How does he do it? Santa seems to be everywhere this time of year, as if he'd cloned himself. While Santa looks the same wherever he goes - the beard, the glasses, the red suit - his surroundings can make the difference between a wondrous visit with Old St. Nick and a more blasé experience. Here are some places where the ambience promises to be jolly and bright.

>>See Long Islanders' photos of kids scared of Santa

>>See our complete guide to the winter holidays

WHITE POST FARMS: 250 Old Country Rd., Melville, 631-351-9373, ext. 72, whitepostfarms.com

Each year, the farm changes the backdrop, and "Holiday Extravaganza '09" finds Santa siting in front of a lime-green John Deere tractor. "We thought we'd give it a farm theme. We wanted to get away from the mall themes," manager Al Jawdat says. Take in the included-in-admission-price "Holiday Singing Chicken Show," which runs every 15 minutes and features chicken puppets in Santa elf caps warbling holiday favorites. Have your photo shot with Hanukkah Herbie, a polar bear wearing a blue hat and scarf. There's also the feed-the-animals farm, a train ride and craft projects, which you pay for a la carte. While the Santa area is covered and protected, it's not exactly indoors, so dress warmly.

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Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Wednesday

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Cost: $7 per person; under 16 months free. Go to the Web site to get $2 off coupons. Photos with Santa are $14 or $19 depending on the package. Train ride is $2, food to feed the animals is $5 (just looking at them is included in the admission price); a pony ride is $5, crafts are $5.

SMITH HAVEN MALL: 313 Smith Haven Mall, Lake Grove, 631-724-1433, simon.com

Santa holds court in front of a castle with red and white candy-striped turrets. Atop the turrets are silver disco-like balls and red flags. The line passes through the castle to get to Santa. The man himself sits on a red-and-white-striped love seat, with a brown teddy bear by his side. Decorations include a snow-covered hill with a snowboarder and a sledder going headfirst and, of course, a huge Christmas tree. A violinist plays "Ave Maria" and other tunes aside the display, setting a festive mood; he sells his CDs for $15. The area is also flanked by kiosks selling Christmas stockings, ornaments and other holiday paraphernalia.

Hours: Visit noerrprograms.com/locations for schedule

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Cost: $22.99-$24.99 for photos with Santa, depending on package

THE MALL AT THE SOURCE: 1504 Old Country Rd., Westbury, 516-228-0303, simon.com

The Santa display is well-placed here, with plenty of room for kids to be kids before and after their visit with the man in red. While the display itself is de rigueur - a tree decorated with green, purple, red and gold balls and tufts of cotton looking like garlands of snow - the area around the display offers additional opportunities for toddler entertainment. A carnival-sized carousel and a small train ride are $2 each.

Hours: Visit noerrprograms.com/locations for schedule

Cost: $22.99 to $24.99 for photos with Santa, depending on package

HICKS NURSERIES: 100 Jericho Tpke., Westbury, 516-334-0066, hicksnurseries.com

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Take a minute outside Hicks to breathe in the smell of the fir trees waiting to be purchased for Christmas. That will jump-start your mood as you go inside, where the nursery has been transformed into a holiday wonderland. There's a walk-through, life-size animated story about Santa's elves and mice making Christmas cookies called "Cookies for Santa." Across the store is Santa seated next to a life-size gingerbread house and larger-than life lollipops. Photos with Santa are do-it-yourself here; there's no need to spend any cash at Hicks unless you want to. Step outside to see two real reindeer - Dancer and Prancer. A live brass band plays holiday music Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Hot chocolate and goodies available for purchase at the cafe.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. through Dec. 23

Cost: Free

>>See Long Islanders' photos of kids scared of Santa

>>See our complete guide to the winter holidays