One Night in Panama City

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Tom Fowlks / Getty Images

The illuminated Bridge of the Americas

Mariano Rivera, 40, Pitcher,
New York Yankees
I always go straight to the Panama Canal. It's best to head there in the late afternoon so you can tour the area and take in the most scenic views before catching the sunset. Be sure to take your camera — you'll get some fantastic photos. The Calzada de Amador, or the Amador Causeway, is a long strip of shops, restaurants and tourist attractions that starts at the canal's Pacific entrance. You can stroll it on foot or cruise it on a rented bike. A stop at the Frank Gehry – designed Biomuseo, or Museum of Biodiversity, tel: (507) 314 0097, is a must. [It isn't completed yet, but there are free guided tours of the site if you book in advance.] You can end the day with dinner at one of the restaurants on the Calzada de Amador. Some of the best seafood in town is on offer there. Whichever venue you end up at, make sure to get a window seat so you can take in the wonderful views of the canal and the Bridge of the Americas.

Spiros Vamvas, 57,
Start the night with a drink at the Bristol Hotel, tel: (507) 264 0000. They do spectacular whiskey sours! Then venture to the Old City — the Casco Viejo, also known as the Casco Antiguo — to experience French, Spanish and British influences mixed up beautifully in a few blocks. Be sure to visit the gallery-café Diablo Rosso, tel: (507) 228 4833, for the designer accessories and local art, then stop at Ego, tel: (507) 262 2045, on the Plaza Bolívar, for an aperitif in the company of the neighborhood cats. Have dinner at the Limoncillo Pony Club Restaurant, tel: (507) 270 0807. It's got a very relaxed, warm atmosphere, and serves sophisticated food that is deliciously fresh. Afterward, head back to the Casco for a night of live music and salsa dancing at Habana Panama, tel: (507) 6780 2183. Its slightly worn atmosphere, with red wallpaper and booth seating, always takes me back to the days of the old Latin dance halls.

Danilo Perez, 44,
Jazz Pianist and Composer
Before the sun sets, walk around the Teatro Nacional and the National Institute of Culture — lovely old buildings located in the Casco Viejo. As you stroll around, you'll see Kuna Indians selling their handicrafts on the street — the mola, or richly colorful panels of traditional fabric, are my favorite ethnic artwork. For dinner, I recommend a favorite restaurant in the Casco Viejo — Manolo Caracol, tel: (507) 228 4640. It's in the San Felipe quarter. The menu has several options, so be hungry when you get there. Dishes are prepared in the style of Spanish tapas, but with lots of original twists in cooking and serving. In this part of town you'll find plenty of after-dinner fun — there are lots of bars and cafés, and a couple of nightclubs with live salsa, jazz and electronic music. The area is especially lively during the second week of January, when the Panama Jazz Festival is on, so try to plan your visit then. Big names like Wayne Shorter, Chucho Valdés and Lizz Wright have all made an appearance.

reported by Roseann Lake

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