The weather is nice, so take a stroll through the best parks in Dubai
Dubai’s green spaces are a hive of activity and surprises. For example, did you know that Za’abeel Park has a series of monuments dedicated to Dubai’s many twin cities, including a traditional Japanese house as an ode to Osaka? Or that there are camel rides on offer in Mushrif Park? What’s more, there are far more parks in this desert town than you might suspect, covering 7.2 sq km in total. With temperatures hovering around a very pleasant 25°C (although it can occasionally reach 36°C in February, according to Dubai’s Meterological Office; we’ll ignore the rare low of 7°C), there has never been a better time to grab a picnic and investigate the city’s very varied public gardens, especially if your pockets are still a little empty from the festive season. Read on for our special guide to park life – we guarantee there will be loads you’ve never even heard of before (and some might be even better than Safa!).
Creek Park Best for: Everyone!
You’ll never get bored during a visit to this sprawling waterside space. Activities on offer include several children’s playgrounds, bike rental (Dhs30 an hour), a park train to guide you around the area, and an 18-hole mini golf course. There’s also the huge Children’s City, which is full of educational activities and displays for kids (entry is Dhs10 for kids, Dhs15 for adults, open daily 9am-6.30pm). You can also bring your fishing rod (it’s encouraged), and they’ll let you cast off from the jetty by the creek.
The biggest pulls for us, though, are the cable car and dolphinarium. The cable car (Dhs25 per person) offers pretty views over the creek by night and is well worth the evening trip – it’s actually quite romantic. The dolphinarium, meanwhile, is something people of all ages will enjoy: sessions include swimming with dolphins and glitzy shows (from Dhs100 for adults, Dhs50 for children). If you’re hungry, there are two restaurants and snack stalls inside the park – or you can always bring a picnic.
Dhs5 per person. Open Sun-Wed 2pm-11.30pm; Thu-Sat 8am-11pm. Al Riyadh Street, between Garhoud Bridge and Floating Bridge (04 336 7633).
Mushrif Park Best for: Families
This mammoth park is Dubai’s oldest and largest by a long way. It not only houses two (albeit retro) segregated swimming pools and an equestrian centre, but it’s also known as a prime spot for local birdwatchers, what with peacocks roaming around the aviary area and Bruce Scops owls hiding in the trees at night (keep an eye out for them near lampposts).
It’s particularly good for families, as there are endless activities to keep even the most energetic little ones entertained. A ride on the mini train that runs through the park is a good start (and offers a welcome rest, considering how large this park is, although you can also drive through it if you want to save your feet). A camel ride at the park’s petting zoo is another mode of transport on offer. The pièce de résistance, however, is the miniature international village: a surreal place featuring mini houses in the style of abodes from around the world (it’s officially for kids, but we found it pretty cool). On our last visit we spotted a white rabbit bounding through the park, providing a surreal Alice In Wonderland moment.
If you’re not an activities type, head to one of the many picnic areas packed with trees native to the region – the park is, in fact, a natural ghaf forest that was developed into a park in the ’80s. Admittedly, some areas are now a little run down, but that just serves to reinforce its historic character.
Dhs3 per person; Dhs10 per car. Pool access is Dhs10 for adults, Dhs5 for kids. Open daily 8am-11.30pm. Al Khawaneej Road, just outside Mirdif (04 288 3624).
Safa Park Best for: People watchers
When we first moved to Dubai, we ran around Safa Park’s 3.3km track almost every night, yet it was at least a year before we actually ventured through the gates. Big mistake. Why? Well, there’s always something going on at Safa. Given its stunning Burj Khalifa views and its convenient location, smack-bang in the middle of old and new Dubai, this leafy patch is not far from most of the city’s main hubs. In fact, it’s the busiest non-beach park in Dubai, with 842,000 visitors passing through its gates in 2009.
Its most obvious feature from the road is the aforementioned running track, where Dubai’s professional footballers, abaya-clad power walkers and corporate joggers brush shoulders every night. Yet inside the park there’s a lake with paddle boats, a rock garden, a maze (which is pretty easy to figure out) and plenty of swings, slides and barbecue areas. We’d advise visiting on a Saturday, as Fridays are manic, and always keep one eye peeled for the park’s many resident birds, particularly the electric blue Indian Roller.
