WEST ORANGE, NJ - The Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular is back for the tenth year at Turtle Back Zoo (560 Northfield Ave., West Orange), stated Essex County Administrator Joseph DiVincenzo in a press release.

Admission is free, but visitors are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items, non-perishable pet food, new unwrapped toys, and new and gently used winter coats to help families in need. Last year, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, about 25 tons of non-perishable food, 15,480 toys and 6,280 winter coats were collected for the less fortunate, said DiVincenzo.

The Holiday Lights Spectacular runs daily from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Tuesday, Jan. 3, and is closed on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25.

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“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. 

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 100,000 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, said DiVincenzo.

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, please call Essex County Turtle Back Zoo at 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org.