26 things to do over the summer holidays in Dubai
It’s pretty toasty outside and it’s only gonna get hotter mamas! But while summer in Dubai is no walk in the park (literally, the parks and the beaches are pretty much out of bounds in this weather), there’s no need to panic about being housebound for weeks with the kids. We’ve put together a summer survival guide to the region’s best family friendly activities that are perfect for keeping the brood cool and entertained. From aquariums to indoor zoos, this is the only alphabet you’ll need to perfect over the school hols.
Is there a cooler place to be than with Mother Nature, under the sea?! The Dubai Underwater Zoo and Aquarium at The Dubai Mall is home to hundreds of fish, amphibians and mammals that call the massive tank their home. If you’re not feeling up to paying the entrance fee for the whole family, their world record breaking viewing panel (it’s the largest in the world!) allows you to see into one of their largest exhibits from the mall itself for free. Mind the sharks!
Get up close and personal with lots of beautiful butterflies in their specially built home just next to Dubai Miracle Garden. This mini garden-of-paradise is spread over several connected ‘domes’ complete with plants, colourful flowers, bird-song and lots and lots of butterflies! There are paths to meander, fruit feeding stations where you get to watch the insects feeding and special netted areas that allow the kids (and you!) to hold the butterflies. The domes are big enough to feel as though you’re having an adventure (and a bit of a walk!) but not so big to worry if the kids run off (which ours did – in search of butterflies amongst the blooms). Whatever’s going on with the humidity outside, the domes are maintained at a constant very pleasant temperature, making this attraction the perfect escape from the summer heat and a great place to fulfil your nature cravings!
Always a failsafe for keeping the kiddos entertained over the holidays, Dubai offers a number of camps for just about everything you can imagine. Whether they’re getting arty or splashing about at sports camp, we’ve found some of the best summer camps in Dubai.
The Dubai Mall is a great place to spend your day, especially as there’s so much to do both for mama and the littles. From a resident dinosaur skeleton to great restaurants, play areas to the Dubai Ice Rink plus shops galore (a little retail therapy never hurt nobody, mamas, especially with Dubai Summer Surprises offering such awesome prices.)
Everyone knows about the aquarium, but have you spotted the life-size dinosaur skeleton lurking in the souq area next door? Free to visit, checking out this skelly kept our little ones busy for ages and there’s a handily situated Cheesecake Factory for when tired kids – or mamas – need a sugar fix. When it comes to checking out the rest of the mall, we just discovered the Kiddie Kruzzers staion on the bottom floor; offering the perfect ride for that in-between stage of too big for the stroller, too small to walk. Those, and the lunchtime fountain show, help many a Sassy Mama roll up her metaphorical sleeves and make a day of it. Summer, bring it on!
We’re huge fans of The Entertainer, an amazing app which scores you two for one deals on everything from restaurants to the fanciest spas, kids play spaces, classes, waterparks and more – and all at a currently reduced price of AED 295! So many reasons to feel happy and entertained this summer!
Wondering how to entertain the kids on a budget? Here are our top mostly free kids’ activities for entertaining your family during the school holidays.
From a camping indoors to bonding in the kitchen to spending an afternoon of quality time with kids playing spa with your princess, this list of kids’ activities, it’s gonna come in handy when you just don’t feel like braving the summer hear!
- So camping outdoors in this heat is something of a death sentence at the moment, but why not switch things up with a good old blanket fort? The kiddos will have a blast getting involved setting it all up and you can make it even more enchanting with some fairy lights (tip: they sell cheap battery powered ones in Ikea). Set them up with a movie and popcorn and allow a slightly later bedtime – they’ll sleep like angels (we hope!).
- Put on your aprons, play the steps on Youtube get messy and playful all while bonding in the kitchen with them . Even the littlest kids can help with mixing (and bowl licking – very useful). From snack hacks to cookie-making fun, there’s something to make the holidays stay happy and engaging!
- Turn your lounge into a home spa and spend a quiet afternoon buffing, shaping and painting your children’s nails. And if your kiddos are old enough (we know 2-years-olds who will jump at the idea), they could even do yours, too! If they get access to your hand creams you may want to hide the expensive stuff – but hey, anything for a free hand massage, right mama?
