55 activities you have to try while you are in Dubai
Time Out Dubai staff
1 Buy the Time Out Dubai bucket list issue Everyone loves making a to-do list – especially those of us here at Time Out Towers – but when it comes to the ultimate list to end all lists, the bucket list is the one that stands proudly above the others. We’re not talking about the terrible 2007 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, but the nostalgic task of compiling the essential must-do list of activities before you ‘kick the bucket’ and are on a one-way ticket to life’s next adventure. So get your pen ready and start ticking off your Dubai list: make sure you don’t miss any of the amazing activities on offer in one of the fastest-moving cities in the world.
2 Skydive over the Palm This is the ultimate bucket-list activity for anyone who’s spent any time in Dubai. You’ll get an adrenaline-fuelled once-in-a-lifetime experience and incredible views of the city skyline from 13,000ft as you drift back to earth while strapped to an instructor. Dhs1,750 per person (tandem jump with videographer). Skydive Dubai, Dubai Marina (050 153 3222).
3 Spend a day at the Burj Khalifa Everyone should visit the Burj at least once. Start with a coffee at the Armani Hotel lounge, then head upwards to the 122nd floor to At.mosphere (04 888 3828) for a main course, taking in the view from the world’s tallest dining table, and finish the night in the exclusive Armani/Privé nightclub (04 888 3308).
4 Feast on an award-winning afternoon tea Tea at Sahn Eddar is a must for all Dubaians while in Dubai – it’s the epitome of luxury. Enjoy seven courses of sandwiches, scones and the chocolate black leaf tea and masala chai. From Dhs350 per person, Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah (04 301 7600).
5 Try a desert safari Head out on an early-morning trip, which includes two hours of dune bashing, quad biking, camel rides and sand skiing. Dhs250 per person. Desert Safari Dubai, www.desertsafaridubai.com (04 357 2200).
6 Ride a seaplane or helicopter Get a bird’s eye perspective of Dubai with a 40-minute trip in a Seawings jet (www.seawings.ae, 04 883 2999) or for Dhs765 you can get 15 minutes buzzing around in an Alpha Tours helicopter (www.alphatoursdubai.com, 04 294 9888).
7 Meet penguins and ski indoors in the desert Hug a penguin, ride in a Zorb ball or ski from the top of the 85-metre slope, featuring real snow, all at -4°C. From Dhs200, including brunch at St Moritz restaurant. www.skidxb.com (04 409 4000).
8 Enjoy a top-notch brunch at Saffron With more than 220 dishes on offer, from Chinese dim sum and Mongolian delights to Malaysian specialities and Japanese sushi, this is one of the city’s most popular friday hangouts. From Dhs435. Fri 12.30pm-4pm. www.atlantisthepalm.com (04 426 2626).
9 Visit Skybar for a lofty drink Located on the 27th floor of the Burj Al Arab, the menu includes the world’s most expensive cocktail, which is served in a complimentary 18-carat-gold glass and will set you back about Dhs27,321. Burj Al Arab, www.jumeirah.com (04 301 7600).
11 Enjoy a feast at Dubai’s best restaurant Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire is the Dubai outpost of three-Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire’s international culinary empire. We guarantee your tastebuds will be teased with unexpected combinations of unusual ingredients, so it’s little wonder it was named Best Restaurant at the Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013. InterContinental Dubai Festival City, www.diningdfc.com (04 701 1111).
12 Surf or paddleboard around the Burj Al Arab Head to Surf School UAE for lessons in the art of surfing. You’ll also have the chance to pause for a few photos en route. Dhs125 per person for a 90-minute tour, including equipment hire. Surf School UAE, Al Manara (055 601 0997).
13 Ride the world’s fastest rollercoaster at Ferrari World Brave the impressive Formula Rossa coaster, which shoots out of the gates at 240kph. Also worth checking out is G-Force, which launches guests 62 metres into the air. Day ticket from Dhs235 per adult, Dhs195 per child. Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com (02 496 8001).
14 Learn to skydive indoors The iFly skydiving simulator enables you to recreate the experience of skydiving in a huge indoor wind tunnel, with winds reaching speeds of up to 200kph. From Dhs215 per person. PlayNation, Mirdif City Centre, www.iflyme.com (800 534 7873).
16 See The World The Royal Island Beach Club on The World’s Lebanon Island is the man-made development’s only public beach. Enjoy the beach cabanas or dine in the restaurant, all accessible by water taxi. Open noon-3am. www.royalislandbeachclub.ae (04 225 2923).
