Children love Santa Claus and will play inside a lifeboat if given the chance.

Ocean City has combined these two attractions to create a moment most parents want to remember with a photograph with its annual Boardwalk event -Santa in a lifeboat in front of the Music Pier.

"The picture of Santa in a lifeboat is definitely sent out as Christmas cards," said Mark Soifer, public relations director of Ocean City, who added Santa will be in the lifeboat noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23.

As Hanukkah has started and Christmas and Kwanzaa are coming fast, there are families that want to use a picture of either their children or the whole family as holiday cards. Some parents planned ahead and had family portraits shot by professional photographers at southern New Jersey beaches and other scenic locations, but the photos shot before Thanksgiving might not reflect a holiday scene.

Parents who want to do either a family portrait or have pictures of their children to use as holiday cards still have time and plenty of festive-looking places to choose from, as long as they are willing to shoot the picture themselves or convince a friendly stranger to help them out.

Near the gazebo on the grounds of the Physick Estate in Cape May, a 60-foot evergreen tree is decorated with lights for the holidays. The gazebo also features a sleigh full of wrapped presents. Every year the Carriage House on the estate has an exhibit called "Old-Fashioned Christmas." It features model trains and a Christmas tree and is part of the Christmas candlelight house tours. The final house tours will be held Dec. 15, but the Carriage House and its exhibit are open daily.

"I've taken pictures of people for them. I always offer to do that," said Susan Krysiak, communications coordinator of Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities. She has taken pictures of people at the lighted evergreen tree and at the gazebo on the Physick Estate.

If they are walking around town in front of the Queen Victoria bed and breakfast, a lot of people have their picture taken there because of the way the owners decorate it, said Doreen Talley, marketing and events director of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May. The gazebo in Rotary Park at Lyle and Lafayette streets in Cape May is decorated, and it contains the city's Christmas tree, which has lights and garland on it, Talley said.

"As I was coming back from lunch earlier today (Tuesday) there was a group of women standing there and taking pictures of Cape May Stage, which is on one side of Lafayette, and taking pictures of the gazebo, which is across the street," Talley said. "They were using it (the gazebo) as a backdrop."

Professional photographers mentioned Renault Winery as a location for portrait photography, but when the holidays come, it gets even more spruced up.

"It (the Renault Gourmet Restaurant) already has a certain appeal to it because there are these little booths made out of wine casks, but if you can imagine, the whole entire restaurant is just covered with little twinkle lights and garlands," said Kevin McCarty of Renault Winery's marketing department. "There's two Christmas trees. There's decorations over the whole entire restaurant. There are big jumbo red bows. It's pretty nice to look at."

Brunch with Santa is held there every Sunday until Christmas, and the restaurant was used as backdop for many family photos of Santa Claus with children, McCarty said. The Tuscany House Hotel Lobby has a grand staircase covered with traditional lights, bows and garlands to the point where it almost looks like you can't see the railing under the Christmas theme, McCarty said.

Cameras will be out today at the annual Christkindlmarkt at the Tuckerton Seaport where there will be horse-drawn wagon rides, children being spun on a whimsical carousel and riding a trackless train.

"This year, we have little sleighs that we push around. They are like rolling chairs on the Boardwalk, but they are Christmas sleighs," said Linda Salmons, a Tuckerton Seaport staff member, who added the sleighs hold three people. "We take kids for a ride in that. We have been using them in the parking lot here now, and everybody's taking their picture in that."

Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City is not doing its holiday show this year, but it still has a couple of scenic locations customers use as backdrops for holiday photographs. A poinsettia tree can be found at the Palm Walk by the escalators that lead to the hotel lobby and The Marketplace. A Christmas tree with snowmen sits in the Crystal Court, which is adjacent to Tango's lounge at the entrance to The Quarter, said Diane Spiers, the Tropicana's executive director of media marketing.

The places with holiday scenes are good locations for people to take their photographs, but some parents thought ahead and hired a professional photographer to shoot their family's portrait. These pictures may not reflect the season at all, but they were taken at some of the most scenic places in southern New Jersey.

John Kayes organized his first family portrait with his wife, son, daughter and dog last month at 81th Street beach in his favorite shore town, Sea Isle City.

This month, his friends will all get to see it when he sends it out as his annual family Christmas card.

Rudy Foschi, co-owner of Foschi Studios in Linwood, took the portrait of the Kayes family. The beach meant a great deal to the family because their children, Lauren, 11, and Andrew, 6, grew up on that beach. Foschi found it to be very scenic and has added it to places he would recommend to other families as a location for a portrait that could used as a holiday card.

Foschi, 63, prefers to shoot his portraits at a place that has meaning for the subject, but he does give suggestions when asked.

"I like the beach," said Foschi, who added how the look of beaches change every year. "I like Avalon, Stone Harbor. They have nice long pathways with fences. I like the south end of Sea Isle. It's a popular place, so is the south end of Ocean City, but I generally avoid that because it is too popular."

The beaches are fantastic locations for family portraits, said Eric Weeks, the owner of EZ Memories Photography in Somers Point.

"We get fantastic sunsets at the tip of Cape May... The Cove coming along the east side a little bit, that's lovely with the Lighthouse in the background," said Weeks, who added North Street, the north end and the Inlet of Ocean City is where he does most of this beach photography.

Tom Angelo Jr., the owner of Olympic Studio in Northfield, said 59th Street beach in Ocean City is hugely popular for photographers. Two or three photo sessions may be happening simultaneously during almost any evening during the summer, Angelo said. Sunset Beach in Cape May is good for a shot of the sun setting over the water and the north end of Brigantine also is a good location, Angelo said.

For non-beach settings, Angelo, 47, recommended Birch Grove Park & Family Campground in Northfield, which is closed until April, and Leaming's Run Gardens in Cape May Court House, which reopens May 14. Photography is permitted and encouraged in Leaming's Run as long as the participants pay the admission fee.

"I usually cut off beach portraits (in summer attire) sometime between Sept. 1 and 15," said Angelo, who added a fall or winter portrait can be done on the beach instead.

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