But there are also literally heaps of lesser known ways to enjoy Dubai and keep the kids entertained. How does a ride around town on the metro sound? Or maybe an evening stroll through a beautifully lit park?
Read on for some of our favourite ways to hang out in Dubai and have fun with the kids.
Head off road and make your way to this gorgeous retreat a mere 48km from Dubai. Little birdwatchers will be in their element as there are about 130 species to spot here including swans and ducks.
Free. Open all day and night, every day. Al Qudra Road, Dubai.
Camp in the desert
What little ones don’t love the idea of camping? Even if mums may get shivers at the very thought of a sandy sleeping bag, it’s worth it to see them have so much fun. There are lots of safe sandy spots up past Arabian Ranches on the way to Bab Al Shams, though we do recommend staying close to town in case you need to bail half way through the night!
Dhow rides across the creek aren’t just reserved for tourists. Families can enjoy a guided trip up and down the Creek, complete with live entertainment, food, free soft drinks and a historical commentary. Even if the kids don’t listen, they’ll love the ride.
Dubai Festival City, Dubai, www.dubaifestivalcity.com.
Dubai Butterfly Garden
There are more than 15,000 butterflies from upwards of 30 species at this colourful attraction out on the fringes of the Dubai desert. Walk through the nine domes and see an explosion of colour thanks to insects from around the world. It is a critter experience with a mellow and soothing pace, plus there are plenty of wonderful photo opportunities.
Dhs50. Open daily 9am-6pm. Next to Dubai Miracle Garden, Al Barsha South 3, Dubai, www.dubaibutterflygarden.com (04 422 8902).
Got a train-mad toddler on your hands? Why not jump aboard the Dubai Metro where kids will be able to watch the city whizz past. Might be best to avoid rush hour (packed carriages and little ones don’t mix) and enjoying a ride all the way from Dubai Mall to Dubai Marina and back again. Sometimes it’s the journey and not the destination that makes the memories.
From Dhs2. www.rta.ae.
Dubai Miracle Garden
Dubai Miracle Garden, which is world's largest natural flower garden featuring over 50 million flowers and 250 million plants, is a breath of fresh air with a butterfly garden and children’s play area. Kids will love the huge Mickey Mouse and the enormous teddy bear, both made out of thousands of colourful flowers.
Dhs40 (adults), Dhs30 (children), Free (kids under two). Al Barsha South 3, Dubai, www.dubaimiraclegarden.com.
Kayaking at Nessnass Beach
Get the kids strapped into life jackets and head out to enjoy Dubai’s calm waters that are perfect for kayaking with the kiddos. If you head to Nessnass Beach, the experts at the surf school will recommend which activities are best suited for which ages.
Nessnass Beach, Jumeirah, Dubai, www.kitensurf.ae.
Riding at Desert Palm
Round up the troops and head out to The Desert Palm Riding School, next to the luxurious Desert Palm Hotel, for a lovely afternoon visit to the stables. Hand-led 20 minute pony rides for all ages are available at a cost of Dhs30.
Dhs30 for a 20-minute pony ride. Al Aweer Road, Dubai, www.desertpalmridingschool.com.
The fountains at Dubai Mall
The fountains at Dubai Mall dance to various songs and shoot water jets up to 500ft in the air daily (except Fridays) at 1pm and 1.30pm and then every half an hour between 6pm and 11pm. You could even feed the tribe at the same time and plan a waterside lunch (or early supper) at one of Dubai Mall’s restaurants – the terrace at Carluccios is a good option. Then you can tuck in and watch the fountains at the same time. Two birds, one stone.
Dubai Fountains, The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, www.thedubaimall.com.
Watch the fish feeding at Atlantis
Visit The Lost Chambers every day (except Wednesday and Sunday) at either 8.30am or 3.20pm and gaze at the fish feeding frenzy that takes place at the Atlantis aquarium. Kids can settle down on the Majlis style cushions that are dotted around.
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat, 8.30am & 3.20pm. Atlantis The Palm, Dubai, www.atlantis.com.
The twice-weekly family-friendly destination runs between October and March each year and has heaps for the little ones 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’s also yoga classes, a petting zoo, horse riding, workshops, live music and much more on offer.
Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 10am-7pm. Dubai Police Academy Park, Umm Suqeim, www.ripeme.com.
An animal experience doesn’t have to be a major production, with queues, tickets and cages. Sometimes you just want to go somewhere quiet and see animals doing their thing. That’s why this is an incredible day out with the littlies. The wetlands feature salt flats, mangroves and lagoons that more than 60 species of bird and 500 species of flora and fauna call home. But it’s the flamingos that are the area’s stars. There are a handful of bird-hides on the perimeter that are open to the public. All you have to do now is keep the kids still and quiet for more than 30 seconds!
Free. Open Sat-Thu 9am-4pm. Ras Al Khor Road, www.wildlife.ae.
JBR’s gorgeous Beach development offers a fab running and cycle path – ideal for early morning scooter rides for the kids followed by breakfast and people watching – a slice of European beach life right here in Dubai.
Free. The Beach by Meraas, JBR, Dubai, www.thebeach.ae.
Looking to get away from it all without going too far? Then head to Mirdif where you’ll find Mushrif Park, which is the biggest park in Dubai. One of the main attractions, and it is a good one, is the International Village consisting of 13 kiddie-sized traditional houses from around the world, perfect for curious little ones with active imaginations.
Dhs10 (per car). Al Khawaneej St, Mushrif, Dubai.
This huge funfair-style theme park where cultures mix together harmoniously, is a must for any family living in the UAE, or for any family visiting the UAE. Visitor numbers get into the millions every year and for good reason. With themed kiosks offering street food from around the world, fairground rides and attractions, arcade games and shows and concerts it’s a must-visit. Global Village is only open for an annual season, which runs from October to April, with January being a great time to visit because of the cooler weather.
Dhs15. Sat-Wed 4pm-midnight; Thu & Fri 4pm-1am, until Sat Apr 4. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, www.globalvillage.ae.
Nestled amidst a plethora of eateries such as Il Borro, Flamingo Rooms by Tashas and Black Tap, you will find a little man-made habitat full of turtles – yes, really. Since 2004, the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project has released over 1,600 rehabilitated turtles back into their natural habitat. Established by Dubai Wildlife Protection Office the sanctuary takes in poorly and injured turtles and nurtures them back to health in the sea-fed lagoon at Jumeirah Al Naseem, before releasing them back into the wild.
Free. All day and night, every day. Jumeirah Al Naseem, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, www.jumeirah.com/turtles (04 301 7198).