This is a press release from Essex County. Press releases are official statements that have not been independently verified.

Essex County Executive DiVincenzo invites the public to spend part of their holiday season at the Annual Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo. Free admission is being offered at The Holiday Lights Spectacular, which will be held as follows:

Dates: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, November 18, 19, 20
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, November 25, 26, 27
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, December 2, 3, 4
Daily from Friday, December 9 to Saturday, 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.

“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. “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, Amazing Asia 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. Other activities include pictures with Santa Claus and story time with Mrs. Claus.

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 18 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 www.essexcountynj.org.

The Zoo is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $17 for adults, $14 for children and senior citizens, and free for children younger than 2 years. For more information, visit www.essexcountynj.org/turtlebackzoo or call 973-731-5800.

Revitalizing Essex County Turtle Back Zoo

Currently under construction is the Island Giants exhibit featuring alligators and Komodo dragons.

Since taking office in 2003, DiVincenzo has spearheaded over $100 million in upgrades to Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, which have included creating a new Amazing Asia exhibit featuring Red Pandas and Clouded Leopards, updating the Turtle Back Junction Train Station to enhance public access; developing the African Adventure with four Masai giraffes, lions and hyenas, and South African Penguins; the Drill Family Flamingo Exhibit; Leopard Exhibit; a new Educational Building; the Carousel with 33 figures of endangered animals; the Sea Lion Sound Exhibit with sea lions, sharks and sting rays; the Big Cat Country Exhibit with jaguars and cougars; Tam-ring Gibbons Reserve with white cheeked gibbons apes, Reeves muntjac and white naped cranes; Australian Exhibit that features kangaroos, wallabies, emus and over 500 birds in the Aviary; Reptile and Education Center, open air dining pavilion and playground, Penguin Exhibit, Otter Exhibit, Wolf Exhibit, Alligator Exhibit, North American Animal Exhibit, Black Bear Exhibit, Animal Hospital, Essex Farm Petting Zoo and South American Animal Exhibit; renovating the Food Pavilion for year-round use and making upgrades to the entrance as well as fencing and infrastructure to meet AZA requirements. Funding has been provided through Green Acres grants, existing capital improvement bonds, or donations from the Zoological Society, Essex County Parks Foundation, corporations or private foundations. Corporations that have provided support include Investors Bank, Prudential Financial, Inc., Wells Fargo, PNC Bank, PSE&G, Verizon, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Coca Cola, Capital One Bank, TD Bank, Aramark, Covanta Energy, Matrix Development Group, the family of Ronald Mount and OxyMagic carpet cleaning.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 23 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, two miniature golf courses, five off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Turtle Back Zoo is located in Essex County’s South Mountain Reservation and was opened to the public in 1963.


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