East coast, wildlife park, desert safari and more boredom-busting trips
Time Out Dubai Kids staff
The idea of piling the kids into the car and hitting the open road might fill you with dread but believe it or not, it can actually be lots of fun. Don’t believe us? Check out our top 10 boredom-busting road trips for all the family to enjoy. We cover everything from what to see, where to eat, and what to bring - just make sure you’ve packed your survival kit…
Where: Dubai Travel time: 30 minutes Can’t bear a long journey with the kids but fancy a little drive and some adventures nonetheless? The Palm is the place. 30minutes and you’re on the shoreline. Pull into Bidi Bondi (04 427 0515) for lunch, a kid friendly beachside spot with good grub if there ever was one (the fish and chips is particularly good). Bellies full, roll the kids back into the car and cruise down to Atlantis (04 426 0000). Get an observer pass and watch the Dolphins at play, visit the underwater theatre and try and find Nemo. Grab some refreshments, hop back in the car and drive towards the amazing promenade in front of Zabeel Saray. Park the car up, have a nice leisurely stroll – the kids can watch the fishermen in action, you can take in the amazing view and what are you left with? Tired children and so close to home! Result.
Where: Sharjah Travel time: 30 minutes to 1 hour So close but yet so far (in traffic) - set off for Sharjah early in the morning to beat the gridlock and reduce the chance of sprog tantrums. Head straight for Sharjah Aquarium (06 528 5288) where the kids can while away a few hours checking out the 20 or so aquariums and over 250 water-loving species. Fish fun over, grab lunch at Sharjah Discovery Centre (06 558 6577); a huge family facility with lots of activities and seven themed areas for kids (it’s so good we’ve been several times) and finish off the day by grabbing coffee and juices and wandering around the gorgeous Museum of Islamic Heritage (06 565 5455) or head to Al Qasba Canal. Choc-ful of waterside cafes and right in front of Eye of the Emirates or the Sharjah Big Wheel (06 556 0777), as we like to call it – it’s a lovely place to end a lovely day.
Where: Hatta Travel time: 45 minutes Quite often associated with obligatory visa run for new arrivals, Hatta is actually quite a happening spot, as the kids would say and the drive there isn’t too bad either. A short drive down Hatta road will see you pass little sand dunes, camel farms and roadside fruit and veg stalls before arriving at Al Hamar or Big Red as it’s affectionately known; a 300ft monster sand dune and the stuff kids movies are made of. It’s surrounded by lots of dune buggy shops, restaurants and stalls selling souvenirs and other trinkets. Let the kids loose on the sand (just watch out for the dune buggies) and if they’re really lucky they may even spot a creepy crawly or two. Take a break before heading home in the quaint Hatta Fort Hotel (04 852 3211), a nice spot for grub and a must-visit for sprogs ever since a life-size chess board appeared in the grounds.
Where: Ras Al Khaimah Travel time: 1 hour 30 minutes Another beautiful emirate just a short drive from Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah is something of a kid’s wonderland when you take a closer look. Home to the biggest water park in the world (apparently), Ice Land Water Park (07 206 7888) is kitted out with fake icebergs, penguins and lots of great rides for the kids. They even have special splash areas for tiny tots. Once you’ve dried off and had some lunch at one of the many outlets on site, jump back in the car and drive for a mere five minutes to Jazirat Al Hamra. A must see for curious kids, JAH is an abandoned ‘ghost town’ with an almost eerie movie set feel to it - the perfect place to let the kids imaginations run wild, both literally and figuratively!
Where: Abu Dhabi Travel time: 1 hour Although the drive to our neighbouring emirate is quite uninspiring, it’s totally worth it if only for the plethora of brilliant kid’s activities available. First stop, Ferrari World (02 496 8000). The world’s largest indoor theme park complete with the fastest rollercoaster ride in the world is a mere hour’s drive from Dubai and a great spot to entertain the kids (and adults) for a few hours! If you fancy something with a little bit more fresh air involved then steer the brood in the direction of Abu Dhabi Corniche; 8 kilometres of kids play areas, restaurants and cafes or if you’re so inclined, a chance to partake in a little bit of pedal pushing, sightseeing, ice cream eating and maybe even a leisurely stroll along the blue flag Corniche Beach. If this doesn’t float the little blighter’s boats, there’s always Yas Waterworld (02 414 2000) - over 43 rides, slides and attractions and now the home of the world’s first tornado waterslide. Winner!
Where: Fujairah Travel time: 1 hour 30 minutes – 2 hours The only Emirate that is almost entirely mountainous, the drive there is as you would expect; rugged and incredibly beautiful. A pleasant change to skyscrapers, the Hajar Mountains – the highest in the Arabian Peninsula, will no doubt leave you slack jawed with awe. Just watch out for the goats wandering aimlessly nearby! Apart from the goat action, the scenic journey will probably be lost on the kids so whip out the portable DVD player or talk about what you’re going to do when you get to Snoopy Island. That’s right, there’s an island in Fujairah that resembles Charlie Browns furry canine friend. It’s become a must-visit for diving and snorkeling fans and an ideal place for the kids to splash around and gaze in wonder at the huge cluster of colourful fish. Finish up with a light lunch at Sandy Beach Resort (02 44 5555), a mere 20 meters from Snoopy Island before heading home. Overnight option: Sandy Beach Resort, Fujairah. www.sandybm.com (09 244 5555).
