Tag: Exploring West Orange NJ

Turtle Back Zoo                                                                         500 Northfield Avenue                                                            West Orange, NJ 07052

Turtle Back Zoo 500 Northfield Avenue West Orange, NJ 07052

Turtle Back Zoo

500 Northfield Avenue

West Orange, NJ 07052

(973) 731-5800



Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-3:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:


The entrance to Turtle Back Zoo

I have been coming to the Turtle Back Zoo since I was in elementary school when we used to come here on field trips. I remember as a child having lunch on the lawn with my class and feeding the animals. That was back in the 1970’s with the old zoo set up. I had read that the zoo was falling apart by 1995 and they were ready to close it down. Like anything else, these zoos and parks need an update every few years to keep them relevant.

The directions on where to go when you enter the zoo

In 2000, as master plan was started in what direction the zoo wanted to go and in the next twenty years, I have seen the results of that hard work. You have many nicer displays, some still being too small for the respective animals, but a more realistic environment created for them. Back in 2016 when I joined the board of another zoo, I visited the Turtle Back Zoo for the first time since 1976. I visited a much improved and engaging zoo with nice displays and more diverse animals.

The new zoo set up has a good flow

On Groundhog’s Day, I went to see the small festival that the zoo was running that ended up being a ten-minute talk with an audience of the staff, volunteers and local politicians. I thought the zoo could do so much more to build on the reputation of this event. They introduced the new groundhog, Miss ‘Edwina of Essex’, who replaced ‘Essex Ed’. They said he had retired to Florida (I was not sure if he died or was somewhere else that day). Still, it was a cute little event with the groundhog trying to walk off and escape and a weather prediction of an early spring.

Groundhog’s Day Celebration 2023:

Miss ‘Edwina of Essex’ will be the star of Groundhog’s Day festivities in the future

The indoor set up for Groundhog’s Day at the Turtle Back Zoo in 2023

Read my blog on MywalkinManhattan.com” Day “Two Hundred and Sixteen: Meeting ‘Edwina from Essex’ at the Turtleback Zoo-Happy Groundhog’s Day”:


Edwina and her trainer

After the event was over, I got a chance to walk around the zoo for an hour and even though it was the middle of the winter, there was a lot going on at the zoo. I spent the next hour or so walking the exhibits and watching the feedings. Being the middle of the winter with snow all around, a lot of the displays were closed, and the animals were inside as it was too cold for them.

The flowers that line the paths of the zoo from the old days

I started the tour of the zoo at the Flamingo pool. Watching these graceful animals communicate in their own language amongst themselves was interesting. The flamingos looked at us humans with amusement almost as if they were cracking a joke at our expense. They walked around their pool in groups, and it was fascinating to see how they moved in cliques. Some stayed at one part of the display while others moved around conversing about something.

The flamingos sleeping on this cold morning

The flamingos carried on a nice conversation at our expense

I visited the Petting Zoo that was pretty much closed, but the animals were out having their afternoon meal. I swear the rams and sheep looked at me like an alien from Outer Space. I have never gotten such an inquisitive look from another animal before. They all just stared at me and stopped eating. I guess they had not seen a visitor in a long time with the exception of the staff with the weather being what it has been.

The goats gave me the strangest looks that afternoon

The lions and giraffes were all inside warming up as this weather was not something they are used to, and I will have to revisit these exhibits in warmer weather. The Penguin House was a lot of fun to visit. The penguins are so engaging and had just finished their feeding time. They looked like they were ready to play.

The pelicans were swimming around in the Penguin tanks

Penguins’ dove and swam all around me, looking at me through the glass and trying to communicate with a lot of chirping. They looked so happy to see another person beside the trainers. As I followed them as they swam around the tank, they looked to me like they were trying to show me their swimming skills. I felt like they were trying to befriend me as some sort of strange new penguin. They are really used to seeing humans and find ways to engage with us.

The penguins at the Turtle Back Zoo are so friendly

I got to watch the sea lion feeding and watch the seals and otters swim around their tanks. The otters, which are an outdoor animal looked so cold that they swam for a bit after their feeding and then raced inside their burros to get out of the weather.

I stopped into to the Sea Turtle Recovery Building to see what the zoo was doing to help the turtles with their health and how the recovery was done. Separate tanks where the turtles are monitored for their therapy are on display and you can see the different stages they go through before being released into the wild.

The display sign by the tanks

The Sea Turtles in the rehabilitation center

The Big Cat Country exhibition had the poor cougars and mountain lions walking around in circles in the snow looking like they were not too sure what to do next. They did not look that happy to be outside, but I am sure being cooped up was not good for them either.

The Cheetah looked so cold that day

The Train Ride through the park was closed for the season as was the carousel and the restaurant. Those will have to be revisited in the Spring. I revisited the Reptile House one more time before I left for the day.

