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Briefs: Be a spy for a day at D.C. museum

| Sunday, Aug. 2, 2009

Who hasn't dreamed of being a secret agent• Especially in Washington, D.C., with its long-standing legacy of spying and abundance of dark-suited men pacing around black SUVs. Leave it to the International Spy Museum to give the layperson a chance to engage in some espionage, at least for an afternoon. The museum's Spy in the City tour designates each participant an SSD (Special Security Division) agent, assigns code names and provides handheld GPS units (Geo-COBRAs, in spy-speak). Each newly minted agent uses the device to receive text messages and video files, complete fingerprint and chemical scans, and navigate a 1.5-mile circuit through Chinatown and Penn Quarter. A museum staff member offers a quick tutorial on the device, which uses GPS technology to map participants' locations and direct them through the tour. The walking tour covers a 1.5-mile circuit around the museum and is recommended for age 10 and older. On hot days, the tour might be challenging for young children and the elderly. Exhibits at the museum include a listening device disguised as a stump. The CIA planted it in a forest near a Soviet military base to intercept radio transmissions. The International Spy Museum is at 800 F St. NW.

Details: 202-393-7798 or www.spymuseum.org

Blessed are the cheesemakers

If you're a fiend for cheese, head to Vermont for the state's first Cheesemakers Festival, scheduled for Aug. 23. The event will be hosted by the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, the Vermont Butter & Cheese Co., and the Vermont Cheese Council, and will be at Shelburne Farms, near Burlington. The festival will feature over 100 cheeses for sampling, 50 cheesemakers, 15 artisan food makers, four tasting seminars, two cooking demonstrations and more. Tickets are $20. Details at www.vtcheesefest.com. The day before the festival, more than 20 food producers will take part in Vermont Artisan Food Open Studio Day. Cheesemakers, brewers, bakers, and more will host open houses and tastings throughout the state. Visitors to Vermont can also check out the state's Cheese Trail, with close to 30 farms where you can meet cheesemakers, see their animals, and watch how cheese is made.

Details: www.vtcheese.com/cheesetrail.htm

Blessed are the cheesemakers

Travel help for moms

Country Inns & Suites by Carlson has taken the trouble out of last-minute summer vacation planning for time-crunched moms and their families by introducing its "Road Trip Survival Itineraries" -- which cover planning factors like distance, cost and family-friendly stops along the way. These trips come in two-, four- and seven-day packages.

Each itinerary provides background information and driving time to historic, educational, nature and other fun-filled and budget-friendly attractions of interest to kids and parents alike. The itineraries include a mix of locally and nationally known attractions, notable family-owned restaurants and other relatively undiscovered venues known to employees of Country Inns & Suites' 480 local properties.

The themed itineraries explore five regions of the United States. Each itinerary features three two-day legs that can be taken separately or combined for a longer trip.Top attractions receiving the "Mom's Choice" rating include: The Smithsonian, Washington, D.C; Robert H. Treman State Park, Ithaca, N.Y., and Barnum's Circus World Museum, Baraboo, Wisc.

Details: www.countryinns.com/roadtrip

Armchair traveler

Lonely Planet founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler traveled widely with their children from the time they were babies. They'd been to so many countries in the developing world that when they first took the children to Europe, their daughter "found it hard to believe that she could drink water from the tap in every country we visited." That's one of the anecdotes offered by Maureen Wheeler in the foreword to Lonely Planet's "Travel with Children: Your Complete Resource," out this summer in a newly revised edition, the fifth since the book was first published in 1985. "Travel with Children" acknowledges that the term "family travel" might conjure up images of "sulking teens glued to their phones" or "your baby keeping all the other plane passengers awake." The book offers advice on how to minimize problems by picking the right destinations, remaining flexible, and involving kids in planning and problem-solving. The book includes destinations on every continent, with sections on the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, France, Italy, Australia, India, Mexico, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Israel among others. There also are sections on "Before You Go" preparations, traveling with teenagers, traveling as a single parent, adventure trips, camping, living abroad, and even travel games. (Lonely Planet Publications; $20; 288 pages; softcover)

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