Prowling in the International Spy Museum

By Michael Younkin, Commentary Editor

With half of the International Spy Museum devoted to the greatest fictional spy of all time, Ian Flemming’s 007, and the other half devoted to real world spies, gadgets, and missions, the fantasy spy fanatic can find just as much enjoyment as the real life spy fanatic. Found in Washington DC, it is one of the most interactive museums I have ever been in.

The trip I took to the International Spy Museum was thoroughly enjoyable. I would recommend it highly to people of any age. It is a little bit off the beaten path in Washington D.C, but it is definitely worth it. While not worth a trip to D.C. on its own, it is most definitely worth adding to any trip.

I would also recommend that, having some basic knowledge on the Cold War in particular, as much of its historical section is about the Cold War. People that will get the most out of it are most definitely Bond fans, as the second half is entirely focused on the super spy.

Upon entering, visitors pay admission and are directed to an elevator, which carries them to the second floor. There, visitors are given an alias, a fake identity that they must memorize. They are then shown a video giving a brief explanation of spies, and finally, they get to the exhibits. Many of the exhibits are interactive, allowing the visitor to try and decode messages, find secret bases on maps, find dead drops, and more. Along the way, the visitor will find displays where their memory of their fake identity is tested, and they then receive instructions to memorize. The visitor can view many of the different types of spies, including an exhibit on ninjas. The museum takes the visitor through the history of secret agents, telling of their accomplishments and evolving gadgets. At the end of the second floor, another display tests the visitor’s memory of his or her instructions.

Once the visitor is finished with real life spies on the floor above, he or she goes downstairs to a 007 fanatic’s Candy Land. Every one of the fantasy super spy’s adventures is able to be explored in its own exhibit. The cars, the gadgets, the dastardly plots, and more are laid out for the guest’s enjoyment. From Moonraker to Skyfall, every adventure is explained, aspects of it are examined for their plausibility, and there are even areas where the visitors get to try their hand at being Bond. One such area is the bomb diffuser, where the Bond trainee must lift the nuclear reactor from the bomb without touching the sides. In another area, the 007 apprentice gets to do a classic action movie scene, where the hero is hanging from a ledge for dear life, and the wind and tossing and turning of their unsteady lifeline try desperately to throw them off. The apprentice is lifted a few inches on a bar, which twists and turns while the apprentice holds on for dear life. Also available to explore are the Bond villains and women, which, in some cases, are the exact same thing. The psyche of the villains are analyzed, the allures of the women portrayed, all with colorful, fantastically arranged displays.

Overall, for a pricey ticket, it is an excellent museum. I would highly recommend adding this museum to any future planned trips to Washington D.C.


photo provided by David Barton
David Bolton
photo provided by David Barton


Ticket Type Price
Adult (Ages 12+) $21.95
Seniors (Age 65+) Military and Law enforcement $15.95
Youth (Ages 7-11) $14.95