncomfortable and we are absolutely in no way suggesting that the pathway to hell leads to fun. We are offering a look into the Spy world and " The Door way to Hell" was part of that world and is just an exhibit in our museum. The International Spy Museum is Interesting, Fun, Interactive and Educational and a fine option for Families. There are several great options of all kinds for Families in this area and at the Spy Museum we are extremely grateful when Families such as yours choose to visit us. If you have any more questions or comments feel free to let me know. Thanks for your visit and we appreciate your feedback.
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Scranton, PA
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“Great - but not for young children...”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed February 22, 2011

If you're a spy buff, then this was a fun 2 hours. If you're a casual fan or if you have children 12 or younger, then this is overrated. I went there with my three children ages 7, 9 and 12 and after about 1/2 hour they were bored. Way too much reading and not enough interactive things. The gift shop was overpriced, although I will say it did have a pretty extensive array of items.

Visited February 2011
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
SpyMuseumManager, Guest Relations Manager at International Spy Museum, responded to this review, March 17, 2011
Hello,

Thank you for visiting the International Spy Museum. We appreciate you taking the time to leave a review about your visit. We have Spy material, Spy information and Spy history and it can be a-lot and we understand each guest may view and experience the museum differently. That is why we are so appreciative of you and each guest who visits us. We value your opinion, it helps us to improve to make each guest visit a pleasant one. Again Thank you for your visit and your feed back.
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