THERE's no place like home for the holidays. Right? Well, maybe so. But with families scattered hither and yon, it's not always practical for everyone to make it over the meadow and through the woods to Grandmother's house. Besides, maybe Grandmother wants to get out of the house, too!
Some folks are settling on a midpoint meeting, maybe in a big city or a quiet country inn. To others, a ``white Christmas'' this year will be basking on the white sandy beaches of the Caribbean.
The holidays are a low season for many hotels in the big cities. Some have specially designed bargains and packages to lure you and your family away from the Christmas tree for at least part of this celebrated season. Then there are such alternatives as stepping back into history at Colonial Williamsburg, skiing in New Hampshire or Wyoming, shopping at exotic stores anywhere from Los Angeles to New York, or haunting museums in Boston or Chicago.
Several suggestions that have crossed our desks sound like fun. Here are some of them: Adirondacks
Deep in the Adirondacks, when a mantle of snow has buried the autumn leaves, the smell of a wood-burning fireplace beckons skiers to a little rustic lodge. Dick Beamish runs three week-long ``holiday'' cross-country skiing and snowshoeing treks though the quiet Adirondack woods.
From noon on the first day through breakfast on the seventh, the week is filled with warm atmosphere, cool trips into the forests, steamy saunas, and meals that would make Paul Bunyan groan.
All you bring along is warm clothing and a great deal of enthusiasm. Mr. Beamish provides the rest - skis, snowshoes, boots, instruction, and a fire in the fireplace that never goes out.
I have spent some delightful days here during the autumn canoeing and hiking season. Beamish says the pond is already frozen over, and he's just cut a new ski trail through the woods.
Dates are Dec. 21-26, Dec. 28-Jan. 3, Jan. 17-23, and Feb. 14-20. Total cost per week is $550 per person. And that's for everything. For more information contact Adirondack Ski Tours, McMaster Rd., Saranac Lake, NY 12983. Tel: (518) 891-1080. Vermont
For you downhill snow bunnies, there's Killington Village in the heart of Vermont. A fifth night's lodging is free over Christmas week (Dec. 21-25) as well as over the Washington's Birthday holiday (Feb. 15-19).
With six mountains to ski as well as recreational facilities, fine area restaurants, and shopping too, this spot could be perfect winter fun for everyone. Accommodations in Killington Village with this special five-night package start at $356. For more information call toll free: 800-343-0762. Colonial Williamsburg
There's a four-page itinerary of events in Colonial Williamsburg this year, as always. A door-to-door, two-hour tour of decorating styles and materials runs daily Dec. 14-28 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. ``The Virgin Unmask'd,'' an 18th-century ballad opera, will be performed at the Williamsburg Lodge Auditorium at 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 14, 25, and Jan. 1, and at 4 p.m. on Dec. 20. Other events will fill the days and nights with music: candlelight concerts at the Governor's Palace; for children, ``The Story of the Little Tailor'' at the Wallace Gallery; Bruton Parish Church concerts by candlelight at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays throughout December. There are enough events here from December to February to fill a book. Call (804) 220-7284 for further information. Outdoor fun in Miami
If you're more comfortable swinging golf clubs and tennis rackets than schussing down a ski slope - and if you can afford it - the Doral Hotel & Country Club in Miami has a package with your name on it.
Their eight-days and seven-nights ``Christmas Classic'' package is available in two sessions beginning Dec. 19 and Dec. 28. The package includes luxury accommodations and seven complimentary rounds of golf on any of Doral's five courses, plus tennis clinics conducted by Arthur Ashe.
For fishermen, there are free tackle and directions to any of the well-stocked lakes within the 2,500-acre country club. For nongolfers, the price is $730 per person, double occupancy. For golfers, the price is $808 per person. Two children under age 12 may stay free with parents. Of course there's a pool, an assortment of recreational facilities, and even an Equestrian Center for the horsey set.
Outside Florida call toll free at 800-327-6334. In Florida call (305) 532-3600. San Luis Obispo, Palm Springs
If getting together for Christmas means driving between Los Angeles and San Francisco, you may want to stretch your legs and your vocal cords in San Luis Obispo. You've missed their annual Christmas parade and ballet, but there still may be time for one of the two ``Sing It Yourself Messiah'' concerts tomorrow (Dec. 13). They're held at Mission San Luis Obispo di Tolosa, and it's a chance for all singers to raise their voices in Handel's masterpiece.
In Palm Springs, Calif., they know how to throw a family party. Throughout the holiday season, there are events that will fill any calendar. On Dec. 14 the West Coast Opera is performing ``Amahl and the Night Visitors'' at local churches. For ticket prices and exact locations, call (619) 324-1081 or 340-2104.
On the same day at 2:30, the American Film Theater is showing the movie ``Luther'' at the Palm Springs Desert Museum. Art exhibits, concerts, and lectures are ongoing throughout the month, ending with a New Year's Eve celebration at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and the Circle O's Square Dance Club's dance at the Leisure Center. Holiday fun in Boston
There's much to do and see in Boston during the holidays. The many museums and churches have special programs. Faneuil Hall, Quincy Marketplace, and Newbury Street are filled like Christmas stockings with shoppers.
The new Four Seasons Hotel, just across from Boston Common, has two separate packages for visitors. For $110 per night, guests can relax in a beautifully appointed bedroom, have tea for two in the lounge, and use the complimentary gift-wrapping service. For an additional $30, they'll receive valet service and continental breakfast for two served in their room.
Another Boston hotel, the Sheraton Boston, is running a special economical holiday rate of $69 per night, per room.