Where: Al Ain Travel time: 1.5 hours A lovely fuss free drive, the road to Al Ain is postcard perfect and peppered with sand dunes and date farms – not that the kids will probably notice. There are lots of things to see along the way including the camel market, where the kids can get up close and cuddly and Lisali Fort, which is definitely worth a quick stop and a few pictures. No trip to Al Ain is complete however, without a visit to Al Ain Zoo (03 782 8188) - almost exactly 90 minutes from Dubai, where you can get out and stretch your legs, grab some refreshments and gaze at a gorilla (read all about the zoo in our animal adventures story on page 28). Animal stroking completed, drop into Al Ain Mall (03 766 0333) - only 20 minutes from the zoo for ice creams and a spot of competitive bowling before heading home.
Where: Umm Al Quwain Travel time: 2 hours The drive to Al Quwain is quite boring so this is the time to reach in to your survival kit; think games on the iPad, counting camels, snacks and so on. Once you get there however, it’s a whole other story. It may be the UAE’s least populated Emirate but amazingly, its home to the largest waterpark in the UAE. Who knew? Dreamland Aqua Park (06 768 1888) is right on the coastline of Al Quwain, about 90 minutes drive from Dubai and has over 30 rides and slides to keep the little blighters entertained. If you don’t fancy driving back after all the splashing about, you can stay the night at the campsite which is packed with family-friendly tents and wooden cabins. If not, why not while away another hour or two and bring the kids crab hunting? Head to Flamingo Beach Resort (06 765 0000) where the little ones can terrorise the other little ones, catch them and then set them free again. Fun and games for all! Overnight option: Flamingo Beach Resort, Old Town area, Umm Al Quwain. www.flamingoresort.ae (06 765 0000).
Where: Khor Fakkan Travel time: 2 hours 100km from Dubai, this tiny picture perfect town on the east coast of the UAE is a real treasure for both kids and adults. It’s the usual terrain on the way there; camels, sand dunes and the odd goat so best to bust out the survival kit to minimise tantrums/boredom. A smooth two hour drive, there’s quite a few places to stop along the way to stretch your legs and refuel, including petrol stations and roadside fruit and veg stalls. You’ll know you’ve arrived in Khor Fakkan when there’s suddenly an abundance of swaying palm trees, a distinct whiff of sea air and that little-town-by-the-seaside feeling. Khor Fakkan beach is a must see, if only to sit and relax while the kids do their worst in the playground. For more high octane activities, head to Oceanic Resort and Spa Hotel for diving and a plethora of water sports. Overnight option: Oceanic Resort and Spa. www.oceanichotel.com (09 238 5111).
Where: Ajman Travel time: 3 hours Last but not least, Ajman, a perfect mix of old and new. Located between Al Quwain and Sharjah, Ajman is the smallest Emirate in the UAE. What it lacks in size however, it makes up for in charm and prettiness. Once you’ve arrived, Ajman Corniche should be the first port of call. Ditch the car and get out for a stroll on the sand with the kids. There are plenty of shops facing the Corniche, so grab some snacks - or a delicious shawarma, before making your way into the center to check out Ajman Museum (06 742 3824) , an 18th century residence inside a fortress, built with amazing coral sea stones where the kids can play Sheikh for an hour or two. Once the tots are sufficiently exhausted, head back towards the corniche to the Kempinski Ajman Hotel (06 714 5555) for some decent Italian food and watch the sun go down. Overnight option: Kempinski Hotel Ajman, Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi Street, Ajman, www.kempinski.com (06 714 5555).
Road trip survival kit Fail to prepare and prepare to fail. That age old adage is both clever and frighteningly appropriate when it comes to road trips with little nippers. Here’s our list of what to bring and what to pick up along the way
Electronics Anything that makes noise or requires interaction is a winner. Think portable DVD players, any and all handheld games such as Nintendo DS or the amazing battery operated arcade versions going cheaply at Carrefour. iPads, iPods, iPad Mini’s, basically anything with an ‘i’ in it. And whatever you do, don’t forget the chargers! Food If the little blighters get hungry there will be big trouble, so don’t overlook snack options! Get a big cooler box and fill it with bottles of water, raisins, and iced fruit packs (which you can stick in the fridge the night before), fruit juices, smoothie packets and whatever else will keep them cool and hydrated. Vegetable sticks and frozen yoghurts are also good. Other stuff Swimming gear for all the family is essential, along with towels, sun hats and a couple of tubes of sunscreen, preferably waterproof and SPF50 or higher. Sunglasses, a change of clothes for everyone, a camera, a full tank of petrol and fully charged phones for Mum & Dad (just in case) are also important. If you’re planning to go further afield don’t forget everyone’s passports.