Delight in Light: Turtle Back Zoo Holiday Lights

As soon as Thanksgiving ends, there is an absolute magic surrounding us as we approach the holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Chanukah, there is this warmth in the air despite the cold nights. Families flock to venture outside in search of celebrating, and one of the premiere activities to attend is The Turtle Back Zoo’s Holiday Lights Spectacular. Families delight in visiting this enchanted space especially since it is FREE to visit (donations of non-perishable food items, new toys and gently used coats are accepted).

Turtle Back Zoo

Throughout this expansive zoo are over 50 animal and winter themed characters which make up only a handful of the 100,000 lights throughout the area. This is a perfect walk for young children to help develop their language as you identify each creature together. There will also be select exhibits available that families can explore together like Sea Lion Sound, Tam-ring Gibbons, Tropical Currents Aquarium, Reptile Building and the Essex Farm. Don’t be surprised if additional activities appear in the coming weeks but so far the 2016 list is extensive.


2016 Turtle Back Zoo Holiday Lights Spectacular

There are so many cool activities and experiences families can enjoy during Turtle Back Zoo Holiday Lights Spectacular. Besides spending time together and taking lots of pictures, kids and adults can enjoy exciting special events as well as a visit with Santa. The TBZ Holiday Lights Spectacular is open every weekend beginning November 18 then every day December 12 – December 31. The event takes place from 5pm-9pm. Here are some activities you can enjoy:

  • Mailbox to the North Pole: Children are invited to mail their letters to Santa Claus.
  • Take a Selfie with Santa: Children can stop by and say hello to Old Saint Nick. If your camera or skills are not that strong, don’t worry photos can be purchased.
    • November 25-27
    • December 2-4, 9-11, 16-23


  • Storytime with Mrs. Claus: Children can listen to a classic story read by Mrs. Claus and meet an animal friend. Light refreshments are included with a ticket (additional fee applies). Storytimes take place December 16-23.
  • Special Events
    • November 18-20: Super Hero Celebration
      • Children are invited to dress up as their favorite superheroes!  Spider-man is going to swing by the picnic pavilion for a meet and greet.
      • S’mores station at the Sea Lion Stand.
      • Face Painting in Touch Tank.
    • November 25-27: Royal Holiday at Picnic Pavilion
      • November 25: Cinderella
      • November 26: Sleeping Beauty and Belle
      • November 27: Rapunzel and Tiana
      • S’mores station at the Sea Lion Stand.
      • Face Painting in Touch Tank.
    • December 2-4: A Frozen Princess Ball
      • Anna and Elsa each night at the Picnic Pavilion!
      • Santa at the Gazebo by Bear House on December 3
      • Ice Sculpture 5-6:30 PM on December 3
      • S’mores station at the Sea Lion Stand.
      • Face Painting in Touch Tank.
    • December 9-11 and 16-18: The Dark Side Weekends
  • As always, you can visit some of the animals in between these activities and looking at the lights.


Turtle Back Zoo is located at 580 Northfield Ave. West Orange, NJ 07052

Parking is free however we do recommend arriving early. When the lot is full you might be directed to parking offsite and take the trolley to the zoo.

Check out our 2016 Photo Album!

You may also enjoy:

Brain Boosting Holiday Events in NJ

Lighting up Language

Hidden Learning and Fun at Christmas Ice Caverns

Educational Benefits of Zoos

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