Determined to make the most of your time in Dubai with kids? Here’s the biggest most bumper listing yet of family-friendly activities across the Emirate! How many have you tried?
Beaches, water parks and cooling off
Planning some water action isn’t just a must for kids living in Dubai – it’s a way of life!
Starting with beaches there’s a vast range of family-friendly choices these days with many beaches having recently undergone major facility upgrades. Identifying between beaches can be a challenge though with many having similar sounding names! Our family favourites include:
The Beach, found in Dubai Marina, opposite Jumeirah Beach Residence. It’s home not just to magnificent beach frontage with sun loungers for hire, but water sports galore, nearby restaurants, shops, The Walk, The Market, an outdoor gym, play park and Splash Pad – a waterplay area for 1 to 12-year-olds. There are several baby change facilities available along the beach as well as free WIFI and charging boxes throughout. You can take a beach camel ride, even ride a choo choo train or tuk tuk service (extra charges).
Just off shore at JBR you will find The Beach Water Park – an inflatable mini water park! Complete with trampolines and climbing walls, this well supervised play space in the shallow waters can add some real splash to your next beach trip!
Sunset Beach, also referred to as Burj Beach or Umm Suqeim Beach – is the wide sandy stretch that leads up to Burj al Arab. Incredibly popular with tourists looking for that iconic photo, but also home to several sports like beach volleyball and football. It’s also a popular surf spot as one of the only beaches left with decent waves.
Umm Suqeim Park across the road is a wonderful way to escape the beach crowds – though note it’s women and children only during the week (men only allowed with families on weekends).
Kite Beach, named due to its popularity among kite surfers, is popular with beach sports-lovers in general; Enjoy a game of volleyball, football or take out your kayak.
Whilst you’re there, check out Wire World, a low ropes course for little kids or high ropes course and zip lining for the big kids! Located behind the University of Wollongong, Kite Beach lacks the abundance of facilities that you find at many of the other beaches but this can add to its beauty. There are toilets, showers, umbrellas, lounges and towels to hire. And yes, you can fly a kite here!
Jumeirah Beach Park has finally reopened! This ever-popular family location is the perfect mix of golden stretches of sand combined with grassy areas, picnic tables and play spaces. (Ladies only day on Monday’s).
Jumeirah Open Beach (formerly known as Russian Beach) – not to be confused with many similar sounding names – has showers, toilets and refreshments nearby. Its popular with exercises with roller skaters, cyclist and joggers but still great for families too with lifeguards on duty. You will find it near Palm Strip Mall / Jumeirah Mosque.
Al Mamzar Beach Park is located on the Deira side of Dubai Creek. This large grassy park includes swimming pools, play parks, barbeques, water sports rentals, a scenic train, kids play areas – even air-conditioned cabanas to hire! The beaches are located along the coastal coves of the park and lifeguards are on duty (Note Monday’s and Wednesday’s women & children only).
Black Palace Beach is an easy one to look over. Sometimes called “the Secret Beach”, “Al Sufouh” or “Media City Beach”, it’s the strip of sand you’ll find located between Burj Al Arab and the Palm Jumeirah. More private and secluded than other beaches, with soft white sands and magnificent views but not much more – no change facilities, sun loungers or restaurants, just some pure beachy enjoyment away from the tourist throngs!
The Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk – stretching 11kms around the outer crescent of The Palm from Rixos Hotel in the east to One & Only Hotel in the west. Good news for walkers and stroller pushers, this is a pedestrian only zone! More for viewing the water than getting into it, this brand-new development will see food trucks, cafes and kiosks dotted along the shore.
The beach action doesn’t end with public beaches, there’s a myriad of private beaches and beach clubs that offer superb facilities dotted along the coast and particularly on The Palm Jumeirah.
Atlantis also includes The Lost Chambers (a giant aquarium with additional experiences available including snorkelling and shark dives!) and Dolphin Bay. You really need to plan a staycation to get through this lot!
If it’s more water sports you are after, Fahrenheit Beach Sports at Dubai Marine Beach Resort is the biggest water sports business in the region, running lessons in everything from Surfing to Paddle boards, Wake sports to Kayaking.
Those looking for real thrill-seeking will also want to check out Sky Dive Dubai on the Palm. What better way to get a bird’s eye view of the city – get this on the bucket list before you leave the UAE!!
