If you’re celebrating with a big group
1 Hire a whole Gold Class cinema, complete with reclining seats and waiter service, for a private screening with your mates. Prices vary, but at CineStar Cinemas at Mall of the Emirates you can pick either the 31- or 42-seat rooms and pay Dhs110 per seat. It’s best to book two days in advance, and to choose a night during the week. Now, recline!
Call 04 341 4222
2 While you’re in this divine coastal city, it would be rude not to hire a yacht or catamaran at least once to cruise around The Palm or World Islands. We’re fans of El Mundo (for the banana boat rides), Silver Line Yacht Charters (for the ever-friendly Captain William) and Captain Jack’s dhow cruises, run by Bristol Middle East.
3 Want something a little smaller and faster? Dubai-based company The Yellow Boats will let you hop in a speedboat and zip round the Palm and Burj Al Arab for Dhs200 per adult: they’ll even throw in some thrill rides on the way back.
Call 800 4034 or see www.theyellowboats.com
4 Don’t know how to express the sheer joy that all your birthday presents have provided? Hire thejamjar art warehouse in Al Quoz and throw a painting party. From Dhs195 you can reserve the whole space and bring your own catering and decorations.
Call 04 341 7303
5 Indoor skydiving may seem like a solo sport, but the new iFly centre in Mirdif City Centre hosts group parties for up to 29 people at Dhs115 per person. This includes an instruction session, two flights and all the necessary gear – as well as 10 per cent off at Gourmet Burger Kitchen afterwards. Prices vary depending on group size and the day of your visit. Want to read what it feels to have 200mph wind flying at your face? For a video of the professionals in action, go to www.timeoutdubai.com.
Call 800 534 7873 or see www.iflyme.com
6 Perhaps more fun for those who aren’t frighteningly competitive (throw it at the pins, not at your teammates!), Al Nasr Leisureland is a top spot for a bowling party. Hire all eight lanes for Dhs100 each, with six people playing on each lane. What’s more, the place is licensed – and you can always go for a (careful) spin on the ice rink next door afterwards.
Call 04 337 1234
7 If you can cope with the squeals of the kids and teens around you, Magic Planet is a fun alternative venue. Kick off with a burger at Johnny Rockets, before hitting the arcade games (we love the basketball hoop), finishing off on the indoor rides. Our tip? Resist the thick milkshake beforehand.
Deira City Centre (04 295 4333) or Mall of the Emirates (04 341 4444)
8 While Sega Republic is pricier than the competition, this gamer-themed amusement park has all the essentials to please your inner child. Nurture your competitive edge with Storm-G, the simulated racing game that spins you 360 degrees in the air.
The Dubai Mall (04 448 8484)
The Perfect Gift
9 The Big Moo is Dubai’s only cow-themed singing telegram service. In fact, come to think of it, it’s Dubai’s only singing telegram service. Pick which character you want to visit your (soon-to-be-ex) friend – including Hello Kitty, Rasta Man, Big Cash Daddy or, as we experienced, Daisy the Elephant – all priced at Dhs400. The telegram will then sing ‘Happy Birthday’. Cringe!
Call 04 341 9935 or see www.thebig moouae.com
10 Looking for an intimate gathering with a twist? China Sea, one of Time Out’s most beloved Chinese restaurants, hires out private karaoke rooms. Order a minimum of Dhs350-worth of food, and it’s yours for the night.
Al Maktoum Street, Deira (04 295 9816)
11 Now here’s something truly different. Book a table at Dubai Marine Beach Resort’s Greek eatery, Yia Yia, on a Sunday and you can enjoy the Mediterranean seafood night, a live bouzouki band and plate-smashing. Yes, plate-smashing, priced at Dhs8 per plate – and you don’t even have to be mid-argument.
Call 04 346 1111
12 Want to book a meal somewhere, but worried it’s a bit unoriginal? Put a spin on it and opt for a chef’s table. Not only do you avoid the bother of choosing what to eat (they pick your menu), but you also get your own special room. Our favourite is Anise at the InterContinental, where up to six people can tuck into a six-course off-menu meal, including Asian, European and Arabic fare, for Dhs375 including alcohol.
Call 04 701 1111
13 There’s nothing like overtaking your loved ones on a high-speed bend, leaving them spinning in your dust. Head over to Dubai Autodrome’s indoor track and enjoy 15 minutes of indoor karting for Dhs100 each – you can follow it with a 15-minute Lasertag session for Dhs80 per person. Just be sure to call beforehand and check there isn’t a corporate event on – and be prepared to get very, very sweaty indeed.
Call 04 367 8700
14 Imagine it: sitting atop a horse amid a green, green forest. Can’t picture it in Dubai? This scene really does exist in Mirdif’s Mushrif Park. Book a group horse ride with Mushrif Equestrian Centre for up to 15 people and enjoy a group discount. As well as a 75-minute ride, you get to wash down and de-saddle the horse afterwards.
Call 04 257 1256
15 It seems that fancy dress nights are all the rage in Dubai’s nightlife world at the moment. There have been recent costume parties at both Nasimi and Chi – and the next one is at We Are… Circus at Catwalk in Al Barsha on Friday May 21. Go along and you could even be papped for our new Time Out and About photo section. It could be an extra little birthday treat.
