We’ll be the first to admit that we’ve had many a day where we haven’t had a clue how to keep our kids entertained. The amazing thing about Dubai however is that it’s positively teeming with things to do as a family! From bike riding to kayaking, crabbing to sailing and a whole lot of eating, here are 50 of our ideas for fun things to do with kids in and around this wonderful city of ours. Pack up the kids and let’s go, mama!
1. Ride the metro around town
Got a train-mad toddler on your hands? Dubai might not boast a rail network like other international cities (no steam trains here!) but it does have the Dubai Metro. Toddlers will be very impressed as they watch the city whizz past! We highly recommend avoiding rush hour (packed carriages and toddlers don’t mix!) and enjoying a ride all the way from Dubai Mall to Dubai Marina and back again. Sometimes it’s all about the journey and not the destination mamas!
2. Hit the slopes at Ski Dubai
When the heat starts to get to your little people, cool them off in the world’s largest indoor snow park. With bobsledding, tobogganing, chairlifts and penguins in addition to ski and snow boarding, there’s something for the entire family (kids must be over the age of 2) to enjoy.
3. Soak up the colours at Dubai Miracle Garden
Literally like walking into a painting, Dubai Miracle Garden is a breath of fresh air if you need a break from city life and sandy landscapes. With a butterfly garden and children’s play area due to open imminently, we foresee plenty of colourful playdates here this winter mamas!
4. Visit the Deira gold souk
Cross the creek on a wooden Abra (located along the Creek) and enter the gold souk – even if you don’t plan to buy, the glittering store fronts are sure to capture the imagination of any wannabe princess.
5. Take a dhow along the creek
Mamas with little pirates in tow can jump on a tourist dhow for a guided trip up and down the Creek, complete with free soft drinks and a historical commentary. Even if the kids don’t listen, they’ll love the ride!
6. Climb the walls at Adventure HQ, the Galleria Mall
Get the kids to burn off some energy at Adventure HQ’s newest location in Jumeirah’s Galleria Mall, where trained staff supervise a mini adventure course, climbing walls made to look like dinosaurs and other fun creatures. Mamas needn’t have climbing envy, there’s plenty for the grownups to get stuck into!
7. Picnic or camp in the desert
Head out into the desert for a picnic among the dunes. We recommend driving towards Hatta and pulling off the road to lay your blanket and goodies out, or heading out on Umm Suqeim Street past Arabian Ranches and towards Bab Al Shams. If you’re going camping with the littles, it’s best to stay close to town in case you need to bail half way through the night – check the explorer guides for great camping details.
8. Hunt for bargains and play at guess the ancient object at Sharjah’s Blue Souk
With six beautiful buildings tiled in blue, Sharjahs main shopping market sells everything but the kitchen sink (actually you can probably buy those too). An interesting gallery full of antique artefacts, beautiful carpets and ancient jewellery is like stepping into another world and bound to capture little imaginations.
9. Watch flamingos at Ras Al Khor
Pack up breakfast and head to the flamingo roost in Ras Al Khor, at the the junction of the Al Wasl and Oud Metha roads. Free of charge, the kids will love hiding out in the viewing stations in the mangroves and spotting the pretty pink birds through fantastically sharp binoculars.Go at high tide and the flamingos will be very close!
10. Take your girls shopping in Satwa
Round up your daughters and head to Satwa to shop for material before visiting a tailor and getting your dream dresses drawn up and designed.
11. Rent a Kayak or SUP on Kite Beach
Dubai’s calm waters are ideal for paddle boarding and kayaking. Get the kids strapped into life jackets and out on the water with you – the guys at Umm Suqeim’s Kite Beach will recommend which activities are best suited for all ages.
12. Eat Arab Street Food in Zaroob’s vibrant surroundings
This fun double storey eatery just off the SZR near business bay is a buzzy place to grab a bite – with live cooking, brightly coloured interiors and fantastic fresh juices, the kids will love the sights, sounds and smells.
13. Watch camels racing
The traditional sport of camel racing is exciting, noisy and a thrill for the minis. Scheduled during the winter months at Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack on the Dubai Al Ain Road, admission is free mams!
14. Watch the fountains at Dubai Mall
Plan a waterside lunch (or early supper) at Dubai Mall (the terrace at Carluccios is a good option) and treat the tots to a water display like no other. The fountains at Dubai Mall dance to various well-known songs and shoot water jets up to 500ft in the air daily (except Fridays) at 1pm and 1.30pm and then every half an hour between 6pm and 11pm.
