Dubai is known for its sky-high price tags and entry charges, but kids can have a great time for less than Dhs50! Here’s our pick of wallet-friendly things to do with your brood.
1 Marina Play Areas
Take them to the new play areas that have sprung up under the shade of the bridges in Dubai Marina.
Free. Various locations in Dubai Marina.
2 The Change Initiative
This one-stop shop for environmentally friendly products and groceries has a free play area with toys, books, tents, and playhouses.
Open Sun-Thurs 8am-9pm, Fri-Sat 9am-10pm. The Change Initiative Café, Al Barsha 1, Sheikh Zayed Road. www.thechangeinitiative.com (800 824).
3 Shakespeare And Co
For the price of a coffee, kids can enjoy the play areas at Shakespeare And Co. restaurants in Al Safa and Village Mall.
Open daily 7am-10pm. Shakespeare’s, The Village Mall, Jumeirah 1 and Al Safa Centre. www.shakespeareandco.ae (04 344 6228 / 394 1121).
4 Extreme Fun
With locations in Motorcity and Jumeirah, Extreme Fun is one of the cheapest soft play areas that the city has to offer.
Dhs35 (for one hour play). Open daily 10am-10pm. Motorcity, opposite Spinneys supermarket, and J3 Mall, Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah. www.extremefunuae.com (04 452 5543/ 56 1704740).
5 Baby Shop, Oasis Centre
Steer the kids past the rows of toys at the back of Baby Shop and you will discover a large free of charge play area.
Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm, Thurs-Sat 10am-midnight. Oasis Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road. www.oasiscentremall.com.
6 Aqua Play
Let them splash around at this play zone of water-based rides and activities – and at just Dhs10 per ride, you can keep the trip under budget.
Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm, Fri-Sat (10am-midnight), Mirdif City Centre. www.theplaymania.com/aquaplay (04 231 6311)
7 Chuck E Cheese
Located at Dubai Outlet Mall, Chuck E Cheese is packed with over 200 games.
Entry is free, with attractions costing between Dhs4 and Dhs20 each. Open Sat-Wed 10am-10pm, Thurs-Fri 10am-12.00 midnight. Dubai Outlet Mall. www.chuckecheesesdubai.com (04 425 3030)
8 Hamleys Toy Store
The play area at Hamleys in Dubai Mall has soft flooring, slides, swings, playhouses, and a small bouncy castle.
Free. Open Mon-Fri 10am-1am, Sat-Sun 10am-11pm. Second Floor, Dubai Mall. (04 339 8889)
Drop off the kids at IKEA’s supervised play area while you shop.
Free. Open Sun-Wed 10am-11pm, Thurs-Sat 10am-midnight. Dubai Festival City, Al Rebat Road. www.ikea.com/ae (04 203 7555).
10 Play a Round
This Marina spot runs ‘Mum’s Time’ on weekdays between 9.30am and 2pm, with supervised play costing just Dhs25 per hour.
Jewels Tower 2, Basement 1, Opps JBR Shams. www.playaround.ae (04 457 0455)
11 Marina Walk
The dancing fountains at Marina Walk are perfect for little ones to cool down on a warm day.
Next to Starbucks, Marina Walk.
12 Toys R Us
Head to the flagship Festival Centre store to enjoy free playtime in the big, colourful play area.
Free. Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Sat 10am-midnight. 1st floor, Festival Centre, Dubai www.toysrusuae.com (04 206 6568).
13 Safa Park
With sprawling lawns, striking city views, play areas, and a boating lake, Safa Park is hard to beat during the cooler months. Dhs3 per person. Open Sat-Tues 8am-11pm, Wed-Fri 8am-11.30pm. Between Sheikh Zayed and Al Wasl Road, Jumeriah 2 (04 349 2111)
14 Al Wasl Park
Head to this small, but charming park with plenty of shady areas, which is only open to women and children during the week (men can visit at weekends with their families).
Free. Open daily 8am-11pm. 57th Street, off Al Wasl Road (04 344 0860)
15 Creek Park
There’s so much to do in this fun-packed park, but we recommend Children’s City, which is full of educational activities.
