If you are looking for a great list of Dubai attractions with kids in mind, we’ve got you covered!
Dubai continues to go from strength to strength as a popular gateway from Australia to the rest of the world. Dubai International Airport is now the biggest international airport in the world in terms of passenger number and the city itself has expanded exponentially over the last 20 years to become a world-class tourism hub.
Aussie expat Keri Hedrick has lived in the UAE for the past 6 years and gives us the low down on the top 10 must see attractions that families should try to get a taster of Dubai, from the shiny skyscrapers to its Bedouin past.
If you are looking for the best places to stay in Dubai, she knows that too!
Here are her top 10 Dubai Attractions with Kids
Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest tower
The Burj Khalifa at a staggering 830m is currently the tallest tower in the world. Visitors can go to the 124th and 125th floors to see the spectacular views (like the one pictured) – or you can go all out and dine on the 148th floor. Tickets for At The Top must be booked in advance as they cost about quadruple to buy standby at the door, and popular sunrise and sunset tickets sell out fast. Expect queuing at almost any time even with a pre-timed ticket and especially if you’re visiting during peak holiday periods like Christmas and Easter – but those views and bragging rights are worth it!
Very conveniently, the world’s tallest tower is attached to the world’s largest mall – by square footage at least if not by shops! There’s so much more to Dubai Mall than just shopping though, it’s a family entertainment mecca! Catch the spectacular free waterfall inside and the free half hourly water fountain dancing show outside – take a browse of the giant Hamleys and The Toy Store. Paid for activities include the Aquarium, KidZania Dubai, Caboodle – even an Olympic size iced rink! You can get combined tickets for some of these attractions with Burj Khalifa entry tickets.
Beaches – and more beaches!!
With much of the city of Dubai hugging the Arabian Gulf coastline, it’s clear to see why Dubai is so well known for its beaches. And not just sand and water, it’s everything that goes on in and around the beachfront too. Huge development works have taken place over the last 5 years to bring some stunning new multi-purpose outdoor spaces to the city – accessible in all but the absolute peak of summer.
There are several spots to choose from including the ever popular Umm Suqeim Beach or Sunset Beach – that’s where you get your photo with the stunning Burj al Arab hotel in the background. A couple of favourites good for visiting families with extra dining and entertaining options on hand are The Beach at JBR, crammed full of family-friendly facilities and even a splash park and the newly opened La Mer Dubai (Previously known as Jumeirah Public Beach).
Old Dubai – cultural walk
The Dubai Museum continues to remain a classic first stop for those wanting to absorb more of the culture and history of the country. From here you should try and take a stroll – weather permitting – around the traditional streets Bastakiya (much work has gone into preserving this part of town as an historic neighbourhood), then take a traditional dhow boat over Dubai Creek to Deira to see the gold and spice souks.
If you have several days, also squeeze in a trip to the newly opened Etihad Museum to see and hear the story of the birth of the nation.
Visit a Bedouin camp in the desert
If you leave having only seen skyscrapers you are missing the true essence of the country – a desert safari from Dubai is a MUST! There is a plethora of companies who offer desert safari tours these days so be careful what you are getting in for, and the age of your children. While dune bashing in a 4×4 might sound fun, it’s not appropriate for all ages.
We prefer the tours run to the Dubai Conservation Reserve by Platinum Heritage which are more focused on the wildlife and desert eco-system, but there is a load of options to fit your trip timings and thrill-seeking level. Most have add-ons and extras including quad biking, camel riding or sand boarding, followed by a traditional tented dinner and evening entertainment, henna painting – even belly dancing.
Legoland at Dubai Parks & Resorts
Your little Lego-lovers are going to insist on a stop at Dubai Parks & Resorts. Situated slightly west of Dubai in Jebel Ali, though still an easy enough cab ride away for visitors (it’s beyond the end of the Metro line) you will find this theme park oasis – it surprises many what a big complex this is in the heart of the Dubai desert!
You will find not only a Legoland but a Lego Waterpark, Motiongate (think the likes of your favourite Dreamworks characters, Shrek, Dragons, Kung Fu Panda through to classic Ghost Busters and modern Hunger Games based rides), and a Bollywood Park. The theme parks are all partly indoors/partly outdoors. These are all interconnected by the Riverland entertainment district, packed full of restaurant and entertainment options.
