Annual Holiday Lights Spectacular at Turtle Back Zoo

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The public is invited to spend the holiday season at Essex County’s annual Holiday Lights Spectacular at the Turtle Back Zoo, 560 Northfield Ave. in West Orange. Free admission is being offered for the spectacular, which will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the weekends of Nov. 18, Nov. 25 and Dec. 2, and then daily from Friday, Dec. 9, through Saturday, Dec. 31; the Holiday Lights Spectacular will be closed on 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,” Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said. “We are offering free admission to make this exciting attraction available to everyone. We also are encouraging our visitors to bring nonperishable food items, new unwrapped toys, and new and gently used winter coats to (donate to) our families in need.” 

Approximately 50 animal- and holiday-themed figures will light up the winter night at 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.

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. Other activities include pictures with Santa Claus and story time with Mrs. Claus.

The coo is collecting nonperishable food items; new, unwrapped toys; and new or gently used winter coats. Items will be donated to several organizations that provide assistance to the needy. Last year, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, approximately 18 tons of nonperishable food, toys and winter coats were collected for the less fortunate.

The Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular is sponsored by PSE&G, Covanta Energy, the Zoological Society of New Jersey and the Essex County Parks Foundation. Hot chocolate and other refreshments will be available for purchase. For more information, call Turtle Back Zoo at 973-731-5800 or visit