In The Desert...
1 Bang your drum: Head out to the middle of the desert under a full moon for an incredible, if slightly surreal experience. (You’ll find it hilarious while the kids will probably take it all rather seriously.) Flaming torches and sizzling barbecues will warm your cockles – as will the vigorous drumming – but take a jacket: it can get pretty nippy in the winter months.
050 659 2874; www.dubaidrums.com. Adults Dhs175, kids five-14 Dhs65, under-fives free. Price includes drum rental, barbecue and soft drinks.
2 Go camping: Keep a tight hold of October’s Time Out Kids, which has all you need to know about camping with kids in the UAE. From sandy dunes to deserted beaches to stunning mountain scenery, little adventurers will love sleeping under the stars.
3 Visit the camel market: A real treat for kids, you’re welcome to wander the Al Ain camel market for free, although opportunists may try to tempt you with a tour. Some of them are very insistent – almost aggressively so – but they do know a thing or two about camels. Agree a price and they’ll get you and your brood into enclosures for photos as well as making sure you see everything from wobbly legged new borns to craggy-old has-beens. As a morning out, it’s a fascinating traditional experience, but if you come expecting a camel ride, you’ll be disappointed (see number 24 instead).
Five minutes drive from the Al Ain Hilton, heading out on 137th street.
4 Zip it at Safa Park: Little daredevils will love the zip line at this large and popular park. With a fantastic view of the city skyline, its wide green spaces are dotted with sandy play areas, tennis courts, football pitches and barbecue pits. Also check out the Ferris wheel and other fairground rides and, if you’re feeling fit, jog around the bouncy perimeter running track. There’s a boating lake here too, and watch out for the flea market on the first Saturday of every month where you can rummage for bargains.
04 349 2111; between Al Wasl and Sheikh Zayed Road, interchange 2. Open daily 8am-11pm, entry Dhs3 per person.
5 Row your boat at Za’abeel Park: In effect two parks connected by footbridges, Za’abeel has a boat lake and some great, technology-themed play areas. During the cooler months there’s a whole area dedicated to inflatables, trampolines, a mini-train and horse rides. As if that wasn’t enough, Stargate is now open, too. See page 26 for our review.
04 398 8888, off World Trade Centre roundabout, Open 8am-11pm, entry Dhs5 per person.
6 Get sizzling at Creek Park: You’ll need to turn up early to grab a barbecue pit, particularly on weekends, but this park is perfect for a balmy day. Cool down in the Creek-side breeze as you roller-blade, try your hand at mini-golf or terrorise other visitors on a four-wheel bicycle.
04 336 7633; near Wafi City, Dubai Creek. Open 8am-11pm, entry Dhs5 per person.
7 Go biking: Just north of Dubai, the beachside Al Mamzar Park is a huge area complete with pools, roller-skating area, basketball courts and football pitches. Heavenly in itself, a key attraction for us is the nearby cycle track, running between an inlet and vacant land. The one-kilometre route borders a running track and is great for family biking.
Al Mamzar Park, 050 858 8987. North of Al Hamriya Port, Al Mamzar residential area. Open 8am-11pm, Dhs10 per adult, Dhs5 per child, Dhs30 per car. Another new pedalling venue is the Dubai Autodrome, which is opening a track to biking families on selected evenings over the winter months for just Dhs20 per person if you bring your own bikes. Call 04 339 4453 for details.
8 Tumbles for tots at Safa 2 Park: This small area is ideal for younger kids with three separate play areas including slides, swings and see-saws. Mums and kids only during the week, it’s a popular spot for family picnics at the weekend.
Off Al Wasl Road, street 8A, Al Safa 2. Open 8am-11pm.
9 Explore Mushrif Park’s International Village: Out beyond Mirdif, set in a natural ghaf forest, Dubai’s biggest park is a great family-friendly escape from the city and includes a mini-zoo and pony rides. But a big draw for our little explorers in the ‘international village’ – a series of houses from across the world, scaled down to kiddie size and including a Dutch windmill, a mock-Tudor house and a wind tower. Pack your push bikes as the park has a super-duper new scenic cycle track, too.
