These days, feeling lush grass between your toes in Dubai is as plausible as sinking your feet into the sand: if you’ve noticed greenery sprout up in your area recently, you’re not alone. The number of public parks and landscaped spaces in the city is on the rise, thanks to an initiative by Dubai Municipality to make eight per cent of Dubai green by 2020. While there’s no denying the pulling power of the city’s bigger parks, such as Za’abeel and Al Safa, there are some newcomers as well as little-known sights within the big guns that you must check out. Did you know there’s a cactus garden in Creekside Park? Or softball pitches next to Al Quoz Park? Here’s all the info you need to spend a day on the green: pack a picnic, grab a blanket and set off while the cooler weather still permits.
Al Quoz Pond Park USP: This park is still relatively quiet (possibly due to the fact that there’s no signage, and the entrance creeps up on the highway without warning!). Its shaded grassy areas offer the perfect place to get stuck into a book. Next to the park you’ll also find three manicured softball pitches for kids.
Size of park: 127,000 sq m, 45,000 sq m of which is taken up by the pond.
Best for: Families looking to enjoy some quiet time or couples searching for some reprieve from the kid-plagued parks in the city.
Shops or kiosks: There’s little in the way of food stalls, so bring a packed lunch or picnic.
Don’t miss: The bouncy jogging track dotted with gym equipment (there are even directions to teach you how to use each machine), kids’ playground and the softball pitches complete with batting cages and spectator bleachers.
Nature hunt: Stalk-like birds mill about in the pond, and weeping willow-style trees hang over hilly nooks, shading the area beautifully.
Free. Open Sun-Thu 8am-11pm; Fri-Sat 8am-11.30pm; public holidays 8am-midnight. Take the Nad Al Sheba exit from Sheikh Zayed Road, continue along the overpass and the park is on the sharp right.
Running track, Toilets.
Safa 2 Park USP: Hidden away in suburban Al Safa 2, this teeny park, a downsided version of the giant Safa Park nearby, is a hit with yummy mummies and young families. In the week the park is only open to ladies and kids, and provides a good meeting place for young mums.
Size of park: The actual measurements of this park are unknown, but it’s small: small enough so that you can keep one eye on the kids at all times, and both ears on the conversation.
Best for: Families with children and/or young babies.
Shops or kiosks: Although there’s a food kiosk in the centre of the park, it wasn’t open last time we visited. The closest shop is Anwar Cafeteria on Al Wasl Road, so bring some sustenance if you’re planning to stay all day.
Don’t miss: The mini football, volleyball and basketball courts (with lowered hoops) next to the park, perfect for budding athletes.
Nature hunt: The park is dotted with lush shrubbery and frangipani trees, which attract a gaggle of birds.
Free. Open Sun-Thu 8am-11pm; Fri-Sat 8am-11.30pm; public holidays 8am-midnight. Al Safa 2. From Sheikh Zayed Road, turn onto Al Manara Road and take a right at the first lights. Drive along Al Wasl Road and take the first right, then right again, then continue until you see the small park on your left.
Ball games allowed, Toilets.
Media City Park USP: Set in the heart of Dubai media-land, this little patch of greenery is an ideal spot for office workers on their lunch breaks. It’s also proven to be one of the best venues for events, thanks to its central location, with grassy areas surrounded by skyscrapers and twinkly lights.
Size of park: Approximately 15,000 sq m, including a lake.
Best for: Office workers who’ve had a tough morning: seeing palm trees, greenery, a lake and ducks should perk you up. It’s also a good green spot for those who live in Dubai Marina, Media City or Knowledge Village, and it’s typically quiet on weekends.
Shops or kiosks: Circle Café is located near the CNN Building, as is little sandwich shop Bakemart. Sandwiches (heated if preferred) cost from Dhs13. Bargain.
Don’t miss: Sculptures created in 2002 to celebrate Dubai Shopping Festival, plus the odd gardener doing a headstand (as we spotted on our last visit), and a recycling point.
Nature hunt: It’s possible to spot turtles, ducks, crows and fish in the lake (which is a slightly unreal shade of turquoise).
Burj Park USP: This little green space, located on a man-made island amid the Burj Khalifa lakes, offers a welcome break from the traffic-clogged mall. With the Burj towering above, it boasts plenty of photo opportunities, and is great for running/strolling/dog-walking come evening. The well-manicured lawns often host music concerts and one-off events.
Size of park: A diminutive 11,300 sq m, but it’s never too busy so you’ll usually find plenty of space on the grass.
Best for: City dwellers who want to get back to nature, but don’t want to stray too far from the mod cons of the mall.
Shops or kiosks: With The Dubai Mall mere metres away, you can stock up before hitting the grass, or grab a cappuccino from a nearby café and retire to the lawn.
Don’t miss: The Dubai Fountains. It’s a prime spot for the half-hourly fountain shows from 6pm, and you’re guaranteed an unobstructed view (unlike most spots closer to the mall).
