Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular returns

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The 10th annual Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo has begun and free admission is being offered.

During each show, approximately 50 animal and holiday-themed figures will light up the winter night in Turtle Back Zoo and the surrounding South Mountain Recreation Complex. More than 100,000 lights will illuminate figures of bears, tigers and elephants, along with holiday lights designed to look like wooden soldiers, stars and winter scenes. Several animal exhibits will be open, including the Sea Lion Sound, Essex Farm, Tam-ring Gibbons Reserve, Tropical Currents Aquarium and the Reptile Building.

The following is the schedule for the 2016 season:

  • Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 25, 26 and 27; and Dec. 2, 3 and 4.
  • The show will begin running every day starting Friday, Dec. 9, and continuing to Tuesday, Jan. 3, except Dec. 24 and 25, when the event will not be held in observance of the Christmas holiday.

All shows will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Turtle Back Zoo, 560 Northfield Ave. in West Orange.

Myrtle the Turtle, the mascot of Turtle Back Zoo, and several other characters will be in attendance. In addition, several themed weekends have been scheduled as follows:

  • Nov. 25, 26 and 27 – “A Royal Holiday”;
  • Dec. 2, 3 and 4 – “A Frozen Princess Ball”; and
  • Dec. 9, 10 and 11, and 16, 17 and 18 – “The Dark Side Weekends.”

During the Holiday Spectacular, the zoo is collecting nonperishable food items from those who attend; new, unwrapped toys; and new or gently used winter coats. All items will be donated to several organizations that provide assistance to the needy. Last year, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, approximately 25 tons of nonperishable food, 15,480 toys and 6,280 winter coats were collected for the less fortunate.

Hot chocolate and other refreshments will be available for purchase. For more information, call Essex County Turtle Back Zoo at 973-731-5800 or visit During regular operating hours in the winter, Turtle Back Zoo is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.