Last night we visited Turtle Back Zoo for their annual holiday lights spectacular. We enjoyed it so much it’s definitely one my family’s top picks for holiday fun with young kids this year.
When we arrived we were greeted by costumed Frosty, Rudolph and a Turtle. As we entered the zoo we were amazed at the vast display of lights winding along sidewalks that lay ahead of us. Our daughter, Brooklyn, tried saying wow for every light she saw. It grew quite uncharming rather quickly, fortunately she was distracted by the time we got to the carousel and didn’t pick that game up again.
After a wait-free spin on the carousel ($2) we followed paths towards a gazebo where you could meet Santa. We continued along the festive sidewalks until we came across a large barn filled with animals. From there we visited the ‘touch tank’ building where Brooklyn was brave enough to touch sting rays while they swam by.
We walked through ‘Who-ville’, past people making s’mores at a fire pit, saw tons of lights in the shapes of animals and a headless ice sculpture. We were unfamiliar with this magical little zoo so wandering through it at night, led by twinkling holiday lights added to the mystery and excitement of the evening.
Our favorite part was probably the adorable mini train we rode through a section of the zoo not accessible by foot. It takes you along a lake while holiday music pipes through the open air locomotive.
Much of the zoo is under construction and you could see a lot of heavy machinery behind scaffolding, but it was dark in those areas so they didn’t pull attention away from the festivities. I’m really looking forward to visiting the zoo after the renovation. Everything I saw was done so well I’m sure it will be remarkable.
Turtle Back Zoo is in West Orange, NJ. It took us about 40 minutes to drive there from upper Manhattan. This event is open 5:00 – 9:00 daily through Jan 3. (closed Dec 24th & 25th) and it’s free.
Other TOP PICKS for holiday fun: