Open up and entertain your visitors with these 31 exciting experiences
With the Easter holidays falling this April, we’re sure you’ll have been inundated with requests from family, friends and hangers-on for a cheap holiday in the sun – mostly at your expense. If you haven’t managed the strength or willpower to tell these springtime invaders to go and photograph something else, you’ll have booked time off work, fixed the punctures on that blow-up bed and dusted off your finest china waiting for your (uninvited) guests. We know your pain. So here are a few ideas to help you pass their visit, with the only hiccups likely to have been caused by those unlimited refills at your favourite fast food joint.
Dubai has a huge variety of eateries offering dining experiences unlike any other. For a holiday feast that’ll live long in the memory we suggest one (or all) of the following:
Most UAE newbies won’t have sampled the delights of Emirati cuisine so take your fresh-faced food fans to this Creekside wonder. The menu is split into traditional dishes and more modern versions that use local ingredients. Aseelah’s mastermind, Uwe Micheel, spent years dining in local homes to perfect his menu, and it shows. If you’re feeling extravagant, order the Arabian lobster, which epitomises the best in Emirati flavours. Open daily 12.30pm-4pm, 6.30pm-11.15pm. Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek (04 205 7033).
La Petite Maison Nothing quite says “fancy food” like the haute cuisine served by our Gallic friends. There are a number of quality restaurants in Dubai, but one of our absolute favourites is this DIFC staple, winner of Best French at this year’s Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards. The service here is impeccable and such standards are topped only by the “plats”. The côtelettes d’agneau Vivienne (lamb cutlets sounds far less tantalising, right?) are sensational, trust us. Open daily noon-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Gate Village 8, DIFC (04 439 0505).
PLAY Restaurant & Lounge We couldn’t very well overlook our Restaurant of the Year, now could we? PLAY grabbed said gong thanks to its uncanny knack for impressing all those who walk through its doors. The ambience at this stylish venue is always buzzing any night of the week, meaning any awkward silences will be drowned out. Chef Reif Othman is quite the culinary genius and puts his immense talent into every single dish, often fusing flavours that shouldn’t work but just do – he works hard so you can PLAY hard… Open daily 6pm-3am. The H Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 336 4444).
RÜYA Guests at Grosvenor House in Dubai Marina are very much spoiled for choice when it comes to on-site cuisine, with Toro Toro and Rhodes W1 now joined by this Anatolian masterpiece. The plush surroundings evoke ultimate Ottoman style, but RÜYA (winner of our Best Newcomer – Fine Dining at this year’s Restaurant Awards) is more than just a pleasant place to sit. The entertainment is superb and is topped only by the food. Steak fans should definitely indulge in RÜYA’s beast of a chilli-rubbed rib-eye, while the two cheese pide with slow-cooked egg will please just about any palate. Open Sat-Wed 6pm-1am; Thu-Fri 6pm-2am; Fri-Sat noon-4pm. Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 399 9123).
While plenty of visitors are magnetically drawn to the Burj Khalifa, there’s no need to follow that particular herd when you can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city while tucking into some hugely hearty Canadian-inspired grub. The staff at this super-sleek venue are among the friendliest around and if you don’t fall in love with the fried chicken, lamb ribs or the burgers, you clearly have a heart (and taste buds) of stone. The onion rings are epic, too. Open daily 6pm-2am; Sun-Thu 11.30am-3pm; Sat noon-4pm; JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, Business Bay (04 560 1700).
Days out (without you)
As much as you love having them around (or at least you’re very good at pretending you do), sometimes you need to get your guests out of your hair. We’re not suggesting you buy them a one-way flight to Antarctica (although we’ve heard it’s nice this time of year). Instead, pack them off on these top day trips.
Abu Dhabi: A capital idea No trip to the UAE could be deemed complete without a visit to the country’s capital city, which offers a totally different day out to Dubai. Culture vultures will undoubtedly make a bee-line for the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a stunning piece of architecture that is resplendent both day and night. If it’s a lazy day your guests are seeking, Abu Dhabi has a wide range of well-kept beaches to sprawl out on and plenty of cracking restaurants to refuel in, while nature lovers will delight in a tour of the mangroves or a wildlife safari on Sir Bani Yas Island. Travel time: around 90 minutes by car, taxi or bus (until the Hyperloop is built).
