There are 3 Locks on the Panama Canal but only Miraflores has a Visitor Center. There is a $12 fee to get in and it is worth it. There is a movie presentation on the bottom floor which gives you some good information about the building of the canal. Later, you continue upstairs for various museum displays. There are a couple of decks outside for viewing. One of them is on the floor with the Restaurant and tables outside. We proceeded to the 4th floor. There is a guide with a microphone who narrates the activity down below. We saw several ships moving one way or the other through the canal. This was very interesting and educational.We were there before noon and stayed for a couple of hours. As we left the Locks, we were able to drive by the housing that was built for the canal workers.
We are watching the water on the left rising to meet the water on the right so the gate can be opened and the next ship can move through.
We then headed toward the old city of Balboa. The town of Balboa was founded by the US during the building of the canal and was home for families from 1904-1979. It's interesting walking through the town, identifying all the old buildings, imagining what the place must have looked like years ago. Below is the Teatro Balboa with it's very Art Deco style.
Next we were on our way to Casco Viejo. Casco Viejo is designated a World Heritage Site. It is an amazing place. There is construction going on everywhere. Some places have been completed and some are currently being worked on and yet other buildings just sit in ruin. We learned what we could through tour books but we saw a group of tourists being led around the city by a guide who was sharing what seemed to be some great information. This is probably a better option. Walking around the city is FREE and you can spend a couple of hours or the better part of a day. There are restaurants and shops.
Here's what UNESCO says about it, "Founded in 1519 by the conquistador Pedrarías Dávila, Panamá Viejo is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas. It was laid out on a rectilinear grid and marks the transference from Europe of the idea of a planned town. Abandoned in the mid-17th century, it was replaced by a ‘new town’ (the ‘Historic District’), which has also preserved its original street plan, its architecture and an unusual mixture of Spanish, French and early American styles."