04 288 3624; Airport Road, just behind Mirdif. Open daily 8am-11pm, entry Dhs10 per car.
10 Burn off energy at Garhoud Park: Tucked away discreetly in a corner of Al Garhoud, this lovely, leafy, self-contained park is the perfect answer to afternoon high spirits. Two well-maintained play areas – one catering for wee tots and another providing plenty rough and tumble for older kids – are interspersed with lots of benches, landscaped gardens and pretty pathways. It’s the perfect place to have a picnic or a quiet wander.
04 420 2893, near Emirates Post Office and Al Mawakeb School. Open 8am-10pm, Sun-Thu ladies and children only, Fri-Sat for families.
Sport For All...
11 Go on an expedition: Get them out of the city and explore some of the UAE’s most beautiful mangroves at the famous Kalba Nature Reserve. Green Turtle Adventure offers scenic kayak and canoe trips for families and school groups with UK-qualified guides and safety equipment all included for just Dhs250 per person. There’s also a desert overnight camp for the more adventurous, which includes challenging and character building activities such as abseiling, caving, orienteering and rock climbing. Suitable for little explorers aged seven and over.
055 653 0764; www.greenturtleadventure.com.
12 Team work: No strips or rules required, why not get a big group of your kids’ buddies and their families together, grab a bat and ball of some description and head to the beach or the park. Rounders, softball, cricket, French cricket – take your pick or invent your own game – they’re all ideal for burning off some of that pesky energy and are a great way to keep kids entertained, nurture dads’ competitive streaks and let mums catch up (when they should be catching the ball). Top it off with a picnic or barbecue and you have the perfect weekend afternoon. Sorted.
13 Crazy golf: Strictly for those who want to have fun, the outdoor course at the Hyatt Regency offers an 18-hole novelty experience. Balls and clubs cost Dhs15 each to hire, and there’s no limit on the number of rounds you want to play. Open from 8am until 6pm, call 04 209 1234. If you fancy a trip out of town, why not book a round after lunch at the Hatta Fort Hotel? Dhs15 for 18 holes, it’s a bargain.
04 852 3211 or email email@example.com.
14 Learn a new sport: If your kids are still bouncing around like bunnies on a sugar rush, you may need to channel that energy into a more serious sort of sport. Not to worry, there are loads of classes, clubs and academies that will do their best to wear your wee ones out before bedtime. Active Sports Academy, E-Sports and Semmar Sport Services offer everything from football to tennis to golf and cricket, plus rugby clubs, Aussie rules football, baseball leagues and climbing.
15 Set a family fitness challenge: In our experience, there’s nothing our little blighters love more than a bit of friendly competition, so why not set the entire family a fitness challenge? See how long it takes you all to leg it round Safa Park’s five-kilometre running track, create a chart to pin on the fridge and track your progress. Just think of the boost to little Sam’s self-esteem when he realises he can run twice as fast as mum. The kids will see it as a game and you’ll all get fit at the same time.
Mums, if you have bubs in buggies and bumps in the wrong places, check out Powerbuggies classes at Safa Park and Jumierah Beach Park (050 544 1062; www.powerbuggies.net; Dhs30) or BuggEfit at various locations (050 811 9120; firstname.lastname@example.org; Dhs350 for 10 classes. Ideal for giving you a nudge in the right direction, they’ll get you and bambino out together for a tone up in the fresh air.
16 Do a fun run: Use the cool weather as an excuse to train towards a goal and even raise funds for charity. Dubai Marathon’s three-kilometre fun run on January 22 is a great way to introduce children to the sport (the event is open to all ages) – and families can enter and run together.
Registration costs Dhs50 for UAE residents and can be completed online at www.dubaimarathon.org. or at any branch of Fitness First.
17 Shoot ’em up at paintball: Fed up with squabbling siblings? Why not let them sort out their differences on the paintball field? For a very reasonable Dhs85 at Pursuit Games Paintball Dubai, they get two hours of battle time, 100 paintballs and all the equipment required for their warfare.
Located next to Wonderland Theme and Waterpark in Dubai near Garhoud, call the club on 050 651 4583 or visit www.paintballdubai.com. Alternatively, Sharjah Paintball offers two-hour sessions for Dhs85 on weekdays or Dhs90 at the weekends and is open from 10am until midnight. 050 203 2288; www.paintballuae.com.
