So you’ve booked (or you’re thinking about booking) a holiday to Dubai and you want to know fun things to do with your kids whilst there? Well, firstly congratulations (or if you fall into the latter camp – what the heck are you waiting for?) you are in for a fun-filled family holiday and here are just 10 of my personally recommended fantastic things to do whilst there…
1. Spend time at Atlantis The Palm.
There is so much going on at Atlantis The Palm you could literally spend your entire time in Dubai perfectly happily right here. In fact on our first trip to Dubai, we very nearly did. Aside from being a first-rate resort, the Atlantis is well known for being home to the Aquaventure Water Park. Float idly along the lazy river or feel your heart jump into your mouth (and question your life choices) on the 75ft vertical drop Poseidon’s Revenge water ride. The aqua park caters for children of all ages and levels of fearlessness – you could easily write-off a whole day to this place alone. However, there are two other worthwhile stops to make whilst here.
We headed down to Dolphin Bay for what I can easily say was one of the best and most unforgettable experiences of my life so far – the Dolphin Encounter. We got to meet and play with the most wonderful dolphin, Cathy. The experience lasts 30 minutes and you don’t even need to be able to swim to take part, making it highly accessible and family-friendly.
Good to know: Pre-booking for the dolphin encounter is essential. Wetsuits, towels and lockers are provided as well as a 15 minute orientation with a marine mammal specialist.
If you have an additional hour or two to kill whilst here, the Lost Chambers aquarium is good for a wander around. Although I wouldn’t advocate making a special journey to Atlantis for this alone it is a good tag-on if you’re already there. With over 65,000 marine animals on view and even a couple of shallow touch tanks for the kids to learn about and feel some exotic invertebrates. To extend your time within the aquarium be sure to download their free app before you visit which combines learning about marine life with puzzles and games.
If you decide to eat at the Atlantis, I can personally recommend you book a table at Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Street Kitchen & Bar. Yes the buffet style all you can eat restaurants here are something to behold, but for a really decent, good quality meal, this is the place to go. A British European menu is on offer here, which on a Saturday features a classic British Roast. Why on a Saturday I hear you cry? Well the weekend in Dubai is on a Friday & Saturday, making their Saturday our Sunday – makes perfect sense now, doesn’t it? Their signature dish of Beef Wellington with truffle mash and spiced carrot also comes highly recommended. Our kids had a great amount of fun at the ice-cream station, decorating their ice-creams with all manner of toppings.
Top Tip: Charm the server and they may let you have second ice-cream helpings!
If you’re not staying at the Atlantis or nearby on the Palm, you wouldn’t be foolish to consider treating yourself to an overnight stay, enabling you to fully and easily explore all that this great resort has to offer. Plus as a hotel guest, unlimited complimentary access to everything (apart from Dolphin Bay experiences) is included in your room rate.
2. Go on a Desert Safari
We were slightly hesitant that this may not be suitable for our then 7 and 5 year olds but we were very wrong!
Our sunset dune dinner safari was booked with Arabian Adventures. We were collected from our hotel in the late afternoon and driven to the Dubai desert conservation reserve. For the practicality minded – appropriate car seats were provided by Arabian Adventures for our children. Additionally, anyone prone to travel sickness would be well advised to ensure they’ve taken anti-sickness medication beforehand. Practicalities aside, bashing those dunes in a 4×4 is so.much.fun! We didn’t ask our driver to take it easy on us – the kids were loving it too much, but I am certain he would have been responsive and adjusted accordingly if this hadn’t been the case. We were able to stop to watch the sunset which was breathtaking to witness, before returning to our car-coaster to bash some more dunes on our way to the Bedouin style camp.
At the camp, we had opportunity for a ride on a camel. Let’s just say, it was one tick in the life experience box that I don’t feel the need to repeat – if you’ve ever witnessed a camel staging a mini-revolt then perhaps you’ll feel the same way too. Anyway, moving on…we enjoyed authentic Arabic style BBQ cuisine with unlimited soft drinks in the camp whilst sat around a bonfire on big cushions and Persian carpets. A belly dancer was our post-dinner entertainment for the evening. Henna artists were available in the camp providing complimentary Henna tattoos on either your hand or foot (or both). My daughter was overjoyed with hers, I’ve never seen her sit so still for something. To complete the evening the camp lights were switched off allowing a non-hindered view of the night sky with the millions of stars twinkling above us. The whole day was an unforgettable and enjoyable experience for all of the family.
Prices for a shared 4×4 vehicle – sunset dune dinner safari start at £59 per person.