And if DIY is not your thing and you have run out of steam, mamas (we hear you – it happens to most of us), simply pack up the kids and head to one of Dubai’s Malls for some free entertainment! Throughout the summer months, from Dubai Festival City Mall and Al Seef on the banks of the Dubai Creek, to The Dubai Mall in Downtown Dubai, Mall of the Emirates and The Outlet Mall, roaming entertainers will be demonstrating some unique acts, exquisite creativity, live music and loads of fun. We’re looking forward to ‘Bubble Trubble’ and paper design people at The Dubai Mall, live painting at City Walk, freestyle footballers at Mall of the Emiratesballoon benders and magic mirrors at La Mer and Theatrical ballerinas at The Outlet Village plus so much more.
We love Dubai Garden Centre and all the simple pleasures it brings. Whether you’re after a seriously good cup of coffee while the little ones sip on a babyccino (the Roseleaf Café is one of our absolute favourite spots in Dubai – the homemade cakes are to-die-for), you’re going to feed the fish or wander through all the greenery, this little haven is just so good for the soul. 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). Okay, so you’re still outdoors but it’s mostly under shade and can feel like quite an adventure. When you’re feeling a little too warm, head indoors to watch pretty tropical fish and sea creatures in the little aquarium and enjoy a drink surrounded by all of the indoor plants and flowers. The Garden Centre hosts regular events too so keep an eye on their Facebook page for details of everything from kids carpentry sessions to little girl’s flower hair garland making, workshops on how to grow herbs and much more.
If you’ve been peeking at our Weekender every now and again, you may have noticed a number of awesome hotel pass deals. Whether you’re heading over for a lush family brunch or chilling out by a private pool and beach, you’re going to want to keep an eye out. Check out our guide to some of the best beach clubs and 14 Of The Best Hotel Swimming Pools In Dubai for some inspo!
And if like us you love hanging about at hotel pools (who doesn’t, right?!) now’s the perfect time to invest in a Privilee membership, mamas! Soak up some of Dubai’s most beautiful green gardens while lounging by (in) perfectly chilled swimming pools – heaven! Privilee also gives you discounts on f&b (including brunches) AND lots of the hotels offer use of their kids clubs too for when your little darlings need a break from the sun (and you need a break from them!). A 5 Star life-style without the 5 Star price tag. Hooray!
Privilee are offering a ‘beat the heat sweet summer promo’ where you’ll get three months for AED 1,500 – so worth it – that’s three whole months of lush chilled pools and icy drinks brought to your sun lounger!
Read More: Our Top 5 Family Friendly Privilee Pools
With summer comes the simple pleasure of taking the kids out for an ice cream treat. A few icy treats to keep mamas sane and the kids happy. From gelatos to gluttonous, jewelled candy-laden ice creams, to Turkish styled cones, we’ve rounded up our top five places in Dubai to indulge in a scrummy ice cream this summer.
A firm favourite with everyone at sassy mama, this creative space is the perfect kiddie summer hang out. The kids will be equipped with two canvases, an apron, multiple brushes and a rainbow of non-toxic paints to choose from. There’s art on the walls and a range of books in case they’re short of subject ideas but we found just handing our littles ones a brush and setting them up at an easel was inspiration enough. The JamJar will also be running a range of art camps this summer (we’ve got our eyes on the ‘Papier Mache Dream Animals session), suitable for aged 5 and up (luckily there’s no age limit on ordinary sessions) and even has classes and workshops for adults as well. This is one playdate we’ll be heading back to – on our own!
Read More: How To Throw A Party At The JamJar
Currently we are loving We Rock The Spectrum – a brilliant new play and development space in Jumeirah that’s all about helping kids be active through movement that’s essential for their development. We took our kids to We Rock The Spectrum and they LOVED it, mamas! Read more about it here.