While Safa can’t compete with the likes of Za’abeel, Al Mamzar and Mushrif in terms of facilities, it holds its own for people-spotting and activities. Every night countless boot camps, sports clubs and organisations meet here, providing endless entertainment for those lounging on the grass. There’s also the ever-popular monthly flea market on Saturdays, as well as countless community group gatherings. But perhaps the most magical experience we’ve had in the park is when we saw around 40 Bohra Muslims performing a group waltz in their colourful attire.
Dhs3 per person. Open Sat-Tue 8am-11pm; Wed-Fri 8am-11.30pm. Between Sheikh Zayed and Al Wasl Roads, Jumeirah 2 (04 349 2111).
Za’abeel Park Best for: Explorers
Located towards the creek end of Sheikh Zayed Road is the behemoth Za’abeel Park. Opened in December 2005 after an investment of approximately Dhs200 million, the park has a little something for everyone. For the more physically inclined among us, there are sizeable floodlit grass playing fields where sports teams can practise, as well as a cricket pitch to slog on. Meanwhile, recreational joggers can exercise on the 3.6km track, and there’s also a skate park (of sorts) and BMX track.
Somewhat bizarrely, Za’abeel features a sizeable amphitheatre, which can be hired out for private events. For kids, there are numerous playgrounds featuring slides and jungle gyms, as well as pedal buggies for hire. Towards the south of the park, there’s a large boating lake where you can hop onto a rowing or pedal boat. And the fun doesn’t stop there. Za’abeel is home to Stargate, the massive edutainment centre spread over five space-themed domes, each packed with activities and even a rollercoaster.
Those with a penchant for picnicking are also catered for – the park boasts a number of covered dining areas and barbecue stations, though barbecuers should beware that if they’re not grilling meats n the designated areas, they could incur the (mild) wrath of the park attendants. And just because you’re in the park doesn’t mean you can’t keep connected with the rest of the world – since May last year, Wi-Fi hotspots have been set up across the park, costing Dhs5 for 30 minutes.
The downsides? Well, considering its proximity to Sheikh Zayed Road (it actually runs through it), Za’abeel isn’t the quietest of Dubai’s parks. This said, it’s so action-packed that there’s always enough there to distract you from the traffic.
Dhs5 per person. Open Sun-Wed 8am-11pm; Thu-Sat 8am-11.30pm; public holidays 8am-midnight. Sheikh Zayed Road (04 398 6888).
Al Rashidiya Park Best for: Family picnics
It may be one of the smaller grassy locations in the city, but this community spot is so good it even has a fan page on Facebook, with more than 230 followers. Thanks to its popularity for local school outings and its location near the airport, you may find it a little noisier than most, but there’s plenty of grass for picnicking and trees to provide shade.
The park is at its busiest on the weekends, predominantly with residents of the local area. If you don’t live nearby it’s still easy to get to, with Al Rashidiya bus stop and a taxi stand outside the gates, as well as a metro station a short walk away.
Free. Open daily 8am-11pm. Fri-Sat families, Sun-Thu ladies and children only. Near Al Rashidiya metro station (04 285 1208).
Al Wasl Park Best for: A low-key trip with kids
Not to be confused with Safa, its much larger neighbour, the relatively diminutive Al Wasl Park is open throughout the week to ladies and children (men are allowed in at weekends with families). Small it may be, but there’s still room for a few kids’ playground areas and lots of shaded spots in which to relax – though we’ll be hitting the sunnier patches to top up our fading tan.
There’s also plenty of room for runners, and the park is open late so it’s an ideal location for an after-work jog. Perfect if you can’t face doing a full circuit of one of the city’s bigger spots, or are keen to avoid running near the roads.
Free. Open daily 8am-11pm. Fri-Sat families only, Sun-Thu ladies and children. 57th Street, off Al Wasl Road (04 344 0860).
