What kid doesn’t love the idea of some covert ops? At Midtown’s newest museum Spyscape, the whole family can uncover their inner James or Jill Bond amid high-end, code-busting technology and tests. Your mission, should you choose to accept it…is fast-paced fun, discovering stories of international espionage, testing your spy skills and unearthing some of the game-changing secrets of undercover intelligence. 

photo: Emily Myers

The Briefing Room
The spy journey begins at the ticket desk where you are given your personal identity band. Each one has a fob which allows you to be recognized by name at various stations throughout the museum, storing your info and test scores to determine your risk-tolerance, brainpower, agility, and personality.

First stop is the Briefing Room, a high-tech theatre that doubles as the elevator to the Spyscape galleries. Add wrap-around screens and the perfect elocution of a British voice-over, and the stage is set to enter the first gallery, one that details the stories of high-stakes code-cracking during the Second World War.

photo: Scott Frances for SPYSCAPE

Real Life Spy Stories
World history and technological advances weave together to tell the amazing stories of real-life spies from code-breakers and spy pilots, to the spycatcher who brought down the FBI’s most damaging traitor, plus the teenager who hacked the CIA’s website. Before you leave each gallery you’ll get a chance to test what you’ve learned. Can you decode the cipher in time to get your agent safely out of enemy territory?

The profiling system that interprets your scores on each test was developed with a former Head of Training at British Intelligence and ultimately helps determine whether you’d be better in special ops or surveillance.

photo: Emily Myers

Deception Challenge
Timed entry to the museum means the galleries are never too busy, so the hands-on activities aren’t swamped. Popular with the kids is the interrogation room, a darkened booth where they learn the art and science of spotting lies.

Facial and audio recognition software, as well as a pulse monitor help track heartbeats, facial expressions, and vocal cues – trying to work out what’s true and what’s not. Can your own lies go undetected? Don’t be surprised if family members calmly announce they’ve been to the moon and back.

photo: Emily Myers

Immersive Experience
Testing your agility has never been so fun in the special ops laser tunnel. Visitors
 make split-second decisions, reach for illuminated targets, and negotiate a path through a maze of laser beams to reach the end of the tunnel while scoring against the clock. 

If it looks scary for little ones, adults can go into the room with kids. Otherwise, there’s a monitor on the outside to check how they are doing during the two-minute challenge.  There’s no limit to how many times you can try to improve your score, so good luck coaxing the kids out of there.

photo: Scott Frances for SPYSCAPE

 

Surveillance Challenge
Next up, the question: when flooded with information, how do you determine what’s important—and what’s not? In a 360-degree gallery of projected live and pre-recorded CCTV images, visitors get to put on special headsets fitted with microphones and voice-recognition software, as a surveillance officer takes them through authentic surveillance missions to test their powers of observation.

Can you count the escalators, spot the skateboarders or find the musicians? It’s both a test and a reminder of how much of our movement is tracked, making it hard not to become (momentarily) more aware of Manhattan’s many cameras balanced on buildings when you leave.

photo: Emily Myers

Personal Discovery
From espionage to hacking to investigative journalism, Spyscape digs deeper into the world of secret intelligence while raising larger questions of privacy and security insociety. While younger kids might not take in the finer details of Edward Snowdon’s NSA leaks or the work of hacktivists like Jake Davis, through the sensory exploration of spy skills, the activities underscore the importance of critical thinking and questioning everything! (And, introduces the idea of Big Brother a bit.)

photo: Scott Frances for SPYSCAPE

The Debrief
In the museum’s final room, you’ll find out which of the 10 archetypal spy roles is your best fit. Who is the Spymaster in your midst? Would you make a better Cryptologist or Hacker? Are you an Operative or an Analyst? All the info is revealed on a screen in front of you. It will probably come as no surprise that your six-year-old is someone best suited to destroying targets in hostile environments.

After all that hard work uncovering your hidden spy powers, it’ll be time to eat. The Cafe serves panini and snacks as well as hot and cold drinks which you can eat at black tables dramatically offset by displays of white orchids or sit on equally striking high bar stools…move over 007, the competition’s arrived.

Spyscape
Tickets: $39 for adults and $32 for children
Hours: Daily, 10am – 8pm (last entry at 7pm)
928 8th Avenue
New York, NY
Tel: 212-549-1941
Online: spyscape.com

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Have you checked out Spyscape and, if so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

-Emily Myers