1 Skater dudes
Why? You were a ’70s child – a time where there was no-one more hip than the kid with the afro who could flip quarter pipes and jump the fun boxes. Here’s your chance to relive your youth.
How? Book an early morning lesson with an instructor who can put you and Marty McFly Junior through your paces at Rage Skate Park’s outdoor arena. Be warned, though, you will need plenty of padding (a beer gut doesn’t count) as this is a sport where falling over is all part of the learning process.
Instructor, Sid De Labaz, says; ‘Skateboarding is great exercise and most kids start learning at around eight or nine. It’s a good activity to get into over the summer because we have the indoor Rage Skate Bowl at The Dubai Mall, which is fully equipped and air-conditioned.’ Kader Hadri, a professional skateboarder and marketing manager for Rage, says, ‘You can pick up the basics in about three lessons because you learn much faster if you’re getting the right advice from a professional. The basics would enable you to ride the skateboard and do certain turns. Tricks take longer to learn, but skateboarding can be learnt by anyone at any age. We do have dads and their kids who come and practise at The Dubai Mall Rage Skate Bowl together.’
How much? Dhs50 for an hour-long lesson
Contact: (04 336 9007); www.rage-shop.com
2 Sky diving simulator
Why? Because you’d have jumped out of a plane years ago if wasn’t 10,000 feet above the ground. Now you can look like an extra from Top Gun without even donning a parachute.
How? Get along to iFly at Mirdif City Centre and book your flight slot. Once you’ve completed the paperwork, you’re given a 15-minute safety lecture and a few essential tips by the instructor. Then it’s off to the changing rooms and on with the suit, goggles, helmet and ear plugs. The rest of the activity is a bit of a blur, but that’s to be expected considering you’ll find yourselves flying on a cushion of air created by wind generators blasting out 200-mile-an-hour gusts. After stabilising yourself, the instructor will make sure you get a couple of good commemorative photos, before whizzing you up to the top of the tube (about 30ft high) to complete the dreamlike flying experience. You’ll get two goes inside the tunnel, each lasting approximately one minute. Definitely an activity best suited to kids of at least five and above.
How much? Off-peak rates (Sunday to 3pm Thursday) Dhs165 for adults, kids Dhs125. Peak rates (3pm Thu until 11pm Sat) Dhs195 for adults, kids, Dhs145.
Contact: Ifly Dubai, (800 LEISURE), www.playnationme.com
3 Car museums
Why? Ever since you saw that episode of Top Gear featuring the gigantic pick-up truck with a house on the back, you’ve hankered for an opportunity to see the monster (and others like it) in the flesh.
How? The Rainbow Sheikh’s car museum is a bit of a schlep from Dubai. But, as well as that record-breaking monster pick-up, the museum is also home to an enormous, automobile powered globe which – yes, you’ve guessed it, has a house inside it – and the world’s biggest mobile home, which looks like South Fork on wheels. These extraordinary vehicles (which do drive and are often used by the Sheikh and his family when they escape to the desert) tend to knock all the other autos at the museum into a cocked hat. But their wow factor – especially for kids with a penchant for petrol and car customisation – should not be underestimated. And while the journey there is a long one, don’t dismiss it as a chore. You know the old saying – to travel hopefully is better than to arrive. So make the drive fun by stocking up on tasty snacks, playing word games and playing ‘spot the supercar’ to while away the time. Directions to the museum are as follows: From the centre of Abu Dhabi, take the road towards the Airport and turn off onto the Tarif Road (a massive straight road that runs through Saudi Arabia).
Turn off at Junction 306 and head towards Hammeem until you see the giant rainbow gate on the left, and follow the signs from there. Once you arrive, call the number of the curator (Mr Hadeep; 050 829 3952) and he’ll let you into the museum. If the drive doesn’t appeal, don’t dismiss the amazing Sharjah Car Museum located conveniently off the Emirates Road. Filled to bursting with mint-condition classic and vintage motors, there really is very little that you won’t find when it comes to chrome-covered ’50s classics, finned ’70s gas guzzlers and a huge array of beautiful, walnut lined rollers, Daimlers and Bentleys. Call ahead and book a tour with the curator.
How much? Rainbow Sheikh’s Museum is FREE! The Sharjah Classic Car Museum charges Dhs5 per person and Dhs10 for families.
Contacts: Sharjah Classic Car Museum, (06 558 0058). Open from 8am-2pm and 4pm-9pm, Saturday to Thursday; Rainbow Sheikh Museum, open seven days a week. Call Mr Hadeep (050 829 3952) upon arrival.
4 Get to grips with golf
Why? Your free time is precious, and while in your ‘yoof’ you’d be on the greens every weekend, you feel rotten at creating a brood of golf orphans. Take your little swingers along and banish the guilt pangs to the
bunker while you practise your short game.