17 Ride the slides at Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi Liwa Loop drops riders through a trapdoor, sending them plummeting into a series of loops before being shot out into the pool. It’s one of the most exciting of the 43 rides on offer at the new Abu Dhabi waterpark. Dhs225 per person. Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, www.yaswaterworld.com (02 414 2000).
18 Taste Emirati food and Try a 90-minute walk through Dubai’s oldest district, including a visit to a mosque. From Dhs55. Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, Bur Dubai, www.cultures.ae (04 353 666).
19 Watch the sun rise from a hot air balloon Take a ride over giant red sand dunes and emerald green oases as you spot gazelles and wandering camels. The hour-long tours start each day at 4.30am. From Dhs995 per person. Balloon Adventures Emirates, www.ballooning.ae (04 285 4949).
20 Cruise Dubai Marina on a fancy dhow Jump aboard The Alexandria, a lovely fairy-lit dhow that offers dinner and dancing with friends. The cruise departs at 8.30pm Friday-Sunday and Tuesday-Wednesday. Dhs130 per person, leaving from behind the Lotus Marina Hotel & Spa, Dubai Maria (050 924 0550).
21 Swim with sharks Come face to face with the world’s ultimate predator – if you dare. Dive into the depths of a 10-million-litre tank and experience the thrill of a lifetime by meeting the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks in the world. From Dhs875 per person. Al Boom Diving: firstname.lastname@example.org (04-342 2993).
22 Go to Sandance The Atlantis music fest has become a Dubai institution and is attracting some big-name acts. The gig on Friday May 10 is the last before summer, with a line-up including Florence & the Machine and Keane. Tickets from Dhs295. Sandance Beach, Palm Jumeirah, www.sandance.ae.
23 Stay at a desert resort surrounded by animals Located in the midst of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the luxurious Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa is home to indigenous Arabian wildlife, which can be viewed from the private infinity pools in each villa, or from the sundeck seating areas. From Dhs3,000 per room per night, www.al-maha.com (04 832 9900).
24 Take a yacht ride from Jetty Lounge to the Palm Start the night at al-fresco beach bar Jetty Lounge – named Time Out’s Best Outdoor Bar – then cruise by yacht out to the sister One&Only resort on the Palm for al-fresco dinner at the 101 Dining Lounge and Bar. One&Only Royal Mirage, Al Sufouh, www.oneandonlyresorts.com (04 399 9999).
25 Eat next to an aquarium at Ossiano or beachside at Majlis Al Bahar Seated next to the epic Atlantis aquarium, Ossiano (04 426 2626) is a high-end dining experience including everything from lobster to caviar. It’s equalled only by the exclusively romantic setting of the Burj al Arab’s beachside seafood eatery, Majlis Al Bahar (04 301 7600).
26 See 45 million blooms at the world’s most beautiful garden Marvel at the colourful tapestry of millions of flowers as you wander through the heart-shaped archways of Dubai’s new Miracle Garden. It’s the biggest and most impressive of the ten new parks opened in Dubai recently. Dhs20 per person; free for kids. Dubailand, near Arabian Ranches, www.the-miracle-garden.com (04 422 8794).
27 Test-drive a luxury car You can pose behind the wheel of a luxury convertible by renting a BMW from Lane Luxury Car Rentals for Dhs1,200 per day (04 335 5188), or do it on the cheap by test-driving a luxury motor at any of the many car showrooms dotted along Sheikh Zayed Road.
28 Visit Dubai art galleries at Alserkal Avenue Since 2007, Dubai’s arty district has been home to almost 40 creative galleries and businesses within a one-block radius. It is the city’s only organic arts district, and worth checking out. Just off Sheikh Zayed Road, exit 43, Al Quoz, www.alserkalavenue.com (055 289 7825).
29 Spend a night in all seven emirates You’re living in the United Arab Emirates, but how many of the emirates have you actually seen? Start by dipping your toes in the Indian Ocean at Fujairah, then stay atop the highest mountain at Al Ain’s Jebel Hafeet, in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort, Fujairah, www.sandybm.com (09 244 5555); Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet Al Ain Hotel (03 783 8888).
30 See Liwa’s red dunes The world’s second largest desert, also known as The Empty Quarter, boasts huge red dunes covering hundreds of kilometres. As well as being home to a variety of wildlife, there are also secluded desert retreats at which to spend the night. Try Qasr Al Sarab (www.qasralsarab.anantara.com), or the Liwa Hotel (www.almarfapearlhotels.com).
