Free Fun In & Around Our Desert City
Guess what mamas, it is actually possible to have a great time in Dubai without forking over an armload of cash – or in fact, anything at all! We’ve found some of our favourite free things to do in and around the city, from feeding turtles to visiting farms and loads more. Check out our list below!
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. Get your bikes into the car and head over here for a morning of exercise and teaching the kids how best to navigate the roads – perfect if you’re practicing without stabilisers! The children’s playground and views across Downtown Dubai and the Burj Khalifa are the icing on the cake.
Believe it or not there are loads of places to catch a movie for free, mamas! Switch off the TV, get out of the house and head over to the Pyramids Rooftop Gardens at Wafi Mall for a spot of outdoor cinema. With humongous beanbags for all cinemagoers, this one does run a little late starting at 8:30pm so you might want to keep it for date night. Or head to West 14th on Palm Jumeirah every Thursday and treat the kids to a free movie at 6.30pm while you celebrate the start of the weekend with a cold drink! And finally, one of our fave interiors hubs, Booburys at The Courtyard Al Quoz, hosts regular free movies for kids and grown ups too – keep an eye out on their Facebook page for deets.
Okay, this one isn’t totally free mamas, but for next to nothing at all you can jump on a water taxi, or ‘Abra’ to take in the city in style. One of the most authentic ways to see one of the most authentic areas in Dubai, the kids absolutely love the sense of excitement and adventure! Once you disembark, make sure to explore the gorgeous waterside cafes, the old souks and the winding streets of Bastakiya – perfect for getting some gorgeous snaps.
The Dubai Mall is home to the largest dancing fountain in the world – and with afternoon as well as evening shows every day of the week, it’s practically a travesty to live in Dubai and not have seen it. Designed by the same team behind the famous Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, over 22,00 gallons of water shoot up to about 500 feet all to the beat of a range of local and international music. The kiddos are gonna go pretty wild for this one.
Show times are every half an hour starting at 6pm to 11pm, with two afternoon shows at 1pm and 1:30 every day aside from Friday, which runs at 1:30pm and 2pm.
Top tip: Go for lunch at Carluccios or the NEW Pret A Manger cafe and sit out on the terrace for the best view. Ok lunch isn’t free but the fountains are!
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We know what you’re thinking, the Dubai Aquarium isn’t free – but you don’t actually have to go in for the kids to get a fantastic fishy experience. The main tank is visible from the ground floor in the centre of the mall –mesmerizing for the minis who were happy to stand and watch. Take the escalator in between the Gap and the Rainforest Café up to the 1st floor and turn right towards H&M to enjoy an entire Aquarium wall far from the crowds – where the kids can get up close and personal with fish, sharks and rays separated from them by only a few inches of glass. Magic.
If you arrive at Dubai Mall early (the doors open at 8am while the shops remain closed until 10am – perfect for avoiding the crowds) and head straight to the souk area to see a a genuine female Diplodocus skeleton standing proud. The kids will have great fun following the dinosaur ‘footprints’ on the ground to where the skeleton stands. Super informative screens show a simple animation that’s easy for littles to understand and really friendly and helpful dino staff are on hand to explain that the Mrs D (or DubaiDino as she’s officially known) is as ‘heavy as five elephants and as long as five taxis’ as well as other fun facts for the kids to soak up. Discovered in Wyoming and recently flown to Dubai – this free exhibit is a must for any Paleontologists in the making!
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 (that part’s not free but you can treat yourselves right?!).
The very brilliant Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project has an turtle rehabilitation enclosure located at the gorgeous Jumeirah Al Naseem hotel. This enclosure is open to the public every day of the week so you can go and look at these magical creatures (while having a treat from Black Tap or the Flamingo Rooms By Tashas) but on Wednesdays at 11am you can get a little more up close and personal via scheduled feedings that anyone is welcome to join (there’s no need to book, simply turn up – priority is given to little kids of course!). Feeding takes about 20 minutes and access to the turtle lagoon is through the lobby of the hotel. We love.
Provided you have all the right gear, this is a great (and super wallet-friendly) way to spend a weekend with your loved ones. The wide, wide desert is out there waiting for you mama. Convinced? Why not check out our guide to the best camping spots here in Dubai…
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Dubai’s latest beachfront location offers tonnes of free fun for kids – from lovely playground areas to fun, colorful ‘props’ including beach huts and boats to explore plus water features and grassy areas – you can easily spend a whole day here (particularly because the food options are really good!). The beach is beautiful too, with overwater hammocks and cool ‘bucket’ showers for a post dip rinse, La Mer gets a big Sassy thumbs up every time.