How? Even in the height of summer it’s still possible to play as both Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club and Emirates Golf Club have floodlit facilities, so you can pop along for a spot of night golf. Rent some clubs and a bucket of balls for a happy half hour on the driving range, followed by a stint on the putting and chipping greens. The Par-3 courses at both venues are not too long, although Emirates Golf Club is considered a little more challenging. You’ll need around 75 minutes to get round nine holes, so they’re great for young ’uns and less-experienced players. No-one will grumble at how many shots you’re taking, the kids won’t get too worn out, dad gets some reasonable practise and it’s way cheaper than regular golf. If you’re ending up in the blue of the lake rather than on the green of the, er, green, then dads can book themselves in for a lesson where kids can join in for free. Bargain!
How much? Golfing with kids is not as tough on the wallet as you might think. For Dhs30 each you can hit a bucket of balls on the floodlit driving range,putting and chipping greens. If you don’t have your own, club hire costs Dhs5 per club (you’ll each need an iron, a wedge and a putter, we’re reliably informed). A round on the Dubai Creek Par-3 courses costs Dhs75 for adults, Dhs55 for kids. At Emirates Golf Club, it’s Dhs110 for adults and Dhs35 (before 3pm) or Dhs50 (after 3pm) for kids. Lessons at both clubs cost Dhs190 for half an hour, or Dhs1,750 for a block of 10.
Contact: (04 295 6000; www.dubaigolf.com)
5 Gone fishing
Why? The hunter-gatherer in you just can’t resist the thought of catching your own grub, whacking it on the head, and cooking it over a fire for brekkie. Ugg ugg!
How? It’s pretty hot now, but that just makes going out to forage from Davy Jones’ locker even more authentic. In the summer months, Umm Al Quwain Marine Club runs early bird fishing boat trips from their port, setting off at 5am. Our advice? Drag the kids out of bed and onto the high seas for a few hours (you’ll be back on shore by 9am) so they can experience a real UAE tradition. You can sail out with the professional fishermen (who make their living from the seas and know where the best waters are for a hefty catch) as they cast off for a morning’s work. It’s the kind of activity that works well if you have a best mate with kids who also fancies a few hours on the water. Lots of fresh air and the little tykes will be ready for an early night afterwards. Guaranteed.
How much? An hour’s boat hire costs Dhs300 and most trips last four hours.
Contact: Umm Al Quwain Marine Club (06 766 6644; www.uaqmarineclub.com).
6 Go karting
Why? Probably the closest you’ll get to taking part in F1 (burning up the black stuff on the Sheikh Zayed Road doesn’t count).
How? Go karting is a popular pastime in the UAE. Race around the track at Dubai Kartdrome, Motor City for a rip-roaring and competitive morning out with the monsters. The track and petrol-powered karts are better suited to older kids as they can get up to speeds of 40km/hour. Kids under seven are understandably required to sit out this activity. However, just because you’re small, doesn’t mean you should miss out on the experience while dad races around the track like a nutter. Stargate has indoor adult and child karting tracks which are perfect for the current hot weather. Little ones over 130cm in height can select a car and take it for a sedate spin around the kiddie track, while Dad can let off steam on the grown-up karts, which are battery powered. Beep, beep!
How much? Dubai Kartdrome ‘arrive and drive’ outdoor go-karting, Dhs100 for 15 minutes. Stargate indoor adult karting track, Dhs29 for seven minutes, and the kids’ track, Dhs15 for five minutes.
7 Learn a watersport
Why? Because it’s manly – and it’s a great way to get you and the kids active.
How? Even in the peak of summer, the UAE’s coastline provides endless watersport opportunities. Sky & Sea Adventures runs early morning wakeboarding and banana boat rides. But, if speed is your demon, why not book a powerboat tour? These thrilling, rocket-fuelled vessels are noisy, rough and very, very fast. You can book a 30-minute tour through Yellow Boats at the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi for a family ticket of Dhs300 (adults cost Dhs100 and kids, Dhs75 individually). And, if you get bitten by the power boat bug, sign up for a two-day course at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club in Umm Suqeim.
For a slightly less equipment-heavy morning, how about a lads’ and dads’ kite-surfing lesson? It’s not as easy as it looks, and it’s pretty extreme, but, says Dubai-based freelance kite-surfing coach, Mike White, ‘It’s brilliant fun and completely addictive once you know how.’ Kayaking is another popular pursuit, although mid-summer heat will mean early morning starts. Abu Dhabi-based Noukhada Adventure Company arranges trips where young adventurers can explore the UAE’s wildlife-filled mangroves and island reserves, adding an educational edge to the day.
How much? Dhs75 and up.
