fun things to do with kids in panama city   Travel for Kids

Panama City

Panama City
Panama City, the capital of Panama, was founded in 1519 as a Spanish settlement. The city rapidly became the central depot for treasure arriving from Spanish colonies, transported across the isthmus, and shipped to Spain. A popular target for pirates, in 1671, Henry Morgan looted and burned the city (Panama Viejo). In the mid 19th century, Panama City was again the center of treasure-minded adventurers, miners setting off in ships to California and the gold fields. Today as you wander through the old parts of Panama City, kids can imagine treasure galleons, pirate schooners and gold rush clippers, raising their sails in the bay.
  Casco Viejo – The Casco Viejo is "new Panama," the fortified city center, built after "old Panama" city burned in 1671. This neighborhood has Spanish style buildings and plazas. Tip: It's best to take a taxi to the Casco Viejo, and don't wander around the streets at random. Huge sections of the neighborhood are unrestored slums.
    Plaza de la Independencia – Start your explorations of the Casco Viejo at the Plaza de la Independencia, which commemorates the independence of Panama in 1903. It's a quiet plaza, surrounded by pastel colored buildings, the Metropolitan Cathedral (it's worth taking a quick look inside the cathedral), and the Panama Canal Museum.
      Panama Canal Museum (Museo del Canal Interoceanico de Panama) – This museum is a good introduction to the Panama Canal, and the history of Panama. Exhibits start with the earliest inhabitants of Panama, the Camino de Cruces, the treasure trails across the isthmus (including re-creations of gold and silver ingots, Spanish armor, cannon balls and muskets), posters and weapons from the California gold rush. Other displays document the construction of the Panama Canal, including excellent historical films, time lapse video of boats zipping through the locks, and transfer of the Canal to Panama in 1999. The exhibits are labeled in Spanish, an English audio tour is available.
      Palacio de las Garzas – The president of Panama lives in this palacio, nicknamed "La Casa Blanca" (the White House). Just walk a two blocks east from the Plaza de la Independencia, ask permission of the guard to walk further down the street, and you'll see the "white house," a lovely multi-story Spanish-style mansion, overlooking the bay.
      Iglesia de San Jose – Don't miss this impressive church with a huge golden Baroque altar (Altar de Oro). When Henry Morgan sacked Panama City in 1671, according to stories, a priest disguised the golden altar by painting it black, so it was saved from the pirates.
      Paseo las Bovedas – Take a stroll on the promenade at the tip of the Casco Viejo. You can see remnants of old Spanish dungeons, brown buildings that are now art galleries and shops, and a statue dedicated to thousands of workers who died building the Panama Canal. Walk along the promenade for a view of the Bridge of the Americas, causeway islands to the west, and city skyline to the east. At low tide, you'll see fingers of volcanic rock, jutting out into the ocean (making this promontory seem even more fortified).
Panama City
  Mi Pueblito – Mi Pueblito is a re-creation of a typical Panama town at the turn of the 20th century – a Spanish style church, a school, a house, museum with gorgeous hand-embroidered Panamanian dresses, and cobblestone plaza, plus replicas of a Caribbean style village with bright colored buildings, and Kuna Indian village from the San Blas Islands, with thatched houses and exhibits of Kuna traditions. There are folklore performances on the weekends, and shops to buy local arts and crafts.
      Parque Andres Bello (Via Argentina, El Cangrejo) – If you're staying in the Cangrejo district, this is a quiet neighborhood park on Via Argentina, north of Calle 1ra B Norte, with swings, slides, climbing structures, teeter-totters, a basketball court, benches and grass to run around.
      Parque Urraca (Balboa Ave., near Ave. Federico Boyd, Bella Vista) – A wide, spacious park, right across from the bay on Balboa Ave, with large grassy areas, swings and playground.
Panama City
  Amador Causeway – The Causeway is a real oasis in Panama City, four tiny islands, Naos, Culebra, Perico and Flamenco, connected by a road, lined with palm trees and wide walkways. Located at the entrance to the Panama Canal, it's quiet, green and tropical, and the perfect place to walk, bike or watch the ships lined up for the Canal.
      Go for a bike ride – Rent bikes and go for a ride on the wide sidewalks. You can rent surreys to pedal the whole family around (this is great if you have little ones), kids' bikes, full-size bikes, pedal karts from Tony Bikes Rental on Culebra.
    Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas (Marine Exhibits Center, Punta Culebra) – This small marine exhibits center, run by the Smithsonian, is a gem! Check out exhibits of Panama Pacific Ocean fishes (including a model of a 13 meter shark), tanks of live moray eels, hawksbill turtles, bright colored topical fish, and a touch pool for little ones with sea anemones and sea urchins. Touch tables have coral, turtle shells, marine animal skeletons and tropical sea shells. Take the short trail through dry tropical forest, and keep your keep eyes peeled for the gigantic green iguanas sunning themselves. At the tip of the island is a telescope to watch boats, including labeled pictures so kids can identify shrimp boats, cruise ships, tankers, tuna boats, Panamax ships, yachts, container ships and tugs. Exhibits are in Spanish and English.
    Ride the Panama Canal Railway (Corozal) – Take a trip on the Panama Canal Railway. Completed in 1855, it was the first transcontinental railroad – the track crosses the isthmus from the Pacific to Atlantic Ocean. Today, this historic train has been refurbished, and it's a nice, somewhat pricey, trip back in time. The train leaves Panama City at 7:15am, and goes along the Panama Canal, through the Gaillard (Culebra) Cut, across Lake Gatun, to Colon. The train returns to Panama City at 5:15pm. The ride lasts about an hour.
    Panama Canal – Miraflores Locks, Gatun Locks, and trips on Gatun Lake are all a day trip from Panama City
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