15. Ride ponies at Desert Palm
Tally up the kids and head out to The Desert Palm Riding School, next to the luxurious Desert Palm Hotel, for a lovely afternoon visit to the stables. Hand-led 10 and 20 minute horse rides for all ages are available every morning and afternoon (except Fridays) at a cost of AED 10-30 depending on how long your little one wants to trot around.
16. Watch the fish feeding at Atlantis
Visit The Lost Chambers every day except Wednesday and Sunday 8.30am and 3.20pm for fish feeding – an absolute must for mini shark enthusiasts! Majlis style cushions are dotted around in some areas for mamas and families to sit and gaze at the fish – the neon glowing ones were particular favourites.
17. Bike at the bike track near Nad Al Sheba
This wonderful cycle park is a lovely place to bike for all ages – there’s an 850 metre children’s proficiency course and track for children aged 4-14 with street signs, speed bumps and roundabouts to teach your littles all about road safety. The children’s playground and views across Downtown Dubai and the Burj Khalifa are the icing on the cake.
18. Paint like Picasso at The Jam Jar
Grab your budding artists and head to Al Quoz where The Jam Jar art space offers a blank canvas – literally – for kids and adults alike to get creative with paint.
19. Go crabbing in the rocks at The Dubai Offshore Sailing Club
Mamas, if you’re not members of this well-established club (you have to be keen sailors to join), find someone who is and get them to sign you and your kids in for an afternoon of crabbing, watching boats and enjoying a seriously relaxed beach vibe with a bar and restaurant attached. Heaven.
20. Exercise with your baby
Use your little one as a resistance tool and try a buggefit class. If you’ve got kids in buggies this is a great opportunity to exercise and meet other mamas without needing to find a babysitter!
21. Go wild at Bounce or Jump Boxx
Bounce off the walls instead of climbing them at home at Bounce in Al Quoz or Jump Boxx in Mirdiff – both huge indoor trampoline parks that are as much fun for the mamas as they are for the kiddos!
22. Get pizza delivered to the beach
Spend an afternoon on one of Dubai’s gorgeous beaches before calling N_K_D to deliver some of their fabulously healthy pizzas to you on the sand. The novelty of watching the delivery driver arriving on his bike never wears off on the kids.
23. Splash in the fountains at Marina Walk
Head to Marina Walk early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat of the day, and let your toddler splash around in the dancing fountains to keep cool! We don’t blame you if you join in, so wear some waterproof footwear (and bring a change of clothes for the little one!) It’s a public area and free of charge – and if you need a caffeine injection, Starbucks is right next door!
24. Ride the Marina Water Bus
Dubai Marina’s Water Bus might only cost 2 AED for a single adult ticket (free for the little people!), but it’ll be worth a lot more to excited toddlers! It shuttles between Marina Walk, Marina Mall, and Marina Promenade, with air-conditioning to keep the whole brood cool! We recommend riding between Marina Mall (where you can park easily and let the kids burn off some energy) and Marina Walk (where there’s plenty of options for coffee or a snack!)
25. Pay a visit to RIPE Market on a Friday
Our favourite market has moved to Zabeel Park – bringing us oodles more space plus fab playgrounds and a lush green setting. The festival vibe, delicious food, petting zoo and fabulous shopping are a winning combo for the whole family.
26. Ride a scooter on The Beach, JBR
JBR’s gorgeous Beach development offers a fab running and cycle path – ideal for early morning scooter rides for the kids followed by breakfast and people watching – a slice of European beach life right here in Dubai.
27. Feed the ducks in Media City
Head to Media City and let your littles feed the ducks in the lake – a great way to connect with nature, the kids will be fascinated by their feathered friends and will relish a chocolate sundae at the Circle Café after their bread throwing session.
28. Visit the Dubai Mall Dinosaur
Arrive at the mall early (the doors open at 8am while the shops remain closed until 10am – perfect for avoiding the crowds) and head straight to see a a genuine female Diplodocus skeleton standing proud in the Grand Atrium. Talk to the Dubai-dino team for interesting facts – this free exhibit is a must for any Paleontologists in the making!
29. Go boating on the lake in Safa Park
One of the main park gigs in the desert! Safa Park makes our top list with its 64 hectares of lawns, little scooter paths, playgrounds, cafes, bbq pits and the list goes ooooon. Hey there is even a little lake where you can feed the ducks and fish if you fancy or rent out a boat for pirate adventures.