18 Be a skater dude: Head down to the Desert Extreme Skate Park in Wonderland Theme and Waterpark, next to Creek Park where facilities include 11ft-high ramps, rails and quarter pipes. Open daily 2pm-10pm; 04 324 1222. Or, check out the new facilities at Rage Skatepark at Dubai Festival City. Complete with quarter pipes, launch ramps and fun boxes where kids can learn all sorts of tricks.
Entry costs Dhs25 per day, Dhs50 for a lesson. Don’t worry (too much) about bumps, bruises and head-knocks: helmets and protective pads are available to rent. Open Sat-Sun 10am-9pm; Mon-Tue 2pm-9pm; Wed-Fri 10am-10pm; 04 375 0117.
19 Pet a furry friend: Dubai was crying out for a hands-on petting farm where kids could chase a duck, cuddle a goat and stroke all manner of other creatures. Thankfully, the Animal Sanctuary and Petting Farm filled that gap. A haven of green in the middle of the desert, it’s a perfect place to spend the day. Take a picnic – you can even camp in the desert behind – and spend a few happy hours getting acquainted with the horses, goats, calves, ducklings and many more furry friends. It’s free to enter, but contributions towards the feeding, care and upkeep of the animals are welcome 050 273 0973, located at the end of the Dubai Bypass Road on the Ajman/Sharjah border, 25 minutes from Dragon Mart heading out of Dubai or 35 minutes from the airport.
20 Watch camel racing: Slower than the gee-gees, but no less dramatic – especially at the new camel racing track next to the Rugby Sevens stadium on the Al Ain Road. Races start at 7.30am and break for lunch, resuming action at 2.30pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. This is defintiely a must-see for the culturally curious. While you’re there, have a wander round the camel market
21 Picnic at polo: Pack a picnic basket and head off to the lush green ground of the Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club, where, every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from October to April, there are polo matches. Relax with the family and watch the game for free. From 3.30pm until sunset.
04 361 8111; www.poloclubdubai.com.
22 Giddy up: It can be tricky finding yourself a pony to ride in Dubai, particularly if you’re not willing to fork out for a year’s worth of expensive lessons. But, there are one or two places available. The stables at Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa cater for riders of all levels and offers trekking, trail riding and lessons, either at the paddock or outside in the golf course ground (not on the greens, of course) or in the desert.
Young kids aged four to seven years can get close to Merrylegs, the Shetland pony and enjoy a 25-minute ride for Dhs50. Lessons cost from Dhs150 for 30 minutes, one-hour outdoor rides cost Dhs200. The stables are open daily except Mondays from 7am to noon and again from 4pm to 7pm. 04 883 6000; email@example.com. The Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club, in a beautifully lush setting out near Arabian Ranches, also offers lessons for Dhs130, but spaces are limited. 04 361 8111; www.poloclubdubai.com.
23 A day at the races: Nad al Sheba has closed, but its replacement, Meydan, due to open in January 2010, promises to be even bigger and better. In the meantime, the season opens at Jebel Ali Racecourse on November 6, with races held every Friday from 2.30pm. Known for its garden party atmosphere, there are ample kids’ activities on the sidelines, including jugglers and facepainters. Best of all, it’s free!
04 347 4914; Meydan 04 327 0077; www.dubairacingclub.com.
24 Ride a camel: Let’s face it, if you’re living in Dubai, you simply have to tick this one off your list. The getting on and off is pretty hair-raising for first-timers – hang on tight – but once you’re on it’s fine, if rather high up and lollopy. You don’t have to travel far to give camel riding a go: there are a few city-dwelling camels, including two humpy friends who live near Jumeirah Beach, and regularly sashay up and down the sand, posing for photos for tourists. Hop on for a traditional experience – with a modern twist thanks to the views of the manmade Palm Jumeirah and Atlantis.
Further afield at Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa, Charles and Camilla offer their services for free for hotel and beach guests.
25 Birds of prey show: A huge winter hit last year, the birds of prey show has moved to a new location near Mushrif Park. Falcons, eagles and owls all put on a spectacular display.
