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International Spy Museum: World’s Largest Collection of Espionage Artifacts

International Spy Museum

BEST GIFT SHOP EVER! Okay, now that I have that out of the way, let me tell you about one of new favorite museums.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

While in DC over spring break, we visited the International Spy Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of espionage artifacts. We also visited the Air and Space Museum, so we continued in the vein of geeky, techy adventures.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Both kids have watched all four movies in the The Spy Kids series multiple times, and wish they were Carmen and Juni Cortez. (Which would make me Carla Gugino in a black leather get-up. I could live with that.) Naturally, The Girl wants to be a spy when she grows up. Considering her skill at lying with the face of an angel, I would say she has a good shot.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

If you are even slightly intrigued by spies, their gadgets, and their undercover adventures, you will love this place. When you arrive, you choose your “cover,” adopting a name and back story. The Boy took this task seriously, writing down all the details of Yuan Zheng, the 39-year old dentist he had become.

Spy Museum

School for Spies Gallery. Photo courtesy the International Spy Museum

Most of the museum experience is passive – looking at the collection of espionage artifacts behind glass. But I found the displays of disguises, weapons, invisible ink, and buttonhole cameras really intriguing. You can also watch videos describing different facets of espionage, like surveillance and picking locks.

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How to Find a Kid-Friendly Hotel

Occasionally, we diverge from the telling of BIG adventures to present family travel tips, based on our own experiences. We’ve suggested technology to facilitate travel, and great places to eat on the road beyond traditional restaurants. We’ve even warned you about road trip mistakes.

Omni Shoreham hotel This week, we offer our own suggestions on how to find a family friendly hotel, as well as ideas from other family bloggers.

Over spring break, our family stayed at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC. This property, in my opinion, sets a gold standard for kid-friendly accommodations, so I’ll use it as an example in many of the following points.

When searching for a kid-friendly hotel, look for:

A welcoming attitude toward children

Hotels can be upscale, grand, and historic, and still be casual enough for kids. The Omni is a stately “grand dame” among hotels, and yet, we never felt self-conscious about bringing the kids through the lovely lobby. It helped that The Girl did not have any public meltdowns. (For a change.) Not only was the staff very friendly, they delivered milk and cookies for the kids during the turn-down service.

Pool(s) and open green space

When on the road, the pool is the first and foremost amenity my kids want in a hotel. Indoor, outdoor, any shape or size will do. Swim time means blowing off steam, or winding them down for bed, or just spending some time NOT in an expensive theme park. We were fortunate that our Omni stay coincided with the seasonal opening of its outdoor heated pool!

A lawn, garden, or ideally, a playground, is also a big plus.

Shoreham hotel

"I'm not getting off this hammock anytime soon, just FYI." At the Omni Shoreham.

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Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: World’s Largest Collection of Historical Aeronautical Artifacts

Smithsonian Air and Space MuseumI don’t write much about our life in a small town, but one effect of living here is an aversion to crowds. I don’t even drive to our dinky mall on weekends, lest I have to park more than three rows away from the entrance.

So alarm and dread resulted from the realization that the “perfect storm” awaited us at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. A free museum in our nation’s capital. An overcast weekend. The week of Spring Break.

Perhaps I saw you there, too?

WHY did you go there, exactly?

There are so many wonderful, kid-friendly museums in Washington, DC, but I knew the one which would most interest my kids would be the Air and Space museum, home the world’s largest collection of historical aeronautical artifacts. For The Boy, it meant geeky science stuff. The Girl, ever fearless, would get more ammunition for her dreams of space flight.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Of course, it’s awesome, and truly amazing, that admission to this facility is free. There are additional experiences which cost extra, but these are still affordable, and totally worth it. As soon as we arrived, we bought our tickets for one of the three IMAX movies and one of the three planetarium shows which are shown on a frequent, rotating basis. We were glad later when we saw the long ticket line.

Both the IMAX movie – To Fly! — and the planetarium show – Cosmic Collisions – kept both kids entertained, but more than that, it was SO nice to sit!

I was correct in assuming that The Boy would want to try the virtual flight simulator. Matt went with him, and looked a little green upon exiting. “He’ll never be a pilot,” was all he was capable of uttering. Apparently, barrel rolls were part of the experience.

Air and Space Museum

Look up! It's a bird! ...No, wait...

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