I am the target market for experience billboards. Years ago we were driving to the Grand Canyon and the husband privately prayed my eyes would not spot the giant billboard promoting Bearizona! His prayers were not answered. Of course we went to the drive-through zoo on our way to the Grand Canyon (Guess what? He loved it too and has since given up on trying to avert my billboard inspired explorations). If I see something that looks intriguing, fun or experiential we go. Such was the case when I saw the stark black and white signs all over LaGuardia airport announcing SpyScape. Ooh! Must get to SpyScape.
After three sabotaged (ha, get it?) attempts, my group and I finally got to go! Must compliment the customer service for making it so easy to keep adjusting and readjusting my tickets orders for use on other days even up until the day of where I switched our start time THREE times. The crackerjack service operatives at SpyScape are on their operational game.
So what is SpyScape? SpyScape is a new-ish experiential spy museum located on 55th and 8th, quite close to the Time Warner Center. Not only do you get to learn about the history of spies, should you happen to be more disciplined than my crew, you also get to learn about what it takes to be a spy and even better what kind of spy you would be should you pursue spy training. If you are a person that is alarmed by privacy issues (and we all should be such a person) SpyScape might push your over the edge, but knowledge is power so go anyway.
The SpyScape experience is very personal. The identity bracelet that is given to you at check-in is your pass to all of the interactive exhibits. Your visit will be tracked via your participation (and graded!) at The Question Stations peppered throughout the exhibit. While I am guessing the museum’s supporting historical exhibits are very well done, I have to confess my group was ALL ABOUT the Question Stations and the four Spy Challenges (Encryption, Deception, Surveillance, and Special Ops). These are the centerpiece of each categorical exhibit that gives the museum-goer hands-on practice with their mad spy skills.
We perhaps didn’t run but definitely embraced a super quick, not one bit stealthy, clip as we raced to each espionage-themed experience. In between our spy challenges we would break to spend time at the Question Stations that further delve into the assessment of our sleuthing spy selves. Very Mission Impossible/Men in Black and so much fun! The exhibit has a timed entrance to ensure that the waiting time between experiences is not prohibitive. Everyone in my group was engaged with the content during execution and then afterward exchanging and comparing our results. Which is exactly what one wants to happen when they grab their group and go places.
All of the challenges are very well done and appropriately challenging, but not unachievable (ie your inner spy soul will not be crushed). Must confess my surveillance and encryption skills were a little off, but don’t bother trying to lie to me next time we speak as my deception skills are on point.
Groups seemed to have the most fun either participating in and/or observing the Special Ops Challenge. This challenge gives your very own – Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment – contort your way around the lasers moment AND your challenge is broadcast for all to see. You would think this would make the participant a little hesitant or cautious. Nope. Each person who entered the night vision room attacked the challenge with abandon! Crawling on the floor, rolling, reaching, all while furiously slamming at the lights that were our mission to extinguish. I had just as much fun watching and filming each member in my group as I did participating in this challenge.
Some family members had better strategies than others, but each attempt was heart felt, spirited, creative and hilarious. The kids must have each gone 5 times as they tried to perfect their laser dodging and light slamming techniques. After each attempt, you get your score. Kids love immediate feedback.
At the end, based somewhat on your performance but really more on the answers from the portions of your Question Stations that had a Myers- Briggs feel to them, you are rewarded with your spy profile. The irony was not lost on us that we were willingly forking over fairly personal information to what must be a giant Spyscape database (my suspicious brother skipped those questions). But we all got a chuckle out of our assignments and I, as Spy Intelligence Leader, got to annoy everyone for the rest of the day reminding them that they worked for me.
I wonder what kind of spy you are? Grab Your Group and GO Find Out. Grab my two spies in training! They are ready to GO back.
928 8th Avenue (entrance on SE corner of 55th Street)
Hours: Saturday and Sunday 9:00 am – 9:00 pm; Monday thru Friday 10:00 am – 9:00 pm. Last entry at 7:30 pm. A typical visit takes 1½ to 2 hours.
Tickets: Adults – $44; Children (3-12) – $37
For more information, visit the official website here.