Family Fun: Lil’ Explorer Thursdays at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Toddler Girl Looking Through View Scope at Como Zoo, Saint Paul Minnesota

Scroll down for the Fall 2023 Lil’ Explorer schedule.

With the passing of summer and the start of a new school year, I look forward to spending more quality time with my youngest while her older siblings are away for the day. Because let’s face it: when I’m down to one kid there’s less mess, fewer fights to break up, and not as many opinions to consider when we’re deciding how to spend our day.  For instance, I can take my preschooler to Lil’ Explorer Thursdays at Como Zoo & Conservatory without a single complaint from her big sibs.

Young girl plays with Toys at a Lil' Explorer Thursday at Como Zoo in Saint Paul, Minnesota
Lil Explorer Thursdays – Story Times, Toys, Activities and more

It’s a perfect morning outing for the 4-and-under set. Particularly in the winter if you’ve been feeling cooped up inside but don’t relish bundling everyone up to play out in the frigid temps. Between the sun shining through all those windows and the lush tropical greenery you can almost imagine you’ve been transported out of Minnesota. While we are there we can choose to visit the rest of the Zoo (which still has plenty open) or even explore the larger Como Regional Park.

Como Park Spring Edition - Water Play in the Children's Gallery
Water Play in the Children’s Gallery

Plus, the kids will be completely occupied by the weekly themed activities. Running weekly, Thursday mornings are packed with games, art projects, sensory tables, and interactive storytimes with Como staff. My kids have planted flowers, dug for worms, gone “fishing” and sponge-painted butterflies to their heart’s content in the hallway connecting the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory to the Como Zoo’s Visitor Center. Get the full 2023 schedule below to see if one of the upcoming themes might appeal to your little naturalist.

Good news! Como has made Lil’ Explorer Thursdays a year-round program. Now we can attend the same great school-year program during the warm months!

Children playing on climbing structure featuring a turtle, giraffe, gorilla and tiger in the Leonard Wilkening Children's Gallery - Como Zoo Spring Edition
The Leonard Wilkening Children’s Gallery is a fun, stop for tots on your visit to the zoo.

Lil’ Explorer Thursdays at Como

First order of business for the day, pack the scholars off to the bus stop. Then take some time to enjoy Como Zoo & Conservatory with littlest ones before they are boarding that bus themselves.

Time: 10am-12pm

  • 10:30 story time
  • 11am zookeeper talk
  • 11:30am Sparky Show.
  • The explore the zoo, conservatory and park or just head home for lunch and nap.

Cost: Event is FREE as is admission to Como Zoo. If you would like to contribute, the suggested donation at the entry is $3 per adult and $2 per child. Free parking is available in the adjacent lots and streets.

Fall 2023 Schedule

*Note that there are two special Monday programs this fall.

  • September 7th – Teddy Bear Picnic
  • September 14th – Fantastic Frogs
  • September 21st – Down on the Farm
  • September 28th – Rockin’ Reptiles
  • October 5th – Bird Buddies
  • *Monday, October 9th – Fancy Flowers
  • October 19th – Animal Families
  • October 26th – Nighttime
  • November 2nd – Fun with Fish
  • November 9th – Busy Bugs
  • November 16th – Jr. Gardener
  • Monday, November 20th – Under the Sea
  • December 7th – Animals in Winter
  • December 14th – Furry Friends
  • December 21st – Happy Hooves
  • December 28th – Fantastic Frogs
Como Park Zoo Orangutans
Image courtesy Como Park Zoo

Anne wrote about her experience with Lil’ Explorers Thursdays in the Fall of 2014. It continues to be the same great program today. Read why she loved it when her kids were smaller and find an up-to-date calendar of weekly topics.

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