| Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Quick Guide to City Walk

Emer O’Doherty gets out and about at City Walk, Dubai’s burgeoning community

© ITP Images

Most big cities in the world have a central place that draws you in. New York has Times Square, London has Oxford Circus, and now Dubai has City Walk. It has a mammoth-sized serving of lovely eateries, but also a very playful side, offering something special for kids, from the tiny tot to the fashion conscious tween and an über cool teen.

Located on Al Safa Street, City Walk has achieved that community feel right in the heart of a bustling city. Its real charm, however, is that it’s the perfect fusion of an edgy, self-contained mall combined with a smattering of European chic. We put on our comfiest walking shoes and grabbed the kids to explore. This is what you need to know...

1 Parking is a pleasure
We all know the nightmare of sitting in a hot car, waiting to find a space to park your wagon, especially if you have a car full of tots whose favourite phrase is: “Are we there yet?”. With an estimated 600 car parking spaces currently open, and plenty more to come, finding a spot at City Walk is easy and convenient. Right now, you can even enjoy free parking when your chip is validated without charge on exit. Or, you could leave the car at home altogether, as it is only a 15-minute walk from Burj Khalifa Metro station.

2 Finding your way
We won’t deny that exploring City Walk can be quite a mission, especially if you haven’t been there before. Never fear, as on every corner there is a friendly and knowledgeable Meraas-hired security guard, doubling as a tour guide, who can point you towards whatever it is you're looking for. If they don’t know the answer, they will make a quick call on their trusty walkie-talkie to someone who does. Sorted.

3 Shopping with the kids? No problem!
We love a nice day at the shops, but it’s not always easy with tantrumming two-year-olds, feisty four-year-olds and sassy six-year-olds in tow. Enter Level One Kids, a luxury concept store, which mixes shopping with fun. The store, set over three levels, has a huge selection of haute couture for little fashionistas, as well a toy store, a jam-packed schedule of family-friendly events and the happiest staff in town, always ready to flash a warm smile.

Children are definitely a top priority here, with little ones given free reign of the shop floor. There are plenty of squishy beanbags for them to lounge on, a huge decorative tree for them to marvel at and a sports store with a child-sized exercise bike and running machine for them to experiment on. Meanwhile, Mum and Dad can browse the beautiful frocks and trendy shirts. Plus, with a recently opened café serving all sorts of treats and a his-and-hers beauty salon on-site, you can while away an entire afternoon.

4 Shopping without the kids? Easy peasy.
If you fancy a quick hour of child-free shopping (without the guilt), pop them into Caboodle, a play centre with an excellent reputation for offering a fun, educational and stimulating environment, where children can learn through play and exploration. They will be happy, while you can enjoy a little down-time. It’s win-win!

5 There’s a rainforest in the city
That’s right, an indoor rainforest in the middle of the desert. Well, we couldn’t quite believe it either. But then we went along to check out this giant ecosystem, which is home to more than 3,000 plants and animals. We quickly got lost among the flora and fauna. Porcupines, snakes, spiders and a huge array of exotic birds were all there to greet us, and we got up-close and personal with some pretty butterflies emerging from their cocoons. Admittedly, we blanched at the huge hairy tarantula, but watched in wonder as the swarm of honey bees collected nectar from some brightly coloured flowers. We even caught a glimpse of the very sleepy sloth, hanging from the mammoth 25-foot tree, which happens to be the biggest man-made tree in the world. Only in Dubai, eh?!

6 Cool down with frozen hot chocolate
Serendipity 3, on New York’s Upper East Side, has been a favourite hangout for Hollywood A-listers for decades. And it has a branch right here in City Walk, which should get a gold star of its own.

The iconic Frrrozen® Hot Chocolate has become the perfect way to cool down on a steamy Dubai day. We also love the foot-long hotdog, perfect for hungry tummies during a busy day. With a very family-friendly menu and a decadent array of desserts, nobody will turn up their noses at this come meal time.

7 Discover Turkish TV
For anyone who enjoys a good TV series – filled with glamour, big hair and exciting plot twists at every juncture – maybe it’s time to experience the magnificent Hareem Al Sultan: The Exhibition, based on the hit Turkish TV series Hareem Al Sultan. This large-scale, museum-quality exhibition presents the original décor, costumes and accessories used from very first episodes. You can even touch the costumes, smell the scents of the palace, and taste special sherbets and sweets. Forget Game of Thrones (or Ben 10, depending on who in the family you’re talking to...) it’s now all about this show!