Karama Park Best for: Those who want a brief break from browsing handbags in Karama
If you head to Karama Park hoping for a ‘park’, you may be disappointed. If you stumble upon it as a surprisingly nice little patch of green behind Lulu Supermarket, however, you will be mightily impressed. Within its small boundaries lie a random old-fashioned clock, a weather vane and areas to play badminton and cricket.
Whenever we visit, we always find plenty of people picnicking, chatting, reading or just ambling about. In fact, if we’re measuring parks in terms of how much they are used and valued by the local community, Karama could well come out on top.
Free. Open 24 hours. Off Kuwait Street, behind Lulu Supermarket, Karama (no number).
Nad Shamma Park Best for: Joggers
It is a park; honestly… well, it’s certainly used as one. There is not a lot of grass to be found in this horseshoe-shaped area of concrete track, but it makes a good place to run if you live in the area.
The central landmark is the Dewa building and, if you fancy lazing around, it’s not a bad spot for people watching – a wide swathe of the population, regardless of nationality, pass through here to sort their electricity and water. Alternatively, get involved in the giant sandpit, where you can play volleyball (bring your own net and ball) or a civilised game of boules.
Free. Open daily 8am-11pm. Umm Ramool, Rashidiya (no number).
Satwa Park Best for: Only available to those who live nearby
Not everything is as small as it looks. While this green space may seem minute when you look at it from the outside, once you step inside its boundaries you’ll find a sparkly new(ish) play area, a full-size grass football pitch (with nets), a running surface inside the perimeter and, best of all, a basketball and tennis court. Not bad if you live in one of Sheikh Zayed Road’s considerably less green skyscrapers.
Free to nearby residents; call to find out if that includes you. Open Sat-Wed 8am-11pm; Thu-Fri 8am-11.30pm. 308th Street, Satwa (050 420 2892).
Umm Suqeim Park Best for: Beach lovers
Want to lounge by the sea without getting sand in all sorts of places? Then scuttle across to Umm Suqeim Park, which is located right on Jumeirah public beach. In this respect, it’s hard to beat Umm Suqeim in terms of location – not only is the beach a stone’s throw away, but attractions including the Burj Al Arab and Wild Wadi are close enough to walk, making this a great place to stop for a picnic lunch on a Dubai day out.
This said, only women and children are allowed access to the park during the week, while men are allowed in with their families at weekends (when it can get quite crowded). The area is equipped with a playground and a specially designed pavement with bumps and turns for tykes on tricycles, as well as a little café that serves drinks and ice creams.
Free. Open Sun-Wed 8am-11pm; Thu-Sat 8am-11.30pm. Beach Road (near Jumeirah Beach Hotel), Jumeirah (no number).
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Vishal Feb 01, 2011 10:41 am
Nice to see a feature on outdoorsy stuff, but I find the lack of proper biking tracks in Dubai a bit frustrating.....Having said that I have read about a development underway to expand the number of biking paths in the city
Ma. Jhonnette Feb 01, 2011 08:14 am
Nice info! Just to let you know the recently opened Al Barsha PArk is a must see and please include it. I must say very less people are coming (yey!) haha but I must say the place is nothing but tranquil. The 1.5km jogging track is awesome, the kids playground is inviting and for sports lover there are faciltiies to play basketball(full and half courts),tennis, volleyball.
Kash Feb 01, 2011 06:56 am
Nice listing & quite interesting, especially for a park-buff (or a green-buff, if you may call it !) like me. While most of my friends, even my family, love to hang out at big boring malls, always crowded and noisy, I always prefer a nice healthy stroll amongst lush greenery to feel fresh & rejuvenated & keep in tough with nature. But honestly I was disappointed with one beautiful park being missed out, the recently opened park at Muhaisnah-4 area (my locality); its small when you compare it to the bigger safa's and zabeel's, but yes, its a perfect well maintained green nicely landscaped park, good for family picnics, evening walks (with a lengthy tiring joggers track all around a lovely lake) & even some sports such as football & tennis. So try to include same in your next edition, since I believe its not worth missing out at all; still dont believe? most welcome to visit and then comment.
Cheers n Peace,