Arts & Entertainment

Holiday Lights Spectacular at Turtle Back Zoo Kicks Off Nov. 17

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West Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive DiVincenzo invites the public to spend part of their holiday season at the 11th Annual Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo. Free admission is being offered at The Holiday Lights Spectacular, which will be held as follows:         

Dates:             Friday, Saturday, Sunday, November 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 & 26

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, December 1, 2 & 3

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                        Daily from Friday, December 8 to Monday, January 1

Times:             5 to 9 p.m. each night

Place:              Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex

Essex County Turtle Back Zoo

                                    560 Northfield Avenue

                                    West Orange, NJ

The Holiday Lights Spectacular will be closed on December 24th and 25th.

“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,” he noted. 

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.

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, special activities have been scheduled as follows:

Ice Carving: An ice carver will create a masterpiece on the amphitheater stage on Fridays, November 24 and December 1, 8, 15 and 22. Come watch his progress.

Meet and Greet Santa: The most popular man of the season will visit Turtle Back Zoo on Saturdays, November 25 and December 2 and 9; Sundays, November 26 and December 3 and 10; and every night from Saturday, December 16 through Saturday, December 23.

Storytime with Ms. Clause: Ms. Clause will read popular holiday stories on Fridays, December 15 and 22 at 6 and 7 p.m.; Saturdays, December 16, 17 and 23 at 3:30, 6 and 7 p.m.; and Monday, December 18 through Wednesday, December 21 at 6 p.m. There is an additional charge for this program.

Themed weekends: Costumed characters will join Myrtle at the Zoo to greet, mingle and take pictures with our guests. Visitors are encouraged to wear costumes to match the weekend’s theme.

·   December 1, 2 & 3 – Classic Holiday Weekend

·   December 8, 9 & 10 – Superhero Weekend

·   December 15, 16 & 17 – Royal Princess Weekend

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 18 tons of non-perishable food, 3,600 toys and 4,600 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 visitwww.essexcountynj.org.

Turtle Back Zoo is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Through November 30th, regular admission is $12 for children and senior citizens, $15 for adults and free for children under 2 years. Beginning December 1st, admission is $10 for children and senior citizens, $12 for adults and free for children under 2 years. For additional information, please call 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org.

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