Essex County Holidays Lights Spectacular returns

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. invites the public to spend part of their holiday season at the annual Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular at Turtle Back Zoo. Admission to the spectacular is free and will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, Nov. 22 and 29; Saturdays, Nov. 23 and 30; and Sundays, Nov. 24 and Dec. 1. Then, from Dec. 6 through 31, the spectacular will be held daily, excepting Dec. 24 and 25.

“We invite the public to make this Essex County holiday tradition your family tradition! Turtle Back Zoo will be turned into a winter wonderland, with extraordinary seasonal lighting exhibits and costumed characters. Stroll the landscaped paths of our zoo and admire the illuminated images of everything from toy soldiers to penguins,” DiVincenzo said. “We are offering free admission to make this exciting attraction available to everyone. We also are encouraging our visitors to bring non-perishable food items, new unwrapped toys, and new and gently used winter coats to help our families in need.”

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 one million 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.

Myrtle the Turtle, the mascot of Turtle Back Zoo, and several of his winter friends will be on hand to greet visitors at the zoo. In addition, a “Meet and Greet with Santa” will be held Nov. 29 and 30, and Dec. 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 and 23.

For more information, call 973-731-5800 or visit