If you have a kid interested in everything “spy,” or if your family is looking for a chance to go into James Bond mode, here are four must-see spy attractions for families where civilians can easily turn themselves into international men and women of mystery for a day.
Washington DC’s International Spy Museum
700 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20024
“Washington, DC has more spies than any other city in the world, so it feels only fitting to locate the International Spy Museum here,” Aliza Bran, media relations manager for the International Spy Museum, tells Parentology.
A recent move from downtown Washington to L’Enfant Plaza has seen the museum double in size. Bran says the museum will be enjoyable for a wide range of visitors, but recommends children be at least seven-years-old to get the most out of their visit. “That being said, there are a number of digital and physical interactives in the exhibit that those younger than seven-year-olds will enjoy.”
If you want to make a trip to the museum, Bran suggests ordering tickets in advance. Not only will you be able to take advantage of a $2 discount (for adult, senior and military tickets), but this ensures you’re able to tour the museum during busy or peak times.
“There’s innovative technology like RFID (radio frequency identification) throughout the museum experience that ties together fun interactives focused on disguises, gadget making, etc,” Bran says of a feature rolled out after a recent renovation.
There are also new artifacts and stories that span eras and countries. “Plus, there are some old favorites like the air duct that children and adults can climb through (though it’s bigger and better than the old building’s air duct) and the well-loved Hang Time interactive, which allows visitors to play ‘James Bond’ and see how long they can hang from a bar.”
60 E Ontario Street
Chicago, IL 60611
“The vision for this spy refuge was unique and full of historical references,” Sean Burke, director of operations for SafeHouse, tells Parentology. Founded in Chicago in 1966 by Station Chief OhOh7 (aka: David Baldwin), SafeHouse quickly became a must-see destination for visitors and locals alike. Burke explains the building was chosen with spies’ needs in mind: it provides safety, refuge, rations and libations.
While the location does serve alcohol for parents and guardians, spies-of-all-ages can enjoy the secret destination. “Guests can find riddles, puzzles, and hidden clues of all shapes and sizes within SafeHouse’s maze of gadgets, James Bond memorabilia, and spy gear,” Burke says.
Junior Spies will revel in the kid-friendly options that include adventurous puzzles, a scavenger hunt, a codename tag, and a take-home souvenir mug. “Meanwhile, Spy Parents can enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere with nods to the likes of Austin Powers, James Bond and spy movies like Get Smart.”
However, if you’re bringing your junior spy, you’ll need to be out by 9:00 pm. Burke’s intel, “Afterward, Spy Parents can sneak their way back to the clandestine experience for late-night activities like a Shagadelic dance party, karaoke, a live DJ, and suspiciously delicious Mission Impossible cocktails.”
Before you go, Burke says visitors should check out all the secret spots SafeHouse has to offer. “SafeHouse’s password is hidden in four different spots around the restaurant. Find the code, and get lucky on your clearance test entry for the next visit. In addition, spies can document their visit in the Stealthy Selfie Booth, and complete their mission by exiting through SafeHouse’s laser maze.”
Chicago’s 826CHI* and The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Company
1276 N Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
Gaby FeBland, the Communications Coordinator for 826CHI tells Parentology both screaming toddlers and dogs are welcome at 826CHI and The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Company. Here, they teach creative writing and sell espionage gadgets, invisible ink and many other “disguises for your spy on the go” respectively.
Visitors to the spy shop can get hyper-realistic masks, travel items for international agents of mystery, and even stationery items that look like Raman noodles from the spy shop. Or they can visit the writing center where they can solve a secret message spelled out in morse code on a bookshelf.
826CHI offers everything from after-school tutoring and writing classes, to a variety of events (come down the first Sunday of the month to experience Secret Agent Storytime, which will be picking back up in February 2020) or check out their Fresh Ink series, a 90-minute workshop free for Chicago area students and $10 for those outside of the school district.
*826 has additional locations with various themes around the country, including Boston, New York City and Los Angeles.
New York’s SPYSCAPE
928 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10019, USA
Espionage, intrigue, adventure… Spy families will find themselves spurred on to discover other missions waiting for them in US cities. Next mission, should they choose to accept it, exploring New York’s SPYSCAPE…
Those who’ve honed their skills in hacking, cryptology and coding will find their mastery tested and put to excellent use via the museum’s exhibits. There’s even a free online “academy” for spies-in-training.
Here’s a peek at what spies can expect to encounter during their mission.
4 Must-See Spy Attractions for Families: Sources
Sean Burke, the Director of Operations for SafeHouse
Gaby FeBland, the Communications Coordinator at 826CHI
Aliza Bran, the Media Relations Manager for the International Spy Museum