We’ve brought our popular holiday lights tour from Georgetown to Downtown to bring local history and holiday light displays.
Downtown History & Holiday Lights Tour
We start our tour at the Downtown Holiday Market (open for 2020) where you can purchase local goods and treats. We’ll then explore Downtown DC history while visiting Macy’s holiday windows, the Christmas displays at City Center and Willard Hotel, and ending at the National Christmas Tree.
With so much changing as Washington DC slowly reopens due to COVID-19, we are trying to keep all information updated. Note that opening hours, ticketing policies and procedures may vary. For the most up to date information, check the location’s individual website.
The International Spy Museum is currently OPEN 7 Days a Week. Timed Tickets required
What is the Spy Museum?
The International Spy Museum is the only US museum that is solely dedicated to espionage and features the largest collection of espionage artifacts ever placed on public display. It is the only museum in the world to showcase a global perspective on the roles spies have played and on the men and women who have participated in this profession, shaping history and continuing to have a significant impact on global events.
Unlike the Smithsonian Museums, the International Spy Museum is a private museum and does charge admission.
Tickets are timed entry tickets, which means you are free to enter the museum after the time printed on your ticket. You are able to re enter the museum throughout the day, as long as it is after the time printed on your ticket. Tickets can be purchased in advance, same day, and for larger groups.
General Admission Ticket Type
Adults (ages 13-64)
Senior (ages 65+), Military, Fire, Law Enforcement, Student
Youths (ages 7-12)
Children age 6 & under
Tickets can be purchased in advance of your visit through the International Spy Museum website or by calling 202.654.0991 (10am-5pm). You will be able to select the date, time, and quantity when you click ‘Buy Tickets’.
It is recommended that you purchase tickets ahead of time, especially during the busier spring and summer seasons. This option will save you from having to wait to purchase same-day tickets, which can be up to an hour long.
When purchasing tickets online, you have a choice on whether to print tickets at home or to pick up tickets at will call. Will call is located in the lobby of the museum at the same location where tickets can be purchased.
Same Day Tickets
Tickets can be purchased at the museum for same-day admission. When you walk into the museum entrance, you will be pointed to the direction of the ticket counter.
During peak season, there will most likely be long lines and waits up to an hour to purchase tickets. If this is the case, the museum staff will be there to direct you to the appropriate line, especially if the line extends out the door.
Depending on availability, you might have to purchase tickets for a later entry time and return to the museum later in the day. Last ticket is sold one hour before closing.
Groups of 10 or more are eligible for reduced admission. The museum requests that groups complete a Group Request Form.
Completing the form allows their Group Sales team to contact you within 24 hrs and get your group booked quickly. The Group Sales team can also be reached by calling 202.654.0942 or 202.654.0964. Their office is open 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM Mon-Fri EST.
The museum has interactive components in almost every gallery, making it fun for younger children. There different computer games and tasks in almost every gallery, but there are also areas where children can climb, crawl, hang, and do other physical activities. A free, downloadable family guide is offered through the spy museum website.
You are able to print this guide before arriving at the museum or pick up a copy on the day of your visit. In addition to the interactive pieces at the museum, the website has games and apps that allow children to play with things they might come across in the museum.
The museum is open daily from 10:00 AM- 6:00 PM, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
During peak seasons, the museum extends its hours which can vary on a weekly basis. The International Spy Museum frequently updates any changes to operating hours on its Museum Hours page.
Please note that the last ticket of the day is sold one hour before closing.
Security and Visitor Policies
While there are not required to go through a scanner at this museum, your bag and belongings as subject to be searched upon entry into the museum.
While in the galleries, there is no flash photography allowed. Photography of certain areas and artifacts is permitted. The museum asks that you pay attention to signage and obey the “No Photography” signs when posted.
Other Gallery Policies
The museum asks that visitors do not have food, drink, or chewing gum while in the galleries. They, also, ask that visitors do not talk on cell phones and refrain from smoking. All guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The museum asks that strollers be checked in the Clock Room at the Museum Lobby.
Food and Gift Shop
Check out the gift shop at the International Spy Museum, which boasts one of the most eclectic collections of memorabilia in the city. The gift shop includes books, toys, gadgets, games and other spy products for adults and children.
It is open to the public, so even if you don’t have time to visit the museum, you can go home with a cool espionage-themed keepsake! You can access the gift shop through a separate door to the left of the main entrance without paying admission for the whole museum.
There is no cafe or food venue inside of the spy museum. However, there are many food options near the museum.
The new location is within L’Enfant Plaza, which has a food court.
You can also easily walk to the Wharf from here for some great sit down restaurants.
Is the International Spy Museum Worth Visiting? |
The International Spy Museum is another great attraction that is worth the entrance fee. Since its opening in 2002, it has educated people of all ages on the history of espionage both in the USA and abroad. In fact, the International Spy Museum boasts the largest collection of spy-related artifacts in the world.