050 289 1861; www.birdsofprey-show-dubai.jimdo.com. Shows run Mon-Sat, Dhs50 per adult, Dhs25 per child aged three to 14 years.
26 Visit Al Ain Zoo: The biggest zoo in the Middle East, you’ll find an aquarium, a reptile house, crocodiles and monkeys as well as a daily bird show at 6.30pm, kiddie playground and a train to get you around (not running on Fridays, unfortunately). Dhs15 for adults, Dhs5 for kids aged six to 15 years, free for under sixes.
Open Sat-Wed 10am-6pm, Thu-Fri 10am-7pm. 03 782 0121.
27 Go dolphin spotting: The man at Khasab Travel and Tours reckons he sees dolphins every single day and, while we’re not giving any guarantees, we reckon it’s worth a trip to the top of the Musandam peninsular on the off chance. Head out on a traditional dhow for a full day with lunch, or opt for a half-day trip without food (you have a better chance of glimpsing Flipper and friends in the morning). Both tours will take you to Telegraph Island, where apparently poor unfortunate Brits building a cable from Iraq to India and driven bananas by solitude coined the phrase ‘to go round the bend’.
Book with Khasab Travel and Tours, located in the Golden Tulip Hotel +968 2673 0777. Full day with lunch costs Dhs200, half-day from 9am-1pm or 1.30pm-5pm costs Dhs150. Kids aged five to 12 years half-price, younger tots are free.
28 Feed the ducks at Irish Village: The quackies in this neighbourhood certainly have a brogue-ish charm. And if you watch the lake carefully you can even spot the odd fresh-water turtle. Grab a bite for the family at the Irish Village pub or The Cellar on the water’s edge.
29 Swim with dolphins at Aquaventure: Admittedly, it’s an expensive 30 minutes – but converts to the dolphin-stroking brigade will tell you it’s worth every single dirham. The closest you’ll ever get to these beautiful animals, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Touch them, swim with them, watch them perform in the controlled and educational environment of Dolphin Bay. This is a serene and unforgettable encounter for young and old alike.
04 426 1030; www.atlantisthepalm.com. Sessions cost Dhs625 for hotel guests, Dhs845 for non-guests and includes access to Aquaventure waterpark.
Water, Water Everywhere...
30 Make a splash at a waterpark: We don’t know the actual statistics, but we reckon Dubai’s waterpark per capita ratio must be one of the world’s highest. A perfect day out for kids of all ages, you can get up close and personal with the sharks at Aquaventure, have a splashing time, Arabic style, at Wild Wadi or for green grass and great fun for younger kids, head north to Dreamland Aquapark.
Aquaventure 04 426 1000; www.atlantisthepalm.com. Dreamland Aquapark 06 768 1888; www.dreamlanduae.com. Wild Wadi 04 348 4444; www.wildwadi.com.
31 Go bananas: Bouncing around the Arabian Ocean on a big yellow banana (or a donut) is just one of those things a kid’s gotta do. In Dubai, check out Sky & Sea Adventures at the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah or head north to Umm Al Quwain Marine Club.
Sky & Sea 04 399 9005 / 050 770 7348, Dhs65 for 15 minutes, donut Dhs125 for 15 minutes. Umm Al Quwain Marine Club 06 766 6644, Dhs50 for 15 minutes, donut Dhs100 for 15 minutes.
32 Learn to dive: Kids as young as eight can start learning the joys of scuba thanks to Al Boom Diving. Padi-approved Bubblemaker courses introduce kids to the art of scuba diving in a safe, controlled environment and are fantastic for building kids’ confidence – both socially and in the water. A great place to try this, or the more intensive and educational Padi Seal Team course is at the Al Boom Centre at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa, where the sea-water pool adds to the experience.
04 883 2322, Dhs275 for Bubblemaker, Dhs1,750 for Padi seal team. Umm Al Quwain Marine Club also runs ‘discover scuba’ experiences for anyone aged 10 and older. Call to check availablity 06 766 6644, Dhs250.