Currently the only accommodation option on site is the beautiful Polynesian-styled Lapita Resort – this can make the perfect little vacation within a vacation!! A stay at the resort will include your theme park tickets.
IMG Worlds of Adventure
IMG Worlds of Adventure on the outskirts of Dubai currently holds the honourable title as the world’s largest indoor theme park (though it’s about to be overtaken by Warner Bros World in Abu Dhabi!) Aimed at slightly older children and thrill seekers, there are 4 zones to explore including Cartoon Network, Marvel, IMG Boulevard and Lost World. It’s the perfect place to visit mid-summer to escape the heat.
Dubai Miracle Garden & Dubai Garden Glow
As you’ve no doubt sussed, it gets pretty darn hot in the desert in the peak of summer so some of Dubai’s most famous and well-loved outdoor attractions are seasonal, usually from late October through to late April. It’s worth bearing this in mind when planning a Dubai trip.
Our favourite seasonal event is visiting the wonderfully creative Dubai Miracle Garden. The largest flower garden in the world by total blooms, each year the gardening team pulls out all the stops to create floral masterpieces to wow the crowds. This is selfie stick central so watch out, but it’s hard not to be impressed. The past two years the centrepiece has been a life-sized floral A380 plane – yes, for real!
There is also Dubai Garden Glow and Dinosaur Park – surprisingly impressive! Gates open at 4pm, take your kids on a Jurassic Park-style dyno tour before sundown when the park comes alive with glowing displays, many set to music. A little cheesy but a lot of fun, the younger kids especially will be utterly enchanted by this place. You get a spectacular city skyline backdrop from Zabeel Park, too.
World’s largest inhabited artificial archipelago
In easier language – the Palm Jumeirah! It’s hard to believe this place really exists (like so much of Dubai), but yes, a man-made sand palm has been made off the coast of Dubai (actually there’s two but only one is currently inhabited).
Most come out here to see its crowning glory, Atlantis the Palm with its Aquaventure water park, giant aquarium and Dolphin Bay. A brand-new attraction has opened which is the 11km Palm Jumeriah Boardwalk built over the breakwater on the palms outer crescent – perfect for a family stroll and views back to Jumeirah Beach.
Road trip to Abu Dhabi
Even if you only have a few days in Dubai, you really shouldn’t miss the UAE capital off your agenda. Not as loud and outspoken as younger brother Dubai, Abu Dhabi is more of a classic mix of UAE tradition with stunning modern architecture and a relaxed, family friendly vibe.
The spectacular Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque forms the city gateway and should be number one on your agenda. Then head to the city’s famous Corniche beach, try the Aquafun inflatable water park, the Marina Wheel or take in view of the magnificent Emirates Palace and Presidential Palace from Observation 300 Skydeck in Etihad Towers.
If time permits the new Louvre Abu Dhabi is causing a sensation, though younger ones might prefer to pop in (and I would say stay the night!) at Yas Island which is home not only to the city’s Grand Prix track but Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld and Warner Bros Movie World (from July 2018).
Where to stay in Dubai with kids
The city of Dubai has become long and sprawling, with DXB airport in the east of the Emirate surrounded by the older parts of the city Bur Dubai and Deira. Sheikh Zayed Road now runs westward for miles, taking in Downtown Dubai, through to Al Barsha around Mall of the Emirates, then Jumeirah, about 30 minutes from the airport.
Jumeirah Beach, Dubai Marina and the Palm Jumeirah are popular places for families to stay with extensive resorts and family sized apartments available. The hotel and pool can be as much a part of the Dubai experience as the attractions.
This is just the tip of the iceberg (well desert!) of what you can do during a Dubai stopover. For more ideas on what to see and do, not just in Dubai but all of the seven Emirates of the UAE, check out Keri’s guide to 100+ Things to do in the UAE. She also runs a Middle East Family Travel group if you’re interested in exploring the region more extensively.
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Keri is an Aussie expat mum who has called the UAE home for the past six years. Her family adventures see her travelling around the Middle East and abroad with 3 kids in tow. Inadvertent long-haul flying experts with loves from desert camps to luxury hotels, adventure playgrounds to theme parks and everything in between! You can find her most days on her Facebook page.