Al Ain: The Garden City
It might come as surprise to some of our visitors from leafier locations that the UAE has its very own oasis. Al Ain is a city renowned for its greenery and is the nation’s only Unesco World Heritage Site. On Friday April 7 to Saturday 8, Al Ain Oasis will be laying on some family entertainment with live music, cooking demonstrations and food stalls. While there, your buddies might spot the locals rehydrating with a bottle of Al Ain water, but if they want an alternative use for the old H20, take a trip to Wadi Adventure, the Middle East’s first man-made white-water rafting, kayaking and surfing venue. Travel time: around 90 minutes by car or taxi, three hours by bus.
Fujairah: for a little R&R
One of the UAE’s most easterly points, your visitors will have to get up early to enjoy a full day out in Fujairah (we’re sure you won’t lose any sleep about that). Once they’ve navigated the winding roads approaching this Emirati outpost, what they’ll find is a haven of tranquillity perfect for a spot of rest and recuperation. Home to what are arguably the country’s best beaches, Dibba attracts water sports enthusiasts in their droves. While here, they should drop in at the Radisson Blu Resort where they’ll find The Palms Dive Centre, which organises diving excursions to the picturesque Dibba Rock. But if they feel like that’s getting in too deep, they can always just ride the waves on a banana boat instead. Travel time: One hour and 40 minutes.
Dubai Parks And Resorts: All the fun in one
Set on a whopping 25 million square feet of land, Dubai Parks And Resorts features not one but four distinct venues – motiongate, Bollywood Parks, LEGOLAND and LEGOLAND Water Park – which all told have more than 100 rides and attractions. Added to that, your guests can relax after a day’s amusement at Riverland where they’ll find restaurants, shops and even a faux medieval French village. Fingers crossed they’ll love it that much they’ll stay overnight at Lapita Hotel giving you one more day to chalk off the itinerary. Travel time: 25 minutes from Dubai Marina by car or taxi. Tickets from Dhs295.
It’s likely your freeloaders, ahem, we mean distinguished guests, will have heard about that age-old Dubai institution, the brunch. But rather than become consumed by all the midday mayhem on offer, leave your visitors with memories of a refined après-midi in salubrious surroundings. Try these five for size…
Ideal for those who can’t make up their mind what cuisine they have a hankering for, this hugely popular brunch has a little slice of everything. Bringing together steakhouse The Hide, Spanish eatery Al Hambra and all-day-dining venue Arboretum, the sheer volume of food is immense, although the quantity certainly doesn’t detract from the quality. You’ll be seated either inside one of the trio of restaurants or outside on the patio area with views of the resort’s canal as you listen to the band belting out huge hits. Dhs495 (soft drinks), Dhs595 (house beverages), Dhs250 (kids aged four to 11), free (kids under four). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Jumeirah Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 432 3232).
Pure Sky Lounge
The Hilton JBR’s Friday fiesta is an early evening affair, and if you can grab a table looking out onto the Arabian Gulf, you’ll be treated to a beautiful sunset and a selection of six starters, seven mains and two desserts shared in pairs. Among the many highlights here are the tuna ceviche blanca and the grilled salmon and pea purée. The waiting staff are attentive, ensuring your drinks remain topped up, although we’re not certain if they’ll step in if squabbles start over who ate the last tempura Portobello mushroom… Dhs225 (soft drinks), Dhs375 (house beverages). Fri 5.30pm-9pm. Hilton Dubai, The Walk, JBR (04 374 7888).
Thiptara The epitome of serenity, this Thai restaurant occupies a prime position on Burj Lake but is lauded for much more than the views. The selection of dainty starters isn’t huge, but the standard is high and we can recommend the pomelo salad. As for the mains, you can’t beat the lobster, which is up there with the best brunch dishes in the city. For dessert there are good sorbets and fresh fruit, as well as a stunning chocolate fondant. Dhs260 (soft drinks), Dhs320 (house beverages), Dhs390 (bubbly). Fri 1pm-4pm. The Palace Downtown Dubai, Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard (800 278 624).