30. Explore the jungle-like terrain at Dubai Garden Centre
An absolute favourite with our kids, head to the Dubai Garden Centre and wander around the vast outdoor space, jam-packed with trees and plants of every kind amongst which there are hidden a variety of animal statues and very realistic looking creatures! Cross a bridge over a crocodile pond, spot monkeys swinging in trees and watch out for a dinosaur (who roars quite loudly and can frighten teenies.) Head indoors to watch pretty tropical fish and sea creatures in the aquariums and enjoy a drink and slice of homebaked cake at the Rose Leaf Café.
31. Burgers and boats at Umm Suqeim Fishing Harbour
The brand new development at Umm Suqeim Fishing Harbour is a mix of old and new world Dubai – traditional architecture, dhows, boats and waterfront restaurants. The harbour itself is the perfect place to bring curious little boys (or girls) for whom a walk down the jetty and a peek at some serious yachts followed by crab spotting, jelly-fish watching and jet-ski dreaming is pure heaven. Especially when followed by a burger (the best in Dubai in our opinion) from Meat Me There.
32. Play houses in Mushrif Park
Looking to get away from it all without going too far? Then a 30 min drive from Dubai (beyond Mirdif) will take you to Mushrif Park, which is the biggest park in Dubai. The main attraction, and it is a good one, is the International Village consisting of 13 kiddie-sized traditional houses from around the world, perfect for curious toddlers with active imaginations.
33. Wander the streets of Al Fahidi Historic District (formerly Al Bastakiya)
The perfect antithesis to malls and high-rise buildings, the charming historic creek-side area of Al Fahidi District is one of the oldest residential areas in the city of Dubai. Dating back to the 1890’s, picture narrow winding lanes, ornate sand coloured dwellings built in traditional style and beautiful wind-towers. This area transports you to the days gone by and is a great area for kids to explore, learn and adventure. Tired kiddies (and mamas!) can refuel at one of the cafes housed in many of the beautiful courtyards – we highly recommend the XVA Cafe at the uber cool XVA hotel and gallery which serves delicious salads, soups and sandwiches under the shade of ancient gaff trees. An array of ice-creams are perfect for keeping the kids happy and cool before their adventures resume.
34. Picnic at the polo
Pack up a picnic and treat the family to al fresco dining while watching the horses thunder past! The kids will love divot stamping at half time. Fresh air, horses, picnics and much more- what could be better?
35. Enjoy a cultural lunch or brunch at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
Enjoy a traditional Emirati breakfast or lunch en famille at this wonderful centre designed to educate expatriates on the traditions and customs of the UAE. The kids will be fascinated by the huge sharing platters of delicious local foods, sitting cross-legged on the floor and eating with their hands. The meals have a lovely friendly atmosphere and are a great way to learn about authentic Emirati cuisine served Bedouin style. Lunch is hosted every Sunday & Tuesday at 1:00pm. Cultural Brunch every Saturday at 10:30am. Breakfast and dinner also available on certain days.
36. Paint a plate at Café Ceramique, Jumeirah Town Centre Mall
Part café, part art centre- Café Ceramique is a great outing with little ones in tow! Let the kids get creative with pottery, colours and paint while mama sits back and has a bite (the food is good!). Brushes, paint, stamps – everything you need is supplied by the café, including the white ceramics. Go for it mamas!
Artists from the age of 4 and up are welcome to try their pottery skills. The younger ones can chill with mama in the café or have their hands and feet painted and stamped onto mugs other other ceramics as lovely keepsakes. What a cute idea!
37. Ride The Cable Car At Dubai Creek Park
This park is beautifully located with a promenade along the Creek – and, in addition to swings and climbing frames to play on, bikes to rent and camels to ride, there’s a cable car that runs over the park and offers a birds eye view of the city.
38. Eyeball a King Croc at The Dubai Mall Aquarium
Does your little boy fancy himself as the next crocodile Dundee? Well mamas, The Dubai Mall Aquarium is now home to the King Croc who, at 750 kg weighs as much as 14 very big men and measures the length of 6 fully sized supermarket shopping carts. Visit this royal resident for an experience not to forget!
39. Go around the world in just a few hours at Global Village
Open in the cooler months usually between October and March, Global Village allows you to whisk the children around the world without ever leaving Dubai and aims to bring cultures and customs together through creative local items for sale, fabulous international food to sample and entertaining dances and performances. With a carnival feel, plenty of amusement rides and games and a children’s play area to keep kids and adults of all ages entertained and busy for hours.
Global Village can get very busy – hang on to your little ones as it’s easy to become separated. Mondays are designated family days.