33 Parasailing: Not one for the faint of heart, this is the thrill of a lifetime for little adrenaline junkies. Go tandem or individually, your speedboat will hoist you way above the ocean for a ride – and a view – you’ll never forget.
Available from Sky and Sea Adventures 04 399 9005 / 050 770 7348, Dhs250, or from the Habtoor Grand 050 426 2415, Dhs250 for a single flight, Dhs400 for tandem.
34 Ride a speed boat: Blast off for a bouncy tour of the Dubai coastline on a speed boat with Sky & Sea Adventures. Not the cheapest way to see the Jumeirah Palm and Marina, a half-hour tour will set you back Dhs200 per person.
Add on a trip down to the Burj al Arab (90 minutes) and it’ll cost Dhs400. 04 399 9005/050 770 7348.
35 Dhow cruise: Visit this part of the world and it’s only a matter of time before you’ll find your sea legs and be tempted to jump on a dhow. Go the whole hog and opt for a dhow dinner cruise (take your pick from those lined up alongside the creek, Bur Dubai side – most are down-to-earth, family-friendly restaurants). Or, for a pleasant evening jaunt, we can recommend a short sea trip from Dubai Marina courtesy of Captain Jack’s Cruises 04 366 3538, adults Dhs60, kids Dhs30 on the hour from 4pm weekdays, 3pm weekends. But nothing beats discovering the sights and sealife of Musandam, Oman, from the comfort of these traditional Arabian vessels. Dibba, north of Fujairah and just over the border, is easily accessible from Dubai and a half-day tour, typically leaving around 11.30am and returning around 5pm, is a perfect length of time for the heady mixture of kids and boats. Just visiting? There is a raft of tour operators who offer cruises including transport from Dubai and back. Alternatively, drive there yourself and hook up with a local tour company. We had a great time snorkelling, swimming and handline fishing with Sheesa Beach.
050 333 6046; www.sheesabeach.com, Dhs200 including lunch, kids aged 5-12 years half price, under fives free.
36 Abra ride: Abras are the traditional boats used to transport people across creeks and rivers – tell the kids it’s an Arabian gondola and they’ll be delighted. Head down to the creek and take a water taxi back and forth to Deira or haggle for a tour up to the ocean and down to the floating bridge.
37 In oar of kayaking: A sure-fire way to tire the toe-rags out totally, kayaking is a lot tougher than it looks (so we found to our cost) but what better way to get close to the Abu Dhabi mangroves than paddle power? Kayak Abu Dhabi organiser Don Revie, an amiable guide and an ardent ecologist, will show you turtles, queen fish, pencil fish, cormorants, herons, flamingoes and crabs… lots of crabs.
050 542 0820, www.kayakabudhabi.com. Kayak rental also available from Umm Al Quwain Marine Club 06 766 6644 and Sea & Sky Adventures 04 399 9005/050 770 7348.
38 Amphibian bus: One of Dubai’s more bizarre activities, the Wonder Bus takes you on a road – and Creek – tour of the city’s best sights. The 44-seater hybrid is air-conditioned, is equipped with an on-board WC and has life-jackets stashed reassuringly under each seat. There are two tours a day (11am and 4pm), each of which last two hours and begin at BurJuman Centre.
Refreshments are served during the tour, which visits Al Wasl Bridge, Wafi City, Al Boom Diving Village and, of course, splashes down the Creek. 04 359 5656; www.wonderbusdubai.com. Dhs115 for adults, Dhs75 for kids aged three-12 years.
39 Make a splash: Throw caution to the wind and enjoy the interactive fountains at Dubai Marina – a refreshing place to play and dabble your tootsies on a warm afternoon.
Life's A Beach...
40 Sunset at Umm Suqeim beach: Right next to the iconic Burj Al Arab, this public beach has one of the best views of Dubai – provided you look left. Build a sandcastle, have a paddle or just sit on the wall at sunset and watch the sparkling Burj Dubai come to life.
41 Get active at Jumeirah Open beach: What do you feel like doing? Ride your bike, jog, roller blade along the special beach track – take your pick.
