Home Essex County All About the Holiday Lights Spectacular at Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange

All About the Holiday Lights Spectacular at Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange

by Gabriela Lachapel O'Brien
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After a hiatus last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Holiday Lights Spectacular at the Turtle Back Zoo is back this year (and yes, the animals are all currently present at the zoo). Throughout the month of December, visitors will experience over 100,000 lights and a variety of holiday-themed activities — great for kids and adults alike. Here’s a look into the holiday pop-up event.

holiday lights spectacular turtle back zoo

(Photo credit: @officialturtlebackzoo)

The History

The zoo has been hosting the Holiday Lights Spectacular since 2006, which began as part of the revitalization in the early 2000s. Thanks to an increase in funding and accreditation from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, Turtle Back Zoo was able to significantly invest not only in the quality of its facilities but also able to expand its educational programs and community outreach. What started as a way to bring visitors in the cold winter months is now a family-friendly must-plan for those looking to soak up as much holiday cheer as possible. 

Read More: Where to Buy Holiday-Themed Desserts in the Montclair Area

The Holiday Attractions

holiday-\ lights spectacular turtle back zoo

(Photo credit: @officialturtlebackzoo)

In addition to the 50 winter and animal displays to see while strolling through the zoo, there are numerous regular attractions and activities to be enjoyed. 

Of the year-round operations, guests can ride the endangered species carousel, visit the indoor reptile house, experience the marine life touch tank, and hop on the zoo train to move about. 

On weekends through December 17th, then daily until December 23rd, there is an opportunity to take professional photos with Santa at the gazebo. The professional photos are available to purchase however, guests are permitted to take personal photos at no charge. 

Olaf from the Disney movie Frozen in a holiday sing-along on Fridays December 10th and 17th. For more singing, join popular TV and movie princesses on Sundays in December through the 19th.  You’ll experience a block of ice transform right in front of your eyes on Saturdays in December prior to Christmas. 

Because no holiday fun can be complete without some treats, Turtleback zoo is roasting s’mores on the weekends at the outdoor cafe. There will be a food truck serving up pizzas along the Africa Path, and the cafe will be open for indoor dining. 

Admission = Free

holiday lights spectacular turtle back zoo

(Photo credit: @officialturtlebackzoo)

The Turtle Back Zoo will not be requiring admission for its night lights displays. Instead, the zoo is accepting donations of non-perishable food items, gently used winter coats and new toys that will be distributed to local non-profit organizations. 

See More: Here’s Where to See Santa in North Jersey This Season

There is free parking available throughout the South Mountain complex, and strollers are available to rent as needed. In compliance with local health guidelines, guests will be required to wear face coverings at all the indoor attractions, regardless of vaccination status, but it is optional outdoors. 

The Holiday Lights Spectacular takes place nightly starting Friday, December 10th through Friday, December 31, 2021, and it’s closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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