In recent years, Dubai has become one of the world’s premier holiday destinations. A hub of both business and leisure within the Arabian Desert, the largest of the United Arab Emirates is known as a dream location for anyone keen on sampling the very best in dining, shopping and luxury accommodation.
With all of the glitzy shopping malls and high-end restaurants to be explored, it can be easy to forget that Dubai is also a fantastic place to take children. There are plenty of great family-friendly attractions to be found throughout the city and surrounding area and, in this article, we take a look at our top 10 choices.
In 2016, Aquaventure was rewarded for its innovation and quality by the World Travel Awards, picking up the coveted accolade of ‘Middle East’s Leading Waterpark’. The attraction also won ‘Hotel Winner of Best Waterpark’ in the Time Out Dubai Kids Awards in both 2015 and 2016.
Highlights include the thrilling Rapids and Torrent river rides and the unique Shark Safari experience (which, with the help of special helmets, allows you to get up close to some of the world’s most exciting marine life). Meanwhile, the exclusive reserved seating in the Neptune’s Retreat area will allow mum and dad to relax with a drink whilst the little ones go wild in the waterpark!
The Lost Chambers Aquarium
Another first-rate attraction found within Atlantis, The Palm is the stunning Lost Chambers Aquarium complex. Like Aquaventure, the aquarium is open to non-residents of the hotel and offers visitors the chance to discover an incredible array of exotic marine animals.
Home to an extraordinary 65,000+ fish, the Lost Chambers is a themed attraction based on the legendary city of Atlantis. The 10 chambers that guests make their way through are a true feast for the senses, and the design of the imposing building itself would be more than enough to entertain the whole family.
An ‘Ultimate Snorkel’ experience, the chance to feel some of the animals in the aquarium’s Touch Tank, and interactive educational shows allow kids and parents alike to learn all about some of the world’s most fascinating creatures within a uniquely impressive setting.
It may sound like a crazy idea but Ski Dubai, the first resort of its kind in the Middle East, has been entertaining visitors for over a decade, proving that you don’t need to choose between a sunshine holiday and a trip to the slopes – in Dubai, you can have both.
Ski Dubai is, of course, an indoor attraction but nevertheless is able to treat guests to everything they would expect from any of Europe’s top winter resorts. Found at the popular Mall of the Emirates shopping complex, the attraction is the largest indoor resort of its kind and features amazing experiences such as bobsled runs, tobogganing hills, a giant ball run (basically zorbing but on a ski slope!) and even the chance to see an adorable group of King and Gentoo penguins.
Wild Wadi Water Park
Another waterpark that is more than capable of rivalling Aquaventure in terms of excitement, Wild Wadi Water Park in Jumeirah is a wonderful option for families looking to experience a day out to remember in Dubai.
There are more than 30 adrenaline-fuelled rides for visitors young and not-quite-so-young to choose from at Wild Wadi, so it is hard to highlight one above any of the others. Nevertheless, here are a few of our absolute favourites which you should be sure to look out for:
- Wipeout – An amazingly realistic body-boarding experience, Wipeout works by blasting around seven tonnes of water per second across a moulded foam surface to create a brilliant wave effect.
- Tantrum Alley – Surely one of the highest-speed water rides you will ever experience, Tantrum Alley involves sitting in a dinghy-like tube with up to three other people and careering your way through two waterslides and three ‘tornadoes’.
- Burj Surj – Up to five people can enjoy the Burj Surj, which hurtles guests into a giant ‘bowl’ which they spiral around before being sent down a large waterslide.
Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
The Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo is another attraction that allows visitors to get up close and personal with all manner of aquatic wildlife in very unique ways.
One of many attractions worth visiting the Dubai Aquarium for is the Shark Scooter, which will undoubtedly be like nothing else you have seen at any UK attraction. Described by the aquarium as ‘akin to a personal miniature submarine’, your scooter allows you to enter the tank and come face-to-face with all kinds of marine creatures – a truly amazing and inimitable experience.