42 Beach picnic with your 4X4: This is the last beach in Dubai where you can still drive straight down to the water’s edge and enjoy a traditional cool-box-in-the-boot style picnic. Located en route to Dubai Media City, past Mina A’ Salam, the entrance is an almost unmarked right-hand turn a few hundred metres before the One&Only Royal Mirage. Make sure you get there early on a Friday morning as spaces are snapped up quickly.
43 Cruise around Covent Garden market: Located at The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence and with over 75 artists, jewellery makers, fashion designers and artisans displaying their wares, this open-air European-style market is the perfect place for a leisurely weekend browse. Kids will love the street entertainers and fairground rides, and if they get bored, there’s always the sand and sea to get stuck in to.
Open every Wed and Thu, 5pm to midnight, Fri and Sat, from 10am to 9pm. 050 244 5795.
A Different View...
44 Hot air balloon ride over the sand dunes: Not for the faint-hearted – or very little ones – hot air ballooning is an exciting and unusual way to explore the UAE’s desert landscape. Flying 800m above the earth with a seasoned balloon guide is also educational and great way to spot mid-air wildlife. Balloon Adventures Dubai offers tailor-made rides according to your requirements and group size. And, once you’re up in the air, the views are spectacular. However, landings can be unpredictable and bumpy, so be prepared to sustain the odd bruise on touchdown. Ballooning season runs from September to April.
A five hour trip including refreshments costs Dhs880 per person. Call 04 285 4949.
45 Take to the skies: It’s quite a big treat, but it’s also a once in a lifetime excursion. The Seawings Cessna sea plane takes you on a 30-minute aerial tour of the Arabian gulf, giving you a birdseye view of the Burj Al Arab, the Palm and The World developments, and Dubai’s ever-growing city skyline. Now the hazy days of summer are over, the clearer winter weather provides a stunning visual experience.
04 883 2999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Dhs895 per adult and Dhs760 per child.
46 Cruise over Creek Park in a cable car: For a bargain aerial adventure that gives you a fantastic view of the creek, don’t miss the cable car at Dubai’s Creek Park. The 20-minute ride takes you the length of the park and back again, providing a great opportunity for cityscape photos.
04 336 7633, Dhs25 for adults and Dhs15 for children plus Dhs5 entry fee to the park, Mon-Sat 11am to 9.30pm, closed Sun.
47 Catch the Big Bus: Choose either a 24-hour or 48-hour ticket and spend the weekend viewing the city from the top of a London-style double-decker. Big Bus Tours have two routes that take passengers to the hottest spots in town, including the beach and the top malls. Excursions to Jumeirah Mosque and a dhow ride are also included in the ticket price, as well as free access to Dubai Museum and Sheikh Saeed Maktoum’s House.
04 340 7709, www.bigbustours.com or email email@example.com.
48 Wander around Bastakiya: This charmingly quaint and historical part of the city is often overlooked in favour of the glitzier shopping malls. But Bastakiya has a lot to offer families, with a plethora of traditional-style coffee shops, restaurants, tucked-away boutique hotels and art galleries. Later in the year you can also take a mooch around the winter market, which offers around 50 stalls displaying arts and crafts, antiques, refreshments and a kids’ corner to keep the little ones happy. The winter market runs from mid-January until the end of February 2010.
04 321 7114 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
49 Magical metro tour: Don’t overlook Dubai’s latest public transport addition. Not only is the Metro clean, cheap, fast and efficient, it’s also an exciting experience for your little ones, giving them a new perspective on the city. Standard adult tickets cost between Dhs1.80 and Dhs5.80.
For more information visit www.dubaimetro.eu.
Last But Not Least...
50 Don’t disappoint the bear!: The best event of the year! The Time Out Kids’ Teddy Bears’ Picnic will be an afternoon of sheer bear-faced fun. Shake paws with Elliott, the furry face of the Time Out Kids team, enjoy family games galore and join us for a scrumptious picnic. Don’t forget to enter your ted in one of our competitions – there’ll be plenty of categories, including ugliest and most unusal – so even half-chewed, dribble-coated bears are in with a chance.
The action starts at noon on December 12 at the Aviation Club. Be there! Tickets from www.timeouttickets.com, Dhs100 for adults, Dhs50 for kids aged four-12 years, free for under threes.