Top budget family outings in Dubai

Treating the young ones to a fun day out doesn’t need to break the bank

Top budget family outings in Dubai

There’s so much to do in the UAE – we’ve probably said that more times than we can remember. Another phrase we also recall saying no less than 2000 times is “we’re on a budget”. Parenting can be expensive business, but it doesn’t need to be, and we can prove it. Got Dhs50 peeking from the wallet, and a bit of, er, change along with it? Here’s how this won’t stop you from having the best family day out ever.

Borrow books at the beach
We all know the importance of reading for little ones, so why don’t you go for a family reading session by the sea? There are beach libraries dotted across Dubai’s coastline thanks to an initiative rolled out by Dubai Municipality. So, put down the smartphones and iPads, and curl up with a page turner (or Harry Potter). The library on Kite Beach has a bean bag and table area, plus lighting well after sunset.
Free. Open 24/7. Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim.

Check out The Palm’s new hang out
The new 1.4 million square feet The Pointe is one of Dubai’s newest destinations, so you can head there and explore what it has in store for families. Around 70 venues are expected to be operating once it’s complete, but a handful of restaurants and shops are already open. Plus, with a cinema, kids’ play area and more, there will be plenty to choose from to make use of those two-digit dirham notes in your pocket.
Palm Jumeirah, thepointe.ae (04 390 9999).

Embrace old and new at The Dubai Frame
You get to see the city’s past, present and future in a one-hour tour with unique views of Old and New Dubai from a 150-metre-high sky glass bridge. Also known as Berwaz Dubai, the Frame is comprised of two towers measuring 150 metres in height and connected by the 93-metre long bridge at the top. The location, in Zabeel Park, was especially chosen to give visitors the best view of the city’s older neighbourhoods as well as the sparkly new stuff (such as the Burj Khalifa), while telling the story of Dubai’s transformation from a humble fishing village to a glittering modern metropolis. Watch out for the disappearing floor when you get up there…
From Dhs20 (kids), Dhs50 (adults) free (kids under three, adults over 60 and people of determination). Open daily 9am-9pm. Zabeel Park, Bur Dubai, www.dubaiframe.ae

Enjoy some greenery
There’s no better way to while away an afternoon than with a picnic in one of the city’s parks, a favourite among Dubai families. Have a wander across the sprawling Zabeel Park. It may no longer be home to Ripe Market, but the massive open green spaces give kids plenty of room to play in the outdoors. There are sport courts so you can keep moving and barbeque areas for a post-workout cook-off too.
Zabeel Park, Dhs5. Off Al Majlis Street, Al Kifaf.

Explore the food and craft stalls at Ripe Markets
Every Friday and Saturday, you can take your taste buds through a journey of local produce as more than 100 passionate artisans, designers, jewellers, artists and creators set up stalls in a newly built park on Umm Sequim Street. It’s free to enter, but you’ll have to pay for what you buy. Shop for organic groceries, handmade crafts or join an array of yoga classes and workshops, listen to live music and more. You could even make your own dirhams by signing up as a vendor and selling your products.
Free. Fri-Sat 9am-7pm. Police Academy Park, Umm Suqeim, ripeme.com (04 315 7000).

Fall in love with Dubai sunsets at Al Seef
If you need a reminder of how magnificent old Dubai is, you’ll find Al Seef upon the banks of the Creek. The relatively new destination from property developers Meraas is packed with shops and restaurants. This latest attraction leans heavily on the contemporary elements of life in Dubai in 2018, but in equal measure reflects and pays homage to the city that once was. The 1.8 km-long strip is split into two very distinct regions. There’s the modern site that has the contemporary Meraas hallmarks you’re familiar with (those shipping container buildings) – while the other side is modelled on Dubai as it used to look, with narrow corridors, market stall traders and buildings with an “already old” finish. There’s a kids’ area that will keep young ones entertained too – unless they call you every five minutes.
Free. Open daily 10am-midnight. Al Seef, Bur Dubai, www.alseef.ae.

