Planning to visit Dubai with kids and wondering how to make this family city trip fun for everyone?
We were in the same situation when we visited Dubai for the first time. Despite traveling with young children, we didn’t want to spend our entire vacation at the beach or visiting theme parks. And, of course, we couldn’t drag the kids sightseeing around the city for days in a row…. But we wanted to see Dubai’s main landmarks, while at the same time keeping it relaxing and fun for kids and adults alike.
Dubai is very touristic, and at first, seems a bit artificial and superficial. And in many ways it is. You will not find much of the truly authentic Middle Eastern culture unless especially tailored for tourists. No remarkable nature or other natural wonders either…
But Dubai has plenty of other things to offer for every type of traveler! It’s a fascinating place where everything is big, bigger, the biggest, modern, spectacular (see our guide ‘Interesting facts about Dubai’ for more information)…
In this article, we share our tips for family-friendly things to do in Dubai with kids. Activities that we enjoyed the most.
We focus on those activities that not only give you a taste of Dubai, but are also fun for the whole family. Of course, you can take the kids to a playground, watch a movie, or visit a zoo – but unless you live in Dubai, I would skip these. Instead, go and explore this dazzling city and the surroundings! Find out!
Dubai is a perfect-weather destination and you can spend time at the beach or by the pool, do some water sports, and never leave your hotel. But if you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for more. So here are a few ideas on how to keep your kids busy on vacation in Dubai and do some sightseeing at the same time.
These are all family-friendly activities, based on our family trip to Dubai with our three boys of 5, 5, and 7.
Here are some fun things to do in Dubai with kids:
1. Go Sandboarding in the Desert
For our kids, sandboarding in the desert was an absolute favorite thing we did in Dubai!
Take a snowboard and slide down the dunes. Go back up the hill and slide back down again. And again… We only tried sandboarding a few times, as part of our desert safari tour, but the kids can’t stop talking about how fun it was.
Good to know: Pretty much all the desert tours in Dubai include sandboarding and they usually give big discounts for kids.
2. Visit a Water Park
No matter how long your Dubai family trip is, a visit to one of the waterparks is an absolute must!
We didn’t get a chance to try them all, but we spent a day at Aquaventure and the kids absolutely loved it. Our kids were a bit too young for most rides, but with bigger kids, you could easily spend several days here (or visit several water parks on the same trip).
Good to know: Kids under 1,2m are not allowed on the ‘big’ rides. They can join you on a ‘Lazy River’ or spend time at the kids’ slides, and they will enjoy it just as much. But we found it a pity that our 5-year-olds couldn’t join us on all the rides, and we had to constantly split up and do the rides separately.
TIP: Dubai waterparks are really expensive and you will pay even more if you buy your tickets at the entrance. So make sure to book in advance!
3. Go to the Top of the World’s Tallest Building – Burj Khalifa
Visiting the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa is a must in Dubai! It’s such a unique thing to do and something the whole family will enjoy. Our kids were so impressed with this experience that even a few years later as I’m updating this article, they are still talking about it.
With a height of 829.8 m (2,722 ft – just over half a mile), Burj Khalifa is huge. It’s difficult to comprehend how tall this tower is until you stand under it. Your neck will hurt trying to see the top of the building from beneath it!
We visited Burj Khalifa in the evening and the views of the city in the dark were amazing. If you can get sunset tickets, it’s one of the best times to visit as you can see the city while it’s still light, at sunset, and – if you hang around long enough – also in the dark.
It’s not a cheap experience, but if there’s one thing that is absolutely worth its money in Dubai, it’s this. After all, how often will you get the chance to visit a building this high?!
TIP: Book in advance to avoid long waiting times and disappointment. If you didn’t prebook, try going in the morning when it’s less busy and you might get in without advance reservation.
4. See Dubai’s Dancing Fountains
The Dubai Fountain is another experience that you should really try to do when visiting Dubai with kids. The whole family will enjoy the music and light show of these dancing fountains at the foot of Burj Khalifa. It’s breathtaking!
There are a couple of shows in the afternoon and every half hour starting at 6 pm in the evening. The fountains are probably more impressive at night than they are during the day.
We found the fountains spectacular when seen from the top of Burj Khalifa as well. So if you are At The Top in the evening, make sure you don’t miss the spectacle from above.
TIP: There are also traditional boats that go on the Burj Lake during the fountain show. We didn’t book in advance and couldn’t do this, but it looked absolutely amazing. Especially for the children!
5. Ride a Camel
If you visit a place surrounded by the desert, you should certainly go on a camel trek! It’s one of those special experiences that you can only have in a few places in the world and it’s totally worth it.
Camel rides are also fun for the whole family, just maybe don’t embark on a very long ride with very young children. On the other hand, kids from about 3-4 years, should be able to do a tour like this.