Nature hunt: It’s more of a lawn than a park so there isn’t a whole lot of nature, but animal lovers will enjoy dog-watching as nearby residents emerge at sunset for their nightly stroll with their pooch.
Free. Open 24 hours. Next to Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (800 36227).
Pets allowed, Ball games allowed, Skating allowed, Food, Toilets.
Al Barsha Pond Park USP: While there are plenty of places to chill out in this park, its main draw is the 1.4km jogging and cycle tracks and sporting equipment, as well as volleyball, tennis and basketball courts, and a massive pond – although there’s no signs of boats yet.
Size of park: 52,500 sq m – large enough to play hide and seek for an hour without coming close to finding anyone.
Best for: People with active lifestyles, and anyone who is keen to take up a team sport.
Shops or kiosks: Nearby Al Barsha Mall has a Union Coop as well as a French Bakery, so you can stop by on your way to grab a few snacks. Also, the local grocery near Roots hair salon is just across 329 road. There’s also a sweetcorn vendor inside the park at weekends.
Don’t miss: The Venice Beach-style muscle equipment and the marked start and finish lines on the bouncy jogging track, as well as sneakers sticking out the bottom of abayas and dishdashas.
Nature hunt: The jogging track is lined with date palms and manicured shrubbery bursting with orange and pink flowers.
Free. Open Sun-Thu 8am-11pm; Fri-Sat 8am-11.30pm; public holidays 8am-midnight. Enter from behind Emirates NBD Bank and Al Mawakeb School, Barsha.
Ball games allowed, Running track, Skating allowed.
Al Mamzar Park USP: It’s a staypark! Where else in Dubai can you rent a chalet in a beach park for just Dhs160 a night? You can rent a bigger one for Dhs210, but remember to book well in advance. Park facilities include lots of barbecue stations and shaded picnic areas, restaurants and kiosks, bicycle rentals, a half-pipe skate ramp, mini amusement rides and even arcade games with pool tables. Tip: the toilets are average, so just make sure you bring tissues (there’s no paper).
Size of park: 1,060,000 sq m: large enough so you’ll always find a great spot, but never too secluded that you get lonely.
Best for: Anyone who can’t decide between a day at the beach or the park.
Shops or kiosks: The park has plenty of kiosks and coffee shops offering snacks to keep your appetite in check. Outside the park, but within walking distance, you’ll find Al Mallah cafeteria for quick snacks and a chai, while Century Mall, which has a Carrefour and a small food court, is a few minutes away by car.
Don’t miss: Eating at the ‘traditional café’ behind Mamzar Coffee Shop 3.
Nature hunt: There are plenty of birds and lots of regular trees and trimmed shrubs, as well as sandy areas boasting more unusual vegetation.
Dhs5 per person (free for kids under two), or Dhs30 per car. Open Sun-Wed 8am-11pm; Thu-Sat 8am-11.30pm; public holidays 8am-midnight. Al Khaleej Road, past Hamriya Port, Deira (800 900).
Creekside Park USP: You’ll find a 2.5 km-long promenade overlooking Dubai Creek that’s perfect for walking and rollerblading. Alternatively, head straight to Gate 4 to check out the unusual cactus garden. You can read a book on the bench in a peaceful corner, or take a stroll to explore these prickly plants.
Size of park: A sizeable 960,000 sq m.
Best for: Families and anyone who enjoys the outdoors – even during busy weekends it’s possible to find quiet areas if you head to the far ends of the park. If you fancy picnicking, just bring a blanket or a tent and spend a whole day on the grass.
Shops or kiosks: Refreshment kiosks such as Malik Burger are located around the park to provide snacks and drinks, and there are plenty of shaded barbecue spots featuring benches and tables.
Don’t miss: The cable car, offering gondola rides with city views. Cabins aren’t air-conditioned, but if you go at sunset you won’t regret it. Tickets are sold separately at the entrance (Dhs25 for adults, Dhs10 for kids, Dhs140 for a private cabin). There’s also a dolphinarium located within the park, as well as the Children’s City fun park.
Nature hunt: You’ll spot plenty of people fishing in the creek, and it’s possible to see the occasional wild bird, such as blue herons chilling on the banks waiting for schools of fish to pass. Some of the blooming cacti draw the attention of small birds and butterflies.
Dhs5. Open daily 8am-11pm. Between Al Maktoum and Al Garhoud Bridge, Bur Dubai (04 336 7633).
Safa Park USP: Wandering into this huge expanse of greenery will make you feel as though you’re miles away from the city (only the magnificent skyline in the background will jog your memory). The park has all types of activities covered, from picnicking and barbecuing (there are special designated areas) to boating, a bird sanctuary and a traffic garden for kids to learn the rules of the roads.
Size of park: 640,000 sq m – so big, it’s on the verge of being another city.
Best for: Families and groups of friends who want to enjoy a day of barbecuing and lazing around.
Shops or kiosks: This is the ideal place to have a picnic, but if you’re not a fan of packed lunches, you can always enjoy a bite to eat at the fast food Malik Burger restaurant located within the park.
