WEST ORANGE, NJ – The Annual Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo kicks off on Friday.  The public can attend November 22-24 and Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 and then daily from Dec. 6 to Dec. 31. from 5 to 9 p.m. each night.  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 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.". 

About 50 animal and holiday-themed figures will light up the winter night in Turtle Back Zoo and the surrounding Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex. Over 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. 

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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 on November 29 and 30 and Dec. 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 and 23.

Admission is free. The Zoo is collecting non-perishable 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, about 13.5 tons of non-perishable 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 Essex County Turtle Back Zoo at 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org.

The Zoo is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Current winter admission is $15 for adults, $12 for children and senior citizens, and free for children younger than 2 years. For more information, visit www.essexcountynj.org/turtlebackzoo or call 973-731-5800.

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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