As the only area of Dubai Parks And Resort that doesn’t require an entry fee, Riverland, opening in October, could easily be dismissed. Not that you could if you wanted to – it is the thoroughfare through which all human traffic must pass on the way to any of the theme parks.
And it seems strange to say, but standing at the mouth of the one-kilometre stretch of water that reaches 65 metres at its widest point, our socks off were really knocked off. Perhaps it was lack of expectations, or maybe it was because we’ve never seen anything quite like this before in the region. Suffice to say, Madinat Jumeirah has got some serious competition.
Banks are linked by one major footbridge – said to be built with unusually high clearance in the anticipation that in the future, as Dubai Parks And Resorts grows, large yachts will be able to pass beneath – and ensconced by a fully operational tram servicing the hotel and the individual park entrances.
The 57 restaurants and bars will take up residence in four areas. The first is French Village, where cobbles for the pedestrianised streets are being laid, on our visit, and the manufacturing of the faux-17th century architecture is well on the way. Theming is integral to the process and all outlets will have to maintain the style of the frontages, so no illuminated “Open” signs. For those, you’ll have to head to Boardwalk, a 1950s Vegas-style “strip”, which in parts, offers over-water dining. There’s also The Peninsula, an elevated collection of warehouse-style licensed bars, and India Gate, featuring themed casual dining, retail and family entertainment.
The Irish Village Four warehouse-style buildings built around a communal “pub garden” will be known as The Peninsula, and is Riverland’s only licensed area. At the heart of it, The Irish Village which is expected to continue its trend of hosting al fresco gigs.
Ride an abra The river will be a hive of activity throughout the day and, much like Madinat Jumeirah and the Dubai Fountain, abra shuttles will operate up and down the 1km stretch of water.
French Village Your first taste of Riverland will be distinctly European. From the entrance, classically designed cobbled streets lined with trees and 17th century buildings wind towards the river banks.
Boardwalk On the flipside, it's all neon lights on the Boardwalk, where the likes of Famous Dave’s BBQ will have over-water dining terraces and all-American themes throughout. Free entry www.dubaiparksandresorts.com/EN/riverland.Riverland