easier than you thought
Have Tax Refund, Will Travel
If the IRS cuts you a check, a vacation may suddenly seem doable. Get inspired by our seven fully itemized, long-weekend itineraries, starting at $895 for a family's complete expenses. That's far less than the average tax refund of about $2,700.
Fun Right Off: Every Friday evening in the summer, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver hosts performances by experimental musicians next to its rooftop café. Admission to the museum costs $10. Through August 30, it is exhibiting a handful of Damien Hirst's works, including an arrow-pierced, formaldehyde-preserved bullock.
Freebie: Tap into the city's thriving beer scene by touring one of its 18 microbreweries. Over on Arapahoe Street, Great Divide Brewing, producer of the much-decorated Titan IPA, has free tours Monday through Friday at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., and every hour on the hour from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. Brewers customize the talks to match the visitors' knowledge of craft beers, and tours last about half an hour—and include samples. A free bus down 16th Street can shuttle you from a stop near the brewery to other downtown sites.
Get There: Round-trip flights in July recently started at $140 from Atlanta and Philadelphia. Rental cars from E-Z Rent-A-Car recently started at $39 a day. The Castle Marne has free parking.
*This sample budget is based on a couple flying from Atlanta and spending $120 on meals and $40 for gas.
The Audit: 3 nights + gaming lessons + a romantic dinner + other meals + airfare = $1,124 per couple*
Shelter: A big misconception about Sin City is that its downtown hotels only draw rowdy bachelors, convention goers, and overexcited gamblers. But the year-old, glitzy Trump International Hotel Las Vegas attracts a different crowd for two reasons: It has no casino, and its studio suites appeal to romantic types, with details like marble bathrooms, high-definition TVs, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Book the Suite Escape Package for rates from $89 a night for stays through September 30, plus a $15 daily resort fee (which covers parking). The package comes with a $50 credit for a spa treatment.
Fun Right Off: Feast royally on one of the city's many prix fixe dinner specials. A typical offer: At Mandalay Bay on the south end of the Strip, Hubert Keller's Fleur de Lys has a three-course menu including entrées like Alaskan salmon and stout-braised beef short ribs, plus a bottle of house wine, for $59 per person.
Freebie: Brush up on your gaming skills by taking one of the free lessons run daily by the casinos. The Venetian, for instance, schools would-be high rollers in craps at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., in roulette at noon, and in blackjack at 12:15 p.m. (in different pits, of course).
Get There: Round-trip tickets to Las Vegas in July recently started at $272 from Chicago and $275 from Boston.
*This sample budget is based on a couple flying from Chicago, spending $268 on meals, and using a free airport shuttle instead of a rental car.
The Audit: 3 nights + bicycling to cliffs + meals + car rental + airfare = $1,113 per couple*
Shelter: Drive an hour north of San Francisco on Highway 1 and reach tiny Olema, a jumping-off point for bird-watching or kite flying on Point Reyes National Seashore. Rest up at Bear Valley Inn, where each of the three rooms and one cottage has a name to match its themed decor. The Tides room, for example, has soothing aquamarine walls with crisp white trim. For breakfast, expect homemade yogurt and eggs from the inn's own chickens (doubles from $130 per night).
Fun Right Off: Bicycle about four miles along challenging dirt trails to the beach at Arch Rock. Then lock up your bikes and hike another mile to the gorgeous coastline. Full-day rentals, available through Point Reyes Outdoors, start at $45. Not into biking? Then drive 20 miles south on Highway 1 to Muir Woods National Monument ($5) and gawk at the towering redwoods, some of which are more than 1,000 years old here.
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