Aside from fictional spies like James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Austin Powers, few of us know much about the world of espionage and that’s probably very deliberate. After all, you can’t expect any good spy to be giving away their trade secrets. If you are intrigued by spies, and want to separate fact from fiction, then the place for you is the International Spy Museum; it is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to espionage.
Here, you can learn all about the gadgets and techniques real spies used, from cameras embedded in everyday objects, to my favorite, the lipstick pistol. Discover the realm of ciphers and codes that spies use to transmit messages, notorious female spies (you’ll likely recognize most of the names but never knew they were spies), and the role of carrier pigeons in espionage.
For fun, you can also assume the identity of one of 16 different spies. As you walk through the museum there are displays as well as guards to test how well you remember the details of your spy profile. There is also a GPS guided tour called Spy in the City which involves walking streets around the museum to solve a spy case on your own. It’s a lot of fun, plus you get to see a bit of the Penn Quarter neighborhood at the same time.
Though the Spy Museum is small, they cram in the displays and there is a lot of information to read. Give yourself at least four hours to cover it all. The museum does come with a price tag for admission (check Groupon or LivingSocial for deals).