Dubai is very touristic and from the first view seems very 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, it’s an amazing city where everything is big, bigger, the biggest, modern, spectacular… I made a small selection from the amazing variety of Dubai family activities. I focus on activities that give you a taste of Dubai and are fun for the whole family at the same time. 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! Enjoy!
Dubai Family Activities Based on Our Experience
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 and we did them (almost) all with our three boys of 5, 5, and 7. Some of these activities are free, some others will cost a great deal of money, especially with a family.
1. Sandboarding in Dubai desert
An absolute favourite with our boys! Take a snowboard and slide down the dunes. We only tried sandboarding a few times, but you can also book a tour and try to master this unusual fun sport.
2. Visit Dubai or Abu Dhabi water park
Dubai has two big waterparks – Wild Wadi and Aquaventure in Atlantis. And there is also Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi of course. We didn’t get a chance to try them all, but we spent a day at Aquaventure and the kids absolutely loved it. Just a short note – kids under 1,2m are not allowed on any 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. It’s a very pricey experience, and you will pay even more if you buy your tickets at the entrance, so book in advance, and look around for cheaper options.
3. Go to the top of world’s tallest building – Burj Khalifa
Favourite of our whole family! A visit to the top of the tallest building in the world is a must when in Dubai. We went in the evening and the views of the city in the dark were amazing. It’s not a cheap experience, but if you are already in Dubai you should certainly do it. Book in advance to avoid disappointment or go in the morning when it’s less busy.
4. See Dubai’s dancing fountains
The whole family will enjoy music and light show of Dubai Fountain at the foot of Burj Khalifa. They have a couple of shows in the afternoon and every half hour starting at 6pm in the evening and it’s probably more impressive at night than it is during the day. We found the fountains even more spectacular from the top of Burj Khalifa. So if you are At The Top in the evening, make sure you don’t miss the spectacle from above.
5. Ride a camel
If you go to the desert, you should certainly book a short camel ride. Our kids were very excited to ride the camel! Older kids might prefer quad rides, but for our 5 and 7 year olds camel was adventurous enough.
6. Go on a 4×4 desert safari drive
Ok, this one might not be for the whole family as it’s really not for the faint-hearted. Our boys were excited and really enjoyed the ride, but towards the end it became too much for them (and for us) – it’s really rough. You will feel the adrenaline rush. I vaguely remember myself saying ‘Oh my God’ over and over again… It’s an experience you will not quickly forget!
7. Visit Dubai Spice Souk and Gold Souk
The colours, 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.
8. Dress up like a local
Since you are at a market anyway, why not buy something local. Or try a traditional outfit, such as abaya or kandura.
9. Take Dubai water bus or a water taxi
As I said in one of my earlier posts, taking different kinds of transport at your destination can be a great experience in itself. Hop on the water bus on Dubai Marina or take a traditional Abra water taxi on Dubai Creek. Kids will love it!
10. Ride Dubai metro
Dubai metro is 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, again, it’s fun for the children.
11. Visit Dubai museum
In one of my earlier posts I wrote about Dubai museum. It’s small, it’s fun, and it’s definitely one the whole family will enjoy. And you will learn a little something about the Middle East in the past.
12. Take the kids to a toy store at one of the Dubai malls
When it comes to shopping, only few places in the world can match the variety and offer of the Dubai malls. We visited a couple of toy stores and it was like 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… Try to agree on the budget with your kids before you enter the store, or – better – use an excuse of limited baggage space and promise to go for an ice cream afterwards – and in the meantime just look around and enjoy!
13. Visit an aquarium
There are two big aquariums in Dubai – The Lost Chambers Aquarium in Atlantis, The Palm, and the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo located inside the Dubai Mall. You can see the one in the mall without having to go inside and it’s absolutely impressive. If you choose to visit an aquarium, go first thing in the morning as it gets very busy in the afternoon.
14. 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. Tanoura dancers wear long colourful skirts and perform all kind of tricks while whirling. The traditional belly dance performance is also nice to see and dads will definitely like it. But if I were to choose one I would 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 e.g. the Marina dinner cruise.
15. Take a walk on the Dubai Marina
If you can take a kick scooter or a hoverboard with you. Dubai Marina has almost 7km of walkways and is ideal for all kind of wheels – a paradise for kids. There are also playgrounds for the younger ones.
16. Get some Turkish ice cream
Not just any ice cream at a cafe, but a Turkish ice cream from a Turk on The Walk. You get an ice cream (eventually) and the whole show with it.
17. Take the kids to the beach
The Marina beach near The Walk seems 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 also several playgrounds and plenty of space to run around.
18. Taste local food and drinks
Our kids liked Arabic bread and fresh fruit smoothies. My husband couldn’t get enough of local lamb dishes, and I loved the oriental spices… Don’t dine at your hotel every evening, there is such a great variety of restaurants in Dubai.
19. Go ice skating in the Dubai Mall or go hit the slopes in the Mall of The Emirates
You don’t need to bring any ski clothing or equipment – everything can be rented. We didn’t try any of these two as we have plenty of time for winter activities at home in Europe.
20. Swim with dolphins
We skipped this one as we didn’t have much interest. And, frankly, it’s much too expensive for what it is. We went swimming with dolphins in Bali for a fraction of the price. But if time and money is not an issue, and you have never done this before, you may want to try it. Atlantis at The Palm is the place to be for this and many other activities. And as everything in Dubai, it’s much cheaper if booked in advance.
Here is a small selection of hand-picked Dubai activities and excursions that can be booked via Viator and are often better priced than booking directly.
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