Star trekking

Stargate at Za’abeel Park is finally open. So what’s hidden inside? Joanna England takes the family to spend a day at Dubai’s all-new edutainment centre

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The long-awaited Stargate Centre at Za’abeel Park has been something of an enigma during the three years it’s been under construction. Giant neon posters of spaceships and little green men – not to mention several enormous dome structures – have elicited many enquiries from our eldest son whenever we’ve driven past. Now Jack, four, finally gets his wish as we grab our family of adventurers and go for a tentative exploration of the giant space station. So, what’s inside? And more importantly, how much does it cost?

Mars
The red planet is home to what is apparently the world’s biggest soft play area (well, we’d be disappointed if it wasn’t). Set on three levels, this vast, brightly coloured padded playground is the perfect place to let kids off the leash. Offering a huge number of the very popular air shooters – a jet of air that blasts some 30 balls into the sky at the push of a button – as well as tube slides galore and loads of space to tear around in, it’s a winner: and that’s just with dad. The soft play zone is also great value: Dhs25 per child for an hour’s fun time. At these prices, we reckon it will soon become the hottest hangout in town for the under sevens.

Earth
We’re not quite sure why the Earth dome houses Stargate’s rollercoaster, seeing as it’s designed to take your feet well and truly off the ground. It looks like a lot of fun, though – part of the track is outside the dome, giving those on board a flying visit to Za’abeel Park’s beautifully manicured lawns. At Dhs19 a pop, parents may not want to volunteer, but older kids will no doubt love it. Note that only those over 130cm tall are allowed to ride.

UFO
The go-karting is designed for kids aged three to 10, enabling them to screech around the track on orange karts. The dodgem rink next door is where mum and dad can double up with the kids, but at Dhs10 for a five-minute ride, things are getting a little expensive.

Saturn
There are three educational films to choose from in the Saturn dome’s 3D theatre: one on the human body, one on dinosaurs and – our fave – Fly Me to the Moon, a film about the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. Created using Pixar-style CGI animation with cutesy characters to bring the story to life, all bottoms stay firmly on seats. Admittedly it’s a bit pricey (tickets cost Dhs15 for each 15-minute film, while under-twos go free) and the soundtrack can be a little bit muffled in places, but it’s still a very enjoyable 3D experience.

Lunar
This charming kidney-shaped ice rink sports sparkly icicles and snowmen-at-night decor. The fact that the rink is much smaller than several other facilities in town is a bonus for those with younger kids, as parents can keep a closer eye on them. It’s also great value – the Dhs25 fee includes skate hire and an hour’s ice time. There’s also a handy hot drinks machine in the spectator area for welcome warm-ups, and socks are on sale to keep toes toasty.


Our Verdict

Stargate’s greatest merit lies in successfully combining activities suitable for all ages under one roof. Main attractions, such as the soft play area and the ice rink, are great value, and the food court is reasonable, too. However, go-karting and rollercoaster rides are best as one-off treats if you want to avoid the cost escalating. That said, a family of four can have an action-packed afternoon for around Dhs300 including food. We’ll definitely be back!

Entrance to Stargate is effectively free, with your Dhs5 Za’abeel park fee redeemable on your Stargate gaming card. Open Sun-Thu 10am-10pm; Fri-Sat 10am-midnight. For details, call 04 325 9988 or visit
www.stargatedubai.com

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