3. Explore all the Global Village has to offer
Perhaps not somewhere you would necessarily mark for a visit, but if you have children, this is definitely somewhere you should head for. How to describe the Global Village? Imagine all of the continents of the world were condensed down and represented in one convenient cultural attraction. Think giant food festival with ‘bazaar’ like shopping areas, mixed with multiple rides, entertainment shows and just a hint of Epcot. Trust me, this place is great.
Open from 4pm until the early hours, this seasonal attraction operates from November through to April each year. Come with energised legs – there is a lot to see. There is also a lot to eat! Whilst there are a multitude of cafe’s and restaurants, the street vendors were a highlight for me. Melted Raclette cheese on top of buttered new potatoes, pickles and mushrooms, tender meaty Bosnian kebabs covered in rich sauces & encased in freshly baked bread, sugary warm churros accompanied by melted dipping chocolate sauce, the comforting sweetness of a milky Karak tea – we tried multiple international foods & beverages from multiple stalls (you’re welcome) and everything was delicious.
As part of our visit we watched an excellent Monster Truck stunt show that rivalled any we have seen at Disney. All the numerous entertainment shows that occur throughout the village are included within your ticket price.
Head over to the Fantasy Island area where there are rides to suit all thrill requirements – but be aware, this is where you can spend the mega bucks, so if budget is an issue it’s easy to avoid this section whilst still having a great time. On different days the Global Village offers different activities (such as face painting and balloon animals) and almost all were included in the entrance price.
Once dark the ‘world’ lights up and it just feels like a really exciting, bustling, fun place to be.
Top tip: For an even more spectacular end to your evening here, arrange to visit on a night when the fireworks are scheduled
Entry fee for 2017/18 season was AED 15 (around £3 per person) under 3’s, seniors and special needs visitors enter for free. Find out more about Global Village here.
4. Visit the theme parks
A great feature of Dubai are the amount of theme parks on offer and the minimal chance of rain spoiling your enjoyment of them!
Theme parks in Dubai are easily accessible, clean, safe and fun. If being out in the heat all day is a concern for you then IMG Worlds of Adventure is the largest indoor temperature controlled theme park in the world.
You could definitely spend your entire holiday visiting all of the theme parks that Dubai has to offer; or merely take a day out at one in order to bank up some parent points for the times when you need it to be more about the adults.
5. Travel up the tallest tower
Speaking of parent points, this is potentially somewhere you might like to spend some. The visually impressive Burj Khalifa surpassed Toronto’s CN tower in 2009 to officially become the tallest tower in the world. Trying to sell a visit to the kids wasn’t so easy though – hey kids how do you fancy hanging out at the top of a really tall tower? Because that’s what it is – hanging out (not literally) in a very tall tower, even if it is the tallest in the world. So why have I included it here if it’s not that exciting for kids? Well, just because it’s not the most exciting thing to do, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. There is a lot to be learnt here and some fantastic views to be seen. Not forgetting bragging rights amongst their school mates. Their gift shop is pretty good too. Having ventured up the CN tower, this by comparison (whilst taller) is actually less scary, so more kid friendly. It would be great if they could make the queuing process slightly more interesting, at present the interesting information is actually on the way out. However all is not lost – purchase a fast pass to avoid the lengthy elevator queues – you can get the kids onto the more interesting elements faster.
Top Tip: By pre-booking our 4pm preferred time slot, not only were we able to see the views in daylight, we also got to watch the sunset and see Dubai lit up at night.
Prices start at AED 135 (around £27) for adults and AED 100 (around £20) for children aged 4-12, under 4’s visit for free. During prime hours (4-6pm) prices start at AED 210 (around £42) for adults and AED 170 (around £34) for children.
6. Discover Children’s City and more at Creek Park
Children’s City is billed as the 1st educational city in the UAE devoted to children aged between 2 & 15. It’s basically a highly interactive science museum, incorporating planetarium shows, a nature centre, and lots to discover and learn about us as human beings and the world in which we live. Plus, for the under 6’s there is a great indoor soft play area with plenty of climbing and crawling opportunities and a ball pool to dive in to. You can easily spend a couple of hours here exploring the numerous exhibits which deliver educational learning in a fun child-appealing way.
There is somewhere to eat within Children’s City, but if you are able, bring food with you as there are plenty of lovely places in Creek Park to sit and enjoy a picnic whilst the children run about. Also on offer are a number of mini-rides (including pony rides) for the kids to enjoy too.
