Dubai for families

Helen Farmer

Magazine editor and writer

Thought the shiny city of Dubai was all skyscrapers, fast cars and shopping, ergo decidedly NOT the place for a family break? Think again. While there might be more nightlife than you can shake a glow stick at, this part of the world is also incredibly welcoming to children. So pile the kids into the plane or car, and prepare yourselves for the holiday of a lifetime with these top tips and destinations for a family-friendly holiday in Dubai

Take to the outdoors

Take to the outdoors

If you want to spend time in the great outdoors of Dubai, it’s best to visit from October to April to fully enjoy the beautiful beaches, wow-worthy waterparks and desert adventures.

Delight animal lovers with a trip to Mina A’Salaam hotel to feed the turtles. As part of a rehabilitation programme that rescues sick and injured turtles, visitors can get up close and personal with the turtles and hand-feed them lunch. Once the creatures are fed, grab the kids and pop over to nearby Tortuga restaurant for a Mexican-inspired meal post turtle-feeding.

Want to get in the water yourself? Dubai is home to some of the most impressive waterparks in the world: Wild Wadi (pictured above) and Aquaventure. Both have plenty of rides, a lazy river and spaces to relax, plus great dining options. Go early in the morning, get a sun-lounger and spend the day – your kids will thank you for it.

If you’re looking to avoid the main tourist areas, one of the best places in the city to do so with kids is The Journey: a little haven of nature right on the beach. Think trees, a wooden pirate ship, plenty of climbing, a mud kitchen, craft areas, places for splashing around and a waterfall, all created with the aim to get children away from gadgets and into the natural world. A slice of bliss for adults too!

Indoor adventures

Indoor adventures

Dubai’s weather can be on the balmy side during the summer months (April-October), but luckily there are plenty of places to have fun in air-conditioned comfort. Indoor theme parks are the newest attractions, with IMG Worlds of Adventure boasting numerous adventure zones and rides for all ages featuring their favourite characters from TV and comic books.

Dubai Parks & Resorts is set to open in October, and will delight everyone from thrill-seekers to LEGO lovers (pictured above), Bollywood fans to Hollywood filmgoers.

For little ones, Mattel Play! Town in City Walk is a must. Just a few minutes from Downtown, children can meet Barney, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina and more in a fun, edutainment centre where they can learn, play and interact.

If you’re still looking for more, the many malls in Dubai offer much more than just shopping. The Dubai Mall is big enough to entertain you and any youngsters for a whole day. Here you’ll find an ice rink, cinema, aquarium and underwater zoo (don’t miss the super scary King Croc), KidZania (where children can explore a miniature city), and SEGA Republic for hours of gaming and rides. You’ll never hear the dreaded, “I’m bored!” with so many things to do under one roof.

Active fun

Active fun

Holidays don’t have to mean sunbathing and buffet breakfasts, and Dubai has activities aplenty to burn some energy. At Kite Beach you can hire paddleboards for the hour, then head out to see who’s swimming with you – dolphins, perhaps? – or just get a unique view of the city.

Head towards Dubai Marina and unpack your swimmers at The Beach complex, not just for shopping and dining, but also a splash park for younger children and an inflatable obstacle course floating just off the coast, guaranteed to tire out even the most active little ones.

Weather not on your side? Bounce trampoline park is a massive indoor playground for hours of, well, bouncing! Family tickets are available if mum and dad fancy a go too. Or how about a kart race? The Kartdrome is about 25 minutes from Downtown, and wannabe Lewis Hamiltons can zip around on the indoor (or outdoor) track.

And a trip to the desert wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the ski slope… right? Ski Dubai (pictured above) is a real must-do, with skiing and snowboarding lessons, tobogganing, penguins to meet (yes, really) and hot chocolate afterwards.

Where to stay

Where to stay

With amazing hotels aplenty, there are also a number of family-friendly hotels in Dubai to choose from. Stay somewhere with a beach and a kids’ club for the best overall experience.

The Westin Mina Seyahi fits the bill, not only boasting five swimming pools to splash around in, but it also does a brilliant, award winning buffet-style brunch you can enjoy after all that poolside playtime.

Fairmont The Palm (lead image) caters to all ages, offering a toddler playhouse (pictured above), splash park, arts and crafts, and even Xbox, Wii and PlayStation games in the “chillout zone” for the older kids.

Atlantis, The Palm goes above and beyond for family travellers, not only offering a super cool kids’ club, but also an arcade, teen club with a mocktail bar and entertainment lounge, evening adventures and even a babysitting service for parents seeking adult-only moments.

If you’re looking for more to fill your holiday itinerary in the UAE, make your way to the Dubai Destination Guide for travel inspiration and expert tips

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