Traiteur An old favourite of Time Out’s, the French finesse that Traiteur shows during the week is replicated beautifully on a Friday. Having sauntered through the lobby of the stunning Park Hyatt to its culinary pièce de résistance, it’s not hard to see why this place has won a slew of our awards. There’s plenty to shout about here, especially the fresh Fine de Claire oysters and escargots. Make sure you leave room for diving into the crêpe and waffle station, though. Even your miserable uncle will be sated by this super meal, despite your auntie’s pitiful attempts at engaging the chef with her GCSE-level French. Dhs495 (soft drinks), Dhs695 (sparkling grape), Dhs775 (bubbly), Dhs242 (kids aged six to 12). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 602 1814).
Another favourite of ours, Zuma has also been a regular winner at the Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards, clinching Best Brunch, as well as Best Japanese this time around. A classy, contemporary and enormously popular hangout, its brunch is truly spectacular with an array of mouth-watering dishes. Most of them might be familiar, but nowhere else does it this well. The sashimi is simply stunning, the selection of maki and other sushi rolls is awe-inspiring and the playful and healthy twists on the standard options is inspired. Dhs450 (soft drinks and cleansers), Dhs595 (sparkling grape and house beverages), Dhs655 (bubbly), Dhs225 (kids aged four to 12), free (under fours). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Gate Village 6, DIFC (04 425 5660).
Free things to do
It’s not only Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson fans who think the best things in life are free. Here at Time Out we’re firm believers that gratis activities are a win-win. Try these ways to pass the time that won’t cost you a dirham…
Drinks on the house Dubai’s pubs and clubs really know how to ingratiate themselves to the city’s female population. Just look at all the ladies’ nights. Our favourite is Miss Independent at Ramusake, which we’ve just crowned the best at our Music & Nightlife Awards. It offers unlimited free grape to the gals from 7pm to midnight every Wednesday. Not forgetting the fellas, send them to The Den at McGettigan’s DWTC on a Tuesday from 7pm to 11pm, when they’ll get three free drinks and free pool. Ramusake, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai – Jumeirah Beach, The Walk, JBR (04 559 5300); McGettigan’s DWTC, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 378 0800).
Food tasting at Cucina If your idea of street food is picking up a half-eaten sarnie you find on the pavement, you need help, which thankfully is at hand at this Italian eatery in Deira. On the last Wednesday of every month, the chefs fling open the kitchen doors and give a talk on an ingredient used in Italy. A guided tour means a free meal as well as expert culinary advice from the chefs. Tonight (Wednesday March 29) is all about the Mediterranean caviar, bottarga and there’s a veg special on April 26. Last Wed of the month. Cucina, JW Marriott Hotel Dubai, Abu Baker Al Siddique Road, Deira (04 607 7977).
Rhythm on the River So, your visitors have retired their Glastonbury tent and are throwing a fit about the prices of music festivals. Take the edge off their rancour by driving them to Riverland Dubai where three days of entertainment won’t cost them a fil. We’re particularly looking forward to Michael Jackson’s doppelgänger performing on a floating stage, as well as the 15 acts playing Island Plaza and the New Orleans marching band. Who needs Ed Sheeran, right? Thu April 6- Sat 8, 2pm-10pm. Dubai Parks And Resorts, Sheikh Zayed Road (800 262 9464).
Sunday night at the movies Going to the cinema can prove a little pricey to say the least, especially if your guests happen to be from the UK. However, you can save your cash for a popcorn splurge at the Movies Under The Stars night on Wafi’s rooftop. There’s no entry fee for this Sunday screening and the line-up is varied, with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close on April 2, He’s Just Not That Into You on April 9 and The Blind Side on April 16. Beanbags are provided. Sun 8.30pm. Until April 30. Wafi Pyramids Rooftop Gardens, Oud Metha (04 324 4100).
