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

Young girl plays with Toys at a Lil' Explorer Thursday at Como Zoo in Saint Paul, Minnesota

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.

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.

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.

Child painting during a Lil' Explorer Thursday at Como Zoo in Saint Paul, Minnesota

Plus, the kids will be completely occupied by the weekly themed activities. Running through April, each Thursday is 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.

I’m planning on arriving at 10 a.m. tomorrow myself. First order of business for the day is seeing my scholars off to the bus stop – and then taking some time to enjoy my littlest one before she’s boarding that bus herself.

 Lil' Explorer Thursdays

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!

Lil’ Explorer Thursdays at Como

Time: 10am-12pm
Cost: Event is FREE; suggested donation of $3 per adult and $2 per child is appreciated. Free parking is available in the adjacent lots and streets.

2023 Schedule


  • 4th – Busy Bugs
  • 11th – Night Time Animals
  • 18th – Fancy Flowers
  • 25th – Fantastic Frogs


  • 1st – Down on the Farm
    8th – Jr. Zookeeper
    15th – Rockin’ Reptiles
    22nd – Night Time
    29th – Animal Families

This article was originally written by Anne Kingston in 2014

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