Don’t miss: The life-size walk-on-water bubble balls (aka Zorbs), which you can try out in the shallow pool provided. The boat rentals also offer teenagers aged over 16 some independence as they can take to the (murky-looking) pond and man their own ship.
Nature hunt: Tall palms are dotted throughout the grassy areas. There’s also a bird garden and plenty of fish in the lake.
Dhs3, free for children under two. Open Sun-Thu 8am-11pm; Fri-Sat 8am-11.30pm; public holidays 8am-midnight. Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah (04 349 2111).
Za’abeel Park USP: This spot has the same charm as NYC’s Central Park, with its small creek, ponds, bridges, a boating lake and central location complete with city skyline views. It’s also within rollerblading distance for those who live in DIFC and has a great sidewalk connection. There is also a cricket pitch.
Size of park: 510,000 sq m: plenty large enough for a good stroll or rollerblade.
Best for: Those looking to escape the hustle bustle of inner-city life.
Nearby shops or kiosks: As well as numerous barbecue areas, there are refreshment kiosks dotted all over the park, and during the day you’ll also find several mobile ice-cream stations.
Don’t miss: The park is home to a series of monuments from Dubai’s sister cities – see if you can spot them all. Kids will also enjoy the play areas, one of which contains a climbing system with artificial rocks.
Nature hunt: There are several illuminated fountains: the one in Barcode Garden (in the shape of an abstract barcode) is a romantic spot with a view of the Burj Khalifa.
Jumeirah Beach Park USP: It’s all in the name here: it’s right next to, and even includes some of, the beach. There are facilities and food – a rarity on Jumeirah Beach – plus pleasant, shady greenery to skip the heat of the day.
Size of park: 120,000 sq m: large enough to soak up plenty of seafront.
Best for: Beachgoers who like a bit of grass-bathing on the side.
Shops and kiosks: Inside the park there are two decent coffee shops and a beachside burger bar that serves snacks. There are also several restaurants in Jumeirah Beach Park Plaza mall across the road.
Don’t miss: The barbecue stations, where you can artfully flame-grill your own meat – but get there early to save your spot. We’re also fans of the cooing birds that frequent the park’s palms, and the fun- looking children’s play areas.
Nature hunt: This is a well-manicured park with plenty of beds put aside for plants and yet-to-bloom flowers. We spotted hibiscus, petunias and bougainvillea on our last visit, plus the obligatory palm trees and plenty of grass.
Dhs5. Open Sat-Wed 7.30am-10pm; Thu-Fri 7.30am-11pm; Mon women and children only. Jumeirah Beach Road (04 349 2555).
Ball games allowed, BBQ allowed, Food, Toilets, Entry fee.
Mushrif Park USP: This mammoth park is Dubai’s oldest, biggest and most bizarre.
Size of park: 5.25 sq km: the giant of the city.
Best for: This long-established spot will appeal to anyone mildly interested in local history. However, with its plentiful barbecue stations and attractions, it’s definitely a great place to take kids.
Shops or kiosks: There are a number of kiosks selling snacks and drinks, though we recommend taking your own supplies if you want a picnic.
Don’t miss: The outdoor public swimming pool – it’s basic, but clean and shaded from the sun, and costs Dhs10 for adults and Dhs5 for kids. World Village features miniature versions of all of the world’s most famous landmarks, including an impressive windmill.
Nature hunt: There’s a rather decrepit aviary, as well as camel and pony rides, plus plenty of wild birds nesting in the many trees dotted around the area.
Dhs10. Open daily 8am-11pm. Al Khawaneej Road, Mirdif (04 288 3624).
Food, Toilets, Entry fee.
Pack a picnic Baker & Spice is bursting with fresh produce and ready-made products perfect for picnicking – try the wild rice and butter bean salad with fresh rocket, spinach parsley and pomegranate seeds (Dhs28); or roast baby beetroot with goat’s cheese, roasted walnut and thyme dressing (Dhs13). Salads change daily, but options are always tasty and plentiful. Al Manzil Souk, Downtown Dubai (04 427 9856).
Jones the Grocer has plenty of freshly made, affordable sandwich options, such as toasted tuna with egg, tuna mayonnaise and olive sourdough (Dhs28), roast chicken panino with iceberg lettuce and Dijonnaise (Dhs28) or Omani prawn baguette with Marie-Rose sauce (Dhs32). The posh Al Manara venue also prepares charcuterie, cheese, seafood and pasta platters (from Dhs45-Dhs85) on request. Sheikh Zayed Road, near Reem Al Bawadi (04 346 6886).
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Jing Apr 25, 2012 06:02 am
Having great time bonding with my friends and family at mamzar beach parkwhere there are variety of places mostly we enjoy the pool which is well maintained and cool tables and facilities simply awesome
Elizabeth Feb 11, 2012 05:51 pm
Went to Al Mamzar Park with my dog after reading your article which reads "Pets Allowed". Unfortunately this is not the case. We were refused entry with our dog and there are also signs which state "No Pets"