From The Ripe Market to the Farmers Market in Business Bay, The Garden Souq to plenty of pop-up markets too (keep checking our events page for info!), there are plenty of opportunities to explore some of Dubai’s gorgeous areas while nibbling on food tasters and meeting some of the people behind some truly unique homegrown brands. Ripe Market at Zabeel Park on Friday offers so much for kids – including arts & crafts, a petting zoo and the opportunity to run wild! Their Barsha Pond Park and Ripe Night Market on Saturdays takes the fun from daytime to past sunset, bringing the community together to taste some of the region’s best local food businesses and offering everything from entertainment from local artists to live movie screenings, activities from fitness groups and children’s activities for all ages, all set under the stars with a dazzling display of lights!
And then there’s the Garden Souq at Dubai Garden Centre which is filled with loads of activities for you and your family! Buzzing with vendors, artisan goods, vegan products, gluten-free munchies, handicrafts, clothes, food stalls, live music, yoga and lots more. There is something for everyone. And as for FREE activities? we’re talking piano sessions, story telling, planting workshops and more. FUN!!
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.
Despite being a desert city, Dubai’s choc-full of amazing parks for you and the fam to explore and while you do need to pay to get into some of them, the little neighborhood green spaces are free of charge and a great place to throw a ball around with your tots, learn to ride a bike or just spread out a picnic rug. Check out our guide below for our parks list.
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Give the animals some love over at Posh Paws Animal Center, a not-for-profit petting farm, made up of a number of four legged darlings who’ve either been rescued or donated by their previous owners. They do rely completely on donations so even though it’s completely free, a couple of dirhams here and there never hurt anybody – especially when you see all those gorgeous goats, horses, ducks, chickens, cats, dogs and other creatures all so very grateful for your time and love.
With early wake-up calls expected every morning, mama pack up breakfast to go and head to the Ras Al Khor Nature Reserve (and in particular to the flamingo roost at the junction of the Al Wasl and Oud Metha roads). The Nation’s first Ramsar wetland site at the head of Dubai Creek the reserve features saline flats, mud flats, mangroves, small lagoons and pools and a few tiny islands.
This is a super kid-friendly place to visit – in winter pretty pink flamingos steal the show but there are so many different bird species that can be viewed through fantastically sharp binoculars (this part alone is exciting for little people!)
Strict pathways lead to 3 hides deep in the mangroves, which literally offer you a birds-eye view of the wildlife.
If you need some family fun at the weekends then look no further than Rise at Dubai Creek Harbour where – for the next 3 months, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday between noon and midnight – you can eat (this part’s not free!), be entertained, play and chill outdoors while soaking up the most insane view of the Dubai skyline.
Featuring everything from live performances to unique foodie concepts, workshops and kids activities (including screenings of some of our fave family movies, interactive mad science sessions and a fabulous playground) there’s absolutely loads to get stuck into. But it’s the views here that steal the show – sit and enjoy the sun setting behind the Burj Khalifa – completely magical.
In addition to offering a superb collection of books to borrow, 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!
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Now here’s something we are SO excited about (especially while the weather’s cool!). There are a couple of organic farms which open their gates to families and kids during certain weekends so that you can all get a very healthy dose of the great outdoors, hooray!
Emirates Bio Farm offers everything from hourly tours and farm walks including harvesting with the kids and a tent over looking the farm and open desert scenery, a chill out spot inside a greenhouse that hosts a cafe and a farm shop, pallet painting workshop for kids and adults and a little petting zoo with their resident goats too. We love!
Fancy picking your own, mamas? Al Rahba Organic Farm No. 182 is actually in Abu Dhabi rather than Dubai but is so worth the hour long drive on a Saturday when they open up their fields and green houses to families looking to have a go at harvesting their own fruit and veg. From kale to pumpkin, aubergine to celery, potatoes, beetroots, figs, lemons, salad leaves and loads more – all you have to do is take a bag (no plastic, please!) and wander around choosing whatever you love to eat (we’re hoping this is a good way to get the little ones to eat their greens!). Open from 9 am to 6pm each Saturday, entry is free and you’ll be charged for the produce you choose once it’s weighed. Oh and there’s a section of already picked veggies too if you feel like boosting your crop.
GPS coordinates: 24.611083,54.695732
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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!
Featured image by Kaya, Image 1 sourced via The National, Camping post image sourced via The National, Mushrif Park image sourced via Dubai Traveler, Old Library image sourced via Multi Cultural Aquarium image sourced via Holiday ME, Dubai Dinosaur image sourced via An American in Rome, All other images are sourced from respective companies social media handle.