Arts & Reviews

Turtle Back Zoo Lights up the Night

By: Melissa Freed

On the first of December, the Turtle Back Zoo held their free “Holiday Light Spectacular,” which included over fifty winter and animal characters. Visitors had the option to donate non-perishables, new toys, and gently used coats to help celebrate the holiday season and give back to the West Orange community. The family-friendly outdoor event was a splendid Friday night activity. The impressive and intricate displays filled the zoo with a glowing ambiance. The light show was quite breathtaking, and being at the zoo at night with all the wonderful lights was a magical sight. The “Holiday Light Spectacular” was the perfect start for December. The Turtle Back Zoo seemed to transport everyone to an alternate world full of gorgeous light; the chilly air was filled with laughter and little toddlers ran around gleefully. Adults sipped hot chocolate and walked hand in hand. Everyone was bundled up in their heavy winter coats, wool hats, and gloves to keep warm in the cold weather. Winter felt like it had truly begun.


Courtesy of Melissa Freed

Many attractions were open such, as the reptile house, aquarium, and farm. The reptile house was teeming with warmth, and the creatures were up and about. The Komodo dragon was slugging its long tail back and forth, the anaconda was curled up, and the frogs sat contently on their rocks. Kids and adults gazed at the animals with interest, and they read each animal’s description to learn more about them. As kids made their way out of the reptile house, the next stop was the aquarium. Children were giddy to go to the touch tank. The stingrays were happy to see the people around them and glided over to the edges to greet the masses. They hung around for a bit, and seemed to enjoy being pet. After spending time with the stingrays, many headed over to the sea lion show. The “Tis The SEAson Sea Lion Show” was a fun treat for all ages. The trainers and sea lions put on an amazing show full of impressive tricks and cheesy comedy. If people wanted a break from seeing magnificent creatures, they were many activities to do. Kids could get their face painted, visit an ice carving demonstration, or make decorative Christmas signs.

Tons of families poured into the Turtle Back Junction Train Station and waited in line to ride the epic choo-choo train.The ten minute train ride toured the outskirts of the zoo, the waterfront, and went under a tunnel of sparkling lights. It was an enjoyable experience for all, and well worth the wait.


Courtesy of Melissa Freed

The Turtle Back Zoo certainly knows how to start off the holiday season with a bang. Their  “Holiday Light Spectacular” didn’t disappoint, and the happy memories of riding the train, touching stingrays, and seeing the sealions perform will never fade away. Kids, adults, and elders alike, will nostalgically look back on their time here with fondness. The twinkling glow of every animal light display, and the different colored light strands illuminating the zoo will be forever ingrained in people’s minds.

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