Dubai has grown in popularity as a family holiday destination, what with the year round sunshine, and great family entertainment, beaches and food on offer. To help you get the most out of your vacation read our Parent’s Guide to the Best Family Holiday in Dubai.
Dubai has grown from just being the desert, to the jewel in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) crown for tourism, trade and business. Once a stop-over for travelers to India, The Maldives, Africa and Australia, with a thriving Duty Free business, the opening up of the housing market to non-GCC individuals in 2002, has seen a rise in the number of expats calling Dubai home.
With such a large expat community, it is inevitable that tourism has and will continue to rise, as visiting relatives, and many more, flock to the emirate to enjoy the year round sunshine. And Dubai has embraced all who come, with the creation of stunning hotels, eateries, shopping facilities and family friendly entertainment for both tourists and locals.
Dubai has managed to retain some of it’s old world charm too, and really is a haven for a great family holiday. It does get very hot in Summer months so, the best time to visit is September to April.
I was lucky enough to enjoy a family holiday in Dubai – here are my tips to ensure you get the most from, and enjoy, your Dubai Family Holiday.
Dubai – Where to Stay with Kids
There are a host of family friendly hotels in Dubai.
The most popular ones are situated along the coast with Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Altantis, Burj Al Arab, Movenpick Hotel Ibn Buattuta Gate, Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf at Madinat, Raffles Dubai, Grosvenor House Dubai, One & Only The Palm, The Address Dubai Marina, Park Hyatt Dubai, The Oberoi Dubai and Le Royal Meridan Beach Resort all receiving Travellers Choice Winners Awards 2016.
We were lucky enough to stay at the Jumeriah Beach Hotel which offered a great Kids Club (Sinbads), loads of free water sports including unlimited entry to the Wild Wadi Water Park, six swimming pools suitable for every age group, and access to a great beach.
For families with older kids Atlantis The Palm is great choice. With a superb water park (Aquaventure) and the chance to swim with dolphins, visit The Lost Chambers Aquarium or meet sea lions at Sea Lion Point. You really don’t need to leave the hotel at all!
Top Tip – The weekend in the UAE is Friday and Saturday
Dubai – Where to Eat with Kids
There is no shortage of places to eat out with the kids, when holidaying in Dubai.
- All hotels offer a choice of restaurants to suit all budgets.
- The shopping malls all offer great value and choice.
- Look out for Kids Eat Free deals in some restaurants.
- Check out Friday Brunch without alcohol, which is popular at many restaurants, and offers large, high-quality buffets to choose from
- The outdoor markets like the Ripe Market at Zabeel Park has a huge selection of good quality, well priced, eateries.
- For a real treat you could book afternoon tea at Burj Al Arab and get to see inside what some consider the world’s finest 5* hotel.
Top Tip – As a predominately Muslim country, alcohol is only sold in licensed hotels and bars. There is a zero tolerance policy to drinking and driving.
10 Family Friendly Places to Visit in Dubai with Kids
#1. KidZania Dubai
Situated in the Dubai Mall, KidZania Dubai is a fascinating place to visit.
Suitable for children aged 1 to 16 years. There is a toddler area for younger children. And for children aged 4+, this kid size, replica city, has a functioning economy and 80+ role playing posts, which offers children the opportunity to perform real jobs such as doctor, journalist, police officer, dentist, pilot etc. and get paid for them in the local currency KidZos.
The KidZos can then be used to buy products and services or can be saved and used in any KidZania City around the world. The more you work the more you get paid, just like real life!
#2. The Wild Wadi Water Park
This water park at the Jumeriah Beach Hotel has been a firm favourite with families for 15+ years. With rides to suit all ages. a wave pool, surf simulators and sun-decks to relax on, arrive early and stay late!
#3. The Ski Dubai Snow Park
Imagine skiing in Dubai? Well you can! Ski Dubai, with indoor ski slopes in the Mall of the Emirates, is a big hit with families of all ages.
You can take to the slopes if you are already an experienced skier / snowboarder or book a ski lesson. The bobsled and toboggan areas are also popular. There is a theatre showing family films, a snow cavern filled with interactive experiences, and an ice bar where you can enjoy hot chocolate and escape from the regular snowfalls.
Please note that most activities are not suitable for children under 2.
#4. Ice Skating Rink
The Olympic size indoor rink in the Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa is a must for all visitors. With year round events to watch you don’t even have to take to the ice. But if you wish, 2 hour public sessions can be booked, or you can try an ice skating lesson.