Get a culture fix at Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
Take a trip up to Bur Dubai and spend an afternoon learning about the history of this wonderful city – there’s an awful lot to discover and it will hardly cost you a thing. Entry to the Dubai Museum is Dhs3 for adults and Dhs1 for kids, and getting through the doors of the Dubai Coin Museum won’t see you handing over any money. Learn about the currencies of years gone by from across the region, with special and interactive displays.
Sun-Thu 8am-2pm. Al Shindagha area, Bur Dubai, dubaiculture.gov.ae.

Go for a stroll around JBR
You don’t need any funds for a jaunt along the sands at JBR beach. The seafront strip is a great area for walking and grabbing some cheap snacks. You’ll be reminded of trips to Greece, Italy and Spain as there’s a plethora of international food options right on the street. As well as a kids’ play park, you’ll find a running track, an al fresco gym, plenty of shops and stalls, and even a giant inflatable assault course (chargeable, sadly) in the sea.
Free. The Beach, JBR, www.thebeach.ae.

Jump into a virtual reality zone at VR Park

If you’re feeling bored of the day-to-day, this indoor virtual reality theme park at The Dubai Mall has 18 attractions designed for different age groups. From a candy land tour on a carousel to experiencing Dubai upside down, entry to the park is free and games start from Dhs15. We’ll stay away from the zombies, but for anything else please sign us up.
Free entry, games from Dhs15. Open Sun-Wed 10am-11pm; Thu-Sat 10am-1am. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, vrparkdubai.com.

Learn about history at Jumeirah Mosque
This stunning building is featured on the Dhs500 note and provides an entry point into Islam for non-Muslims who aren’t usually allowed to enter mosques. It’s an excellent way to learn more about the religious and cultural traditions of the region, in a stunning setting might we add. Guided tours of the interior and exterior run four days a week and last around 90 minutes. Be sure to dress respectfully – long trousers/skirts and head scarves for women – and put as many questions with the kids as you like to the ever-helpful guides.
Dhs10. Tours start at 10am on Sun, Tue, Thu & Sat. Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeriah 1, cultures.ae (04 353 6666).

Make some chocolate at Alserkal Avenue
The Aztecs may have used chocolate as a form of currency, but – unfortunately – that just won’t cut it in Dubai. The good news is, you can use the widely-accepted dirhams, and not that many of them, at Mirzam chocolate makers to get some handmade chocolate, or just learn how to make it yourself. Kids aged five to 16 can join their workshops, where they can play flavour-guessing games and design their own chocolate wrappers.
Dhs36. Sat 10am-11am. Various locations across Dubai, including Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1, alserkalavenue.ae (04 333 5888).

Marvel at the colourful Dubai Butterfly Garden

If you like butterflies, or the pretty colours of nature – either way this garden is for you. There are more than 15,000 butterflies from upwards of 30 species at this attraction out on the fringes of the Dubai desert. Walk through the nine domes and see an explosion of every hue that has ever existed thanks to insects from around the world. You also get to know interesting facts about the butterflies, including what they eat and the smells they’re attracted to the most.
Dhs50. Open daily 9am-6pm. Next to Dubai Miracle Garden, Al Barsha South (04 422 8902).

Pedal power at Al Qudra
If you have your own bike and gear, then this fitness experience won’t cost you a fil. However, you can also rent everything you need from Trek Bicycle Store for just Dhs50 on weekdays – they have the most adventure-friendly bikes for youngsters. Get the kids ready and make the most of some simply breath-taking views as you pedal past sand dunes and wildlife in near-total silence. The route has a 50km loop (which takes around two hours to complete if you’re of average fitness) as well as an 18km stretch along Al Qudra Road known as The Stick. Both are popular with seasoned cyclists and novices.
Free (Dhs50 bike rental). Open daily 6am-11pm. Trek Bikes Dubai, Al Qudra Cycle Track, past Arabian Ranches, trekbikes.ae (04 832 7377).

Smell some roses at Dubai Miracle Garden
It’s a top winter attraction, and is so beautiful we could cry. This outdoor destination has more than 100 million flowers and is themed differently every year. You’ll want to visit the record-breaking Mickey Mouse sculpture and Disney Avenue, which they’ve just launched, plus the floral castle with its garden dining experience. There’s also a new amphitheatre and water-spraying elephants.
Dhs50 (adults), Dhs45 (kids under 12). Al Barsha South 3, Dubailand, dubaimiraclegarden.com (04 422 8902).

