Things to do in Al Ain
Time Out takes a look at things to do in Al Ain, including car museums, Wadi Adventure, Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain Zoo, shooting clubs and more
Just under two hours’ drive from busy Dubai Marina lies the greenest place in the UAE – and one you’ve probably never even seen.
Not boasting the coastal location of the likes of Fujairah or Ras Al Khaimah, nor status as an emirate, the flourishing city of Al Ain is often forgotten by residents scanning the web in search of a staycation. Part of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, this tranquil expanse of desert hosts an abundance of attractions beyond its pretty flowers and innumerable roundabouts. Dubbed The Garden City, Al Ain – which means “the spring” – is neatly filled with oases, gardens, amusement parks, exotic animals, museums and world-class sports facilities.
Load up the car and hit the road.
An ideal day out for family, friends and groups, Wadi Adventure is located at the base of the picturesque Jebel Hafeet mountains and surrounds the hot water springs. With the most unique adventure-based water sport activities around, there’s just so much to do here.
With everything that the state-of-the-art facility has to offer, all you need to bring is a sense of adventure and you’re sure to head home with an experience to be reckoned with. But, it’s not all about thrills and spills – you can cool off and relax here, too. This is what you can expect from the park’s myriad attractions...
1 Jump into a raft and speed down the longest man-made white water channels in the world.
This activity is usually the highlight of the day for most thrill-seekers. You never know what the water is going to do, so each time you go around the channel, it’s a new experience. You may even think the boat is about to flip over, but you’re always in safe hands. If you’re a complete novice at this sport, don’t worry, it requires no previous experience or skill. There are three white water channels, each providing a different thrill factor to cater to all levels of rafters. So there’s no fear… kind of!
Dhs100 for a one-hour session.
2 Go for a refreshing splash in the pool or relax at the open beach lounge.
The family pool and kids’ splash area are available throughout the day and are the perfect spots to cool off in and soak up the sun. During specific hours of the day, the world-famous surf pool is open for swimming sessions, while the beach area is near the surf park and family swimming pool. There’s no actual sand as it interferes with the filtration systems, but there are plenty of shade structures and beach loungers.
Dhs50 for adults; Dhs25 for kids (below 1.2m in height). The price includes admission to the family pool, open beach and kids’ splash area.
3 Challenge yourself at the airpark and take a trip down the zip line.
Each level of the airpark obstacle course takes about 20 minutes to complete. The high ropes course is an adventure challenge in which you are suspended 20m in the air. The goal is to navigate different elements such as stepping stones and rolling logs. There’s also a very popular giant swing. Once released, you feel a sense of weightlessness and then lots of speed, as you whizz through the air like Tarzan to the other side. Don’t forget to unleash your infamous jungle roar! Meanwhile, a zip line crosses from one side of the park to the other. The cable is suspended about 20m above ground level and stretches out over an open area of 200m. It’s exhilarating to be flying through the air and eyeing up the scenery below. Live for the moment.
Dhs50 for a one-hour session.
4 If you’d rather hit the water on your own, then grab a paddle.
Kayaking is a great experience, paddling along, observing the landscape and letting your worries melt away. With the longest combined channels in the world, you can go from the easy class one to the very challenging class three-plus, all in the manageable confines of the conveyor access channels. If you’d rather take a few lessons first, then there are instructors to take you through all the basics to get you on your way. All equipment is included in the class and all you need is your swimsuit and a pair of shoes.
Dhs150 for an all-day pass.
5 Head to the surf pool and start riding the waves.
Unlike learning to surf in the sea, Wadi Adventure will tailor the size of the waves to your skill level. This allows you to develop at a much faster pace than you would in the ocean, at the whim of the natural elements. As you grow in confidence, so will the waves – they can reach up to 3m. Take a lesson with one of the experienced surf instructors in the largest surf pool in the world, or hire the whole thing and keep the perfect break all to yourself. With state-of-the-art Wave Pool technology, there are waves for every level of surfer – from small, rolling waves for beginners to 3m-plus lefts, rights, A-Frames and close-outs. Don’t worry about the jargon, you’ll learn as you go along.
Dhs150 for a 55-minute session.
6 Wadi Adventure has the infrastructure to host world-class events such as the upcoming World Rafting Championship.
For the first time in the sport’s history, the championships will take place here in the UAE. The World Rafting Championship is an R4-level competition open to four-man rafts covering sprint, head-to-head, slalom and downriver rafting disciplines. Enjoy the entertainment, visit the food festival and leave little ones at the kids’ zone, while you watch 86 teams from 28 different countries battling it out to be crowned world champions.