Stroll along the canal
The city is in the midst of something of a transformation and one of the most striking new additions has to be the Dhs2.7 billion Dubai Water Canal. More than 3.2km of promenade has been added, offering locals and visitors a fresh view of the Creek and the city as a whole. Stop at the waterfall for a group selfie, especially at night when it’s colourfully illuminated. As Alan Partridge would say, “Waterway to have a good time”. Head to www.rta.ae for more information.
We don’t know about you but we find the end of any holiday can be a fraught time as you desperately try and forage for souvenirs for those back home that you didn’t deem worthy of accompanying you on your great escape. However, if you put in enough planning Dubai has plenty to offer when it comes to keepsakes – and not just the tat you might find in bog-standard gift shops. Try these three places for size…
One of Dubai’s biggest attractions, the pavilions here have had a facelift for this season. Pick up an array of gifts including Yemeni daggers and Egyptian dresses along with handicrafts made by local artisans and quirky home décor. You definitely won’t find any of these goods in the malls. Dhs15. Open Sat-Wed 4pm-midnight, Thu-Fri 4pm-1am. Until April 8. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road (04 362 4114).
Karama As well as a mind-boggling selection of handbags, this is the perfect place to buy some souvenirs. Ignore all those Burj Khalifa statues and search through the stacks of pashminas, ranging from Dhs10 to Dhs500 depending on quality. Make sure you haggle, though, it’s all part of the fun. Open daily. Times vary. 18B Street, Karama.
Textile Souk Hop on an abra from Deira (it only costs a dirham) and you’ll find Dubai’s famous trading centre that contains an almost limitless choice of raw silk, cotton, carpets and ornately embroidered fabrics that really capture the essence of the city’s bygone era. Again, haggling is an absolute must. Open Sun-Thu 8am-1.30pm, 4pm-9pm. Closed Fridays. Bur Dubai.
Bargain happy hours
A night out can be expensive, but if you shop around, there are plenty of bars offering deals if you can make it out early.
Cargo Located on the third floor of Pier 7, Cargo is a bustling bar attracting a trendy crowd. Happy hour here means Dhs25 for selected beverages. Daily 5pm-8pm. Pier 7, Dubai Marina (04 361 8129).
Fuego This modern Mexican hangout rustles up some cracking grub. However, if you’ve worked up a thirst selected beverages are available for Dhs22. Daily 3pm-7pm. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 449 0977).
Mint Leaf of London This is an impressive import from Blighty. What’s more, happy hour is all day here, with premium house beverages on offer for Dhs25. Sat-Wed noon-1am; Thu-Fri noon-2am. Emirates Financial Towers, DIFC (04 706 0900).
The Observatory Few bars can compete with the views offered by The Observatory and people flock here for the 30 to 35 percent discount on selected drinks. Daily 5pm-8pm. Marriott Dubai Harbour Hotel & Suites, Dubai Marina (04 319 4795).
West Beach Bistro & Sports lounge With its friendly staff and solid pub grub, West Beach keeps punters coming back with one of the longest happy hours in town. Hops start at Dhs25. Daily noon-9pm. Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach, The Walk, JBR (04 449 8888).
Great golf deals
Some travellers find it impossible to resist the urge to bring their clubs on holiday, sometimes even at the expense of essentials. Your golf buddies will be welcomed here, but to save you a few dirhams, we’ve chipped in with a few money-saving rounds…
Arabian Ranches Golf Club Set in one of the most sought-after residential areas of Dubai, this challenging par-72 course is a test of anyone’s game. It’s particularly enjoyable to play here at twilight when fees are a lot cheaper. Dhs275. Sun-Wed from 2pm. Arabian Ranches (04 366 4700).
Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club There’s lots to love about this perfectly manicured venue on the banks of the Creek, not least the extra-large holes on the Palm Par 3 course. Play nine holes of regular or footgolf and they’ll throw in breakfast, lunch or dinner. What a bargain! Dhs120. Daily 7am-10pm. Deira (04 205 4666).
The Track, Meydan Golf
A cracking nine-holer in the shadows of Meydan Racecourse, you’ll have to bring you’re A-game to break par here. Staying dry can prove particular tricky, especially as summer is coming, so snap up the Troonfit deal after hours on the weekend. Dhs150. Fri-Sun from 5pm. Nad Al Sheba (04 381 3733).