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5 great tax-rebate getaways

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  • The federal government started to deposit rebate checks on Monday
  • People who use direct deposit will get their payments soonest
  • Some Americans will spend the extra cash on summer travel
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From the editors of Southern Living, Coastal Living, Sunset and Cottage Living
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From laid-back Florida beaches to guided mule rides in the Grand Canyon's North Rim, our editors picked these getaways with the average American family's tax rebate of $1,200 in mind.

Destin, Florida boasts some of the most memorable beaches in the nation.

We budgeted each trip for a three-night stay, meals and activities, but did not account for travel expenses.

Charleston, South Carolina

There's no better season to discover why you love this Southern jewel. Find rich history, cool beaches and Lowcountry cuisine in Charleston. The town sparkles this time of year, and spring is ideal for an active itinerary. Get outside, bike around town, window shop and savor the fresh flavors that make this city famous.

Where to stay: Dwell amidst the steeples of historic downtown Charleston in the elegant boutique Andrew Pinckney Inn. Rates start at $149.

For a more casual vibe, cross the river and explore the easygoing charms of Mount Pleasant, Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms. Bunk at the Boardwalk Inn at Wild Dunes Resort. Rates start at $185. Charleston, South Carolina

Where to eat: Dig into a platter of fish tacos and hand-cut fries at Poe's Tavern on Sullivan's Island or join a local tradition at Red's Ice House in Mount Pleasant for margaritas and fresh shellfish.

Splurge on the fancy fare at the elegant Atlanticville on Sullivan's Island and watch the sunset from the patio. Dive into an iconic (and sizeable) bowl of shrimp and grits at Charleston's Hominy Grill.

What to do: Tour the aircraft carrier Yorktown at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Charleston Harbor, gawk at aquatic life at the South Carolina Aquarium and relive the opening shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter National Monument. The perfect time for Charleston

Grand Canyon National Park, North Rim

Higher and more lush than the South Rim, the North Rim is the connoisseur's canyon. The comparative remoteness -- and the heavy snows that limit its season to mid-May through October -- keeps the North Rim uncrowded, while the views make it unforgettable.

Where to stay: With its soaring dining room and expansive views, Grand Canyon Lodge-North Rim, is a national park classic and is the only lodging actually inside Grand Canyon National Park on the North Rim. Rates start at $108. The secret Grand Canyon

The Jacob Lake Inn offers a choice between cabins and motel rooms, as well as some rooms with television and Internet access (modern amenities not common to the area). Rates start at $99.

Where to eat: Grand Canyon Lodge dining room combines quality dining with incredible Grand Canyon views. Kaibab Lodge also offers casual dining.

What to do: The Grand Canyon abounds in trails, and the North Rim is no exception. North Kaibab Trail, Transept Trail and Widforss Trail all make for great views. Or let someone else do the walking and register for a guided mule ride with Grand Canyon Lodge.

Destin, Florida

Escape to Florida's Panhandle, where the water sparkles clearer, the sand shines whiter and the fun never stops. The stylish condominiums, wild waterslides, baskets of perfectly fried shrimp and breathtaking sunsets are all part of the adventure known as Destin. The section of Scenic Highway 30-A from Destin to Phillip's Inlet Bridge encompasses some of the most memorable beaches in the nation -- as well as some of the best food in the state. Destin, Florida

Where to stay: You'll love the Inn at Crystal Beach for its beachfront location and great restaurant. Rates start at $246.

Try Destin Towers for an intimately sized, but more affordable stay. Rates start at $180.

Where to eat: Waits can be long at The Back Porch, but the cold-smoked tuna dip, the baked oysters topped with crabmeat dressing and melted cheese, or the char-grilled Amberjack are well worth it.

Housed in the Inn at Crystal Beach, Beach Walk Cafe sits right on the water and offers delicious flavors such as New Zealand venison.

What to do: Slide, float and tumble down 40 different attractions at Big Kahuna's Water and Adventure Park. You can also play miniature golf and race go-karts. Tickets $35.99 adults, $29.99 children.

Want something a little less heart pounding? The Destin area offers some terrific shopping -- and not just of the cheesy souvenir type. Start your spree at Destin Commons, a new outdoor complex anchored by a Rave Motion Pictures theater, Bass Pro Shop, Hard Rock Cafe and Belk.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

It's the architecture. The art. The culture. The romance. This is a city full of picturesque scenes -- vignettes framed by ancient doorways and alleys. With all of these, Santa Fe commands its own dreamy identity.

Where to stay: For a room in the heart of it all, stay at the Hotel Plaza Real just off the Plaza. You can't beat the location, and the peaceful courtyard is a bonus. Rates start at $139.

Nearby, the stately Eldorado Hotel and Spa boasts plush amenities, a spa and a top Zagat's pick restaurant. Rates start at $139.

Where to eat: Cafe Pasqual's sits just south of the Plaza, so it's no secret, but they've stayed fresh with organic ingredients and inventive cuisine.

Treat yourself to dinner in an elegant Southwestern setting at Anasazi Restaurant, where seasonal dishes employ regional ingredients for a fresh dining experience.

What to do:

Gallery hop through Santa Fe's lively art scene. Site Santa Fe presents provocative modern-art exhibits. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum boasts more than 1,000 of the iconic artist's works.

Hike through the surrounding New Mexico landscape and then soothe sore muscles at Ten Thousand Waves Spa & Resort.

San Francisco, California

The news is out: San Francisco is having a rebirth. This isn't the same town you knew even five years ago. Explore the City by the Bay with a mix of surprises and familiar favorites.

Where to stay: The whimsicalHotel Triton has been honored by the state for green efforts. Rates start at $150.

At the hip and trendy Phoenix Hotel, forty-four tropically decorated rooms surround a central courtyard. Enjoy drinks at the hotel's stylish Bambuddha Lounge. Rates start at $119.

Where to eat: European visitors and locals alike start the day with a cappuccino and first-rate people watching at Café de la Presse, a warm-toned bistro across from the Chinatown Gate. San Francisco's new Japantown

For irresistible fine dining, try Jardinière. The special-occasion classic has yet to disappoint.

What to do: Biking the Golden Gate Bridge is an absolute classic -- easy, breezy and with breathtaking views. The 8-mile trail starts along the north waterfront. Contact Blazing Saddles for maps, tours and bike rentals. Open daily.

China-town Alleyway Tours are led by high school students raised among the neighborhood's 41 historic alleyways, from Waverly Place's pagoda-topped temples to the basement mah-jongg parlors of Spofford Alley, where local revolutionaries plotted the overthrow of China's last dynasty in 1911.

Kabuki Springs & Spa was one of the largest communal bathhouses in the United States when it was built in 1971. These days, it's also the city's most democratic spa, serving serenity to the masses: It's just $20 to $25 to use the hot pool, cold plunge, sauna and Japanese bathing areas. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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