Stepping into the world of sleuths and spies, I go undercover with a secret identity as I embark on a tour of the International Spy Museum. My disguise seems to work, as I move undetected between rooms, perusing centuries of spy history.
My first stop is the room “School for Spies,” a James Bond lover’s dream, filled with microbots, bugs, buttonhole cameras and over 50 years of spy technology used by the KGB, OSS and other spy networks—a showcase of tricks of the trade.
The journey continues through a maze of rooms that document the history of spies, from traitors like Benedict Arnold to German and Russian spy rings in World War II. Most unnerving is the cyber-terrorism room that insinuates a when-not-if looming national disaster. The museum offers numerous spaces for group events and is also open for full rental.
I slip out, seemingly unnoticed, and free to continue my secret mission of museum hopping in the nation’s capital, which is not an easy task considering the embarrassment of cultural riches in Washington, D.C.
I decide to explore Newseum, a high-tech, interactive tour of 500 years of headline history, covering all aspects of media, including the latest social media trends. The sprawling layout features ample space for groups, and an outdoor terrace looks straight out to the glimmering U.S. Capitol.
My visit starts at a 12-foot-high concrete section of the original Berlin Wall and passes through displays of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos and newspaper archives featuring the world’s most memorable headlines, and onto a floor devoted to the coverage of Hurricane Katrina. The most riveting display is a section focusing on coverage of 9/11, replete with a mangled chunk of metal from the World Trade Center destruction.
From modern history to ancient times, I make a stop at the National Gallery of Art, an art historian’s dream, with pieces from the 13th to the 21st centuries, including an impressive collection of Italian Renaissance and Impressionist art. The rotunda area in the West Wing, replete with a fountain, is enticing enough to spend a whole afternoon and would be a highlight for group functions. The East Wing showcases the best of modern art, with names like Picasso, Pollock and Calder. Groups can also use the outdoor sculpture garden.
With time and energy for just one more, I take a quick tour of the group-friendly National Museum of the American Indian, where indigenous cultures of today are the focus. The building itself is worth a visit for its curvilinear form, designed to evoke a wind-sculpted rock formation.
My secret identity still intact, I make my final retreat to my room at the Fairmont Washington, D.C. hotel in the tranquil George Washington University area. Confident I have not been followed, double-crossed or bugged, I settle in for the night.