Delight in Light: Turtle Back Zoo Holiday Lights Spectacular

Updated for 2017!

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.


2017 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 17 then every day December 11 – December 2 (Closed on December 24-25). 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.
  • Tis’ the Season Sea Lion Holiday Show at 6 and 8 pm
  • 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.


  • 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 and tickets need to purchased in advance).
    • December 15 at 6 or 7 pm
    • December 16 at 3:30, 6 or 7pm
    • December 17 at 3:30, 6 or 7pm
    • December 18 at 6pm
    • December 19 at 6pm
    • December 20 at 6pm
    • December 21 at 6pm
    • December 22 at 6 or 7 pm
    • December 23 at 3:30, 6 or 7pm
  • Each weekend will have a different theme including activities
    • December 1-3: Classic Holiday (Characters are at main entrance until 8:30pm)
      • Friday: Meet the Grinch, Ice Sculpture
      • Saturday: Meet the Elf
      • Sunday: Meet a Toy Soldier
    • December 8-10: Superhero Weekend (Characters are at main entrance until 8:30pm)
      • Friday: Meet Wonder Woman, Ice Carving Sculpture
      • Saturday: Meet Spider Man
      • Sunday: Meet Batman
    • December 15-17: Royalty Weekend (Characters are at main entrance until 8:30pm)
      • Friday: Meet Elsa & Anna, Ice Carving Sculpture
      • Saturday: Meet Rapunzel & Belle
      • Sunday: Meet Ariel & Moana
  • 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 Holidays

Light up Language

Christmas Ice Caverns

Santa Land Denville

Educational Benefits of Zoos

Turtle Back Zoo

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