31 Ride an abra across the creek These tiny, noisy boats are the quickest and most atmospheric way to enjoy the creek. They’ll take you from Bur Dubai to Deira and vice versa. From Dhs1 per person, per trip. Dubai Creek, Deira/Bur Dubai (800 9090).
32 Buy Arabic-influenced keepsakes at a souk If you’re planning on leaving Dubai one day, it’s essential you stock up on Arab souvenirs to remind you of your time in the sun. Nab a better deal by hitting the Textile Souk in Deira, which boasts hundreds of shops selling knick-knacks. Next to Dubai Old Souq dhow station (no number).
33 Buy a bottle with a sparkler in a trendy club What would be more Dubai than lighting up an exclusive nightclub with a sparkler-clad drinks bottle mainlining to your table? Hang out with the celebs regularly spotted at Movida and Cirque du Soir, but be prepared to dig deep into your wallet for the privilege. Bottles from Dhs1,400 at Movida, Radisson Royal Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (055 174 4449); or from Dhs1,300 at Cirque du Soir, Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (056 115 4507).
34 Eat super-fresh fish on the beach at Bu Qtair A diamond’s throw from the Burj Al Arab, squeeze into this Portakabin-style venue and enjoy an insanely messy, unpretentious and undoubtedly delicious Keralan dinner for about Dhs10. Road 4d, near Burj Al Arab (no number).
35 Embrace your inner karaoke singer Dubai’s cross-cultural status means there are some great Asian venues where you can grab the mic and get down to some serious karaoke action. Impress your mates at authentic Chinese restaurant China Sea in Deira: book a private karaoke room with a minimum spend of about Dhs1,000 for 20 people for four hours. Al Maktoum Street, Deira (04 295 9816).
36 Get a henna tattoo Use your body as a canvas for a traditional, but not permanent, reminder of your adventures in Dubai. An ancient practice in India and the Middle East, the trend has recently spread as far as the fingertips and toes of Hollywood celebrities. From about Dhs40. Aroushi Beauty Salon, Oud Metha (04 336 2794).
37 Enjoy a drink and watch the Dubai Fountains Head to Calabar in The Address Downtown for the super-chic surroundings and an outdoor terrace. During the daily happy hour, you’ll get a 50 percent discount on all beverages between 6pm and 8pm. The Address Downtown Dubai, www.theaddress.com (04 436 8888).
38 Try some traditional shisha Head to the latest ‘boutique’ shisha restaurant in Dubai: the newly opened Own Café in JLT is popular with locals and expats for its range of shisha options. Gold Tower, Cluster I, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, www.facebook.com/OwnCafe/info (04 441 3519).
39 Eat a panoramic dinner at Dubai’s revolving restaurant With spectacular views of the Gulf, the Creek and the skyline, Al Dawaar is the city’s only revolving restaurant, offering a mix of European, Middle Eastern, Asian and Japanese cuisines. From Dhs175. Hyatt Regency Dubai, Deira. A dubai.regency.hyatt.com (04 317 2222).
40 Stay overnight at a luxury Bedouin camp in RAK Just a little over an hour’s drive from Dubai Marina, this secluded Bedouin-style camp consists of real goat-hair tents, cushioned seating areas, a barbecue, an authentic underground oven and, of course, a camp fire. It’s ideal for groups of friends who want to escape the city for an evening. Dhs190 per person per night, minimum five guests. www.arabianincentive.com (04 266 6020).
41 Ride the Dubai Ferry Cruise along the coastline with a choice of two routes: from Dubai Creek out around the Burj Al Arab, or from Dubai Marina around the Palm Jumeirah. Trips run daily at 9am,11am, 5pm and 7pm. From Dhs50 per person. www.rta.ae (800 9090).
42 Shoot your friends at the laserdrome If you have a competitive spirit and fancy waging war on your best pals, put together two teams and head to Dubai Laserdrome, where you can engage in a harmless shootout. It’s like paintball, only less messy. Dhs90 per person. Laserdrome, Dubai Autodrome, MotorCity (04 367 8700).
43 Slip and slide in a soapy soccer tournament Travel to Ajman fora round of soapy soccer, which involves playing football on a big inflatable pitch covered with soap suds. It’s super-slippery and super-fun. From Dhs120, Kempinski Ajman, www.kempinski.com (06 714 5555).
