If using the presence of a Ripe Market as a benchmark of a park’s significance is an accurate gauge, then this quiet neighbourhood park is about to hit the big time. Starting on November 28, every Saturday evening, the park will host a night market. Attracting an unusual mix of sport enthusiasts – there are tennis and basketball courts as well as 1.5km jogging and cycling tracks and families congregating around a handful of shaded play areas and sandpits – it surprisingly never gets too busy. A large (and unused) lake sits in the centre of the park and for the half-mile walk to its far side, you’re almost guaranteed a silence broken only by the occasional jogger panting by. The grass stretches and a few hillocks are popular for picnics and small parties, and the cycle hire is fun. Free. Sun-Thu 8am-11pm. Fri-Sat. 8am-11.30pm.
Since large swathes of Safa Park have been set aside for the construction of the Dubai Canal Project, this enormous central park has emerged as a favourite. It has become the official home of the fantastic morning Ripe Markets and turn up to Gate 2 on market day and you’ll see hundreds of bargain-hunters and hawkers bartering second-hand crafts, clothes and books, while the smell of organic food and freshly cooked burgers drifts by. There are loads of great barbecue spots, a boating lake, jogging and cycle tracks, and even a touring train to see the entire open space in a hurry. Parakeet families have made this their home and there are around 10,000 trees (including 3,000 palms) in the area. Fake trees, however, act as Zabeel’s greatest talking point. The park was the first location for installation of a Smart Palm in line with Dubai Expo 2020’s theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. What this means is, there’s free wi-fi in the park, thanks to the futuristic-looking Smart Palm trees that pump out a free connection. They also provide speedy phone charging. We highly recommend it. Dhs5 per person. Dhs40 for boat hire. Sun-Wed 8am-11pm, Thu-Sat, 8am-11.30pm.
If you were to design a park by following a checklist of essential components then you’d get something like Creek Park. A vast expanse with plenty of barbecue stations, trees and grassy patches for playing games? Check. Well-maintained play areas, interesting plants, clean café and restroom facilities? Check. Something a bit extra for when chilling out on the lawns is not enough? How does a Dolphinarium, Children’s City play room and a Creekside cable car ride sound? To say it is an identikit park made by committee, however, is to undervalue its magic. There is a strong community feel and don’t be surprised to find large family gatherings, social group gatherings and even group singalongs to someone strumming a guitar among the trees. Creek views, passing abras and fun public art mean there is always plenty to see. Dhs5. Sun-Wed 8am-10pm, Thu-Sat 8am-11pm.
If you’re looking flora, you won’t get much better than this 72,000 sqm flower garden. At the time of going to press, its opening had been delayed, but a spokesperson said it was expected any day now, with new designs and attractions. When it does re-emerge, for pleasant morning strolls, it’s hard to beat. We find the lack of wild insects in the well-manicured lawns rather spooky (45 million flowers and we’ve never seen a bee) but we’re blown away by the colour. Having this year topped a poll in the UK’s Daily Telegraph as a modern alternative to Ancient World Wonder The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, it’s clearly one of Dubai’s must-see attractions. But if you can’t wait for the gates to open, look in at the neighbouring Dubai Butterfly Garden. This indoor attraction has a separate entrance and entry fee, but the same kaleidoscopic fascination with colour. Stroll the covered domes and see thousands of butterflies from an abundance of species. Just don’t forget to come back to the Miracle Garden. Dhs30 (Miracle Garden), Dhs50 (Butterfly Garden). Sun-Thu 9am-9pm; Fri-Sat 9am-11pm.
Best known for its five beaches, this fringe of the city park has more than 6,000 cultivated plants, 1,600 palm trees, 300 coconut trees and is one of the greenest areas of the city. Wherever you live in Dubai it can feel like a trek to reach park, but for great views of the Sharjah skyline, it’s worth it. This is one of the few parks in the city that you can genuinely spend a full day at. The attraction of the sea just the other side of the trees is palpable, but don’t feel it is the only benefit of Mamzar. Nearly 30 barbecue stations, a scenic “train” ride, football, basketball and volleyball pitches and a photogenic atrium are just some of the plentiful diversions. If you are making a day of it, consider renting one of the snazzy beach cabins for a modest Dhs200. Dhs5 per person, Dhs30 per car. Sun-Wed 8am-10pm, Thu-Sat 8am-11pm.
The king of Dubai parks is not quite as all-conquering as it has been since opening in 1975. The 40 years of outdoor excellence make it almost as old as the UAE itself and it has undergone several major upgrades in that time – the most significant is underway right now. Parts of it are being redeveloped (read dug up and removed) as part of the Dubai Canal project so it is currently much smaller than we remember it. Known for the vast openness of the lawned areas estimated to account for 80 percent of the old park and plentiful plants (more than 16,000 including trees) it is still a favoured location for greenery and relaxation despite the current downsizing. Dhs3. Open Sun-Wed 8am-10pm, Thu-Sat 8am-11pm.
The quest for greenery in Dubai can’t really be called a nature quest as the natural surroundings in the UAE, by and large, are not verdant lawns and fields. This park out near Mirdif does boast some of the finer collections of indigenous plants and trees in the city though. In a dip among the vast area of dunes “behind” Dubai, it is home to a natural ghaf (a local tree) forest and is regarded as the finest birdwatching park in the city. Local twitchers have recorded more than 100 species in the trees, and in the skies over Mushrif Park, a rare breed of owl – a particular favourite. Other raptors (don’t worry – this is not a Jurassic park, that’s just the name for birds of prey) have been spotted swooping around, but don’t let that put you off a visit to picnic and de-city your soul. There is more to Mushrif than ornithology and you need to see the traditional houses of the world models (including German and English architecture) while in Dubai. There is an equestrian centre, sports courts and tracks, too, making this a comprehensive park experience. Dhs3 per person, Dhs10 per car. Sun-Wed 8am-10pm, Thu-Sat, 8am-11pm.
Opinion was divided when it was announced one of JLT’s lakes would be filled in and turned into a park – it is, after all, not called Jumeirah Park Towers. The loss of just one of the three lakes, however, has given rise to a small green space that is the saviour of many in the neighbourhood. It is compact, but the walking distance convenience means it’s a stroll away for thousands of residents. Sit out on the lawns in the day time and you’ll see families playing and sporty types lumbering round the mini jogging track and exercise equipment. Best of all, it has dozens of cafés within a couple of minutes’ walk, making it the most suitable location for park and food. There is also a good children’s play area with a zip line that has neighbourhood kids shrieking with delight until late in the evening. Friday November 20 will see an afternoon flea market near the basketball court. Free. Open daily 24 hours.