Come see the Zoo in a whole new light!
Holiday Lights
The Essex County Turtle Back Zoo’s Holiday Lights program is returning this winter.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, November 27, 28 & 29, 2015

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, December 4, 5 & 6, 2015

Daily from Friday, December 11 to Sunday, January 3, 2015
The Holiday Lights Spectacular will be closed on December 24th and 25th.

5 to 9 p.m. each night

Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex- Essex County Turtle Back Zoo; 560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange, NJ

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 16.6 tons of non-perishable food, 7,780 toys and 3,671 winter coats were collected for the less fortunate.


Description: 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. “Selfies” with Santa Claus and a mailbox where children can send letters to Santa Clause at the North Pole will be available each night until December 23rd.

A schedule of activities is as follows:

  • This Thanksgiving weekend, November 27 through 29, as part of our Holiday Lights Spectacular opening, we will be raffling off different zoo experiences for visitors to win. Prizes include experiences like a behind the scenes tour of our new giraffe exhibit or behind the scenes animal art experience. You may even be able to win a one-year membership to Essex County Turtle Back Zoo! A winner will be picked every night. Remember to give back by bringing a donation of non-perishable food items, new toys, and gently used coats when you visit.
  • A Holiday Gift Bazaar hosted by AZAAK will be held Saturday, November 28th from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Berson Learning Center and Mount Building.
  • Princess characters will be available for a meet and greet on the weekends of December 4-6 and December 11-13.
  • An artist will create an amazing ice sculpture on the amphitheater stage on Saturdays, December 12th and 19th and Sundays, December 13th and 20th. Check on his progress throughout the night.
  • “Storytime with Ms. Claus” will be held Friday, December 18th to Wednesday, December 23rd at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Berson Learning Center. An additional fee applies. Tickets must be purchased online in advance HERE.
  • A special animal display with reindeer will be open Sunday, December 20th to Wednesday, December 23rd. See some of Santa’s team before they make their winter ride.
  • Hot chocolate, pizza, and s’mores will be available for purchase.

Check out our Event Calendar to learn more up to date information on what special activities will be offered on a particular day.