Our kids were so excited to ride the camel for the first time! Older kids might also love quad rides, but for our 5- and 7-year-olds, riding a camel was adventurous enough.
TIP: If you are visiting Dubai with teens or tweens, take a look at this popular desert tour that allows kids from 10 years old. It includes a camel ride, sandboarding, and a quad bike ride. All the fun activities in one tour!
6. Go on a 4×4 Desert Safari
Ok, this is one of those activities that might not be for the whole family, but it’s so typically Dubai that it’s well worth trying. And yes, you can do it with kids.
Dune bashing in a 4×4 is really not for the faint-hearted. But what an exhilarating experience!
Our boys were excited and really enjoyed the ride, but towards the end, it became too much for them (and for us). The ride is really rough and you might get a bit car sick. But you’ll feel such an adrenaline rush! I vaguely remember myself saying ‘Oh my God’ over and over again… It’s an experience you will not quickly forget!
TIP: We did this highly-rated and extremely popular 4×4 desert tour and it included a taste of many other desert activities as well. Perfect for families with kids who want to experience the Dubai desert without going on many different tours. Just beware of that motion sickness and maybe take a pill for that before you go.
7. Visit an Aquarium
There are two big aquariums in Dubai – The Lost Chambers Aquarium in Atlantis at the Palm, and the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo located inside the Dubai Mall.
The Lost Chambers Aquarium is located at Atlantis hotel and is often combined with a visit to the Aquaventure Water Park that’s also located at the same place. Whereas the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is located in a very busy shopping mall, close to Burj Khalifa.
You can see a part of the aquarium at the Dubai Mall without having to go inside and it’s absolutely impressive. If you choose to visit an aquarium, make sure to book your tickets in advance and go first thing in the morning as it gets very busy in the afternoon.
8. Visit the Dubai Museum
Dubai Museum was an unexpected surprise for us. It’s a really interesting place that gives you a good insight into Dubai’s history. You’ll also earn more about the Middle East and how a barren desert became a bustling Metropole…
Furthermore, the museum is located in the old Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1787, the oldest building in Dubai. It’s rather small and compact and presented in such a way that kids will enjoy it too. It doesn’t take much time to visit (40-50 min) and there’s plenty to keep the kids interested.
9. Go Shopping at Dubai Spice Souk and Gold Souk
Dubai is so much more than the modern skyscrapers! We were pleasantly surprised to discover the Old Dubai and its traditional markets, souks.
The colors, tastes, and the hustle and the bustle of a traditional market will impress any child. Don’t forget to smell the spices! The girls will love all the bling-bling of the Gold Souk.
You can buy pretty much anything here, just don’t forget to bring cash and haggle over the asking price.
10. Dress up Like a Local
Since you are at a market anyway, why not buy something typically Dubai, something local that you wouldn’t find at home!
Or do as our kids did, and try a traditional outfit, such as abaya or kandura. And yes, we had to buy these clothes as kids absolutely loved them. With these outfits and sunglasses, they looked like rich Arabian sheiks during the school carnival…
11. Go for a Ride on a Water Bus, a Water Taxi, or a Metro
When we travel with kids, we try to take as many different means of transport as we possibly can. Often, that’s an experience in itself.
Dubai also has a big choice of all kinds of transportation available. From the most modern transportation options such as Dubai Skyrail to the more traditional ones, such as a wooden boat abra.
So when visiting Dubai with kids, hop on the water bus on Dubai Marina, take a traditional abra water taxi on Dubai Creek, or explore the city on a hop-on hop-off bus for a day. Kids will love it!
Also the Dubai metro is fun for kids! It’s different from most other metros as it actually runs above the ground, so you can see the city passing by. There are elevators at every station, so the metro is easily accessible with a stroller as well. It’s a fast way to get from one side of the city to the other and it’s fun for the children.
LEARN MORE: Tourist Guide to Public Transport in Dubai
12. Take the Kids to a Toy Store
When it comes to shopping, only a few places in the world can match the variety and offer of the Dubai shopping malls.
We visited a couple of toy stores in Dubai and it was like nowhere else we’ve ever been. It felt as if we entered a fairy tale world with the Santa and flying elves, Star Wars characters, helicopters and mini drones flying around, and kids racing on kick scooters… This is a true paradise for any child!
TIP: Try to agree on the spending budget (and the size of the toys) with your kids before you enter the store. Or – better – use an excuse of limited baggage space on the plane and promise to go for some really special ice cream afterwards. And in the meantime just look around and enjoy!
13. Watch a Traditional Tanoura Dance Performance
If you have never seen a live Tanoura dance performance, you simply must! Tanoura is an Egyptian folk dance usually performed in Egyptian Sufi festivals by men. It’s also a popular traditional dance in Dubai.
Tanoura dancers wear long colorful skirts and perform all kinds of tricks while whirling. The traditional belly dance performances by women are also nice to see in Dubai. But if I were to choose just one of these, with kids, I would definitely go for the Tanoura dance.
