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We spent almost a week in Panama City, Panama, with our son and found as many fun things to do as possible!
We have been a full-time travel family since 2017. After hearing wonderful things about the Expat life in Panama, we came to Panama City in hopes of finding a place we could call home temporary. We jumped in with both feet and found lots of fun things to do in this historic city!
If you’re coming to Panama for a family vacation you’ll inevitably spend some time in Panama City to fly in or out of the country. Take a few days to explore the city before moving on. You won’t regret it!
Top Things to do in Panama City, Panama, with Kids
Have people told you not to bring kids to Panama City? Are you worried about safety or cleanliness? Don’t be! There are tons of things to do for the whole family!
1. Visit the Panama Viejo Ruins
Panama Viejo was originally settled in 1519 as the first permanent European settlement on the Pacific Ocean. The city quickly grew in size and population as Panama Viejo became the official starting point for expeditions to Peru and the gathering spot for South American gold and silver to be sent to Spain. By 1610 Panama Viejo included 5000 permanent residents, over 500 homes, and a neighborhood full of convents, churches, a hospital, and a cathedral.
Over the decades of it’s development Panama Viejo experienced numerous fires and earthquakes which devastated the neighborhood. The city was constantly rebuilt, until a series of pirate attacks in the 17th century ended the city for good.
If you’re visiting Panama City with kids they will love to walk down the well-planned streets of this historic place and see the ruins of pirate fire up close and personal. The grounds even include a small museum with lots of thorough information on how the city was developed and it’s mysterious decline due to pirates.
Was the famous Welsh pirate, Henry Morgan, or the local Captain General Guzman to blame for the rampant fire which destroyed the city?
2. Go to Casco Viejo, Panama City’s Old Town
When we first arrived in Panama City our host excitedly told us that “Casco” was nearby. We weren’t familiar with the Panama City ruins Casco Viejo, and thought he said “Costco!” Without skipping a beat my husband responded, “Do they have churros there?” and our host replied, “Yes!” I’m not going to lie, we were a little disappointed (and super embarrassed) when we realized he was talking about the ancient ruins, not the U.S. mega store!
We did make a trip to the Panama City Casco Viejo and it did not disappoint.
Casco Viejo, also known as San Felipe or Casco Antiguo, is the historic heart of Panama City. Casco Viejo was settled in 1673, just two years after Panama Viejo was destroyed by pirates. The original old quarters included homes, cathedrals, and storefronts, many ruins of which still exist today. The area was designated a World Heritage Site in 1997, and has since become one of Panama City’s hotspots.
Tourists and locals love Casco Viejo for the gorgeous combination of historic and modern buildings. Within the same few blocks you’ll find colorful storefronts and historic ruins, ancient cathedrals and 5-star dining, beautiful fountains and thriving night clubs.
Visting Casco Viejo with kids is a great opportunity to teach them the history of Panama City while showing them the quintessential architecture, colors, and landscaping of tropical cultures.
3. See the Famous Panama Canal + Canal Museum & IMAX Movie
Seeing the Panama Canal should be a no-brainer when coming to Panama City. Arguably one of the most famous modern marvels in the world, the Panama Canal is a thing of beauty and pride for Americans and Panamanians.
A visit to the canal can easily become an all-day adventure. Located outside the main sites of the city, you’ll first arrive by Taxi. You can then purchase tickets for the museum and canal viewing platform alone or opt to include a viewing of the Panama Canal IMAX movie. We strongly urge you to do both!
The Panama Canal museum is built vertically along five floors which eventually lead you to an outdoor viewing platform. The museum covers everything from the building of the canal to local floral and fauna, with various interactive exhibits children will love.
Once you’ve made it to the top of the museum exit to the viewing platform where you can see the Panama Canal in action! We were fortunate enough to be at the museum while a very large freight ship was scheduled to pass through, and spent almost a full hour watching in shock and awe as the gigantic ship gradually made it’s way through the locks. I expected this portion of the day to be boring, but it was far from it. Our entire family was mesmerized at the sight and the bilingual commentary on the action!
After the museum and viewing platform you make your way to the IMAX theater for a showing of their 3-D movie on the history of the Panama Canal (narrated by Morgan Freeman). The video is incredibly filmed and puts you right in the action on this decades-long international engineering project. We were stunned by the beauty and interest presented in the film and are so incredibly glad we spent the extra money to attend the showing!
4. Stroll the Panama City, Panama, Boardwalk: Mirador Pacific
Not to be confused with the Panama City, Florida, boardwalk, the Mirador Pacific is Panama City’s walkway along the Pacific coast. Mirador Pacific includes a wide, clean sidewalk which meandors around a public park complete with interractive artwork and large-scale musical instruments for kids.
Kids will also love the many souvenir and snack vendors found along the Mirador Pacific! We ran into Chase and Marshall from Paw Patrol, someone handing out free cupcakes, people blowing bubbles, and other fun things our son loved on our Mirador Pacific walk!
We also loved that the walk includes beautiful views of downtown Panama City from across the Pacific Ocean, and a stop at a fun fountain and giant Panama sign!
5. Play at Omar Torijjos Park
Parque Omar Torijjos is famous in Panama City. It is considered the best city park, and one visit will help you understand why!
Nestled within walking distance of the upscale San Fransisco neighborhood, Parque Omar Torijjos is huge. It includes public tennis courts, soccer fields, an outdoor theater, various snack stalls and tiendas, public bathrooms, multiple playgrounds, open fields, a doggy play zone, and more.
When we visited with our 7-year-old we were stunned. We didn’t know where to go first! There were runners along the path, kids playing in every direction, picnic tables and benches for adults, men selling popsicles, and so much more activity than I expected. It’s a great spot for your kids to enjoy an afternoon of creative play time, especially if you’re staying in San Fransisco!
6. Visit the Oro Moreno Chocolate Bar Factory
We first heard about the Oro Moreno Panamanian bean to bar chocolate company when researching things to do in Casco Viejo. The chocolate store which was recommended had recently closed, but that didn’t stop us from finding a different way to get this chocolate!
Our persistence paid off, and we found the Oro Moreno chocolate bar factory, which allows visitors to see into the rooms where their delicious chocolate is made and packaged before buying from their assortment of goodies. The factory can be an adventure to find, but well worth it if you or your kids are chocolate fans!
You’ll find the chocolate factory in Edificio Domino on Via Espana, beside Uniformes Safety. Look for a call box on the double doors. Press the “Call” button, then code 004. When the workers hear the bell they will buzz the door open for you. Go upstairs to the second floor where a worker will meet you at the door, ready to show you all about their chocolate products!
Planning a family vacation to Panama City? Pin this article on things to do with kids for later!