If those aren’t reasons enough to visit Creek Park, you can also find the Dolphinarium here. For an additional charge you can watch dolphin & seal shows or you can book to swim with one yourselves (ages 5 and up). The Dubai Dolphinarium is an indoor and air-conditioned attraction.
You can spend several hours, if not the majority of the day having fun at Creek Park and leave not feeling like you’ve left a massive dent in your wallet, which for me is a massive plus point when deciding on where to visit.
Gate fee to enter Creek Park is AED 5 (around £1) per person. Entry to Children’s City is AED 15 (around £3) per adult and AED 10 (around £2) per child. A family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) can be purchased for AED 40 (around £8). Tickets to the Dolphin & Seal show at the Dolphinarium start at AED 105 (around £21) per adult and AED 50 (around £10) per child aged 2-11 years.
7. Head to Dubai Mall
Yes I am aware that shopping doesn’t scream fun for the kids, but if you are smart everyone can walk away a winner.
The aquarium here is one of the largest suspended aquariums in the world. However, If you want to operate on a stricter budget (and maybe you’ve already had your aquarium-fill at the Lost Chambers), you can still keep the kids entertained by viewing the aquarium (for free) on the ground floor of the Mall. Whilst you won’t be able to walk through the 48 metre glass tunnel which provides 270 degree views from 11 metres under the surface of the tank – you’ll still get a pretty good view of all the wonderful and exotic marine life the ridiculously huge tank holds. If you do decide to go in, there are multiple encounter packages on offer and the general feedback I’ve received – in order to get the best experience for you money – is to book a combo-package to view the aquarium and the underwater zoo as a minimum.
To pull the kids away from the aquarium viewing wall, a trip into Candylicious World opposite is a must. A technicolored sweetshop on steroids, the staff will break out into group dances whilst also being generous with the free sweet samples too. Whilst there, I highly recommend to any popcorn aficionados at least a taste (if not a bulk buy) of Garrets Popcorn. My personal favourite is the Lotus biscuit and caramel flavour – we never leave without a massive bag of this. It would be wrong of me not to point out (but please don’t shoot the messenger) that the Cheesecake Factory is also next door – just saying.
Another free must-view at the Mall is the Dubai fountain. A combination of water, music and light, the world’s tallest performing fountain offers 5 minute long daily shows (see below for show times) Arrive early for a good spot.
Top tip: the Apple Store opens it’s balcony for a great elevated view of the fountain – again, arrive early as there will be a queue to secure the best place.
Good to know: The Dubai Mall is the entry point to the Burj Khalifa, you might want to keep this in mind when planning your trip itinerary – two birds, one stone and all that.
Fountain show times 1pm, 1.30pm (everyday apart from Friday, when daytime shows are at 1.30pm & 2pm) 6pm and then every 30 minutes until 11pm.
8. Let the kids be adults at Kidzania
Located within the Dubai Mall, Kidzania Dubai is essentially a highly fun city where kids get to play at being adults. To find out more about all that Kidzania has to offer, you might find my review of Kidszania London helpful: Days Out: Kidzania – London
Once the children are over 120cm in height, you can (if you so wish) leave them to their own devices and head off for some adult only shopping time in the Mall.
Tickets to Kidzania Dubai start at AED 144 (around £29) per child aged 4-16 years and AED 60 (around £12) per adult – this is with a 20% online booking discount applied
9. Take a trip to Abu Dhabi
As I hope you will be in no doubt at this point, there is much to do with your kids in Dubai. However, you might also like to consider heading out to the capital of the UAE – Abu Dhabi. Located only a 90 minute drive away from Dubai Airport, there are a multitude of great family-friendly things to experience here too. Find out more in my article here: 48 Hours in Abu Dhabi
10. Relax at the hotels!
Dubai knows how to do ‘luxury’ when it comes to hotels, well when it comes to anything they do really, but especially hotels. They offer some of the best kids facilities in the world – their kids clubs have a reputation for being fantastic. I can personally recommend stays at Atlantis the Palm or the Grand Hyatt in Downtown Dubai (which features it’s own kids pool with water slides) there is often a lot going on at the hotels themselves and many have access to beaches. So whilst there is a wealth of things to be done out and about in Dubai, schedule a little hotel relaxation time in too and soak up some glorious UAE sun.
If you’re going on holiday to Dubai – lucky you! I hope you have fun and don’t forget the sunscreen! Have you been already to any of the places I’ve mentioned? What were your experiences and is there anywhere you think I’ve missed that would be great for families to do? If you have any questions on anything I’ve mentioned above then ask away in the comments box below – happy travels!