You don’t have to book a dance performance separately – it’s often part of various Dubai day trips or excursions like this Deira Creek dinner cruise or this Dhow dinner cruise on Dubai Marina that we took one night (kids under 6 are free of charge).
14. Explore Dubai Marina
Dubai Marina was one of our favorite parts of the city. It’s a very lively place, with lots of restaurants and cafés. There were also many street performances at the Marina when we visited Dubai during the Christmas – New Year period.
But what makes it special and fun with kids is the wide and safe waterside promenades. Dubai Marina has almost 7km of flat stroller-accessible walkways! It’s is ideal for all kinds of wheels too – scooters, bikes, hoverboards, etc. A paradise for kids! There are also playgrounds for the younger ones.
TIP: Dubai Marina is also a very nice place to explore by boat. There are lots of boat tours here (take a look at this private speedboat tour!), but there’s also an earlier mentioned water bus that has several stops along the Marina. It’s really cheap (3-5 AED (+-1 EUR) per ride) and – if I recall well – young kids travel free of charge. Perfect if a long walk becomes too long for the kids. We walked one way and took the boat back afterward.
15. Hit the Beach
Dubai has so many really nice beaches. And I can’t imagine any family trip to Dubai without at least a few days spent at the beach. Even non-beach people like us spent many hours playing in the sand and enjoying the sun.
Some hotels have access to the beach and/or their own private beaches. So if you are in Dubai for a family holiday, it’s best to look for a hotel on the beach. Our hotel had an excellent location for that (more about in our DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach Hotel review) and it was so easy and convenient with kids.
If you are staying at a hotel in the city and not by the beach, you’ll be glad to know that there are many really nice public beaches in Dubai. For example, Marina Beach near The Walk where we stayed looked like a perfect place to spend a couple of hours with your family. Not only can you enjoy all the beach has to offer, but there are also several playgrounds and plenty of space to run around for the kids.
16. Taste Local Food and Drinks
One of the things that surprised us in Dubai was the incredible choice of food and non-alcoholic drinks. Dubai has a very international food scene and you can find food from all over the world here. Often, with a subtle Middle Eastern touch – a great mix!
Don’t dine at your hotel every evening and go out for dinner! It would be a real shame to go to a boring hotel buffet every night when there is such a great variety of really good restaurants in Dubai. Furthermore, dining at the hotel costs much more.
Our kids loved Arabic bread and fresh fruit smoothies that all the restaurants served. My husband couldn’t get enough of local lamb dishes, and I loved the oriental spices that made every dish even more special…
17. Get Turkish Ice Cream
We had some excellent ice cream in Dubai. There are specialized places that really perfectioned the art of ice cream making. But our kids’ favorite was Turkish ice cream at The Walk in Dubai.
It’s not just any ice cream at a cafe, but the Turkish ice cream from a real Turk on The Walk. Not only do you get some delicious ice cream (eventually), but it comes with a whole show that the kids will absolutely love.
I won’t say much more about it, but if you like a good laugh and delicious ice cream, then definitely look out for it if visiting The Walk!
18. Go Ice Skating or Skiing in Summer
If you want to experience winter in the desert, Dubai has that too! You can find an indoor ski area and an ice skating rink at the Mall of Emirates.
You don’t need to bring any ski clothing or equipment – everything can be rented. We didn’t try this because for us, Dubai was a sunny destination that we visited in order to escape winter. And we have plenty of time for winter activities at home in Europe.
But if you or your kids want to experience winter in the summer, then it might be something for you!
19. Meet Dolphins
One of the things that many of our friends who visited Dubai with children seemed to love the most was interacting with dolphins at Atlantis.
We skipped it because we went swimming with dolphins in Bali in the past. But if time and money are not an issue, if your kids want to interact with dolphins and you have never done this before, then you may want to try it.
Atlantis at The Palm is the place to be for this and many other activities (waterpark, aquarium). And, like with everything else in Dubai, it’s much cheaper if booked in advance.
So, this is our guide to some of the fun things to do in Dubai with kids. There are many family activities in Dubai (and many more opening every year)… But if you are visiting for the first time and want to experience different aspects of this fascinating city, then I think that this list offers a very good mix of things to see and do.
If you are looking for more ideas for things to do in Dubai, make sure to check our guide to the best free and cheap things to do in Dubai. There are also so many great tours – take a look via the link below!
READ ALSO: Best Dubai Tours
More tips for visiting Dubai:
What (not) to wear: Dubai Clothing Advice for Tourists
Budget: How Expensive is Dubai
Getting around: Tourist Guide to Dubai Public Transport
Quick trip: What to See & Do on Dubai Stopover
Interesting to know: Dubai Facts & Fun Trivia
Where we stayed: Review of DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach Hotel
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