And oh, the Dubai Sports World is back, yippeeeee! The heat is no longer an excuse to avoid exercise (for you or the kids!) as this brilliant set up offers all you active people of Dubai a chance to enjoy heaps of sports indoors during the summer months. With one of the biggest indoor playing fields, which include football, rugby, basketball, volleyball, tennis courts and more. Book a court with your fam or simply join in with other players and enjoy playing your favorite sports in an indoor setting. They also run a fab sports camp for kiddos of all ages and including everything from trampolining to table tennis, yoga, dance and even an AWESOME Ninja Warrior assault course (we want a go on that…).
For more inspo and ways to keep sporty kids active over summer click here.
More small-scale space centre than soft play, Little Explorers in Mirdif City Center and Dubai Marina Mall offer five different learning zones for children aged two to seven to run around in. Our little ones particularly liked exploring the rocket in the Marina Mall branch as well as the timed running space, which rates their speed compared to tortoises, ostriches, cheetahs and more. From learning about how things work to arts and crafts, this place will keep them busy for ages.
Over the summer the usual tv/movie rules don’t apply (you know, watch too much and you’ll get square eyes). If you’re looking to cool off over the summer then a movie is always a safe bet with the tots and luckily there are a few family blockbusters coming our way. Sgt Stubby is coming out on 28 June – an animation about a young Army private who adopts a stray, stump-tailed terrier and names him Stubby. The two quickly find themselves in the trenches of France and on the path to history with an epic journey through harsh conditions and incredible acts of courage. (For his valorous actions, Sgt. Stubby is still recognized as the most decorated dog in American history).
And we are soooo excited about the release of Christopher Robin on 2 August, a story about the little boy from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, who’s now all grown up and has lost all sense of imagination. Pooh and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood re-enter Christopher’s life to help him find it again. Magical.
Invest in a Dubai Big Ticket – a pass to some of Dubai’s top attractions – yippeee! Not only will you get to catch up on the coolest movies at Reel Cinemas but also try everything from ice-skating to KidZania, the new VR Park in Dubai Mall, Dubai Aquarium entry plus lots more. Choose up to 6 attractions and save up to 40% – passes are valid for 30 days.
Got daughters? Treat them to a mama/daughter pampering session at one of the city’s nail salons. The Hello Kitty Spa at Dubai Mall or Town Centre Jumeirah is particularly kiddo friendly (with great mama services too) and there’s a heap of cute kitty nail art to choose from but nearly all of Dubai’s nail bars offer mini mani-pedis for little fingers and toes.
You know how much we’ve raved about interactive kids museum OliOli , particularly because this is somewhere to engage with the kids rather than just drop-off or watch from the sides – and somewhere that they can learn, use their imagination and discover something new every time they visit. The kids can burn off steam on the amazing climbing nets, put their engineering skills to test in the ‘inventors lab’, get creative in the ‘future park’, get stuck into good old fashioned den building in a room dedicated to just that, build lego vehicles and race them down ramps and splash about in a water area. And that’s just for starters.
The snowy slopes of Emirates Mall are home to a little colony of King and Gentoo Penguins who – in typical Dubai style – have a VIP enclosure complete with private pool, top deck area and a private section (yes even these pampered penguins need a little privacy sometimes). Treat the fam to a Penguin Encounter and the amazing opportunity to get up close and personal with one of these beautiful birds. There are 3 penguin experiences available depending on how many of them you’d like to meet and if you want access to the snow park included (a definite yes when escaping the heat!).
Psst…Kiddies must be over the age of 3 and accompanied by an adult.
Al Quoz has heaps of cool stuff going on. Head toAl Serkal Avenue if you have glitter/rainbow/unicorn obsessed kids and try The Happy Studio – a walk-in version of the Happy Box (that cool monthly subscription box which brings creativity and colour into your home) and a place for kids to be kids in a playful environment created within one of Alserkal’s fabulous warehouses. From arts and crafts to giveaways, dancing and games to face painting, décor, an emoji ball pit and lots more – expect a riot of colour and a whole lotta fun!
Al Serkal Avenue is also home to Parkour DXB, the perfect place for them to practice all those superhero skills (safely) – in an awesome space (same building as Hapi – if you haven’t tried their coffee then you are seriously missing out). As well as regular kids lessons/sessions they also have a summer camp running which will teach them to run, jump, climb, and roll as they learn the various techniques and concepts of Parkour. The perfect way to keep active kids busy over the hot months (expect them to sleep well every night too – bonus!).
