Holiday Lights Spectacular

Holiday Lights Spectacular

Take a winter stroll through the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo this holiday season under the sparkling lights of over 50 winter and animal characters.

Celebrate the season of giving by bringing donations of non-perishable food items, new toys, and gently used coats.


5pm to 9pm

Friday – Saturday – Sunday December 1-3

Nightly starting
Friday, December 8th – Saturday, December 31st
(Closed December 24 & 25)

Carousel ($) – Touch Tank – Face Painting ($) – Reptile House – Farm – Train – Gift Shop ($)


Admission is FREE. Please consider a donation of:
non-perishable food items
new (unwrapped) toys
gently used coats

Reservations are not required.


This special event is set to the backdrop of some animals. The focus is on an evening stroll outdoors through light displays and photo ops with friends and family, featuring some fun seasonal activities such as a s’mores station, Grinch weekend and photos with Santa! Not all of the Zoo is open and accessible. Areas to check out to see an animal or two that are open are the Touch Tank, Reptile House and Farm.


Scroll Down for Specific Dates & Times for:

  • Santa
  • Ice Sculpture Demos
  • Grinch Weekend
  • Princess Weekend


Food Options

  • Café open
  • S’mores (Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays only) – outside café
  • Popcorn truck – by Train
  • Zeppole stand – by Sea Lion
  • Sip N’ Swirl – by Africa Path


All Zoo Rules apply during this special event which includes, but is not limited to: no pets, no smoking, visitors age 17 & under must be accompanied by a chaperone, power wheel & remote controlled devices are not permitted on grounds. For a complete list of FAQs, visit


updated as of 11/29/23


(with professional photo opportunity)

Location: Gazebo

Add a visit with Santa to your holiday list! Meet & Greet is free and personal photos are allowed. Option to purchase professional photos on site. No appointments necessary.

5pm – 8:30pm

Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays
November 17 – 19
November 24 – 26
December 1 – 3
December 8 – 10
Daily: December 15 – 23


Josh Lynn Photography
Turtle Back Zoo Santa <>

Ice Sculpting Demonstrations

Location: Zoo Amphitheater

Time: Carving starts at 6pm

Limited Nights! Ice Carving demonstrations on Fridays. Watch a block of ice transform into an ice sculpture before your eyes. Demonstrations take place during our Holiday Lights Spectacular event.

Friday, November 24th
Friday, December 1st
Friday, December 8th
Friday, December 15th
Friday, December 22th

PRINCESS Holiday Appearance

Location: Picnic Area

Sing-a-long with popular princess characters. A mix of holiday songs (and princess songs) are sure to lift your holiday spirit! Performances at our Carousel Stage at 6pm and 7:30pm.

Plan your trip now, these princess sing-a-longs are only available Saturday December 16 & Sunday, December 17.

Learn more about our princesses: Perfect Princess Parties

“Don’t Be A GRINCH” Weekend

Meet the Grinch! At Zoo Main Entrance

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


Holiday Storytime

Join us for a seasonally-themed story & meet an animal friend during our Holiday Storytime! 📚🐢

December 16, December 17, & December 23 
2pm | 3pm | 4pm
*4pm on December 16th & 17th sold out

December 21 & December 22

Space is limited, so tickets should be purchased in advance.


SEARCH ‘holiday’ and pick ‘Turtle Back Zoo’ as the PLACE.


Weekend Santa Visits
Train, Carousel, Reptile House, Essex Farm and Pony Rides OPEN


Friday – Saturday – Sunday December 1-3
Nightly starting Friday, December 8th – Saturday, December 31st
(Closed December 24 & 25)

5pm – 9pm


FREE *Donation Recommended

Turtle Back Zoo