For splash action more targeted to the junior crowd, we love Splash n Party located in Al Safa 2. Unassuming from the outside housed in an ordinary looking villa, but full of splashing good fun inside. They’re speciality is combining birthday parties with water play but you can visit any day of the week; onsite restaurant, shop and change facilities available.
If you’ve never been out on the water to the Arabian Gulf you really must give it a try for a new perspective on the city. The Yellow Boats and Captain Jack are popular choices, both operate from Dubai Marina with a variety of different length tours and crafts.
Finally, on a water theme, the much-awaited Dubai Water Canal is now open, connecting the Creek in Old Dubai through Business Bay to the Arabian Gulf. As well as the waterway itself, there are new running tracks and cycle paths along with a mechanical waterfall. The best way to view it is, of course, from the water. If you don’t have your own water craft then you can take water taxis, a water bus or the ferry.
Shopping, malls, soft play & indoor adventures
Let’s face it, living in the desert it’s hard to look past the multitude of indoor options when it comes to keeping the kids entertained year-round. Most options tend to be attached to shopping malls, so let’s look around the popular malls in the city:
Dubai Mall. It’s hard to look past one of the biggest shopping malls in the world for entertainment. There’s a multitude of both free and paid activities on offer here from the hourly choreographed fountain shows at Dubai Fountains, to catching the views At The Top, level 124-125 of Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made tower in the world.
Youngsters will love KidZania – a mega-sized reality play centre for the juniors that allows them to be grown-ups for the day. If that’s too manic for you though, there’s a hidden gem in Galleries Lafayette Le Petit Palais – a French styled mini children’s town that may be more your pace. There’s also a branch of popular edutainment centre Caboodle. (Note Sega Republic at Dubai Mall is now closed for major renovations).
Still within Dubai Mall, a family favourite for many is the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo. It includes new offerings including VRZoo (a virtual reality experience), as well as Mermaid and Aquatic experiences.
Skating fans will be amazed to find the Olympic-size Dubai Ice Rink sitting right there in the centre of the Mall! There’s also a giant Hamley’s Store, and don’t forget The Toy Store in the basement and dozens and dozens of family friendly eateries and shops as well as flight simulator, the Emirates A380 experience. You will need more than one visit to fit it all in!
Mall of the Emirates. Most famous for its indoor ski slope, the perfect place to take your kids to learn to ski with SkiDubai – especially if they’ve been desert dwellers all their life this will be a novel experience. You can even meet King and Gentoo Penguins in the Habitat at Ski Dubai.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah takes on a different pace to other shopping precincts. Modern, but built in traditional Arabic style the souk is a great spot to take your visitors looking to pick up some souvenirs (especially if it’s too hot for the traditional souks in Deira).
It also houses the Madinat Theatre which puts on some great kids shows throughout the year. Another little-known but not to be missed attraction is the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project housed in the sea feed lagoon at Jumeirah Al Naseem. Here you will also find Black Tap Burger Bar – famous for their mega shakes!
City Walk is a relative newcomer but packed full of family goodness. Your younger kids will enjoy Caboodle as well as Mattel Play! Town where you’ll meet loveable characters such as Firemen Sam, Angelina Ballerina, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine and Barney.
For a complete change of pace try the highly commended Cloud 7 – a space for creative from candle making to soap, ceramic painting and cake decoration. The other super new attraction to try is The Green Planet– a bio-dome with a virtual rainforest to explore that’s home to the famous sloth.
City Centre Mirdif also packs a power family-packed punch with the addition of Orbi Dubai. Located inside Magic Planet, Orbi is set over four different zones from the depths of the ocean to African elephants. An interactive learning centre, it teaches children about the world’s fragile eco systems.
You will also find at Mirdif iFly Dubai (flying simulator), the Magic Planet Skytrail (wall climbing and ropes course), Little Explorers (edutainment for 2 to 7 year olds – branch now also at Dubai Marina Mall) and Yalla! Bowling and Aquaplay (indoor water based games and rides).
Chillout. Located in Times Square and billed as the Middle East’s first sub-zero lounge, visitors don their thermal wear at the door to enjoy beverages served at minus 6c! Quite a novel experience for your little desert-dwellers (Tip: head here around Christmas time to meet Santa and includes a hot cocoa at Chillout afterwards!)