The City Museum at Al Jadaf, is an educational city which caters for kids aged 2 to 15 years. With daily workshops, shows, and events, all members of the family are well catered for. As this facility is indoors, it is great to visit when it’s hot outside.
#6. The Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
With everything from frogs to sharks to enjoy, visitors can also take part in cage snorkeling or shark dives (not for the feint hearted), or take a Glass Bottom Boat ride to experience the aquarium in all it’s glory.
The Water Park at Atlantis on the Palm Jumeriah, is a large water park that has been designed so that you can move from ride to ride while staying in the water. Or you can relax on the private beach and play in the tidal pool or chill out on the sun-loungers.
#8. Desert Activities
No trip to Dubai would be complete without taking part in some desert activities like camel riding, dune buggies or a desert safari. There are various companies offering a range of different activities to suit every budget and age.
#9. Dubai Bus Tour
Take in the sights of Dubai on a hop on hop off bus tour. Do this early in your vacation to get your bearings and get a glimpse of all Dubai has to offer.
You can choose from a range of tickets on 3 routes including a night tour. Most ticket choices give you a free Dhow Cruise where you can enjoy a view of the city from the water and free entry tickets to the Atlantis Aquarium.
#10. Dubai Miracle Garden
This amazing garden boasts 100 million blooming flowers making it the world’s biggest nature garden. It is open daily from 9am to 9pm and 11pm at weekends. Under 3’s are free and will especially love the Butterfly Garden.
Top Tip – Ensure you dress modestly when you are out and about. For women, cover shoulders.
10 Free Things to do in Dubai for Families
Holidays with kids are expensive, so it’s always worth knowing a few free activities you can do and enjoy. Here’s our pick of free things to do with kids in Dubai:
#1. See the Dancing Fountain
Visit the Dancing Dubai Fountain at the Dubai Mall, Burj Kalifa.
It is the world’s largest dancing fountain and shows run every half an hour daily from 6pm to 11pm and in the afternoons at 1.00 & 1.30pm daily except Fridays, when they run at 1.30 & 2pm.
#2. Head to the Beach
Most beaches are attached to resorts and hotels but there is a free entry to the Jumeriah Beach Residence (JBR) adjacent to the Dubai Marina. When you are in need of refreshments, why not hit the boardwalk and enjoy a huge array of restaurants.
#3. Beach Activities
The Kite Beach is also free to visit and has recently added trampolines and other free family activities so is definitely worth checking out. You can also enjoy paddle boarding, kite surfing, soap football and a beach gym.
#4. Ripe Food & Craft Market
The Ripe Food & Craft Market at Zabeel Park on Fridays offers a host of activities for children, and has a great craft market section showcasing over 100 local businesses and artisans.
#5. Spice Souk
A visit to the Spice Souk in Deira is like stepping back in time.
Just a stones throw from the cosmopolitan city and adjacent to the Gold Souk these narrow lanes are worth a visit to experience the fragrances and spices of the region. if you do decide to splash out at either the Spice or the Gold Souk, haggling is a must.
#6. Dubai Global Village
Dubai Global Village, Arabian Ranches on the Creek, showcases goods, food and crafts from 40+ countries. With fairground rides (cost involved) and free shows and entertainment to enjoy, be prepared for an fun day of walking and shopping. Do check opening hours in advance.
#7. Souk Madinat Jumeirah
Souk Madinat Jumeirah is an authentic re-creation of an ancient Middle Eastern marketplace. Stroll through winding streets and enjoy Arabic smells and architecture and free street entertainment. You could take in a show at the Madinat Theatre, or shop for traditional items along with top designer items (cost involved).
#9. Go Camel Racing
Camel Racing at the Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack is a sight worth witnessing.
Entry is free, so go along and watch the racing of these highly trained camels. The track is open from September to April.
#10. Free Movies under the Stars
Every Sunday at 8.30pm you can enjoy movies under the stars for free at Pyramids Rooftop Gardens, Wafi Mall. Relax on giant beanbags with the family and enjoy the show.
Top tip – Buy the Entertainer for Families and Time Out Dubai when you arrive for vouchers and offers for Food & Activities and up-to-date information on activities taking place during your stay, including free ones. Or check out the Dubai Calendar and Visit Dubai for up-to-date Festivals and Events information.
Have you visited Dubai with the family? Please share your experiences with us in the comments box below.