Sitka, Alaska

The mountains that dominate the landscape of Sitka, Alaska, form a majestic backdrop for the bell tower of St. Michael's Cathedral, the remote town's place of worship for members of the Russian Orthodox faith. (Sitka CVB, Handout)

Tradition (truh-dish-uhn): A long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting. —

For many of us, especially during the holidays, "tradition" becomes synonymous with "expectations." They can include drinks with the neighbors (whether we like them or not), the unwrapping of presents at a dictated time and an annual dinner (always overcooked) at Aunt Edna's.

For some, such traditions are integral parts of the fabric of the season. For others, though, the prospects are daunting, enough that switching off the alarm and staying under the duvet seems like a viable option.

For the latter group, those who eschew the adage that "there's no place like home for the holidays," there are options and alternatives that allow for the creation of new family traditions well away from familiar places.

St. Augustine, Fla.

Colonists in America's oldest city, founded in 1565, used to mark the holidays by displaying lit candles in their windows. Nowadays, locals use electricity for their Nights of Lights celebration.

From Nov. 19 to Jan. 31, 3 million bulbs (only white by city ordinance) will illuminate St. Augustine's historic district, making the city, according to National Geographic, one of the 10 best places in the world to view holiday lights. Stroll the streets arm in arm or take a narrated tour in an electric minibus.

Between Dec. 17 and 24, the Dow Museum of Historic Houses presents "Homes for the Holidays." Visitors can tour the various properties, built between 1790 and 1910, each decorated as they would have been for their first Christmases.

Gold Tours: 904-325-0547, staugustine;Dow Museum: 904-823-9722,; visitors bureau: 800-653-2489,

Cape May, N.J.

Left largely unscathed by superstorm Sandy, Cape May affords visitors an opportunity to experience a Dickens Christmas without crossing the Atlantic. Glimmering garland, glowing gas lamps and Victorian homes create an inviting holiday atmosphere from mid-November into the New Year.

For kids, there are trolley rides during which Mrs. Claus shares seasonal stories and songs. For adults, local thespians lead a "ghosts of Christmas past" tour.

Nov. 23 through Dec. 30, Cape May Stage presents "A Tuna Christmas," a comedy about holiday turmoil in which a Scrooge-like character is stealing a town's decorations.

The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities has a thorough list of activities at its website: Phone 800-275-4278, ext. 158.

Smugglers' Notch, Vt.

If snow is a prerequisite for a satisfying holiday getaway, consider Smugglers' Notch, a resort community in northern Vermont.

For the past 14 years, SKI Magazine has ranked Smuggs, as it's called, the No. 1 destination for family ski activities. The resort's Snow Sport University has programs for children from 6 weeks (really!) to 17.

On Christmas Eve, Santa arrives amid carolers and makes time to listen to the kids' last-minute wishes. Instructors from the university present a torchlight parade. There also are fireworks.

One week later, the celebrations continue all day on New Year's Eve.