40. Learn to fly at iFLY
We believe you can fly mamas! Head to iFLY at Mirdif City Centre and try your wings in a 10 metre acrylic wind tunnel. You can even sky dive if you fancy… yeah, we didn’t think so. Kids from 3 years and up are welcome to fly about too but we definitely think it is better suited for the 6+ kids who understand the importance of actually wearing the ear plugs, helmet and gear handed to them… Rather pricey at AED 220 and up so save this one for a special treat or present for the kids.
41. Take A Meydan Stable Tour
Any little fans of children’s DVD ‘Tractor Ted meets the horses’ will love the Meydan stable tour for a behind the scenes glimpse at how world-class race horses are put through their paces. You’ll get a close-up encounter with the horses before visiting the state-of-the-art Meydan grandstand and a look at the parade ring and the rather palatial jockeys changing room and restaurant!
Stable tours are held throughout the race season on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Under 4’s not allowed.
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42. Play A Round (At Someplace Nice)
Fancy a tee off for the tiny? This is Dubai’s first 9-hole indoor golf course with a glow in the dark sea animals theme (of course..). Or as they put it themselves, a ‘neon-lit golf experience.’ It’s a fun thing to do, especially as dads’ tend to take extra interest when the word golf enters the conversation. Best suited from 3 years and up.
43. Take A Ferry Ride
Ahoy there mamas! An RTA ferry trip is a fun family outing in the cooler months and a great way to get from the Marina to the Creek or vice versa. Take in the views of Dubai from the sea whilst enjoying the fresh air. Better for kids who aren’t desperate to be on the move as the journey is 90 minutes – wannabe pirates will love it – learning to crawl or walk will not. Shorter journeys also available. Ferry times vary depending on the time of year so visit the RTA website for details.
44. Enjoy Songs & Stories at The Change Initiative
Grab the car keys and head to The Change Initiative to take part in a friendly meet-up of mums and babies every Tuesday morning at 10.30am! It’s completely free (yes, you heard us right!), and involves singing and stories to keep little ones gripped. It’s a great way to meet other mamas – and what you save on the class, you can spend on a coffee in the café afterwards… happy baby, happy mama!
45. Borrow books and sit in on stories at The Old Library
In addition to offering a superb collection of books for rental, The Old Library also organise a sweet story time every week. On Sunday mornings between 10.30 – 11.15 (11am – 11.45am during July and August) a mixed age group of preschoolers gather to listen to a new tale, such a lovely activity particularly during these very hot summer months but make sure you sign up in advance mama as we’re not the only ones who’ve stumbled across this little gem!
46. Pay a visit to the world’s tallest building – The Burj Khalifa
Ride the super speed elevator to the 124th floor of our iconic landmark for 360 degree views across Dubai and a feeling of being on top of the world!
47. Head to Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi
Mini speed freaks will love this Ferrari theme park complete with high adrenalin rides, a 4-D fantasy simulation experience, huge collection of Ferraris and even a Ferrari Driving School where little ones can learn basic road safety before moving on to a race track at Junior Grand Prix. A collection of Italian eateries is bound to keep the fam happy and well fed too mamas!
48. Feed Turtles at Madinat Jumeirah
The Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project (DTRP) is based at Burj Al Arab and Madinat Jumeirah and is run in collaboration with Dubai’s Wildlife Protection Office, with essential veterinary support provided by the Dubai Falcon Clinic and the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory. If you would like to visit the sanctuary, there is a holding pen next to the Wharf Restaurant, just before the entrance to the Mina A’Salam pool and beach and another between Al Muna and Zheng He’s restaurants. There are also scheduled feeding sessions on Wednesdays at 11am and Fridays at 1pm for a chance for you and the kids to feed the turtles yourselves – a really lovely and totally free activity! Jump on an Abra and head to Toscana for lunch afterwards.
49. Giraffe Feeding At Al Ain Zoo
Make your way to the giraffe feeding area at this fabulous wildlife park to offer a tasty treat in the form of a crunchy carrot or lettuce leaf to your new long-legged friends and let the littlies come face to face with the tallest animals on land. Magical – the stuff of childhood dreams.
50. Get friendly with a dolphin at Dubai Dolphinarium
Kiddos aged 5 and up can swim with these amazing creatures in a shallow pool for up to 20 minutes when accompanied by an adult (hooray mama gets to go too!) – a once in a lifetime experience.
So there you go mamas, just a few of the fab things that Dubai has to offer – stay tuned for more ideas!