In another area of Al Quoz, the newly opened Splash Island, Blue Wave Dubai has two temperature controlled indoor swimming pools for swimming lessons AND a brand new Splash Island indoor aqua park that’s perfect for splashy fun at all times of the year. Open to kiddos aged between 18 months and 12 years (under 5’s need to be accompanied by an adult in the water), they’ll be able to burn off energy, have an absolute ball and keep cool too – perfect!
Read More: 4 New Water Play Spaces To Try This Weekend
What? A real rainforest? In the desert? Ok so it may be smaller than the real thing but the flora and fauna that covers this relatively new indoor bio-dome plus the amazing creatures it houses are 100% genuine. An incredible eco project that aims to educate kids (and big people!) about the delicate balance of nature and ecosystems within an enchanting environment, this is one of the best places to connect with nature and let your kids explore the ‘wild’. The tropical forest simulates an expedition to the tropics, complete with over 3,000 plants and animals including insects, birds and sloths (yes, SLOTHS!). With majestic green trees, lush vegetation, a waterfall and more – set over a few levels – there are stations at which to stop and marvel and learn plus loads of green to soak up. The perfect summer activity for the whole fam.
Read more: How to Stay Cool With Culture In The UAE
A must with little ones, the Sharjah Discovery Centre is great for children of all ages – allowing them to discover and learn about science and technology (from marine life to construction, the human body to sports) driving, construction, the human body through play. The centre is divided into seven awesome and colourful themed areas including water, the five senses, travel, and mechanisms of building. Budding actors can star on TV whilst mini mamas can pretend-shop in the children’s supermarket.
Psst… can get very busy at weekends so go early!
With 3 huge trampoline parks dotted around Dubai now, there’s plenty of opportunity for the kids to jump off some of that excess energy! From Bounce in Al Quoz – complete with over 100 trampolines, a free-jumping area, dodgeball court, giant inflatable airbag and more to Flip Out Dubai where obstacles, mini-foam pits, double-decker trampolines and loads of other cool stuff awaits. And for Mirdif mamas, Jump Boxx’s playground of over 120 interconnected trampolines, dedicated toddler areas and soft play space will keep all your brood very happy! Each of the trampoline parks have designated times for kids or ‘free-jump’ sessions where the whole fam can get involved.
Brunch is one of our absolute favourite things to do with the fam – with delicious food and drinks plus entertainment for the kids, it’s the perfect way to go out for a meal together without it all ending in disaster! While al fresco dining might be on hold for now, there are plenty of indoor brunch options to try out over the summer months. A few of our faves? Here you go, mamas!…
The super family friendly and relaxed brunch at Brasserie 2.0 has gone inside for a few months. If you like fresh seafood and amazing sushi then this is the brunch to visit; seriously, we’ve never seen or eaten seafood like it (there must be a joke in there somewhere but we’re not going to attempt it…).
The glass is in and El Chiringuito Dubai is officially undercover, temperature controlled and ready for the summer sun! Their awesome La Familia Brunch will be served up every Friday & Saturday from 12-4pm and includes complimentary pool and beach access too.
Brunch is a table-served affair that includes Spanish dishes such as paella, grilled seafood, goats cheese salad and carpaccio for the grown-ups and pasta, homemade burgers or grilled chicken for the kidlettes. This place is all about long lazy lunching, glass of sangria in hand. And if the kids get restless, a little Chiringuito’s kids club is available for really cute activities.
With celeb chef Gordon Ramsay at the helm of Bread Street Kitchen, the food at this Atlantis hotspot is bound to be good (expect all the British classics from Fisn ‘n Chips to traditional roasts), but there’s so much more that makes this one of the best family friendly brunches in town. First up, main courses and kids food is brought to your table so there’s none of that wandering around huge buffets for hours (hooray!), which means plenty more time for chatting and fun. Same goes for desserts – a huge sharing plate of all the faves (YUM!). And as for starters? There’s a lovely little unlimited cold and warm selection to choose from.
