Our children have been on a spy kick since we visited the International Spy Museum in Washington DC this summer (read about our adventures here). So, when I read about Spyscape, which opened in early 2018, in midtown Manhattan (right at the edge of Central Park), I knew it would be a must see. I didn’t know just HOW cool it would turn out to be- super fun for the whole family. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for the toddler set (there are some parts that directly discuss some scary times in history,) and younger children definitely won’t be able to complete some of the missions, but preteens? Teenagers? They’re. going.to.LOVE. it.
- Again, I don’t recommend it for younger children. Upper elementary, preteens, and teenagers will LOVE it. And so will adults.
- Preorder tickets ahead of it; it will cut down in lines and you’ll be guaranteed admission. Some timed sessions do sell out during colder months and rainy days. Check hours and dates here.
- Adults should check out some of their special events here- sounds like a cool date night to me!
- It’s an easy walk from Grand Central Terminal (just over a mile and it goes quickly with so much to see). Information on subway stops, bus service, and parking garages can be found here.
- There is a coat check and free lockers on the main floor- super convenient in winter months. Restrooms are located on the second floor.
- The entire exhibit is handicap accessible; check in is on the main floor and an elevator takes guests to the second floor, where the entire exhibit is located.
- There is a small cafe with drinks and pastries available for purchase on the second floor. There is also a large gift shop on the second floor (with padded seating along the sides) and a large spy-themed bookstore on the ground floor next check in.
- Plan on two hours to complete all missions and exhibits, more time if you’re a James Bond fan and will explore the 007 exhibit.
Ten Things all Good Spies Must Do at Spyscape:
1. Create a personalized identity band at check in. Wear the band during the tour of the exhibits and keep it as a cool souvenir.
2. Listen to instructions and a briefing in the massive elevator theater on your way up to the main exhibit hall and follow the glowing line embedded in the floor to stay on track.
3. Complete 8 different tasks at the Questions Stations. There are 12 stations located throughout the exhibits and guests can scan their identity band at any station. The stations electronically know what tasks each guest has completed, so there is no need to go in order, or wait at one station if there is a long line.
4. Learn about German secrets and Allie codebreaking during World War II in the Encryption Gallery and complete a series of timed coding puzzles.
5. Read about FBI Officer Robert Hanssen, an American spy who sold FBI secrets to Russian for over two decades in the Deception Gallery. Find various detections through the gallery.
6. Head into a secret booth to take a lie detector test (the machine takes your pulse!) in the Deception Gallery.
7. Don a headset and try and make 15 observations in the Surveillance Gallery. Learn about how the government listens in to various forms of communication and about the journalists who research and study surveillance.
8. Race the clock, avoid the lasers, and try to hit as many buttons as possible in the Special Ops Gallery. There are four separate rooms for the mission and giant screens out front where everyone can watch you compete. We could have done this over and over all day long trying to improve on our score!
9. Check out your stats and accomplishments in the Debriefing Gallery. There is a summary of your mission scores and your top 2 spy qualities. An electronic copy of your stats and video from the Special Ops challenge will be sent to the email provided at check in- a great electronic keepsake!
10. Check out the special exhibit, Driven: 007 . Guests can learn about Charles Fraser Smith, on whom the James Bond character “Q”, who disguised spy tools in everyday objects, is based. Be sure to check out the immersion room with three massive car with projections of film clips, view sketches of vehicles and scenes from various films created by designer Sir Ken Adam, walk through Q’s workshop with bays of how the Bond DB5 car was built, and see a recreation of the siege of “Skyfall” film with video interviews with production staff.
Eating Locally: We found our new favorite spot to eat in the city: Lillie’s Victorian Establishment. Only a half mile from Spyscape and next door to two popular Broadway shows, Lillie’s is like traveling back in time. The 40 person bar was imported from a 19th century mansion in Northern Ireland, and much of the antiques and wooden carvings are also from a 19th century Irish estate. The menu has a wide variety of options, but we especially noted the weekday lunch specials ($16 includes an adult beverage!), extensive craft beer and wine menu, and high tea options. Our kids enjoyed the children’s menu. We could have stayed all day in our cozy banquet looking at all the decoration. Visiting during the holiday season was especially magical. Given the perfect location, delicious food, and very reasonably priced menu (not just for NYC, but anywhere!), we’ll be back soon. And again and again. Ps- they also have a Union Square location, too!
Disclosure: My family received a media pass to Spyscape and were hosted by Lilie’s for lunch. However, all opinions expressed are my own.