The giant turtle in the Reptile House

There is a variety of snakes, lizards and other wild creatures on display here and it the one exhibit where the animals seemed happy in their environment as they had plenty of room to move around and stretch. I swear that those snakes know that you are there. They just stare at you when you walk by looking like they are plotting to get out of the glass displays.

The giant lizard in the Reptile House

I will visit again in the Spring and talk about the comparisons with the weather and how it affects the animal’s behavior. They are no different than us with adapting to the change of the seasons. Many of these animals come from environments where this type of cold is not what they are used to and it is hard for them.

The Puff Fish in the Fish Tanks in the Touch Tank Display

There will be a lot more to see in the warm weather when I return.

The Bear Statute by the Bear Den

The History of Turtle Back Zoo:

(From the Zoo’s Website)

The Turtle Back Zoo came into conception in 1962 when the Essex County Parks Commission President, William Wachenfeld, awarded a $400,000 contract to Max Drill Inc. to build a 15.5-acre zoo in the South Mountain Reservation Park. It was designed to be a seasonable park for children.

The Turtle Back Zoo logo

Designer Tjark Reiss was hired to design the park and he created exhibits based on Hans Christian Anderson’s nursery rhyme themes and other children’s stories. There were to be farm animals and an antique train ride that took visitors on a mile round trip ride through the zoo’s surrounding woodlands.

The Turtle Back Zoo opened June 3rd, 1963, with a collection of 140 animals of 40 species. The zoo took its name from a rock formation located on the mountain side east of the zoo. The Lenape Indians called this formation Turtle Back Rock. The pattern on the rocks created by large basaltic crystals makes it appear that you are standing on the back of an enormous tortoise.

In 1973, the zoo’s animal collection had grown to 850 animals of 275 species. In 1975, a Zoological Society was established to promote the zoo and provide funding support through memberships and other fund-raising efforts. The first board meeting took place in September of 1975. In 1978, the Board of Commissioners that directly administered the park was replaced with Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs under the direction of the County Executive.

The Children’s Statute by the entrance of the zoo

In 1995, the zoo fell into disrepair and the zoo was almost shut down in 1995 (Wiki).

In 2000, the zoo completed a new master plan with accreditation from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association as its major focus. The zoo started to replace the antiquated 1960’s style cages with larger, more naturalistic habitats for its animals. In 2005, the zoo completed a new 1.8-million-dollar Essex County Animal Hospital at the Turtle Back Zoo to serve the zoo’s animal residents and serve as a animal quarantine facility for the growing animal collection.

That year the zoo demolished the original administration building and education center and replaced them with a new 11,000 square foot complex that included a walk-through gift shop, a new visitor friendly entrance and exit, a 4,000 square foot reptile center, administration offices a new group entrance and two classrooms opening to an auditorium. A new picnic pavilion and an animal themed playground were opening in 2006.

In September of 2006, the Turtle Back Zoo was granted accreditation by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. This distinct honor places the Turtle Back Zoo amongst the elite zoos and aquariums of the United States and means that the zoo adheres to the highest standards of zoos in the country.

The Touch Tanks with stingrays in them

Come to the Zoo on Groundhog’s Day to meet “Edwina of Essex”

Edwina of Essex County on Groundhog’s Day 2023

Thomas Edison National Historical Park, Laboratory Complex and Glenmont                   211 Main Street                                                  West Orange, NJ 07052

Thomas Edison National Historical Park, Laboratory Complex and Glenmont 211 Main Street West Orange, NJ 07052

The Thomas Edison National Historical Park

211 Main Street

West Orange, NJ  07052

(973) 736-0550


Open: Sunday 10:00am-4:00pm/Closed Monday-Tuesday/Wednesday-Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm

Note: There are renovations going on at the site so please call ahead to check on hours and fees.

The Thomas Edison National Historical Park, Laboratory Complex and Glenmont home are a step back in time when machines were run by belts and pulleys and music was played on phonographs. Where to the passerby, the buildings betray little evidence of the industries they once started. Discover where America’s greatest inventor changed our world forever.

The Laboratory site Complex contains:

  1. Visitor Center (Restrooms & Gift shop)
  2. Chemistry Laboratory
  3. Chemical Storage and Pattern Shop
  4. Metallurgical Laboratory
  5. Main Laboratory
  6. Powerhouse
  7. Blacksmith Shop
  8. Building 11
  9. Vault 12
  10. Black Maria
  11. Water Tower
  12. Vault 32
  13. Vault 33
  14. Building 35 (Maintenance Facility)

Park Information:

The Laboratory Complex is open Wednesday through Sunday. The Glenmont Estate is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Glenmont tickers are limited and are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis from the Laboratory Visitor Center. Please call for specific hours.