KidzHQ is a real kids all-rounder located in Al Barsha. There’s a vast number of activities from soft play and crafts through to structured extra-curricular activities on offer as well as mum and baby classes, even yoga for kids.
Fabyland Dubai Festival City is a giant indoor playground, with fairground style games through to more thrilling rides. It includes a climbing wall and bumper cars, one of the largest in the city!
Adventure HQ now housed in three locations at Times Square, The Galleria Mall and JBR, the team here will have your kids singing, climbing and bouncing. Rock Republic in Dubai Investment Park 1 is another popular active indoor choice for your little climbers.
Keeping on the active theme there are now several trampolining options; Bounce and Flip Out – both in Al Quoz as well as Jump Boxx in Mirdif. Bounce have recently added X-Park Adventure Challenge Course to their extensive offering whilst Flip Out also offer archery through to mum and bub classes (work that pelvic floor!)
One more for the active ones is Little Gladiators,, a new opening at Golden Mile Galleria Mall on the Palm. It’s Dubai’s first all-kid fitness centre offering kids yoga through to climbing trees or kick boxing, it even has a swimming pool – a complete fitness allrounder for the family!
Those more focused on imagination and creativity should try Fairytales at Jumeirah Town Centre (adjacent to Mercato Mall). Forget the bright neon lights and electronics here, this one is all about imagination and letting kids express themselves! Kids will undertake traditional games and dress ups, complete with its own pirate ship and fairy tale castle, of course!
The JamJar is THE Place for letting them release their inner creativity! A community art space based in Al Quoz 3, there new expanded location allows workshops, studios, theatre and so much more aimed at all age groups.
Creatives will also feel at home at Café Ceramique in Town Centre Mall (Jumeirah Beach Road) where you can enjoy a meal whilst painting a pottery creation – workshops and art classes available.
Please check opening dates for these attractions as many are only winter month openings and subject to change
Dubai Miracle Garden – the world’s largest flower garden by total number of blooms is a mustn’t miss spectacle (winter months only), along with the neighbouring Dubai Butterfly Garden with its 9 huge domes home to over 2,500 butterflies that will happily fly around and perch on visitors.
Dubai Global Village on the E311 springs to life in the winter months. With over 70 countries represented, this entertainment and shopping extravaganza is spread over 36 pavilions. It’s slightly bizarre, slightly overwhelming but such an eclectic place, almost worth it for the people watching alone. (Top tip – get in early, opening at 4pm, the car park is enormous and especially weekends it gets manic – winter months only opens 1 November 2017 and grab yourselves some traditional Omani honey.)
Camel Races at Al Marmoom race track– enjoy the fun and excitement of this traditional Arabic sport. Located near the Rugby 7’s stadium, seasonal dates vary but expect early morning action and a lot of fun working out between the dozens of camels and 4WDs what’s actually going on!
Dubai Garden Glow & Dinosaur Park – Combining two parks in one, see childhood favourites from another era brought to life in giant animated models that look and sound like the real thing! Then as the sun sets watch Zabeel park come to life with glowing neon decorations in all shapes and sizes (winter months only, reopens October 2017).
Dubai Theme Parks
Relatively new to Dubai are the number of world-class theme parks. 2016 saw the opening of several new mega-complexes in the UAE and there’s plenty more to come in the not-to-distant future.
IMG Worlds of Adventure located on the E311 and entirely indoors, this park is made up of four zones covering Cartoon Network, Marvel, IMG Boulevard and Lost World. More geared to slightly older children and thrill seekers.
The flagship theme park for little kids is Legoland Dubai – including the world’s first indoor Mini World. For the slightly older kids and more thrill seekers, try Motiongate (think rides based your favourite Dreamworks characters – Shrek, Kung Fu Panda et al). And for some flamboyant fun and entertainment check out Bollywood Parks Dubai.
Don’t miss out on Riverland entertainment district as well. A destination itself with a huge range of restaurants and entertainment. Lapita Resort also offers a weekend Daycation package just perfect for families with a supervised kids area and access to the pool and lazy river.
Not sure which is best and for what age group? Check out our detailed theme park comparison guide to help you decide.
While you’re up this end of town in Jebel Ali, try the food trucks at the Last Exit, , now open both sides of the E11!
Dubai Culture & History
Now for a bit of change of pace, don’t forget to include some UAE culture and history in your family’s weekend plans.