Test your fish trivia at The Dubai Mall
Okay, so you might not get far with Dhs100 in The Dubai Mall, but even if you aren’t able to indulge in a spot of retail therapy, the world’s biggest mall still has plenty you can do and see. It’s home to The Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, where you can marvel at 300 sharks and countless species of fish for free within the mall or dive deeper with a VRZOO experience starting at Dhs32.
Open daily 10am-midnight. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, thedubaiaquarium.com (800 38224 6255).

Travel the world at Global Village

You just knew it would be on the list, didn’t you? With one of Dubai’s cheapest entry tickets at Dhs15, Global Village returned for its 23rd season in October. It’s home to more than 25 pavilions representing 75 countries across the world where you can indulge in everything from Canadian poutine to Swiss raclette and Dutch mini pancakes. There’s also a fun fair where you can enjoy 28 rides and more than 100 arcade games. While rides will cost, we love just walking around with an ice cream and taking a round-the-world trip without leaving the city.
From Dhs15. Oct 30-April 6, Sat-Wed 4pm-midight; Thu-Fri 4pm-1am. Global Village, Dubailand, globalvillage.ae (04 362 4114).

Watch water dance at The Dubai Fountain
The world’s biggest choreographed fountain may be dazzling to watch, but the kids love the random splashes of water too (easily impressed, they are). Powerful jets shoot up to 22,000 gallons of water as high as 140m in the air at any one time. The jets are illuminated, so it’s worth catching one of the regular night-time performances for an even more visually stunning visit. The water dances to sounds of different pop classics such as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, and we’re hoping for Disney songs in the near future. You can watch the shows for free or pay Dhs20 to get as close as nine metres from the action on a 272-metre floating platform. If the oohs and aahs are of any indication, it’s magic.
Free (Dhs20 for platform). Sat-Thu 1pm, 1.30pm, 2pm; Fri 1.30pm, 2pm, 2.30pm; daily evening shows 6pm-11pm every 30 mins. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, thedubaimall.com (04 362 7500).

Eats for under Dhs150
Kulcha King

The family-friendly Kulcha King is all about affordable eats, including a filling breakfast menu served every day starting at 8am. If you don’t know what kulcha is, get ready to taste this crispy, soft bread stuffed with cheese, potatoes, cottage cheese and more. Not a fan of baked goodness? Most platters on the menu are also under Dhs50, including the kebabs, so get ordering. 
Various locations across Dubai, including Al Karama (04 526 0387).
Fussy eater tip: The Dhs14 mixed vegetable kulcha is a good way to get those veggies in, without compromising on flavour.

Operation Falafel

If you don’t go for the falafel or hummus, then you’ll definitely go for the manakeesh. Operation Falafel’s Middle Eastern street food doesn’t stray from the classics and the prices make it perfect for a meal with the family. If you’re bored of those plain, fried green patties, you can try the stuffed version with pine nuts, onion and sumac. There’s also the shawarmas which are always a good idea.
Various locations across Dubai, including The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, operationfalafel.com (04 329 2936).
Fussy eater tip: The Dhs20 choco lotus crust is made of cheesecake in a jar that’s topped with blueberry, do we really need to explain why kids will love it?

Yakitate

Gotta catch ‘em all? Yes, that anime with battlefield monsters from the old days is still very much relevant, and you can honour that by heading to Yakitate bakery in the Ibn Battuta Mall and chowing down on a Pikachu cheese tart. That’s right, Nintendo’s poster Pokémon is now in pastry and forms part of an eclectic menu that makes a trip to this unusual mall worth it. This new branch of Yakitate also sell sushi burgers, chocolate banana cruffins and an excellent cheesecake soufflé (the house specialty) all for under Dhs50. Plus, be sure to check out the mesmerising eight-metre high Elephant Clock with wooden carved figures and a phoenix. Super cool stuff. 
Various locations across Dubai, including Ibn Battuta Mall, Jebel Ali Village, yakitate.co (04 294 4883).
Fussy eater tip: If munching on a yellow Pokémon isn’t your kids’ cup of tea, you can go for a Hello Kitty bun. Made of soft loaf bread dough and filled with white chocolate custard and raspberries, it’s only Dhs9.


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