8 Fight fires, build houses and turn a pirouette
If you’ve ever dreamed of firefighting with The Hero Next Door (AKA Fireman Sam), or dancing on pointes with Angelina (Ballerina), then you’re in luck. There’s plenty of fun for the little ones to have at Mattel! Play Town Dubai, which inspires imaginations big and small. Kids marvel as some of their favourite characters come to life, and the interactive movie at the world of Thomas & Friends is a huge hit. A big, friendly purple dinosaur even shows up each day for a bit of a knees-up. No prizes for guessing who that might be.

9 It’s also an outdoor canvas
Don’t be afraid if you see rats climbing the walls of City Walk, pristine as it is. Blek le Rat, known as one of the kings of stencil art, has been busy getting his signature black rodent on the walls of Dubai. The French graffiti artist’s trademark turns up in all of the most unlikely places dancing with a ballerina, accompanying a violinist and playing tug of war with a group of children.

10 Get your retro game on
Gaming enthusiasts will fall in love with Hub Zero, a first-of-its-kind indoor gaming park. It’s not just for gaming pros, either. There is something for everyone among all the flashing lights and noise, with a total of 18 cool attractions. You’ll be fleeing from zombies, chasing monsters and racing very fast cars. The entertainment park covers 18,000 square metres, and thrill-seekers will be enraptured by the signature ride Dragon Age: Flight of the Wardens, an exhilarating “robocoaster” that seats four and flings you around 360° on a three-axis robotic arm, while a screen plays the adventure as you move.

11 Catch a flick
You’ll also find a ten-screen multiplex, with three lavish Platinum Movie suites, and pillows and blankets, so you can settle right in. This is pure cinema decadence and one that we and the kids are not going to miss out on. You can’t complain when, with a push of a button, popcorn and treats arrive to your seat, so there’s no need to queue in that busy concession line. Reel Cinemas got it just right here.

12 Farzi Café
If you like a little theatre with your meal, Farzi Café is just the place. The restaurant serves what it bills as “global cuisine with a unique Indian and Arabic twist” and promises “culinary art” and “molecular gastronomy”. Intrigued? Well, you should be.

The menu offers interesting dishes, such as marinated tenderloin with Kashmiri walnut and wasabi cream, and green apple muhamarra hummus and chutney. It’s all served rather creatively in trucks and bright red telephone booths, for example. You might need to deconstruct it for your littlest diners, but its never too early to introduce new tastes! And if nothing else, they’ll love the quirky presentation.

13 Don’t forget to power up
That sinking feeling you get when you are down to the last bar of battery on your phone can ruin a nice day out. But not at City Walk, which has a bank of phone chargers at every elevator station to put the spring right back in your step. Simply open the locker, pop your phone in the charging station and pocket the key, safe in the knowledge that you will have a fully operational phone within the hour. Result.

14 Home sweet home
Prettying up your digs can be fun, particularly if it involves browsing in a shop filled with sparkling touches and arty twists. The DEN is a creative boutique, where art and decoration merge in an inspiring collection of high-end products by artists and designers such as Sarah Lavoine, Florence Bouvier, and Bed and Philosophy.

15 Retreat with a light supper
Filling their tummies before heading home can make bedtime so much easier. Step into Cocoa Kitchen, a chocolate-centric restaurant, where each dish, savory or sweet, has an enchanting accent of cocoa. The kids’ menu is well thought-out and is healthy enough to keep parents happy, while adding a nice slice of fun to entice the tots. Warming vegetable soup and yoghurt, cocoa-rolled beef tenderloin or the delectable choclate brownie with vanilla ice-cream gets a big round of applause from us.

16 Stay squeaky
A really good family day out often ends up with smudged faces, sticky hands and hyped-up tots. So what better way to end the day that a scrub-a-dub-dub in the tub. Even better if it’s with fun and funky bath products that smell amazing, which you can pick up from Lush, which is about to open its flagship store here. Bath time will never be the same again.

In numbers
Awesome City Walk statistics

The amoung of land in million square-feet that City Walk will cover once it’s completely finished. So, that means there are plenty of surprises to come.

The number of world-class, urban artists who have used City Walk as a canvas to create exciting artworks that brighten up your day.

The amount of parking spaces that will eventually be available at City Walk, taking the stress out of finding a spot. Joy!

The number of square metres of retail space available across the area, which means a day at the shops just got much, much better.

By Emer O’Doherty
Time Out Dubai,

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