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“Great place, very educational, too.”

International Spy Museum
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International Spy Museum
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Ranked #47 of 444 things to do in Washington DC
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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: Bathroom facilities, Wheelchair access, Activities for older children, Stairs / elevator
Level 2 Contributor
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“Great place, very educational, too.”
Reviewed February 14, 2007

We were very intrigued to learn about the International Spy Museum and, having 2 budding spies (my daughters) and an interest in the hollywood version, we couldn't skip this. It is very technically and historically oriented. There is an interesting 'try to be a spy' scenario at the beginning, then some VERY old equipment, some fun activities and it moves you through spy history with newer equipment and more recent stories. At the end, you get to play around with some mock-up spy stuff. It all depends on your interests and your attitude, what you get out of this museum. I can see some people not enjoying this because we all have ways we like to learn and ways we don't and let's face it, museums are educational so it's really all about how educational info is presented. We enjoyed it and skipped what we didn't, and we are going back again!

5 Thank BlueMoonDancer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
Springfield, VA
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Crowded, Poor Design, Over Priced”
Reviewed January 4, 2007

The International Spy Museum was a terrible disappointment. I went with my husband and two sons. It sounded like it would be so cool, but it was over priced, very crowded, and filled with old cameras and rusted radios that weren't very exciting. We waited in very long lines and bought tickets for $15 when most of the attractions in DC are free. We bought our tickets the day before, but still waited in a long line outside to enter the museum at our appointed entrance time. Then once we got inside we waited in another very long line to get to an elevator that's only purpose was to take us upstairs to wait in another line to see a short movie! When we finally got to the exhibits after waiting in 3 long lines, it was so overcrowded we couldn't get near the items to see the displays. I do admit that we went later in the day at 4:00pm during peak holiday season in the winter. But this museum should have been designed better to accommodate the crowds. The gift shop is okay so go there if you are in the area, but skip the museum, unless you go so early no one else is there. If you are going to go at all, buy tickets ahead of time or you'll end up waiting in a long ticket line too, or go to ticketmaster.com to buy the tickets online and get an early entrance time. Also, go to the restaurant across the street afterwards and kill two birds with one stone. The food is great. It's good for families and they brew their own beer which is interesting and fun to watch. But my overall advice is that there are better things to see in DC. Take the kids to the Air and Space Museum. It's 1000 times better and it's free!

8 Thank Betty59
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 2 Contributor
3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“A very interesting museum”
Reviewed December 29, 2006

I read some of the other reviews about the place being very busy and I think that the solution is to go first thing in the morning (and in December!) I practically had the place to myself.

The museum takes you through the history of spying from the Elizabethan era to the Revolution to the Cold War and beyond.

There are a lot of interactive exhibits, including ones where you have to memorise a secret identity that are used on terminals throughout the exhibit. Also seeking secret installations on cameras.

Some of the other exhibits show things like spy kits used in World War 2, tape recorders hidden in rocks, a James Bond Aston Martin, a series of ventilation ducts that you can go through (or avoid if you don't want to!) and a recreated 40s "street", complete with a replica cinema showing Wartime morale boosting shorts.

I think this museum would be ideal for adults and children over about 8.

6 Thank HughJassUK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
new jersey
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
“Waste of Time and Money”
Reviewed December 27, 2006

Please take this off the number 1 recommended site. It should be at the bottom of the list. Across the street is the National Portrait Gallery, spend your time there instead. We had to wait in a line for 30 minutes, followed by a boring video. So, the first hour of our time was stolen by the spy museum. With our enthusiasm dampened by the bait and switch, we walked through the exhibition with the gory themes of stealth, deception, and lies. Do not waste your time. Within the glorious bounty of Washington DC cultural treasures the syp museum should put on a dark cape and sneak away.

8 Thank monkey4pie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New Jersey
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“As crowded as the mall on black friday”
Reviewed November 19, 2006

I understand how the Smithsonian could be crowded, or maybe the Washington Monument. After all, they are free, so its not like they can refuse admission to anyone. But the Spy Museum, at $15 per person, really needs to re-evaluate their occupancy policy. There is no way the number of people they allow in there is within the fire code. Picture the mall on black friday, because that is the type of crowd you will be fighting to see every item.

As for content, all this "museum" consists of is a bunch of old spy equipment. Picture items you can find on e-bay, like a lock picking kit or a microphone hidden in a tie. Anything that would be considered an impressive part of the collection is not an original, but rather a replica. For example, would you rather see a car used to smuggle Jews out of Germany, or a "replica" of the kind of car that was used? Pathetic. Save your money, but more importantly your time. This "museum" is an overpriced cash cow that sucks in unsuspecting tourists for the worst 2 hour pushing/shoving experience of their lives. That is, if you don't give up and leave before you finish seeing everything, like I did.

5 Thank ECTravler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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