Who should visit the International Spy Museum?
The museum is probably most entertaining for children ages 11-15. However, anyone interested in learning more about espionage will thoroughly enjoy their time there. The exhibits are very informative, and the museum does a good job of blending fun with facts, making a visit to the International Spy Museum a pleasure for the entire family.
International Spy Museum Reviews
The International Spy Museum is highly rated with consistently good reviews from guests of all ages. It is a popular choice for families with teenagers and adults who are young at heart and enjoy getting into interactive games.
Most negative reviews stem from its popularity as it can be crowded during peak times.
Insider Tip: The museum is less busy before 11 am and after 4 pm. It stays open late during the peak summer months.
How to Get To the International Spy Museum
The International Spy Museum is located in downtown Washington, DC near L’Enfant Plaza. The museum is on L’Enfant Plaza SW near D St SW just south of Independence Ave SW.
The closest Metro station is the L’Enfant Plaza station (Yellow/Green/Orange/Blue/Silver lines). There are many exits from this Station, but the 9th and D St SW L’Enfant Plaza Promenade is the closest. Use our guide to using the Metro to get there.
Many of the Hop on Hop Off Bus Tours have stops nearby. Read more about the best Washington DC bus tours to find a company and a bus pass that fits your itinerary.
International Spy Museum Parking
The museum does not have any on-site parking, but they have partnered with Spot Hero to help visitors find parking in nearby parking garages. They recommend reserving parking ahead of time through this partnership.
The International Spy Museum is designed to be an immersive experience, where visitors learn to become spies. The typical museum experience lasts about two hours and is self-guided.
Highlights of the International Spy Museum?
Pretending to be a spy! — You can go undercover where you are assigned a secret identity. It is then your job to withhold that identity and keep your cover. You are tested on whether or not you succeeded in that mission with 17 different interactive stations.
Dive into the history of espionage! — You’ll see amazing inventions use to steal secrets, keep covers, and crack codes. The museum’s section on spying during the Cold War is especially fascinating.
Your museum experience will start when you enter the first floor and will wait for the elevator to take you up to the 5th floor. In the lobby you will see various artifacts and props that will give you an idea of what is in store for the rest of your visit. In the lobby, you wait for an elevator to take you up to the 5th floor where you will learn if you have what it takes to be a spy.
The permanent collection starts on the fifth floor as you work your way down through the permanent and later special exhibits.
The museum is an interactive experience so your museum experience is centered around the idea of being a spy.
In the first exhibit, you are asked to pick a cover and memorize it, like you are a spy preparing for an operation. There are different identities on the wall to choose from. This is what you do while you wait for the introductory film in the “Briefing Room’. The introductory film is only a few minutes and gives you information about the type of people who become spies and the importance of their job.
Stealing Secrets: Here you’ll learn about who are spies and how they operate. Learn every aspect of being a spy and explore spy gadgets that have aided former spies.
Making Sense of Secrets: Can you break the code? Learn from analysts and decision-makers about what to do with the information spies gather.
Covert Actions: See some of the tools used and learn about the success and failures of former spies.
The fourth floor takes you through the history of espionage.
Spying that Shaped History- Within this exhibit spaces see some of the earliest tools used by spies and how they shaped different periods of history. Some must-sees from this exhibit are George Washington’s spy letter, a letter asking from General George Washington asking Nathaniel Sackett to spy for his country during the American Revolution, and the Spy Pigeon, a model of a pigeon fitted with a small camera that would have been used through the 1950s.
An Uncertain World- Learn why happens when a spy goes too far and how they protect themselves abroad and at home.
You can also visit the Women in Military Service Memorial & Museum though free timed tickets are required.
8. Eat at a local restaurant
DC has a lot of great places to eat! You can Support DC Businesses by ordering to go or eating on some of the outdoor patios. Many restaurants will have heated patio seating as the days get cooler.
Some of our favorite places to eat are:
Ben’s Chili Bowl (U Street NW)
Founding Farmers (Foggy Bottom)
Queen Vic (H St NE)
Martin’s Tavern (Georgetown)
Pizza Paradisio (Georgetown)
9. Learn about DC from a local Justice perspective
DC by Foot has partnered with Justice Walks DC to offer tours of Washington DC neighborhoods through the lens of Civil Rights and Social Justice.
Join Kate, a social justice educator, for a discussion about these neighborhoods and where available a chance to talk to community leaders and business owners.
NOTE: this is a tour that will discuss topics some may find controversial such as race, racism and economics. It is also a participatory, discussion based tour. Participants will be encouraged to share their experiences and thoughts.
14. Go to an immersive Art experience at ARTECHOUSE
‘Renewal 2021’ opens March 15, 2021 and is inspired by DC’s Cherry Blossom season. You’ll walk through an industrial city 100 years in the future where nature struggles to survive. Leave with a sense of hope though seeing cherry blossoms peak through the plastic and concrete.