Secondly, the kids get to try out some awesome activities including a cooking masterclass, arts & crafts, balloon modeling and face painting. And the atmosphere is just perfectly relaxed.
It doesn’t hurt to be a tourist every now and again, mama. Go off and explore our city from the highest heights – the Burj Khalifa (i.e. the tallest building in the world) will give you stunning panoramic views that you’ll never forget. Kiddos under 4 years old get to go free to their observation deck while mamas and papas will have to shell out AED 120+. If you’re not fan of heights then just don’t look down!
Then there is the newly opened Dubai Frame which is one of THE must-do’s for anyone living/visiting Dubai. This dazzling golden structure in Zabeel Park will take you on a journey through time – exploring old Dubai, present Dubai and future Dubai complete with projections, special effects, a 360 degree view of the city from a sky deck and much more. And it’s not astronomically expensive to visit – just AED 50 for adults and AED 20 for children between 3-12 years old.
Visit www.thedubaiframe.com Pick up tickets from Zabeel Park Gate 4.
The much anticipated Laguna Waterpark has opened its doors and is guaranteed to become a firm fave with families, chill-seekers and sports lovers too. With four distinct zones – Splash, Slide, Surf and Relax (there’s a hang-out that includes a pool lounge with swim-up juice bar and cabanas…), there’s a central Water Slide Tower with five awesome rides; a comprehensive family zone with AquaPlay and Splash Pad; a WaveOz 180 Florider for surfing; a Lazy River; Pool Lounge; Cabanas; food & beverage kiosks and a merchandise store. Families can laze the days away meandering down the Lazy River or get lost in the magical AquaPlay – the Splash Pad sounds ideal for really little ones. UAE residents get a special entry fee of AED 99 per day, simply show your ID on purchase.
With Wild Wadi and Aquaventure right here on our doorstep, plus the Splash Pad at JBR The Beach plus loads more waterparks and water play options across the Emirates, prepare to slide, splash and float your way through the summer heat. Check out our full guide for watery fun and the directory pages on the site for a few ideas mamas – then pack your cossies, slap on the sunscreen and round up the whole fam.
Read More: 4 New Water Play Spaces To Try
A boat ride across the creek early in the morning or late when the sun is going down, followed by a mini wander through the city’s historic Al Fahidi District in the summer will earn you and the kids a mint lemonade and scrummy snack from a simple but really good menu at the cute XVA cafe (and if your children are old enough to appreciate art or at least give you time to browse, there are frequent exhibitions to enjoy). A lovely way to spend some cool cultured time in ‘old Dubai’.
This summer Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island has lots to keep your kiddos happy! From the incredible Yas Waterworld, easily one of the most toddler friendly waterparks in the UAE with slides, squirters, sprayers, dumping buckets and even swings for non-walkers who want in on the action to Ferrari World 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. Why not book a staycation and make a weekend of it mamas?
Read More: Glamping On Yas Island
And how about whizzing across to Saadiyat Island for a visit to The Louvre too, mamas? The perfect way to be cool with culture.
Don’t expect lions and elephants – this ‘zoo’ exhibits all of the animals naturally occurring in the Arabian Peninsula. It’s also the only zoological park in the Middle East to be completely indoors, making it perfect for a day out when temperatures soar. A walk-through aviary allows visitors to get close to birds while ‘the cage’ area offers a view of larger mamals roaming freely in an open environment. Mini nature lovers will love viewing the venomous vipers, spotting the endangered Arabian leopards and discovering life after dark in the nocturnal house. The zoo is part of the Sharjah Desert Centre which includes a natural history museum with fossils and dinosaurs for your little paleontologists.
Note: This post was originally published on the site in June 2015 and updated with recent activities and happenings in town.
Hero image sourced via Instagram handle of Kirsty and Neve Travels. Free Fun image via Pinterest. Ice Cream image courtesy of Emack and Bolio’s via Facebook, Movies image via hippie lane. Penguin encounters image via Sandier Pastures. Indoor zoo image via Arabian Explorers. All other images sourced via respective brands social media handles.