Most of us know spy stories from pop culture—the likes of Charlie’s Angels, James Bond and, sure, “Spy vs. Spy”—and the news. But NYC’s Spyscape immerses you in the real-world stories of hackers, code breakers and double agents. The interactive experience will even determine your own spy profile along the way as you try authentic challenges developed by real intelligence operatives and top psychologists. Read on for a guide to the Spyscape experience, and then plan a visit to accept your mission in person.
Crack the Code
Once you slip on your progress-tracking RFID wristband and select your language (English, Spanish or Chinese), your personalized Spyscape journey begins. Your first stop is the briefing lift, where you’ll receive an introduction to your mission and a reminder that spying is all around you.
From there, make your way to Spyscape’s Encryption Gallery. There, you’ll learn about the World War II cryptanalysts who cracked German codes and encounter a rare original Enigma machine. Then it’s time to tackle your first challenge: using a cipher to send your contact a secret message. Remember, the clock is ticking.
Spot the Lies
In the Deception Gallery, uncover the full story of an infamous double agent—an FBI operative who secretly sold intel to the Russians for decades. Think you could have spotted his deceit? Take a spin in one of the museum’s lie-detection booths to see for yourself. First, learn common tells for falsehoods—including those you exhibit while trying to fool the detector. Then pay close attention to real subjects to see if you can pinpoint when they’re lying.
Keep an Eye Out
Modern surveillance comes alive in Spyscape’s next space. The 360-degree display of security camera footage (some prerecorded, some live from within Spyscape) will certainly catch your eye, but the deep dive into government and corporate surveillance methods will reveal how surveillance affects you personally. Grab a headset to take on the next challenge. You’ll need a sharp eye as you’re prompted to spot details—Where is the photo booth with the red seat? What’s the man on camera 4 doing?— across dozens of CCTV screens as quickly as possible.
After a visit to the Hacking Gallery where you’ll meet the teenager who hacked the CIA and the world’s first weapon made from code, your next agent-in-training exercise is the laser tunnel. This Special Ops Challenge might have you humming the Mission Impossible theme as you put your agility and strategy to the test. Hit as many buttons on the tunnel’s walls as you can—but avoid the spiderweb of lasers in your path. When you come tumbling out of the tunnel, you’ll learn the story of undercover agent Virginia Hall, who spied on and sabotaged Nazis during World War II. And don’t miss the display of authentic special ops spy gadgets, including a hat pin dagger, razor blade compass and a domino with a tiny secret compartment.
Throughout Spyscape’s galleries, you’ll encounter games, brainteasers and personality tests that will determine your risk appetite, your psychology and your individual spy profile. After you’ve completed all of these activities and the four major challenges above, head to the Debriefing Room.
Scan your wristband one last time to see a breakdown of your progress and your key spy attributes. The Spyscape algorithm will reveal what type of spy you’d be: Hacker, Cryptologist, Intelligence Operative or even Spymaster. No need to memorize that debrief either—though if you’re a Surveillance Officer, you probably will. You’ll receive an email with a link to your complete spy profile, highlighting your abilities and ways to apply them in the real world.
Continue the Mission
Before the end of your visit, take a spin through the gift shop to stock up on spy gear. Really—this sleek space sells gadgets like drones, a home lie-detector kit and a hollow coin that can conceal a MicroSD card. Peruse the bookstore to learn more about modern espionage and spies throughout history or to pick up a new true-crime page-turner.
Events and special exhibits at Spyscape keep the fun going, too. Check out the ongoing Missions and Martinis party every Friday night from 6 to 10pm. Tickets include the full Spyscape experience, plus a drink and snacks in the museum’s cocktail bar. Fans of 007 won’t want to miss the new James Bond exhibition, open daily. The immersive display takes you behind the scenes of the beloved franchise, with original artifacts and designs from the movies and an actual Aston Martin DB5.