Often described as a ‘city within a city’, Dubai Marina is a sparkling mix of high-rise apartment buildings, boats and fabulous places to eat and shop. With oodles of places to push a stroller and everything you could possibly need right on your doorstep, the Marina is a popular choice for cosmopolitan families, especially with The Beach at JBR only a stones throw away. With a metro station, water taxis, the Dubai Ferry and the Dubai tram connecting the Marina to the rest of the City, it’s no wonder why so many mamas love living here.
Louise lives in Dubai Marina with her husband Charlie and two boys Stanley (3 years) and Wilfred (16 months). They are rapidly outgrowing their apartment, but are refusing to leave as they love the area so much. Louise is a freelance kids and lifestyle journalist – and she blogs about her life in Dubai with her two boys at Mum of Boys (and is also one of our Sassy Mama contributors!).
What do you love best about your neighbourhood?
We’ve considered moving out of Dubai Marina for more space, but we have everything on our doorstep and we just aren’t prepared to give that up! Within just five minutes, we can walk to the beach, jump on the tram to the mall, catch a boat across the marina, take the boys for a scooter trip along the promenade, dine at some of Dubai’s best restaurants, and shop for anything we need. I love living here. I feel very lucky every time we look out of the window or step outside of our apartment.
Is there anything you don’t like about it?
The fact it’s so expensive to rent that we can’t justify moving anywhere bigger at the moment – and with two active boys, sometimes I feel like we’re all running up the walls during the hot months. Luckily we can jump in the car and find entertainment within minutes, so it’s not all bad. Some people moan about the traffic, but I avoid rush hour and never find it that bad.
Held over at the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel every Friday, this family friendly brunch is one of the best ways to welcome the weekend. With bouncy castles, face painters, a movie theatre and loads of activities to keep the kiddos occupied, you’ll be able to finally have a conversation with your other half (or at least enjoy your meal without trying to juggle active tots. Of course, the food’s absolutely fantastic as well and you can opt for a free-flow brunch if you’re feeling a little bubbly.
The Al Bahou Family Brunch is held every Friday and priced between AED 295-495 for adults and AED 95 for kids aged 6-12 years old. Children under 6 eat free.
Where do you like to eat out in your area and why?
We live 5 minutes walk from The Beach at JBR complex, so we usually head down there to eat with the boys.
The Sassy Mama team love Retro Feasts where amazing British Chef Luke Thomas (the youngest celebrity chef to hail from Blighty) has brought back the classics but in a very delicious way – with crowd-pleasers including reinventions on a classic cheese toastie, spaghetti bolognaise and a prawn cocktail, it’s just ambitious enough for the adults and familiar for the fussy eaters in your family.
Retro Feasts, The Beach, Opposite JBR, Dubai Marina
Tel: (+971) (0)50 987 4567, www.facebook.com/pages/Retro-Feasts-Dubai
We’re also fans of Eggspectation – which doesn’t just serve Eggs by the way – for an early supper with the kids or a family brekkie/brunch at the weekend.
Eggspectation, The Beach, Opposite JBR, Dubai Marina
Tel: +(971) (0)4 430 7252, www.eggspectation.com
oooh and for any mamas who have littles at home during the week – treat yourselves to brekkie at Big Chefs Brasserie & Cafe and get a free kids meal with any grown-up dish you order (The French toast is insane).
Big Chefs, The Beach opposite JBR, (+971) (0) 4 551 5302, www.bigchefs.co
What would you say are the top three family friendly places to eat out and what makes them so good?
Favourite family-friendly places for breakfast, lunch and dinner and why?
Breakfast – We tend to stay close to home at Bateel on Marina Promenade. Stanley rides his scooter down there on the promenade and we enjoy fruit platters and Eggs Benedict with the yachts gliding past us.
So you know how the Sassy Mamas are a little obsessed with a great breakfast? We love heading over to Ultra Brasserie in Marina Plaza. With a gorgeous terrace (complete with umbrellas of course), we tuck into Raw coffee and poached eggs with smashed avocados rounded out with a bit of ricotta and lime salsa. YUM!
Ultra Brasserie, Building #4, Marina Plaza, Dubai Marina, Dubai
(+971) (0)4 277 544, www.ultra.ae
Lunch – Cheesecake Factory. We (shock, horror) rarely order the cheesecake as the food is so filling. The kids menu is really good too, Stanley usually goes for the macaroni cheese.
The Sassy Mama team are huge fans of London chain Busaba Eathai for amazing Thai food. With a community feel and sprawling two floor location, the menu definitely has us hungry – the usual nutty Pad Thai, chargrilled salmon fillet on a bed of coconut rice and more…
Busaba Eathai, The Beach, JBR, Dubai
Dinner – If we’re with the boys, Carluccio’ at The Beach or Marina Mall. Colouring crayons, balloons, sometimes even face painting – and a meal for Dhs35, including breadsticks, juice, main course, and ice cream.
