1 Family Park, Abu Dhabi
You’ll find this green children’s paradise slap bang in the middle of Abu Dhabi’s 8km stretch of corniche. Grab a spot on the grass near one of the five play areas dotted around the park and throw down your picnic blanket – that way you can keep an eye on the adventurous little ones as they climb, slide and swing, while you tuck into your al fresco spread. If they get a bit overheated, thanks to all that running around, let them cool off in the mini water park and palm pool. Then when they’re done, and you’re all packed away, pick up an ice cream on your way out – the perfect free afternoon for all the gang.
Free. Daily 24 hours. Corniche Road W, Al Khalidiyah, Abu Dhabi.
2 Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, Dubai
Got a mini David Attenborough on your hands? Then the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary should be on your list of things to do. The area is home to wetlands featuring salt flats, mangroves and lagoons, and earlier this year, volunteers planted hundreds of new mangrove saplings there in a bid to create new mangroves. The small trees can flourish in water, creating a habitat that’s vital for the survival of many insects and animals as well as plant life. Although more than 60 species of bird and 500 species of flora and fauna can be spotted here, the flamingos are the real stars and a special indoor space allows little nature loves to gaze upon the beautiful pink birds as they go about their day in their natural habitat.
Free. Open Sat-Thu 7.30am-5.30pm. Ras Al Khor Road, Dubai, www.rasalkhorwildlife.ae (800 900).
3 Reem Central Park, Abu Dhabi
With the cooler weather here, being outside is on the top of every UAE family’s priority list come the weekend. And this awesome coastal park is as good a place to start as any. A communal hub for anyone looking for the perfect destination to enjoy a day outdoors with the kids. Not only is it absolutely massive but there’s also loads to do in this cool public park. Located in the heart of Reem Island, the green space features playgrounds, outdoor gyms, restaurants, a beachfront, a fountain with daily light shows, sports courts and a skate park.
Free. Open daily 24 hours. Reem Island, www.reemcentralpark.com.
4 Ripe Market, Dubai
We are huge fans of this twice-weekly community market, after all, what’s not to love? There’s heaps for the little ones to do with Just Play’s adrenaline zone where challenges like ninja warrior courses, parkour, archery and five-a-side football pitches will burn off their energy. There is delicious fresh produce to shop, and the weekend market also showcases work from top artisans, designers, jewellers, artists and creators from across town. Pet Lovers can even take their four-legged friends along to hit the new dog park, Unleashed, where fur babies can run free off the lead making new buddies.
Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 10am-7pm. Dubai Police Academy Park, Umm Suqeim, Dubai www.ripeme.com (04 315 7000).
5 The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, Dubai
Head down to the deepest depths of the ocean, without getting wet. Get (not too) up close and personal with some sharp-toothed sharks, sting rays and tiny little sea-dwelling creatures swimming around. We say this is free, but full disclaimer… Parents, you’ll need to stand fast on not being persuaded by big eyes and pleading (or temper tantrums) to enter the ‘paid for’ part of the aquarium.
Sun-Wed, 10am-11pm, Thu-Sat 10am-midnight. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, www.thedubaiaquarium.com.