NEW YORK With the deadline for filing individual U.S. tax returns nearing next week, Americans are planning how they will spend their refunds and more than half plan to use at least some of the money on travel.
Online travel advisers Cheapflights (www.cheapflights.com) has a top 10 list of three-day, short-distance destinations. Reuters does not endorse this list:
1. Los Angeles to San Francisco
Explore Chinatown, the Asian Arts Museum, and catch a ferry across the bay to Tiburon. Salt air stirs the appetite. Get a seat by the dock of the bay at Guymas, a sublime Cal-Mex restaurant, and see San Francisco shimmer beneath the fog from afar. Savour the moment -- and the seafood.
2. Seattle to Las Vegas
Assuming you keep tight rein on your wandering wallet (on arrival flight attendants are fond of saying `Welcome to Lost Wages') and don't hit the slots too hard there are lots of other things to spend your money on: great food, extraordinary shows, and world-class shopping.
3. Denver to Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Some of the most extraordinary land in North America is here, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The former is formidable. Established back in 1872, it's America's first national park, a model for all to follow. Yellowstone's south entrance is approximately 90 miles north of Jackson. Elk, wolves, bison and moose roam freely -- the way they once did.
4. Salt Lake City to Albuquerque
Ditch the umbrella. The place is suffused with sunshine 310 days a year. They even call the airport the "Sunport." Bring along the clubs. Fourteen courses turn desert brown into fairway green. Take a hot-air balloon ride above America's epicentre of the sport. Hike the flanks of dormant volcanoes, or mountain bike through the stunning Sandia Mountains. Something more sedate? There's old town for great southwestern cuisine and terrific shopping. Cap off the trip from the cabin of the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway.
5. Kansas City to Chicago
Make your way to Millennium Park which serves up music, art, and architecture. Navigate to navy Pier, with its bodacious boardwalk and fabulous Ferris wheel. Journey straight up, to the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (people still call it the Sears Tower in this town) and see what you can see from Skydeck Chicago. If what you behold is a sinewy city, made of muscle and moxie, know too that there are more subtle things: the Chicago Cultural Center, and the Lincoln Conservatory among them.
6. Des Moines to Minneapolis/St. Paul
Remember, the Mississippi meanders through the Twin Cities. It's worth your while to see where it takes you. Saint Paul is graced with 26 miles of shoreline, more than any other city (including New Orleans) on the mighty river. Get out on the water on a paddle-wheeler from the Padelford Packet Boat Company. One of the region's real treasures is the Covington Inn Bed and Breakfast out on Harriett Island. Be in the middle of it all yet get away for a while.
7. Oklahoma City to San Antonio
Flowing through the heart of one of America's four unique cities, the San Antonio River is flanked by history, heritage, and heroism. Not far away is the Alamo, where a 189-man assembly of frontiersmen, adventurers and patriots held off an army of 5,000 for 13 days. On the south bank of the river is La Villita, the city's first neighbourhood. Now it's a cultural, culinary and shopping mecca -- nicely proportioned and not at all kitschy.
8. Atlanta to Savannah
Remember those wonderful scenes from Forrest Gump, the ones where he was sitting on the bus bench recounting his life? They were shot in Savannah. The city is resplendent with small parks, and perfectly proportioned architecture. Take a trolley tour, and don't rush yourself. Restaurants specialize in coastal cuisine, much like the eateries a bit father up the Atlantic Seaboard in Charleston. Get in touch with the roots of this city via a visit to its graveyards. The weathered, moss-covered stones tell old Southern tales of wealth won, and fortunes lost.
9. Cleveland to New York City
This is New York City, and it's springtime. The combination begets baseball. Depending on your travel date, take a trip out to the Bronx, to New Yankee Stadium. Spring brings out model sailboaters too. Their craft are out and about in Conservatory Waters in Central Park. Not far away is the Guggenheim Museum. Something more avant garde? There's MOMA. Reserve tickets for a Broadway show and suspend disbelief for a few precious hours. Visit Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. Pay one last pilgrimage, to Ground Zero. Watch as new buildings soar close to where the twin towers once stood.
10. New York to Portland, Maine
This slice of Maine harbours some of the continent's best whitewater rafting -- and some of its best deep-sea fishing. Take in an afternoon at the theatre and cap it off with a sunset cruise on Casco Bay. Next day, wake up and smell the beer. Food? Rumour has it Portland possesses more restaurants (some 230) per capita than any city in the United States -- save San Francisco
(Editing by Paul Casciato)