Are there any good date night options?
For really tasty, satisfying food, my husband and I love Eat Greek at The Beach. The food is amazing, especially the lamb kebabs and tzatiki. I’ve made myself hungry thinking about it. The other place we have fallen in love with is The Scene in Pier 7 (attached to Marina Mall – read our Sassy Mama review of The Scene). The food and cocktails are outstanding (try ‘Granny’s Gin and Tonic’, which is served in a tea pot) – and the views over the Marina are pretty special.
Early morning coffee spot?
We like Bateel on Marina Promenade.
Best place to go for sweet treats?
Dri Dri at The Beach. The gelato is delicious!
Do you shop for clothes/home accessories in your neighborhood and if so where?
I shop a lot at Marina Mall for clothing. We’ve got H&M, Reiss, Mamas & Papas and Ted Baker plus loads more (The Sassy Mama team wish there was a Zara in Marina Mall -then it would be perfect!). There isn’t much there for home accessories, so we go further afield for that.
Are there any cute boutiques or local stores we should know about?
I visited a shop called Read n Enjoy on the Plaza Level of JBR Rimal a few months ago and was amazed when I stepped inside. This hidden gem is packed with amazing gifts, educational toys, and books for children, all imported from Europe, America or Australia. I could have spent a small fortune and will definitely be heading back before the next birthday or Christmas.
What grocery stores do you have and do you use?
I shop in Al Maya, underneath Marina Promenade, as I can walk there in a few minutes and it’s good value. I also head to Waitrose in Marina Mall about once a week to stock up on healthy snacks for the boys, but I try not to buy too much as I could easily spend Dhs500 on a few items for the cupboard!
Sassy contributor Frankie loves the Maybury delicatessen and cafe for fresh yummy produce and a whole heap of organics. And we’re huge fans of Market & Platters for the most amazing seafood (their platters are perfect for dinner parties), cheese, vegetables, freshly baked bread and loads more – if you are a family of foodies then this place is a must.
What good shopping areas are in close proximity?
Marina Mall and The Beach are the main places to shop. There’s also Boutique 1 and a few other stores along The Walk and on Plaza Level of JBR.
Do you have any parks/outdoor playgrounds in your hood and can you tell us about them?
There are play areas under the bridges on both sides of Dubai Marina. We use the one near to Marina Promenade at least twice a week. There’s also play areas on the sand at The Beach and the Splash Pad as well (see Kaya’s review). There’s even an inflatable play area out at sea for bigger kids and adults!
Read all about Louise’s mini marina adventures on the RTA taxis too mamas!
Are there any soft play areas or kids clubs/classes you can recommend or that you know of?
There’s Cheeky Monkeys at Le Grande Marina (the Sassy Mama team took the kiddos – read our review for a taster of what to expect) , opposite JBR Murjan. There’s also Favourite Things at Marina Mall, which is great or little ones, and runs a lot of classes. We haven’t visited yet, but Njoi has just opened in Marina Mall too, which has trampolines, glow-in-the-dark golf, and a big soft play zone.
What do the kids in your neighborhood love to do during free time – is there a good kiddie community?
Yes, it’s great for kids. There are so many places to go. Lots of children gather at the play areas under the bridges on Marina Promenade and ride along on their bikes or scooters. They also head down to The Beach to make sandcastles, play in the shore, or climb on the soft play area. Marina Mall is also great for kids, with Favourite Things and Njoi, and the little train downstairs to ride on.The Sassy Mama team love visiting the Marina with the kids – there’s a carousel ride right on the water plus water fountains to splash in and boats to watch. Kiddie heaven.
This awesome nursery is one that follows in the footsteps of Reggio Emilia’s Early Years and Foundation Stage Curriculum, with an approach to learning led by your child’s natural curiosity and imagination. Their play-based classes are perfect for nurturing little minds and it’s not just the kiddos who keep on learning – Willow Nursery’s dedicated to not only hiring some of the best teachers, but also making sure that they’re learning more about advancements in the educational world as well. The nursery is all about helping your child become one of tomorrow’s leaders, focusing on their cognitive, social, physical, emotional and spiritual development.
Tel:+971 455 45802
Villa 40 Marina First Building, Dubai Marina Al Seba Street
Which school do you send your children to?
Stanley goes to Toddler Town Nursery at JBR, but will be joining a big school in September – I was so happy for him to get a place, but I absolutely love our nursery and feel very sad that he’s leaving.
What schools and nursery schools do you have in your area/neighborhood?
Is there anywhere for mama to get pampered?
There are lots of hotels in Dubai Marina to get pampered, so you have a pick of so many luxury spas. I like to keep it simple though and head to Tips & Toes in JBR Amwaj for manicures and pedicures. I also like Spa Dunya in JBR Shams, which does a fantastic colour therapy massage based on your mood.