With the girls*
16 Turn your home into a nail spa with Nails at Home, a superb service that sends nail technicians round to your pad equipped with all the files, polish and clippers they could possibly need. Invite 10 mates round and channel Steel Magnolias all afternoon.
Call 04 282 8385 or see www.nailsathome.ae
17 Alternatively, you could hire out a spa for you and your mates. N.Bar can kit out its venues with celebratory balloons and banners (with fees starting from Dhs275), as well as providing a feast of finger food, while you and your friends enjoy all the regular top-notch treatments, from mani-pedis to waxing.
Call the Jumeirah branch on 04 330 1001
18 At Belgian Beer Café in Festival City, you can reserve an area on the terrace for 25 people at Dhs125 per head. This includes a three-course meal and complimentary birthday cake.
Call 04 701 2222
19 You can hire an area at Roof Top at the One&Only Royal Mirage for two hours, with prices from Dhs135 per person. The venue accommodates up to 80 with a DJ.
Call 04 399 9999
20 Catering for up to 40, the Jebel Ali Club hosts parties from Dhs70 per head. The menu is varied and prices are cheap.
Call 050 64 50 121
21 Tips & Toes offers another girly pampering experience: you can hire one of the nail spa’s branches for up to 25 of your mates, with complete packages starting from Dhs1,500.
Call 04 349 2918
22 Imagine being scrubbed, head to toe in Toblerone chocolate, then washing it all off (in a private treatment room), followed by a chocolate-based afternoon tea, including choc-chip scones and a variety of civilised finger sandwiches. Sound like your idea of heaven? Get down to the Hilton Jumeirah Beach Hotel and prepare to be cocoa-ed. The chocolate body treatment (including afternoon tea) is Dhs265.
Call 04 318 2406
With the boys*
23 Ever imagined yourself as a gun-toting action hero? Grab the boys and head to Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club (06 548 7777) to learn to fire a gun. It’s Dhs170 for beginners, or you can pay Dhs90 per round of 25 bullets. Alternatively, try the clay pigeon shooting and rifle range at Jebel Ali International Shooting Club (04 883 6555). If Robin Hood is more your style, both offer archery lessons.
24 The One provides a flexible catering service, offering either canapés (Dhs125-175 per batch) or sit-down dinners (from Dhs180 per head). We recommend the ‘healthy’ burgers.
Call 04 345 6687
25 The Grandeur Hotel offers catering from Dhs120 per person, including Indian, Chinese and continental options.
Call 04 341 8777
27 Catch your own birthday dinner on one of Dubai’s many private-hire fishing boats. For a variety of fishing options, including trawling and deep sea, contact Nautica 1992 (050 426 2415). Xclusive Boats Charter is also good for a bargain (04 285 2277) – though don’t forget to shop around.
28 Snooker, pool, darts, billiards – there are so many elements to a night of Pub Olympics that you’ll be positively exhausted by the end of it. We love Aussie Legends (04 398 2222) for its table football, The Red Lion at the Metropolitan (04 343 0000) for the darts board, and Time Café (04 334 4088) for the arch rivalry around the pool table. Play boys versus girls at your peril.
If it’s just the two of you
29 Spice up the tried-and-tested ‘romantic meal’ idea and take your beau to dinner at one of Dubai’s new spots, such as Caramel at DIFC (04 425 6677), any of Armani Dubai’s new eateries (04 888 3888) or Gary Rhodes’s much-anticipated Twenty10, set to open in July. 30 Treat the birthday boy or girl to a night in the world’s tallest hotel, the Rotana Rose Rayhaan on Sheikh Zayed Road (it’s 333m tall and boasts 72 floors). Overnight stays are just Dhs300 with your Time Out City Card. Just don’t throw any party poppers from such a great height – you could take someone’s eye out on the street below.
Call 04 323 0111 or see www.rotana.com
31 Perhaps you want to spoil your loved one at home. Instead of whipping up yet another spag bol, sign up for a cooking class, then wow your partner with your new-found culinary finesse. We recommend the Park Hyatt’s cooking options, where, for Dhs295, you can learn to cook any dish you choose. Call 04 602 1804 32 Whisking your partner away for the weekend is not exactly unique, but we don’t think they’ll complain. Book a trip to nearby Muscat – it’s only an extended car ride away. We’ve heard that the freshly remodelled Al Bustan Palace is utter luxury (and at less-than-luxury price – from Dhs1,400 plus 17 per cent tax, including breakfast).
Call +968 24 799 666 or see www.ichotelsgroup.com
If it’s just you
33 The real alternative: you, your old PJs, the new Samantha Who? box set (brilliant) and a delivery pizza on its way. Sweeeet.
For the accessories
The party centre
Excellent for balloons, wrapping paper, banners – in fact, any form of decor or plastic birthday tat.
Opposite Welcare Hospital, Garhoud. Call 04 283 1353
Mr Ben’s Closet
Dubai’s fancy dress epicentre. Meets all costume needs (and if they don’t have it, they’ll happily make it).
Al Ghazal Mall, Diyafah Street, Satwa. Call 04 345 3577
It’s a bit ‘hen do’, but you could mock up some T-shirts for your mate’s big day. We’ve found the Kodak stores in Dubai to be quick, cheap and of reasonable quality.
Call 04 367 1284 for locations