The best place to start is to get yourself to Bur Dubai. Starting with the the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort (get in early to avoid the hordes of tourists), but also take the time to simply wander streets around Bastakiya – also known as the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.
When you’re done here, take an abra across Dubai Creek to Deira for the traditional gold souk and spice souk. Also popular is Naif Souk; one of the city’s oldest souks, previously a camel market is now home to over 200 shops and stalls. It’s known as one of the best places to pick up a bargain or two from electronics to textiles! Come along and test out your haggling skills!
A fabulous new addition to Dubai’s cultural line up is Dubai Opera, home to a wide variety of performing arts. There’s been a stellar line up of shows already since opening including popular childhood classic Mary Poppins. Watch this space for the 2018 line up!
Another fabulous but lesser known cultural addition is Etihad Museum. Located in Jumeirah 1, the museum tells the story of the UAE’s birth with exhibits and programmes that that visitors through the chronology of events. Newbies and long-term expats alike will find this a great educational experience.
Parks, desert & other recreation
It comes as a great surprise to many visitors to Dubai just how many wonderful parks and green spaces are spotted all over the city. We reference a few in the beaches section above, but others well worthy of a mention include:
Zabeel Park as well as Glow Garden & Dinosaur Park, Zabeel Park is one of Dubai’s largest located near the World Trade Centre roundabout. It is home to The Ripe Market on a Friday (winter months) as well as adventure playgrounds, mini golf, a skatepark and a BMX track. Don’t forget to visit the interactive displays in the Technology Zone and Barcode Garden, or try out the Space Maze. There’s even a lake with pedal boats, row and motorised boats!
Barsha Pond Park located in Al Barsha 1 is also home to The Ripe Market on Saturdays (winter months only). Set around a man-made pond, as well as 50 plus acres of green space you’ll find ball sports and playparks to be enjoyed here. A favourite activity is hiring family go Kart bicycles, or swan shaped paddle boats!
Safa Park is another popular green spot especially on weekends offering playparks, sports facilities, boat rentals, bike hire – even a mini train service!
Dubai Creek Park as the name suggests sits alongside Dubai Creek. Enjoy views of the creek from the numerous walkways or get up high in a Creek Park Cable Car for a bird’s eye view of the city (evenings only in summer, all day in winter). Entertainment includes Dubai Dolphinarium, and Children’s City, an indoor edutainment centre.
Mushrif Park one of Dubai’s oldest park has recently had a facelift with the addition of Aventura Nature Adventure Park. With 80 challenges set between five different levels from the ground to the tress – zip lines to climbing – there’s something here for kids and parents alike (suitable for those over 1.15m). There’s also a section dedicated to traditional houses around the world, an equestrian centre and camel riding, playgrounds, barbequing area and sports courts.
The Farm Al Barari is a firm favourite, with its stunning garden setting, amazing meals as well as special programs such as Mini Chefs, it makes for the perfect inner city escape all the family can enjoy. It’s hard to believe you are so close to town! (Located off the E311 near Global Village).
For a touch of wildlife close to the heart of the city, head to Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary to see flamingos and other wildlife. Slightly out of town is Al Qudra Lakes, a series of man-made lakes built across the Al Salam Desert.
Make a day of it or even camp overnight! Spot wildlife including desert foxes, oryx and 170 species of birds that now call the lakes home. There’s also 86kms of cycling track here for fitness enthusiasts – suitable for novices through to professionals.
More for animal lovers, , Dubai City Stables offers a huge variety of animal encounters from petting farm to horse riding, or try your hand at horse riding in Jebel Ali, with the horse stables in JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort.
Dubai Safari Zoo – Opening soon this new attraction is located opposite Dragonmart in Al Warqa, and will house over 350 species, replacing the much smaller and unappealing zoo that was in Jumeirah and include Arabian, Asian and African Villages – more details to come!
Get yourself out the desert! There are so many different ways to enjoy the desert from dune bashing to sand boarding, or even camping. We include more on our favourite spots in the UAE desert here but some suggestions in Dubai Emirate include sand boarding and camping at Fossil Rock or Al Faya Desert.
For a more sedate pace where someone else does the driving and commentary, try a morning heritage safari through Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Or for a complete change of pace, why not see the desert from above with a hot air balloon tour with Balloon Adventure Emirates?
Phew! That’s a lot to pack in! Think we’re missing anything? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. This listing has been compiled with the help of family travel blog Our Globetrotters.