Experiencing the Panama Canal
Our visit to Panama would not have been complete without a visit to the Panama Canal. I had visited this modern marvel, many years earlier, while working in Panama. My husband had traversed the canal while on a cruise. Now it was time to take the kids. Perhaps for them they would be able to grasp the entire engineering feat of the canal better than I could.
The canal is an easy taxi or Uber ride from nearly anywhere in Panama City, and should only cost a couple of dollars. We drove in from El Valle de Anton, relying on GPS to get us there. Although GPS did the job, the streets are not well marked and nor is the entrance to the canal. It actually looks as if you are driving into a shipyard and not the Panama Canal museum. Then again, it is a working canal so—in that sense–you are driving into a working shipyard.
Parking is easy, with a large lot close to the entrance of the museum. When we arrived, we quickly discovered an Imax movie all about the engineering genius of the canal, its history, and future. We figured it would be a good idea to see it to get a better picture of the entire process. The added bonus was that the movie is in English, so there was no need to translate or read subtitles. I’d recommend taking the kids to see the movie first: it was a good overview of just how much work went into the canal, of the lives lost, the different cultures coming together for its creation, and how it changed shipping forever.
The Panama Canal Museum
We ventured to the museum after watching the movie and covered all four floors. On the first floor, the museum starts with the history of those who built the canal, people involved in building, creating, innovating, and executing to create what is todays Panama Canal. The next floor up is all about the importance of water for life, the canal, and has an interactive water exhibit. The 2ndfloor also showcases some of the animals and bugs in the area. By far, this was the kids’ favorite floor. The third and fourth floors of the museum focus on the engineering of the canal and how boats are brought through the canal. There is even a simulator that allows you to pretend you are guiding a boat through the canal. Our kids liked sitting in the chairs, picking up the 80s era phones, and pretending that they were canal operators.
On the top floor is an observatory deck. From there, we got a full view of the Miraflores locks, including the iconic administrative building (which was built in 1914 for the opening of the canal). In past years, you could watch an endless precession of boats coming in and out of the canal. Sadly we did not see any during the time of day we were there. The majority of the large container ships now go through the expansion canal. It is a good vista to take in the lock construction as well as the helper locomotives next to the canal. Looking up, we saw plenty of wonderful birds flying overhead.
The entire Panama Canal visit including the movie took about one hour and 45 minutes. It was kid-friendly and engaging. If you visit Panama, the Panama Canal is a must visit. Adjust expectations, let the kids learn some fascinating history and engineering, and carve out a small amount of time. The museum does have a restaurant with a nice buffet serving authentic Panamanian food. In the evenings they do have traditional dances preformed by professional dancers dressed in Traditional Panamanian clothes. Some might find it a nice option to combine a taste of Panama with a visit to the canal. My thought is to hop back to Casco Viejo and grab some food and nightlife there.
A special thanks to Magda de Moreno, Head of International Communications, Department of Tourism of Panama for providing Five Family Adventurers with entrance tickets to the Panama canal.
LIKE IT? PIN IT!
This post may contain affiliate links which means that we receive a small commission if you click on a link & purchase something that we’ve recommended – at no extra cost to you. This helps us to keep our site running so we can continue to provide free content.