Contacts: Sky and Sea Adventures (04 399 9005; 050 770 7378); Yellow Boats (800 4043; www.theyellowboats.com); Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (04 394 1669; www.dosc.com). Kite surfing lessons, Mike White (050 226 5134); Noukhada Adventure Company (050 721 8927; www.noukhada.ae).
8 All aboard the metro!
Why? Because when you were a lad, every boy wanted to be a train driver. Plus, you can get to the mall without having to negotiate traffic or find a bloomin’ parking space.
How? Get down to your nearest metro station and purchase a NOL travel card, then charge it up with credits which also allow you to use Dubai’s bus service, parking zones and water taxis. A trip across the city on the metro (from say, Al Garhoud to Mall of the Emirates) will take you, on average, 40 minutes. Gold Class offers premium seating and has the added bonus of being situated right at the front of the train. This gives the kids a bird’s eye view of the city from the panoramic front window – which gets really exciting when you take the tunnel under the creek. The metro can drop you off at a variety of entertaining locations en route – think Za’abeel Park (home to Stargate), The Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates. A cheap and cheerful day out which begins and ends in fun.
How much? A family of four can travel via Gold class across the city for approximately Dhs25 (one way). Tots under two travel free and Silver class is approximately half the price of Gold class.
9 Bowling and a burger
Why? A bit of competitive bowling – preferably against another dads’ and kids’ team, is the perfect way to work up an appetite. Plus, in the great lads’ tradition, losing team buys the food!
How? Just rock up with your team, book a couple of lanes and strike it lucky! Lane hire includes shoes and an endless supply of bowling balls. Once you’ve had a few games, you can reward your efforts with a burger. We recommend Yalla Bowling at Playnation in Mirdif City Centre, and Bowling City at Dubai Festival City because they offer other entertainment and good refreshment outlets. At Yalla Bowling, there’s the added bonus of being able to order your malts and meat from the brand new Johnny Rockets (yippee!). And if you’ve taken out the older kids and teens, why not let them run amok on the arcade machines and the lanes while you and the other ‘team leader dad’ sneak off for a leisurely game of pool? Perfect!
How much? From Dhs10 per game (prices vary)
10 Take to the skies
Why? Imagine seeing The World and The Palm from above while floating along behind a speedboat. You’ll be the world’s coolest dad for months afterwards.
How? Ascending high into the blustery blue yonder above Dubai’s coastline, while hanging from the harness of a parachute, can safely be classed as an experience of a lifetime. Sky & Sea Adventures’ parasailing sessions provide all the right elements for a day out with dad because they involve water, boats, and more than a touch of excitement for thrill-seeking tweens. Trips run from 11am to 5pm all summer long, conditions depending, and kids as young as eight (depending on their weight) can have a go.
Alternatively, a less extreme but more luxurious way to see Dubai’s coastline is from the windows of a small, amphibious Cessna. You can take off from either Dubai’s Creek or Seawings’ Jebel Ali base if you’re going for the 40-minute flight. Simply call ahead and book your slot (two days prior to the outing is preferred) and turn up on the day. The flight offers you the perfect view of Dubai’s coastline and plenty opportunity to indulge in a spot of amateur aerial photography.
How much? Dhs250 per person for a 10-minute parasailing flight. Seawings is rather more costly. Tots under two go free, kids aged two to 11, Dhs845-1,040 (30 or 40-minute flight), adults, Dhs995-1,220. Ouch!
Contact: Sky and Sea Adventures (04 399 9005/050 770 7348); Seawings (04 883 2999).
Day out dos and don’ts
Taking the tiny terrors out for the day can be challenging. Here are a few tips for making the day slightly less hectic.
Do plan ahead. There’s nothing more disappointing than taking the impulsive initiative only to find out that the karting track is closed for repairs. The rugrats won’t thank you for it.
Do plan your route. Any journey that takes longer than 45 minutes will have them squirming in their seats. So make sure you know where you’re going.
Do feed them to keep them quiet. But take note dads: e-numbers and sugar-laden junk will only make your tribe even more unruly. Opt for additive-free snacks such as bananas, nuts and raisins, organic cookies, good-quality chocolate, sandwiches etc.
Don’t forget the wet wipes. Keeping their hands clean – even if the rest of them needs an industrial washdown at the end of the day – is important.
Do Keep a potty in the car for en-route emergencies (and a rinsing water bottle to sluice it out afterwards).
Don’t overlook the brilliance of baby reigns if your toddler is speedy. Keeping track of several small ones is like herding cats (we have been known to tie our older kids together too).
Do make sure the portable DVD player is charged. There’s nothing worse than tired, bored kids in the back of the car.
Do swot up on a few travel games. Spot the super car, I-spy, the country game (where kids have to think of a country beginning in the same letter as the country you mention ends in) will help keep you all sane.