Oyster Locals: Spy Museum Teen Style

New from my Oyster Locals Blog… Following your teen around the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

About six years ago, my teen was all about spies. She lived and breathed spies. She was a spy for Halloween. Her favorite movies: Spy Kids 2 with a chaser of Spy Kids 3-D. What was on her Christmas list that year? Spy goggles and a motion detector lock for her bedroom door. While her love for playing spies waned, her interest in visiting the International Spy Museum in D.C. held strong.

With schools closed for the day in the fall, I envisioned a day filled with decluttering, household fixing, clarinet playing, and last minute homework. My husband had other plans. He suggested taking our 6-year-old to the National_Zoo while I took the teen to the International Spy Museum. I gave our tween the choice between the National Zoo and the Spy Museum. She chose the zoo.

What age is the right age for a child to visit the Spy Museum anyway? My teen and I spent quite some time reading tags, labels, and maps. A younger child might not have the reading skills or attention span to fully comprehend the exhibits. Some of the exhibits focus on spies who murdered others or were executed. This subject matter would be inappropriate for younger children. Although the Spy Museum website lists the child admission rate as for ages 5-11, I would suggest that the exhibits are more appropriate for the late elementary school child — 10 and up.

After stepping off the elevator at the Permanent Exhibits (Espionage, School for Spies, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the History of History), my teen and I were instructed by the guide to read the spy biographies on the walls and choose a spy. For the duration of the visit, I was Carol Liu en route to Volgograd in search of museum papers. The teen picked a girl around her age who was headed to Dublin. We were told by a museum guard to memorize our “covers.” I quickly memorized everything about Carol Liu. Could we stay undercover?

As a kid I loved periscopes, walkie talkies, and once made a phone out of tin cans. My teen and I walked from display case to display case marveling at how large and bulky the early bugging devices were. These devices fit in buttonholes and hats, but did not look comfortable to wear under clothing.
Today’s miniscule gadgets are marvels of invention, but can you imagine lugging around the equipment carried by Cold War spies?
So did we stay under cover? A computer verification of our cover stories confirmed that my teen and I were true spies. Phew.

The teen LOVED the Spy Museum. So, did I. We worked up an appetite walking around the Permanent Exhibition. The Spy City Cafe offers a selection of salads, sandwiches, and hot dogs, as well as scrumptious looking cupcakes. Lunch at the Spy City Cafe fortified us for our next mission: Operation Spy.

Operation Spy is an additional charge of $14 on top of the admission charge. This spy experience is designed for children 12 and over. Operation Spy is a spy experience. The 1-hour experience is “an intense challenge that combines live-action, themed environments, special effects, and hands-on activities like cracking a safe, decoding messages, and conducting a polygraph test of a suspect agent.”
We weren’t sure what we were getting ourselves in to as we boarded the elevator to the Middle Eastern city of Khandar. Our group was whisked to a briefing room to hear about our mission. My teen and I were part of a group of 20 who experienced everything from safe breaking, escaping in a truck, and running down a darkened hallway. I won’t reveal the outcome of our mission since I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else, but Operation Spy was an action-packed spy adventure. The experience was exciting to say the least.

Spy Museum Admission, Events, and Hours:

  • Permanent Exhibit (Child ages 5-11) $15
  • Permanent Exhibit (Senior ages 65+, Military/Intelligence Community) $17
  • Permanent Exhibit (Adult ages 12-64) $18

In addition to the Permanent Exhibition admission charge, you can experience the following for an extra charge:

  • Operation Spy $14
  • Spy in the City (1.5 hour GPS-guided tour of D.C. experience) $14
  • Spy at Night Experience (Friday & Saturday Evenings) $20
  • Spy Combination — 1 hour Spy in the City + Operation Spy $30
  • Double Agent — Choose any two of the above offerings $28
  • Triple Threat — Choose any three of the above offerings $40
  • Spy City Tours — Saturdays, Only $59

Hours — Summer hours, daily 9 a.m. -7 p.m. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. the rest of the year.

As you plan your visit to D.C. with kids, you will want to find a hotel near the International Spy Museum. For a hotel with everything, you will love the Grand Hyatt…42″ flat screen TVs, ipod docks, Starbucks, and it is in walking distance to White House, Spy Museum, etc. The Marriott Washington Metro Center has an indoor pool and a jacuzzi.

I would like to thank the Spy_Museum for allowing my daughter and I to experience the Permament Exhibit — we loved it! (I paid for admission to Operation Spy and for lunch at the Spy City Cafe.)

–Jill Berry of Musings from Me

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