West Orange, NJ

Starting Saturday: Essex County Annual Holiday Lights Spectacular, with Free Admission, at Turtle Back Zoo

Carolyne Volpe Curley / West Essex Now

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Carolyne Volpe Curley
“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. 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 ~ Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.

The Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular continues for the fourteenth year at Turtle Back Zoo as animal and holiday-themed figures are illuminated by over one million lights throughout the complex. Due to the pandemic, the 2020 celebration was canceled which makes this year’s festivities even more welcome.

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Kristine Schultz Blake

HOLIDAY LIGHTS

Over one million lights will illuminate figures of bears, tigers, and elephants, along with lights designed to look like wooden soldiers, stars, and winter scenes.

Turtle Back Zoo is located at 560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange, NJ.

DATES AND THEMED WEEKENDS

From 5pm to 9pm, free admission to the Holiday Lights Spectacular will be offered as follows:

November

  • Friday, Nov. 19
  • Saturday, Nov. 20
  • Sunday, Nov. 21
  • Friday, Nov. 26
    includes Photos with Santa
  • Saturday, Nov. 27
    includes Photos with Santa and Ice Carving demonstrations
  • Sunday, Nov. 28
    includes Photos with Santa

December

  • Friday, Dec. 3
    includes Photos with Santa and a visit from the Grinch
  • Saturday, Dec. 4
    includes Photos with Santa, Ice Carving demonstrations, and a visit from the Grinch
  • Sunday, Dec. 5
    includes Photos with Santa, a visit from the Grinch and at 6pm and 7:30pm: Holiday Princess Sing-a-longs
  • Friday, Dec. 10
    includes Photos with Santa
  • Saturday, Dec. 11
    includes Photos with Santa and Ice Carving demonstrations
  • Sunday, Dec. 12
    includes Photos with Santa and at 6pm and 7:30pm: Holiday Princess Sing-a-longs

  • Monday, Dec. 13 through Thursday, Dec. 16
  • Friday, Dec. 17
  • Saturday, Dec. 18
    includes Ice Carving demonstrations
  • Sunday, Dec. 19
    includes at 6pm and 7:30pm: Holiday Princess Sing-a-longs
  • Monday, Dec. 20 through Thursday, Dec. 23
  • Closed: Dec. 24, Dec. 25
  • Sunday, Dec. 26
  • Monday, Dec. 27 through Thursday, Dec. 30
    Friday, Dec. 31
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Laura McCarthy

SPECIAL EVENTS

Holiday Princess Sing-A-Longs

Included with free admission, Perfect Princess Parties will present a mix of holiday and princess songs at the Carousel Stage that is sure to lift holiday spirits.

  • Performances will take place at 6pm and 7:30pm on Sundays: Dec. 5, Dec. 12, Dec. 19

Ice Carving Demonstrations

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Turtle Back Zoo

Visitors are welcome to watch a professional Ice Carver transform a block of ice into a sculpture at the Carousel Patio.

  • The Ice Carver will be visiting on Saturdays: Nov. 27, Dec. 4, Dec. 11, and Dec. 18.

Photos With Santa

Visitors are welcome to take their own photos, and professional photos will be available for an additional charge.

  • Santa Claus will visit the Zoo’s Gazebo on the weekends of Nov. 26-28, Dec. 3-5, and Dec. 10-12
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Yuri Galanter

“DON’T BE A GRINCH” WEEKEND

Visitors are welcome to meet the Grinch.

  • The Grinch will visit near the entrance of the Zoo on the weekend of Dec. 3-5

OPEN ZOO EXHIBITS

Along with the light attractions, several animal exhibits will be open, including:

For an additional cost of $2 per person, the Endangered Species Carousel will also be open.

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Janna Smith

TURTLE BACK ZOO CHARACTERS

The Zoo’s mascot, Myrtle the Turtle, along with his winter friends will greet visitors arriving at the Zoo.

DONATIONS REQUESTED

“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, non-perishable pet food, new unwrapped toys and new and gently used winter coats to help our families in need."~ Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.

Visitors to the Holiday Lights Spectacular are encouraged to bring donations which will be collected at the front entrance of the Zoo. The following items are currently in demand at local assistance groups:

Non-Perishable Can/Jar Foods

  • Chicken
  • Fruits
  • Meat
  • Pasta meals
  • Peanut butter
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Tuna / FIsh
  • Vegetables

Non-Perishable Box / Bag Foods

  • Beans
  • Cereals
  • Dry soup mix
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Pasta
  • Rice

Toiletries

  • Combs, Hair Brushes
  • Deodorant
  • Diapers: Baby and Adult
  • Feminine Pads / Tampons
  • Mouthwash
  • Q-tips
  • Paper Towels
  • Shampoo
  • Tissues
  • Toilet paper
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes

The Zoo is also collecting:

  • New, unwrapped toys
  • New or gently used winter coats
  • Non-perishable pet food

REFRESHMENTS

  • Hot chocolate and other refreshments will be available for purchase.

SPONSORS

Free admission to the Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular is made possible through the support of the following:

  • Covanta Energy
  • Essex County Parks Foundation
  • PSE&G
  • Zoological Society of New Jersey

COVID GUIDELINES

  • Face coverings are mandated while indoors.

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For further information:

Essex County, NJ
Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.; Essex County Executive
465 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Newark, NJ 07102
973-621-4400

Essex County Turtle Back Zoo
Jilian Fazio, Director
560 Northfield Ave, West Orange, NJ 07052
973-731-5800

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Carolyne Volpe Curley, a Certified New Jersey Press Journalist since 2012, has appeared on nationally televised productions and interviewed by the international press. Volpe Curley publishes West Essex NOW, a hyperlocal news site covering Essex County, NJ. Volpe Curley graduated from Lafayette College in 1986, with a BA in both English and Government, and a minor in Women Studies and Religion.

Essex County, NJ
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