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Where to find Santa Claus on Long Island

Five year old Nicholas Marston of Holbrook whispers

Five year old Nicholas Marston of Holbrook whispers his Christmas Wishes into the ear of Santa, Ernie Johnson, during his visit to Smith Haven Mall. (Dec. 9, 2009) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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.

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

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

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

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

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