Best for art lovers
The Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre at Mall of the Emirates is a veritable hotspot for budding artistes of all ages. Catering to every arty age-group and whim, be it a photography classes, a spot of am- dram, or musical theatre and dance, there are numerous courses running at any one time. The best way to find out what’s on is to visit the centre’s website. In true Dubai style, the facilities are fantastic too. There are two large auditoriums, several function rooms, classrooms, dance studios, an art shop, a well-stocked English library, coffee shop and more. The centre is often the destination of choice for larger theatre production companies bringing all manner of musical and dramatic shows to Dubai, so it’s also worth keeping an eye on the DUCTAC box office calendar!
Annual membership available. Class prices vary. Open 9am-10pm, Sunday to Thursday; 2pm-10pm, Friday. Mall of the Emirates, www.ductac.org (04 341 4777).
This villa-based arts centre might be small in size, but the Dubai International Arts Centre, which was founded in 1976, is the longest established venue for art lovers and appreciators in the city. It continues to serve the community, running a range of creative courses that cater to all ages, whether you’re four or 64. Classes range from sculpture and fine art, to Arabic and Spanish for beginners, children’s painting sessions, lessons in water colour, photography and abstract art. DIAC also has its own art gallery, where local artists can display their work. Classes can be paid for on an individual or ‘course of 10’ basis, and members of DIAC enjoy a 25 per cent discount. As a member, you are also invited to submit your creations to the annual DIAC art exhibition, so if your mini Picassos are showing some true potential, this is definitely the place for you.
Annual memberships available (discounts for Time Out Kids readers in April). Class prices vary. Open 8.30am-5.30pm, Saturday to Wednesday; 9am-4pm, Thursday. Closed Fridays. Jumeirah 1, www.artdubai.com
Family and Friends, Dubai Marina
The Friends and Family Community Centre has something to offer everyone looking for new activities and opportunities to socialize. The facilities include an indoor play area for children as well as a number of fitness studios for classes, and rooms to accommodate courses in languages, baby signing, slimming clubs, first aid and more. In short, there is a wide range of programmes to choose from that will suit children and adults of all ages. Family and Friends has a children’s birthday party service and also runs Early Years educational courses for children as well as all manner of fitness classes for busy mums. We especially like the fact that you pay-as-you-go in terms of classes – there is no annual membership or registration required. And, included in the price of adult classes is a ‘play and stay’ option for you to leave your kids in the supervised play area while you enjoy a guilt free class. Cool!
No annual membership. Dhs30-50 per class (depending on the programme) or you can buy them in blocks of five or ten. Family and Friends Community Centre, Dubai Marina www.dubaifamilyandfriends.com (050 3164025).
Al Areesh Club, Dubai Festival City
With facilities that include a Spinneys supermarket, a hair and beauty salon, two swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, soccer and basketball courts, a kids’ playground and a well-equipped gym, it’s hardly surprising that the Al Areesh Club scores high marks with its members. Unfortunately, you can only make full use of the facilities if you have friends who are already members of the club. This is because Al Areesh is so popular that its membership list is currently closed to new applicants. You can, however, sign up to any of the classes without being a member. These range from tennis and kids swimming classes, to women’s self defense, Zumba™ fitness and Arabic lessons.
Annual membership not available for newcomers. From Dhs40 (per class). Open 6am-10pm daily. Dubai Festival City, www.dubaifestivalcity.com/alareesh (04 232 5670).
The Lakes Club (formerly Hayya, now Fitness First), Emirates Hills
This popular community centre in The Lakes has a good mix of sporting activities, personal training services, children’s classes, like Boogie Babies, swimming lessons and racquet sports on offer. While Fitness First has recently taken over Hayya’s facilities across Dubai, it’s the Lakes Club Junior programme that is especially appealing to parents with hyperactive children, thanks to its summer and Spring camps, and a variety of activities with nippers in mind. Think teen gym timings, karate, ballet, Thai kick boxing, piano, dance and guitar classes. There are also spinning, yoga, Zumba™ and body combat classes for kids in the pipeline. While members have obvious perks, like using the facilities as and when they like, classes are also on a pay-as-you-go basis. Another added bonus is you can pop into any branch and use the facilities. This will come at a price if you are not a member, but it still offers you the chance to try all the facilities before you commit to an annual membership.