This post is about visiting the White House from the outside and where to find the best views. If you want to tour inside the White House, you’ll need a reservation from your congressperson which we talk about on our article, “How to Visit the White House on a Public Tour”
There is no official front or back to the White House (though the official entrance is the East Wing).
But when you’re viewing the White House, you can view it from the North side (Pennsylvania Ave NW) or the South side (the National Mall). You can get closer to the North Lawn than you can the South Lawn and at the time of writing (Summer 2021) there are fewer fences on the North side as well.
However if you’re short on time and already on the National Mall, you can see it from there as well!
BEST VIEW OF THE WHITE HOUSE #1: Lafayette Square (North Lawn)
Lafayette Square is the North side of the White House. You can access it by H St NW or 15th and 17th St NW where they intersection with Pennsylvania Ave NW. Because it is within the security perimeter, there may be times that Secret Services closes the park. This is usually for only 30 minutes or so while the President arrives or departs or they check a security threat. Even when the park is closed, you view it from 16th and H St NW on the north side of the Park.
On foot you can get all the way up to the fences on the North lawn, meaning you can take a photo between the fence bars that look as if you’re on the grounds of the White House, no fence in sight.
You can drive by the north side of the White House by going westbound on H St NW. It is one way here and the White House will be to your right. The view is blocked by trees until you get to the intersection of 16th St. If you’re in a car, the White House will be partially blocked by the Andrew Jackson statue in the center of the square. If you’re on the top of a double decker bus, you’ll be high enough to see over the statue.
BEST VIEW OF THE WHITE HOUSE #2: The Ellipse
The South Lawn of the White House is the Ellipse. You can access it on foot from Constitution Ave NW, 15th and 17th. Again, they may close the area at times but it is temporary.
At the time of writing (Summer 2021) this area was under construction so there are large white fences that block the view up close. If you stand in the center and back away from the white fence, you can see over it to the White House southside. Because this has more of the residential parts of the structure, you cannot get as close to this side as you can the north side.
You can drive by the south side of the White House on Constitution Ave NW. If you go eastbound, the White House will be on your right and you won’t be blocked by oncoming traffic. If you’re driving westbound, it is on your left but you might find your view blocked by buses!
BEST VIEW OF THE WHITE HOUSE #3: Washington Monument
If you stand at the north side of the Washington Monument you can see the south side of the White House from afar. We use this spot for our National Mall tours to talk about the White House.
It is a view from afar so it’s not the best view if you want to get up close but if you’re short on time and aren’t able to get up close, you can still get good photos while you’re visiting the memorials.
TOUR GUIDE TIP: This is a great place to be when Marine One takes off or lands because the helicopter flies right over you! You’ll be able to watch it land or take off from the South Lawn of the White House!
BEST VIEW OF THE WHITE HOUSE #4: POV Rooftop Bar at Hotel Washington
If you want a birds eye view of the White House, check out some of the rooftop bars nearby!
Hotel Washington’s POV Bar is an upscale bar and restaurant – so there is a dress code and no one under 21 allowed after 7pm.
It’s just across the street from the Treasury Department, next door to the White House. You’ll get a great panoramic view of Washington DC and the east side of the White House.
Where to Park to Visit the White House
The White House does not have visitor parking.
You’ll need to find street parking in the nearby areas but like parking anywhere downtown, pay attention to the street signs. Some street don’t allow parking during rush hour.
You can park on 15th, 17th and Constitution Ave lining the White House perimeter, but you cannot park too close as the areas nearest to the White House are restricted.
The easiest way to get around DC is using our public transportation, the Metro. The closest Metro Station to the White House is McPherson Square (White House exit)(Blue, Orange, Silver Lines) but it’s also an easy walk from Farragut North (Red Line). There are also a few buses that stop at Lafayette Square.
White House Neighborhood
The White House is downtown DC – the officially address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW (be sure to put in Northwest!).
The White House perimeter is essentially the block between Constitution Ave NW, 15th St NW, 17th ST NW and H St NW. Pennsylvania Ave NW by the White House is pedestrian only and you cannot drive down it.
The area north of the White House is Lafayette Square and the area south is called the Ellipse (this is where the National Christmas tree is located)
There is a lot of history and stories about the White House Neighborhood – so much that we have a self guided tour!
SELF GUIDED TOUR OF WHITE HOUSE’S NEIGHBORHOOD
For a self-guided tour of the White House neighborhood, allow approximately 1.5 hours to have a brisk walk and explore some of the following:
Every summer the Marine Corps hosts a weekly Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial). The tradition began in 1956, two years after the dedication of the memorial, and has continued ever since.
The parade includes musical performances by “The Commandant’s Own,” the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, as well as precision drill by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.
For 2018 and 2019, the parade took place at the Lincoln Memorial due to renovations at Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial. This video is from that location.
The 2021 Sunset Parade has returned to in person at the Iwo Jima Memorial and begins Tuesday June 8, 2021!