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Monday, August 27, 2012

A kiddie wonderland in Chitre



When I first moved to Panama I would complain about the lack of fun stuff for kids to do here. I still feel that there's a great opportunity for business-minded folks to slide into the family-friendly market right now. Other than a place called Game Box inside the Multicentro Mall on Avenida Balboa, and the  Kids Planet inside of Extreme Planet right next door, there aren't many Chuck E. Cheese like establishments.

That's what I loved most about living in the Chicagoland area. From the suburbs out near Naperville and Aurora to the city itself, there was never a lack of fun things to do with the kids. Here, in Panama, outdoor activities abound (you've got rivers, and beaches, and walking trails), but what do you do on a rainy day? Finally, the malls are starting to get this.

When I first visited here, 11 years ago, most of the malls didn't exist. Now there are 4 major indoor malls here in the city, and a couple more on the way. Even 3 years ago, when I moved here permanently, indoor play areas were unheard of. I believe Multiplaza might have had theirs in place. I'm not sure. Now, however, Multiplaza has a nice indoor play area, Albrook Mall has a couple of different kid zones, Multicentro has only the Game Box, which you'll pay to entertain yourself there, and it's not all that cheap. I just noticed the other day that Metro Mall has ripped their play area apart. I'm hoping it's to clean it up and build onto it (the carpet was getting a bit raggedy).

I was amazed to see the play area in the photo above, when I visited the Paseo Central Mall, in Chitre. This is one of the coolest I've seen, and it's in a little mall in a small town out on the Azuero Peninsula. Other than during carnaval time, you don't hear a lot about Chitre. During carnaval it's almost all you hear about. There and nearby Las Tablas. In a mall that isn't very large, this play area takes most of its top floor (the 3rd floor), and right behind it is a small arcade.

Hopefully Panama will continue to build more family-friendly establishments. Someone open a Chuck E. Cheese (I'd love to eat a pizza and just let the kids go nuts). Even a Build-A-Bear would probably do great here.

I'll write soon about some of my favorite outdoor parks. Thanks for reading.