Holiday Lights Spectacular 2019 Returns to Essex County November 22

Holiday Lights at the Turtle Back Zoo runs through Jan. 1. Admission is free.

It’s that time of year again! Start the holiday season the Annual Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo. The event kicks off on November 22 and runs through December 31 (see details below). Free admission.

“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,” said Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo in a press release. “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, a “Meet and Greet with Santa” will be held on November 29 & 30 and December 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 & 23.

Dates:             Friday, Saturday, Sunday, November 22, 23 & 24 and Nov. 29, 30 & Dec. 1

                        Daily from Friday, December 6 to Tuesday, December 31

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.

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

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 or call 973-731-5800.