Only got a one-day stopover in Dubai? Let us take you on a lightning tour of our favourite Dubai attractions that you mustn’t miss on a short stopover.
Got a little longer? Check out our complete family guide to visiting Dubai here
Morning: One Day in Dubai
Start your Dubai itinerary with a trip to Old Dubai. Visit the Dubai Museum (entry only 3dhs!), then take a wander through the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood for a taste of what Dubai used to be like before the mass tourism and skyscrapers.
Keep on the move and take a traditional dhow boat from Bur Dubai across to the Deira side of Dubai to visit the Gold and Spice Souks. They won’t be as busy in the mornings but this will give you a great taster.
Then take a short taxi to Zabeel Park and the Dubai Frame, the perfect way to transition yourself from Dubai’s past to it’s present. The Frame takes you on a visual journey with interactive displays on the ground floor, before launching you to the frame’s top and taking you over a glass bridge with commanding views of the city.
Don’t fancy tackling this one alone? This half-day Dubai heritage tour will pick you up from the airport/your hotel and cover the same highlights.
Lunch: One Day in Dubai
Head in a taxi over to Downtown Dubai. Here you’ll find Dubai Mall and the spectacular Burj Khalifa. Take a walk around and admire the size of this place – from the giant indoor aquarium to the Olympic-sized ice rink and the life-like kids’ city of Kidzania.
Grab yourself a front-row seat at one of the Dubai Mall restaurants that face out on to the water to catch the 1pm and 1.30pm water fountain extravaganza outside. Those on a budget in Dubai will find plenty of food options in the giant food court.
Is it worth goint to At The Top Burj Khalifa? Yes and no. It is iconic for sure, but only got 1 day? You don’t want to spend the entire time queuing. If you do want to visit the Burj on a tight itinerary, make sure you pre-book your time slot and select a FAST TRACK ticket – tickets cost a lot more to buy at the door!
Afternoon: One day in Dubai
We’re going to divide the afternoon into two choices, depending on your groups ages and interests (and the weather! If you’re visiting Dubai in Summer, you’ll want to stick to indoor choices).
Option 1: Extend your time at Dubai Mall by taking on the Burj Khalifa and/or the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo. Then skip straight down to the evening activity below – it starts early so you won’t have time to squeeze in another location.
Top Tip: If you combine a ticket to At The Top (levels 124/125) and an aquarium day pass it’s much cheaper – here’s how you book it)
Option 2: Enjoy one of Dubai’s amazing theme parks or water parks!
There are A LOT to choose from! You need to consider your kid’s ages and the weather a lot in making this choice.
- In the very peak of summer (July/August), we recommend the entirely indoor IMG World of Adventures.
- In Dubai’s shoulder seasons (May/June & September/October) it’s best to take on one of the water parks. The big three to try:
- Aquaventure at Atlantis & the Lost Chambers Aquarium
- Wild Wadi at Jumeirah Beach for your thrill-seekers
- Legoland Dubai Water Park with under 10’s
- In the cooler months (November through to April), our favourite place to be is at Dubai Parks & Resort. Here you will find Legoland Dubai, Motiongate Dubai and Bollywood theme park. A 2-park pass is the best value, but with only an afternoon, you’ll likely only fit in one park.
Evening: One day in Dubai
If you took option 1 above, your evening activity is one of Dubai’s iconic desert safaris! They come in all shapes and sizes but normally involve some sort of dune bashing, camel rides, sandboarding, henna tattoos, followed by and an evening of entertainment and traditional Bedouin hospitality to enjoy under the stars.
If you have under 6’s, the dune bashing isn’t appropriate but there will still be experiences you can enjoy on a modified program. Most operate throughout the year but we’d recommend against this with small children during the hottest months June to September – take itinerary option 2.
If you took option 2 above for your afternoon, we suggest enjoying one of Dubai’s waterfront entertainment areas for your evening:
- At Dubai Parks and Resorts, you can stay on and enjoy the evening entertainment at Riverland.
- Closer to town, we recommend you check out JBR The Beach and The Walk, you may just catch a sunset camel ride or enjoy all the plentiful restaurants and street stalls.
- Le Mer is a great new outdoor area in the cooler months with funky street eats and entertainment.
- If you didn’t spend long at Dubai Mall, you can head back for the evening fountains and sound and light show beneath Burj Khalifa.
Where to stay one night in Dubai
A lot of people recommend Atlantis the Palm, especially for families, but if you’ve only got one day, you’re more likely to be out and about then relishing in the facilities. So unless Aquaventure & The Lost Chambers was your afternoon stop, we’d stay somewhere more convenient to the airport – it’s quite a drive from the end of the Palm.
Wonderful and central, as well as kind to the pocket, we recommend Rove Downtown Dubai (or any of the Rove Hotels in Dubai represent exceptional value and funky fun – like a very upmarket backpackers!).
If you want to be super close to the airport and ready to go, try Le Meridien Dubai where you’re only minutes away from the airport (and the most scrumptious morning breakfast offering to prepare you for your onward flight!!)
24 hours will only give you a taster of Dubai but this one day in Dubai itinerary will help you narrow down the choices.
Staying longer? Then check out our Top 10 things to do in Dubai.
Our City Insider: Keri Hedrick
Keri is a long-time UAE resident with 3 children. You can read more about Keri and all our City Insiders here.
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