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Holiday Lights Spectacular Returns to Turtle Back Zoo

Admission is free to this family-friendly annual event.

The following information is from the Essex County Executive's Office. 

The Sixth Annual Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular is back at the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo.

The exhibit features 50 animal and holiday-themed figures including bears, tigers and elephants illuminated by over 100,000 lights, along with holiday lights designed to look like wooden soldiers, stars and winter scenes.

The event runs at the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex (560 Northfield Avenue) through January 1st. From now until Dec. 14, it is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. After Dec. 14, it is open every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Admission is free.

“Turtle Back Zoo will be turned into a Winter Wonderland, with extraordinary seasonal lighting exhibits and costumed characters," said Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo in a press release. "Stroll the landscaped paths of our Zoo and admire the illuminated images of everything from toy soldiers to penguins."

Several animal exhibits will be open, including the 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. Photographs with Santa Claus will be taken at the Zoo every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Sunday, Dec. 23. 

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, 13,505 pounds of food – almost seven tons – was collected for the Community FoodBank of NJ, 4,820 toys were collected for Toys for Tots and the Jersey Battered Women’s Services, and 1,440 winter coats were collected for Jersey Cares. 

The Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular is sponsored by Covanta Energy, PSE&G, the Zoological Society of New Jersey and the Essex County Parks Foundation.

Hot chocolate and other refreshments will be available to purchase. For more information, call Essex County Turtle Back Zoo at 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org

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