Entrance Fee-$10 (Under 16 years old free)

Optional Laboratory Audio Tour-$5

Park Annual Pass-$40

Inter-agency Passes Accepted

Group Reservations: Call 973-736-0550 ext. 33

Filming and Photography: Call 973-736-0550 ext. 50

Corporate Events: Call 973-736-0550 ext. 50

For more Information: http://www.nps.gov/edis (973) 736-0550 ext. 11

Calendar of Events: http://www.nps.gov/edis/planyourvisit/events/htm

*Thomas Edison National Historical Park Facebook.

Directions to Glenmont:

*Please respect the privacy of our neighbors by driving directly to and from Glenmont.

Directions to Glenmont:

*Put your pass on the dashboard of your car

*Right out of the parking lot

*Right at the first light and stop at the gatehouse

*Go up Park Way

*Right onto Glen Avenue

*Left onto Honeysuckle Road

*Right into paved parking lot

*Tour begins in front of the home

*Restrooms located in Potting Shed/Visitor Center

*Information is taken from National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, Thomas Edison National Historical Park, West Orange, New Jersey.

My review on TripAdvisor:


I had visited the Laboratories of Thomas Edison and it is very interesting to tour the floors of inventions. There are very innovative items that I never knew he invented, things like talking dolls and many household items for the kitchen and home.

Edison National Site.jpg

Another room they showed was his private office where he did most of his personal work and spent his sleeping hours when working at the laboratory. Each of the rooms show how and at what stages of the invention process that each object.

Edison National Site II.jpg

Glenmont, the family home, can be a musty place in the colder months. The house smells like it is old. It needed a good airing out. The period furniture are very interesting. The house is full of Victorian elegance but it needs a good renovation. The walls and ceilings  need some plastering and the home needs a good deep cleaning. Still it is interesting that for all their prestige, they still lived more like an upper middle class family.

The history Edison National Historical Park:

Thomas Edison National Historical Park preserves Thomas Edison’s laboratory and residence, Glenmont, in Llewellyn Park in West Orange in Essex County, NJ. These were designed, in 1887, by Henry Hudson Holly. For more than 40 years, the laboratory had a major impact on the lives of people worldwide. Out of the West Orange laboratories came the motion picture camera, improved phonographs, sound recordings, silent and sound movies and the nickel-iron alkaline electric storage battery (Wiki).

Edison’s home was designated as the Edison Home National Historic Site on December 6, 1955. The laboratory was designated as Edison Laboratory National Monument on July 14, 1956. On September 5, 1962, the 21 acre site containing the home and the laboratory were designated the Edison National Historic Site and overseen by the National Park Service. On March 30, 2009, it was renamed Thomas Edison National Historical Park, adding “Thomas” to the title in hopes to relieve confusion between the Edison sites in West Orange and Edison, NJ. Following extensive renovations of the laboratory complex, there was a grand reopening on October 10, 2009 (Wiki).

Historic Glenmont Mansion:

Thomas Edison resided at Glenmont, his 29 room Victorian mansion, for over half his lifetime. Its architect, Henry Hudson Holly, is considered to be the father of the Queen-Anne style architectural movement in the United States. Holly’s crowning achievement, Glenmont, was part of a working estate which presently contains six outbuildings including a barn and a greenhouse. Examples of Thomas Edison’s poured concrete structures, the auto garage and the potting shed are also still in existence. (Wiki).


Thomas Edison’s Home “Glenmont”

The interior of the fully furnished Victorian home is a rare example of Pottier & Stymus interiors, a New York decorating firm that lost the majority of its records in a catastrophic warehouse fire in the year 1888. Glenmont’s interiors display rare examples of the firm’s modern Gothic style furniture suites and also include decorative arts objects chosen by the company to outfit this home in Victorian style. The Edison family appreciated the original interiors, consequently making only minimal changes to the home’s decoration during their residency (Wiki).

Glenmont’s period rooms reflect examples of the era’s Eastlake style and Aesthetic Movement style interiors. The first floor library boasts hand stenciled walls in flat, stylized floral patterns with a ceiling of distemperment. Tall case cabinets store leather bound volumes. The decorative arts collection at Glenmont ranges from major works of art and sculpture to everyday objects. The collection, consisting of 40,000 items, includes remarkable examples of Hudson River School artists and antiques (Wiki).

Glenmont II

Examples of more utilitarian items include the Edison china collection, still housed in the historic Butler’s Pantry, the household linen collection, family toiletry items, books and household receipts that detail purchases made by the Edison family.  These vouchers reveal to us the Edison’s choice of household products and their spending habits (Wiki).

Disclaimer: The above information on the history of the house and labs came from Wiki and I give the format full credit for the information. The above information also comes from the National Parks Services pamphlet and I give them full credit for the Visitor’s information.