Dubai for Families
I love answering questions about Dubai.
“How was it?” Remarkable.
“Did you like Dubai?” Yes, I did.
“What was your favourite experience?” Sunset Safari.
“What is Dubai like for families?” I’ll tell you.
Perhaps better known for luxury hotels and sensational shopping, I was surprised at the wide range of family friendly activities available in Dubai, the capital of United Arab Emirates. In one day, you can easily travel from the desert to the beach to the snow. There’s a ski field in a mall, a children’s mini world, palm trees covered in lights and slides surrounded by sharks! It’s the sort of place to squeeze in many amazing experiences in a few days.
Let me pick out some of the best of Dubai for families.
1. The Malls
The Dubai Mall
The Dubai Mall is big. No, it’s huge. By some measures, it is the world’s largest shopping and entertainment destination, welcoming more than 100 million visitors a year. Apart from the excellent shopping, there’s plenty to keep the children entertained, and one of my top picks to visit in the mall with the kids is KidZania.
KidZania: KidZania is like a mini city, especially for kids. That’s the best way to describe it. The award winning educational entertainment facility is a place where children can choose from 80 different jobs – from surgeons to chefs; firefighters to photographers. From these jobs, children earn a ‘wage’ and spend their hard earned “money” on various activities in their own miniature shop or racing cars round KidZania’s own track.
Idea: Provide paper and pens for the kids to draw their own mini city scene after their KidZania experience.
Ice Skating Rink: The Dubai Ice Skating Rink is located inside the Dubai Mall and hosts many different events and activities all year round.
Idea: The Dubai Mall sits next to Burj Khalifa Lake and in the evenings you can watch The Dubai Fountain. The choreographed, free fountain show is set to music and lights; shows are at 20-minute intervals from 6pm. Absolutely beautiful!
Aquarium and Underwater Zoo: One of the centerpieces of the Dubai Mall is the Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. The Aquarium holds the world’s largest tanks (51m x 20m x 11m) with a viewing panel more than 30m wide, 85 species and over 33,000 animals in total as well as a brilliant walk-through tunnel. The Underwater Zoo section’s different marine environments include rain forests, rocky shores and a Penguin colony.
Idea: Try a counting game and see how many sharks you can see.
The Emirates Mall
Ski Dubai: Ski Dubai is the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, and it truly feels like you have been transported to a different world. How they keep the centre at -4 degrees is incredible! Activities include skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, penguin encounters, just to name a few. There are seasonal activities to watch out for, including meeting with Santa during the Christmas season, and themed environments from the movie FROZEN.
Idea: Don’t forget build a snowman.
2. Water Parks
Aquaventure is like an Aussie water park, but bigger! Sprawled over 42 acres, Aquaventure is a feast of slides, flying foxes and a specially designed area for smaller children nestled amongst tropical surrounds; it even has a private beach. I braved The Leap of Faith Slide that starts over 27 metres off the ground and plunges through a shark-filled lagoon.
Atlantis The Palm is the top spot to stay for easy entry to Aquaventure and The Lost Chambers of Atlantis & Palm Aquarium. A family could be entertained for days on end without the need to leave the grounds. The hotel is luxurious, but very family friendly too.
Tip: The entry wristband into Aquaventure allocates photographs of your slide adventures and is worth a laugh before you leave the facility.
Wild Wadi Waterpark is another popular attraction, with over 30 rides for all ages. Situated in front of the iconic Burj Al Arab tower, it’s a great place to escape the heat of a Dubai day.
The Desert Safari was the highlight of my trip. There’s something humbling and beautiful about being surrounded by a vast ocean of sand. It gives you a fresh appreciation of the incredible feat that is the city, while highlighting the rich heritage of the region. Experiencing a desert sunset must go on the bucket list – exhilarating!
There are plenty of different desert safari adventures to choose from – taking a few hours to most of the day. Possible activities include a falconry demonstration, sand boarding, camel riding, four-wheel driving through dunes or a traditional Arabian dinner under the stars.
Idea: When you pack for Dubai, include a few plastic figurine camels and falcons for kids to play with on your travels.
The Creekside Park is a beautiful green space in the desert, a perfect place for a family BBQ. It can be a fun space for kids to run around, or you can explore the Children’s City, which is a hands-on science centre experience aimed at 2-15yr olds.
Idea: Pack a few pieces of paper and make paper planes to race.
Umm Suqeim Beach
Umm Suqeim (sometimes called Sunset Beach) is a free public beach, next to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. The water is bright blue, the sand white and the backdrop of the famous Burj Al Arab makes it a novel experience. It’s a lovely spot to paddle, play in the sand and photograph one of Dubai’s most iconic buildings.
There are no facilities on the beach, so a short visit is ideal. Jumeirah Beach and Park is not far away, and more suitable for a longer stay (however, there is a small entrance fee).
Idea: Do a sandcastle challenge and see who can get a castle the closet shape to the Burj Al Arab.
4. Significant Sights
The Palm Jumeirah
The Palm Jumeirah is one of a number of artificial islands that have been planned for Dubai, but it’s the only one that is complete so far. I found the sheer size of it amazing as it just felt like a normal part of the coastline.
Idea: Try and work out what part of the palm you’re on.
The world’s longest graffiti wall is close to Jumeirah Beach so it’s easy for a quick stop and look around. The wavy wall shares the history of the United Arab Emirates in pictures.
Idea: It’s a great backdrop for a family snap!
Located in The Old Town part of Dubai, The Dubai Museum presents the traditional way of life in UAE. The history is displayed in a highly visual and interactive way.
Idea: Walk through The Souks nearby.
At The Top – Burj Khalifa
A visit to Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in world, is a must. The lift travel alone is a fun adventure, travelling at over 10 meters a second! Step out on the observation deck (on the 124th floor) to the most incredible view over Dubai.
Idea: Bring a stuffed mascot toy and photograph it in different places you visit.
Popular months for Aussie families to visit Dubai are October through to December; it’s cooler during that time of year. I visited in December, and the weather was perfect! Warm, but not hot during the day and cooler in the evenings.
Dubai is the sort of place where you can pack many fun experiences in a short space of time so it’s well worth a 2-3 night stop over on route to another destination.
Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.