44 Sleep under the stars aboard a dhow in Musandam Spend an overnight stay cruising off the Omani coast, where you can drop anchor and see dolphins, swim in phosphorus and don a snorkel to see multi-coloured fish up close. Remember to book in advance, and take your passport to show at the border crossing. From about Dhs6,000 for a group of 15. www.sheesabeach.com (02 638 6551).
45 Learn to kitesurf Kitesurfing is ridiculously popular in Dubai – so much so that they renamed one of the city’s beaches after it. There are a number of schools offering lessons, including the French-run Kitefly Club Dubai. Dhs900 for a three-hour introductory lesson. Kitesurfing Beach, behind Sunset Mall, Jumeirah, www.kitesurf.ae (050 254 7440).
46 Fire a gun at a shooting range Let off some steam, and test your aim and coordination in the process. Jebel Ali Shooting Club offers lessons, as well as outdoor clay shooting and indoor 9mm and .22 calibre pistols. Participants must bring their passport or Emirates ID card to participate. From Dhs110 (25 shots with a .22 calibre pistol). Jebel Ali Shooting Club, Jebel Golf Resort and Spa (04 883 6555).
47 Cast a rod and go fishing on the open seas Sit back and relax on a boat in Umm Al Quwain and see how effective your bait is as you fish overlooking the mangroves. The price also includes pick-up from anywhere in Dubai. From Dhs280. Lama Tours, www.lama.ae (04 334 4330).
48 Taste camel meat This unusual food is now available at a surprising number of restaurants. Sample this tasty treat in Dubai Marina (and soon in JLT) at Best Burgers Forever, which serves a camel-meat burger. From Dhs45. Dubai Marina (04 458 1564).
49 Invest in a bespoke suit or dress Look sharp with a suit made to fit your measurements. We like Hollywood Custom Tailor, which also offers a home service. Ladies can try Dream Girls, which can create items from scratch or copy an existing design. From Dhs1,500 for a suit. Hollywood Custom Tailor, behind Dolphin Hotel, Meena Bazaar, Bur Dubai (04 352 8551). From Dhs150 for a blouse. Dream Girls, Karama (04 337 7287).
50 Ride the cable cars Glide along in a cable car overlooking Creek Park and the skyline of Old Dubai, taking in a 2.3km route. On clearer days, you’ll also be able to spot many of Sheikh Zayed Road’s most recognisable skyscrapers in the distance, as well as the Burj Khalifa. We’d recommend visiting in the morning or later in the afternoon – the cars don’t have A/C, so can get rather sweaty. Dhs25 per person, Dhs5 park entry fee. Creek Park, Oud Metha (04 336 7633).
51 Have an old-school night out in Deira or Bur Dubai Take an evening tour of Old Dubai via some of the area’s best nightspots. Check out live music at Club Se7en and African tunes at Club Africana, then head to the Hilton Dubai Creek Pool Bar for cool views of the creek. Club Se7en, Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 377 1210). Club Africana, Rush Inn Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 352 2235). Hilton Dubai Creek Pool Bar, Deira (04 227 1111).
52 Buy gold from a vending machine Ditch the dirhams and get your hands on pure gold bars. There are various Gold-to-Go machines in Dubai, which dispense five, ten and one-ounce bars of gold. Atlantis The Palm (04 426 0000); Burj Khalifa (04 888 8124).
53 Visit Ravi’s to people-watch in Satwa Nab an outdoor table at this street-side Dubai institution and enjoy tasty Pakistani delicacies, including chicken mughlai, butter chicken and paratha. Not only is the food exceptionally good, it’s one of the best people-watching spots in the city. Ravi’s, Satwa Road (04 331 5353).
54 Spend the day at Al Mamzar Beach Park This expansive beach park on the Sharjah-Dubai border covers 106 hectares and features barbecue stations, a swimming pool, food kiosks, private chalets for hire and grassy picnic areas. Dhs30 per car, Dhs5 per person; Dhs200 per day for a large chalet, Dhs150 for a small chalet. Off Hamriya Port, near Deira (04 296 6201).
55 Go on the Big Bus Tour to learn about the city This open-top tour gives you the chance to use the hop-on, hop-off facility and visit all the essential spots in one day, with expert live commentary to give you a masterclass in everything Dubai has to offer. You can choose a 24- or 48-hour ticket and enjoy added extras such as a dhow river cruise and entry to Dubai Museum. From Dhs220. Daily tours 9am-5pm every 30 minutes. Departures across town, including at Deira City Centre, www.bigbustours.com (04 340 7709).