Free. Nov 1-5. 8am-5pm. www.wadiadventure.ae/wrc2016.
7 Jump, grind, flip and ski your way through Wadi Adventure’s newest attraction, the cable wake park.
Experience the thrills of wakeboarding, knee boarding and skiing in a safe and controlled environment. There are more than 350 metres of running cable, two unique features and you can reach speeds of up to 45km/h. The wake park is a fun experience for all ages and levels, and there are lessons available too, for those who would like to learn a new skill. Passes are sold per hour for up to eight people and all safety equipment and boards are provided.
Dhs50 for a 30-minute session of wakeboarding.
8 Get face-to-face with the climbing wall.
At 13 metres high and with seven colour-coded routes to choose from, this vertical wall has something to challenge every level of climber. The wall uses an auto belay system, which helps climbers to easily move down at any point of the climb. It’s an ideal activity for anyone looking to stretch their mental and physical powers.
Dhs30 for a 20-minute session.
9 Don’t forget to replenish your energy with food and drinks.
There are plenty of food and beverage outlets to cater to everyone’s tastes. Enjoy a range of menu options, from finely plated international dishes to hotdogs and fries and freshly made smoothies and milkshakes. Restaurants include the Surf Café, Tiki Hut, Rafter’s Grill and Mango Mango.
Opening daily 11am-8pm.
10 All types of groups are catered for here.
Whether you are planning a private party, a business pow-wow or an exciting day out of the office, there’s a package to suit your needs. The versatile events space at Wadi Adventure provides a completely unique centre for your chosen events. With picturesque Jebel Hafeet as a backdrop, the Summit Events Centre is perfect for business lunches, corporate meetings or social events. All event planning, catering and the provision of all audio and visual equipment are done in-house, so you’ll have a hassle-free time. Wadi Adventure is also the perfect place to host a children’s birthday party. With activities for children both young and old, and customisable party menus, it’s a great destination for little ones celebrating their big day. And they’re sure to burn some energy through all the activities.
Open daily Sat-Thu 11am-8pm, Fri 10am-8pm. The Open Beach is open daily Sat-Thu 1pm-2pm 5pm-7pm; Fri 2pm-7pm. Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain (03 781 8422).
All about Wadi Adventure
The number of world-class white water and kayaking runs with a combined length of 1.1km with grade3+ rapids.
The length of the wakeboard running cable.
The total size of the park.
million gallons The total volume of water.
This flagship family entertainment destination in Al Ain has been a firm favourite since opening its doors back in 1985, when it became the Gulf region’s very first theme park. As a result, Hili Fun City was referred to as the Disneyland of the GCC, hosting visitors from all over the region, and the world, including several royal families and VIPs. Hili Fun City remains as popular as ever, especially following a complete refurbishment and transformation in 2009. The theme park is packed with more than 30 attractions ranging from thrilling rides and adventures to more gentle options for kids, and there’s plenty for parents to enjoy, too. It also features a family show amphitheatre, along with picnic and play areas.
Dhs50 per person, free (kids under 0.89 metres).
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has recognised Al Ain as a World Heritage Site. This means locations across the city, including the six oases, archaeological sites, buildings, palaces and tombs are to be preserved and maintained to a Unesco standard. For a taste of what to expect, you can take a 360-degree virtual tour around the Hafeet Tombs that date back to 2,500 BC at www.visitabudhabi.ae.
If you’re not planning a trip until later in the year, you’ll be able to experience an age-old shopping trip to Souq Al Qattara. This was essentially a mid-20th century shopping centre, founded by the late Sheikh Shakhbut Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, former Ruler of Abu Dhabi. It has been renovated and is open for business from October to May on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This market was introduced to encourage local families to promote and preserve Abu Dhabi’s traditions. Expect to see plenty of handicrafts, artworks and more in the 30 internal and 20 external shops. The souk is connected to Al Qattara Fort, also known as the Al Qattara Arts Centre. Organised by TCA Abu Dhabi, the arts centre was originally designed to be a place for Emiratis to immerse themselves in cultural and creative studies, but has since become a space for all Al Ain residents and visitors to enjoy. There are also workshops, a café and a library to check out.
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