One of my goals for 2016 is to make the most of living in the UAE – to staycation as much as possible as a family, make memories, have fun (and eat a lot of hotel breakfasts – one of my fave things in the world). Dreamy escapes don’t need to involve long flights or pots of cash – especially when you’ve got young kids for whom a hotel room is fun wherever you are. So we booked our first trip of the year just within arm’s reach (okay, 1 hour) from Dubai at the best place to start – the Capital – Abu Dhabi – where the very cool Yas Viceroy Hotel on Yas Island has just launched a ‘glamping’ option for families. Nope, you won’t be sleeping under canvas, mamas, but your kiddos will – in your room – a novel way of giving them a fab experience and a good night’s sleep without the need for cramming a room with extra beds.
My 2 boys (aged nearly 6 and nearly 4) have also pestered me endlessly for day at a waterpark and we figured that Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi sounded like the best place to initiate them into the world of water slides and lazy rivers – 2 birds and 2 stones etc – off to the Capital we drove early one Friday morning ready for a weekend of adventure.
The Yas Viceroy is literally in the middle of the F1 Yas Marina Circuit (could this weekend get any more exciting for 2 little boys?!) and that looks, according to the kids, like a ‘spaceship’ – or at least an incredible bubble shaped building made entirely of glass and LED panels that change colour at night. It’s minimalist but not in an intimidating way – particularly when travelling with kids comes with oodles of luggage and random stuff (toys, favourite blankie and all the things they absolutely MUST bring with them).
And the staff couldn’t be friendlier – while the decor is cool and uncluttered their welcome was big and warm and we all felt at home within seconds, particularly when we were shown to our room. We were mega lucky to be upgraded to a suite (but a peek into one of the standard rooms showed that even these are enormous) – complete with bedroom, sitting room and a beautiful bathroom with rain shower and egg shaped free-standing tub that promised a very exciting bath time that evening, a huge balcony with views over the track and marina beyond and, of course, the piece de la resistance, a ready pitched tent ready for sleeping in. The tent is for 2 so my 3 year old little girl was accommodated in a cute little travel cot. And the best thing? the hotel had gone to the most amazing lengths to make the kids feel special. From writing each of their names on mini chalk-boards where they’d be sleeping to leaving out soft toys in the shape of F1 cars and – the favourite – personalised edible chocolate creations – I’ve never seen my 3 look quite so excited (or devour that much chocolate in seconds) before.
Next step – and onto the next excitement – Yas Waterworld. The hotel has a shuttle to the park but we zipped down the road in the car -it’s only a 5 minute drive and parking is easy. Now my previous waterpark experiences have included some very dodgy and faded places in Europe complete with floating plasters, creaky slides and slimy floors so walking into Yas Waterworld and its beautiful local theming was dreamy.
Beautifully built and maintained there’s not a water drop out of place here – the park is divided into 4 thrill levels (from adrenaline rush to young fun) with 45 rides, slides and attractions and the most amazing water splash area that was the perfect place to get started. Slides, squirters, sprayers, dumping buckets and a watery fortress to climb and splash all over was so much fun that it was almost impossible to convince the kids to move on – my little girl,usually slightly fearful, was happily navigating her way around the teeny slides with the help of smily park staff while the boys played pirate adventures and dump-bucket dares. Hubby and I watched from the sidelines on the brilliantly positioned sun loungers. Perfect.
Splash park done, the boys insisted on a roller coaster they’d spied – little Arthur aged 4 stood on tippy toes to make it past the height requirement (sssshhh) and off they went on their adrenaline ride over the park with proud mama watching (laughing) at their little faces below. The next few hours were spent floating in the lazy river, catching waves in the wave pool and having so much family fun – this is the ideal place for lots of laughs and quality time together.
A day at the waterpark = a huge appetite and the choices at the Yas Viceroy are huge. There’s a very VERY cool beach club just a teeny drive from the main property (think cocktails, whitewashed walls, big loungers, waves lapping and the most delicious looking pizzas) but we opted to dine in at the noodle house where the chef suggested he make an 0ff-the-menu chicken and noodle dish for the kids and we all tucked into scrummy Asian fare followed by ice-cream treats and fortune cookies.
Needless to say the kids slept SO well – a combination of all the excitement, their bed in a tent and hotel black-out curtains (need some at home). And the next morning I got my much-anticipated hotel breakfast mamas, a fabulous feast of pastries, cold-cuts, fruit, eggs and everything we could possibly ask for, followed by a dip in the hotel’s rooftop pool and more feasting at the newly launched picnic brunch, lounging on rugs, jumping on bouncy castles, buying organic veggies and watching cars race the circuit. Yes, our 2016 staycation schedule had got off to a great start – a weekend at Yas Viceroy will be a hard act to follow.
For bookings and info please visit www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/abudhabi
General Admission at Yas Viceroy for guests 1.1 metres tall and above is AED 240 Junior Admission for guests below 1.1 metres tall AED 195, kids 3 and under are free. www.yaswaterworld.com