Other highlights include the Mermaid Experience – which allows the younger members of your family to become a mermaid for the day with special makeup, clothes and hairstyling – and the Junior and Senior Aquarist sessions, which encourages participants to experience cage snorkelling, enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour, help feed the animals and much more.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Although not actually in Dubai, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is within an hour or so of the city and more than justifies the time it takes to get there. Located in the capital of the UAE, Ferrari World is a must-visit for any young family member who is keen on motorsport and will even be entertaining for those who aren’t.
Recently named as the ‘Middle East’s Leading Theme Park’ at the World Travel Awards 2017, this unusual but captivating attraction includes rollercoasters, family-friendly shows and, of course, multiple chances to get behind the wheel and put your own driving skills to the test, whatever your age!
Watch out for Tyre Twist, a unique spin on the classic ‘teacups’ ride, as well as the breath-taking Formula Rossa, which reaches speeds of 240km/h and proudly claims to be the fastest rollercoaster in the world.
Whilst it may not strike you as a traditional family attraction, the Burj Khalifa building in Downtown Dubai is nevertheless worth a visit by any parents who feel that their children might be interested in one of the world’s most iconic architectural achievements.
Officially the tallest building in the world, standing at 828 metres, simply standing outside Burj Khalifa will provide an experience that no family member is likely to forget. For those who wish to explore the tower in all its glory, however, there is no better way than by booking a visit to one of its observation decks – the highest of which, the so-called SKY level – is on the 148th floor.
Tickets to visit the observation decks can be purchased here, and pre-booking works out a lot cheaper than turning up on the day.
A trip to Kite Beach represents a day at the seaside with a difference. As well as the classic combination of sun, sea and sand to keep those keen on relaxing with a good book happy, Kite Beach is also known, unsurprisingly, as a hotspot for kite surfers and flying kites.
The beach is also home to the fantastic Wire World – a series of high-wire rope courses, among other activities, inviting guests to push their balance and nerves to the limit. Recommended attractions include the ‘Swinging Tarzan’ rope course (which finishes with a 40-metre zip line ride) and the ‘Bunjee Ejection’ experience (allowing visitors to bounce as high as they dare without any of the risk of normal bungee jumping).
The best option for families with young children, however, is the excellent Accrobranche Junior, which is perfect for little ones who are keen to join in the rope course fun but do not have the experience to do so at adult levels. The low course acts as a safe introduction to the high-adrenaline activities they may enjoy on holidays when they are older, and includes an exciting range of obstacles such as giant caterpillar nets, bridges and barrels.
You will have realised by now that there is no let-up when it comes to the thrilling family-friendly entertainment that can be enjoyed in Dubai, and the fun just keeps getting more intense with a trip to BOUNCE trampoline park.
There is so much more to BOUNCE than the trampolines, but they are a good place to start: the centrepiece of the attraction is its free jumping arena, featuring around 50 interconnected trampolines that cover the substantial floor and are angled up the walls, meaning there’s no way you can fall off – just keep jumping until you’ve had your fill.
A couple of other highlights include Slam Dunk – allowing you to channel your inner Michael Jordan with a series of basketball hoops set above a bed of trampolines – and dodgeball, which is made even more exciting when played on trampolines!
IMG Worlds of Adventure
Last but not least, we head to the largest indoor theme park in the world – IMG Worlds of Adventure.
A relatively new feature of the Dubai family entertainment landscape, Worlds of Adventure opened in August 2016 and will prove to be a paradise for any child who is obsessed with the Marvel superhero franchise, Cartoon Network shows such as the Powerpuff Girls and Ben 10, or that perennial favourite – dinosaurs!
Divided into five ‘Adventure Zones’ – Marvel, Lost Valley, Cartoon Network, IMG Boulevard and Novo Cinemas – IMG Worlds of Adventure offers a range of spectacular rides which kids and adults alike will love.
Here’s just a taste of the many experiences which visitors have to look forward to:
- Thor Thunder Spin – Not for the faint-hearted, this high-impact ride leaves you at the mercy of the gods as the Mighty Avenger tries to rescue you from Loki, the God of Mischief.
- Forbidden Territory – Travel back in time for a close encounter with all your favourite – and most terrifying – prehistoric creatures.
- The Amazing Ride of Gumball – Inspired by the popular Cartoon Network show, this memorable experience requires you and your family to step up and zap down the creatures which have come to life after Gumball and Darwin’s school science project went wrong!