Annual membership available. From Dhs20 per class (members). Open 6am-10pm daily. The Lakes Club, www.fitnessfirstme.com (04 438 0338).
Al Nasr Leisureland, Oud Metha
A Dubai institution, Al Nasr LeisureLand is an all-encompassing place located behind the American Hospital. Built on 48-acres of land, this community complex epitomizes old-style Dubai. There’s a full-size ice rink, a bowling alley, a proper lap swimming pool, tennis courts and squash courts galore, a gymnasium, and all manner of fitness training classes to get you sweating. LunaLand is also a fairground full of amusements for kids – and it’s very reasonably priced too. In terms of community events, Al Nasr Leisure Lounge has excellent facilities and is home to the Mogul Room – a veritable Dubai must-dine offering superb Indian fare. There are also catering facilities for off-site and on-site functions. In short, this place is an all-singing, all-dancing, all-doing kind of community centre in the heart of Oud Metha, and you don’t have to be a member to get involved in all the activities. It’s definitely one to investigate if you’re in the neighbourhood or live nearby.
Annual membership available. Classes from Dhs65 (for non-members). Open daily 9am-12 midnight. Oud Metha, www.alnasrll.ae (04 337 1234).
Best for kids
Super Dooper, Dubai Marina
This multi-purpose community centre for kids also caters to the needs of parents. While lots of the activities on offer are of the arty-crafty variety (think scrap-booking, acting classes, ceramic painting, sewing lessons and so on), there’s plenty for the boys to get stuck into as well. We especially like the giant slot car racing track, which enables lads and dads to pit (geddit?) their wits against each other in organized sessions and even racing tournaments. In terms of parents, there are organized coffee mornings as well as special sessions for mums where weekday morning activities, such as yoga or ceramic painting, are on offer, along with supervised care for your baby or toddler in the specially designed playroom. Yes, you can actually go for an exercise session and a natter (plus a complimentary coffee) while the rugrats are taken care of and have a great time with the enthusiastic, trained carers who are literally just next door. Great idea!
Annual membership available. Mums sessions Dhs75. Open Monday to Sunday, 9am-8pm. Dubai Marina, Damac Wave Building, www.superdooper.ae (04 454 8391).
Apple Seeds coming soon!
A funky New York concept, ‘Apple Seeds Family Play Space’ will launch this month at the Gold and Diamond Park. This all-in-one play space is aimed at families with children from newborn to five years, and includes a specially designed indoor playground (just in time for summer!), classes in art, music, songs, cooking, science and an Arabic book club. We also hear there’s going to be a healthy cafe, too. We think any additional recreational centre is something to celebrate, so watch this space!
Open April 1!
Kids Venture Nursery and Community Centre
We love this nursery/community centre combo which opened in Ibn Battuta at the beginning of this month. With activities a-plenty laid on for kids, there’s also a surprising amount of stuff planned for parents, too. The idea is you can take the nippers along for their classes, and get stuck into something yourself while they are being taken care of. Brilliant! Watch this space.
If you’re new in town, check out these fantastic expat and parenting online communities for information, support and sociable events
Possibly the largest online community of expat women in the gulf region, this extremely popular website has a useful forum where you can find out all sorts of facts about living in the UAE from other online users.
Geared specifically for mums living in Dubai, this useful online community site is packed with articles on life in Dubai with children, a social calendar with handy information for mums, plus there’s a forum and a secondhand sales section, too.
Based on the same format as the above, this site is obviously all about networking dads. If you’re a SAH dad and new to the country, this will, quite possibly be your lifeline.
Set up by long-term Dubai expat Louise, this informative website tells you all you need to know about living in the city. And, if there is something you can’t find an answer to, just email Louise and she’ll find it out for you.
Of course we couldn’t leave ourselves out! You can basically find information, news and reviews on just about everything that’s happening in town. Plus, all the latest Time Out Kids’ news for families is online too. Log on and be educated!