When they were building Dubai they clearly had the family in mind, as this city is utterly bursting with family-friendly activities. Bear in mind the city is huge so getting between attractions will take time, but the public transport and seeing the city’s many different angles can be half the experience!
Burj Khalifa & Dubai Mall
The first agenda item for many visitors to Dubai is trekking to the top of the world’s tallest tower. At The Top observation deck is located on Level 124 & 125 of the Burj Khalifa (ironically not the very top though, the highest level for visitors is actually Level 148).
We strongly recommend you click here to pre-book your tickets for At the Top. On-the-day tickets are horrendously expensive and as the day goes on, queuing can be formidable, especially on weekends and holidays. (Click here to read more about the best time to visit Dubai)
Combine a visit to Burj Khalifa with the attached Dubai Mall, which is far more than just a shopping mall. Here you’ll find attractions including the Dubai Aquarium, indoor skating rink and, for your younger kids, the Middle East’s first Kidzania.
Purchase your Aquarium combined with Burj Khalifa ticket here.
You don’t have to head far from the outskirts of Dubai to be meet with the rolling desert dunes. There are a variety of desert safaris to suit all sorts of tastes and timings. Try a morning heritage safari to catch the sunrise, or join in for an afternoon spot of dune bashing with the option of quad biking, camel rides and falconry shows, followed by traditional dinner, shisha pipes and henna. Kids may even get to join in with a belly dancing show.
Length of tours and included activities vary by operator and restrictions may apply to children under 5 participating in some activities, so always read the fine print before booking a tour. We strongly recommend going with an organised tour rather than tackling the desert yourself, unless you are an experienced dune driver.
Most of Dubai’s beaches are free to access and several have undergone significant renovations of late to bring state of the art equipment, changing facilities, cafes, play parks and entertainment. At places like The Beach, you will need to pay extra to hire deck chairs and umbrellas, whereas at other beaches such as Sunset Beach or the lesser known Black Palace Beach, you are free to simply throw out your towel.
There are also many private beach clubs if you’d like the luxury of a deck chair and drinks service. If your Dubai hotel does not have access to the beach, there are plenty of resorts that offer day passes for you to use their pool and beach facilities. There are more likely to be better discounts on weekdays than weekends.
More to come soon with an Insider Guide to Dubai’s best beaches for families
What better way to take in the enormity of this city than on a boat tour. There are several options these days with a new canal now linking Downtown (Where you’ll find Dubai Mall) to the Arabian Gulf and Dubai Marina.
A very popular option is to take a cruise around Dubai Marina, then take a tour around Palm Jumeirah.
For a taste of “Old Dubai”, take a traditional dhow boat from Bur Dubai across to Deira where you can explore the spice souk and gold souk – a real contrast to the more modern Dubai.
Dubai Water Parks
If these seem too much for your younger kids (there are a lot of thrill rides at both), we recommend Legoland Water Park or, for really young tots, try the splash park at The Beach, JBR.
Dubai Theme Parks
Dubai is doing its absolute best to try and conquer the theme park world, with the state of the art Dubai Parks and Resorts opening in 2016. It includes 3 theme parks; Legoland, Motiongate (think your favourite Dreamworks characters, from Ghostbusters and Smurfs through to Hunger Games) and the world’s first Bollywood theme park, as well as the Legoland Waterpark.
Top Tip: Want to stay on site at Dubai Parks and Resorts? Chose Polynesian themed Lapita Resort and get your theme park tickets thrown in.
The other major theme park attraction in Dubai is IMG World of Adventure. The world’s largest entirely indoor theme park is based on popular characters from Marvel Comics through to Nickelodeon and the Lost World (dinosaurs). Due to height restrictions, it’s best suited to your slightly older kids and thrill seekers.
If the action in Dubai isn’t enough, you can also day trip to Abu Dhabi in just over an hour for Ferrari World and later in 2018 will see the opening of the indoor theme park Warner Bros World on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
Dubai will see it’s own theme park collection grow in coming years too with the announcement of IMG Worlds of Legends due to open in 2020 and Dubai Parks and Resorts will be adding a Six Flags theme park to their collection in 2019.
Yes you heard right, skiing in Dubai! Ski Dubai is based in the opulent Mall of the Emirates where there’s a quarter mile long ski run. There are several visitor options from hitting the slopes all day to just a 2-hour pass with all your gear included. You can even meet Emperor Penguins here!
Green Planet & City Walk
This great all-weather experience takes you through a 4 level bio-dome. Explore the tropical rainforest with over 3,000 species of flora and fauna right in the heart of the city. In the same City Walk complex, you can also find a Mattel PlayTown, Caboodle play centre and Cloud7 Edutainment centre, making this one of the preferred family attractions in Dubai for those with smaller children.
Dubai City Parks
It may come as a surprise just how many green patches there are actually are in Dubai. As soon as the weather cools, these parks jump to life with some amazing seasonal attractions. A favourite for kids is Dubai Garden Glow and Dinosaur Park, which comes to life from 4pm to midnight daily from October through to April. Kids will be amazed by the animatronics and, after sunset, the lighting spectacle.
Another favourite is the Dubai Miracle Garden and Butterfly Garden. The largest flower garden in the world by total number of blooms, this season extravaganza is an Instagrammer’s delight. We recommend you try and visit early in the day though to beat the crowds and selfie stick nightmare.
The Rest of the Emirates
If you can spare at least a day, it’s wonderful to get out of Dubai and see what the rest of the country has to offer. There are in fact 7 “Emirates” that make up the United Arab Emirates.
To the west of Dubai, you will find the largest Emirate and the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi. A visit to the Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque – one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and voted the Middle East’s #1 attraction by Trip Advisor – should be high on your agenda.
You can pop over to our “Things to do in Abu Dhabi with Kids” page to see what else is on offer.
Alternatively, look to head north-east of Dubai for a real adventure. If time permits, cross the Omani border into the Musandam Peninsular for some spectacular mountain and ocean scenery, even some wild dolphin spotting.
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