Dhs5 per person (Dhs10 for kids and Dhs15 for adults to Children’s City). Open Sun-Wed 2pm-11.30pm, Thurs-Sat 8am-11pm. Al Riyadh Street, between Garhoud Bridge and Floating Bridge (04 336 7633).
16 Al Barsha Pond Park
One of the newest parks in the city, with a large pond to cycle around and kid’s play areas.
Free. Open Sun-Thurs 8am-11pm, Fri-Sat 8am-11.30pm. Enter from behind NBD Bank and Al Mawakeb School, Al Barsha.
17 Za’abeel Park
Head to Za’abeel Park for the kids play areas, jungle gyms, pedal buggy hire, and boating lake.
Dhs5 per person. Open Sun-Wed 8am-11pm, Thurs-Sat 8am-11.30pm. Sheikh Zayed Road (04 398 6888).
18 Mushrif Park
The oldest park in Dubai has a mini train ride, petting zoo, swimming pools, and miniature international village.
Dhs3 per person, Dhs10 per car (Dhs5 for kids and Dhs10 for adults for pool access). Open daily 8am-11.30pm. Al Khawaneej Road, just outside Mirdif (04 288 3624).
19 Jumeirah Beach Park
Step off the sand and onto the grass at this fun park in Jumeriah, complete with kids play area.
Dhs5 per person. Open Sun-Wed 7am-10.30pm, Thur-Sat 7am-11pm (women and children only on Mondays) (04 349 2555).
20 Posh Paws Animal Sanctuary and Petting Farm
Children can feed, touch and hold animals, while learning fun facts about the breeds. There’s no charge, but a donation is suggested.
Free. Open daily 9am-5pm. The Animal Care House, Sharjah. www.poshpawsdubai.com (050 273 0973).
Kids can gawp at reptiles in glass cases, whilst the brave can stroke, hold and get photos taken with snakes, iguanas or chameleons.
Dhs20 per person. Free (for kids under 3). Open Sun-Thurs 10am-10pm Fri-Sat 3pm-11pm. Uptown Mirdiff, near Spinneys. www.facebook.com/ExoTerraDubai (04 252 4466).
22 Arabia’s Wildlife Centre
Watch and learn about Arabian wildlife in the UAE’s only air-conditioned zoo.
Dhs15 per person, Free (for kids under 13). Open Sun, Mon, Wed, Thurs 9am-6pm, Closed Tues, Friday 2pm-6pm, Saturday 11am-6pm. Just off Al Dhaid Road, Sharjah. www.breedingcentresharjah.com (06 531 1999).
23 Dubai Garden Centre
Why pay to visit an aquarium when the kids can see the fish for free at Dubai Garden Centre?
Free. Open daily 8am-10pm. Sheikh Zayed Road. www.dubaigardencentre.ae (04 340 0006).
24 Ras Al Khor Flamingos
Watch the bright pink birds in their natural habitat from the flamingo hide at Ras Al Khor.
Free. Open Sat-Thurs 9am-4pm. Just off Al Awir Road. www.wildlife.ae.
25 Al Ain Zoo
The hour’s drive is well worth it for the large and fascinating collection of animals, many of them endangered.
Dhs15 (for adults), Dhs5 (for kids 3-12), Free (for kids under 3). Open daily 9am-8pm. Al Ain (follow brown tourist signs). www.awpr.ae (03 799 2000).
26 Dubai Aquarium in Dubai Mall
It’s pricey to head inside Dubai Aquarium, but costs nothing to gaze at the fish, sharks and rays on the ground floor of Dubai Mall.
Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm, Thurs-Sat 10am-midnight. www.thedubaimall.com.
Feed their Minds
27 Dubai Museum
Spend a morning or afternoon wandering amongst the imaginative displays to teach your brood about the history of their city.
Open Sat to Thurs 8.30am-8.30pm, Fri 2.30pm-8.30pm. Dhs 6 (for adults and kids over 6) Free (for kids under 6). Opp. Grand Mosque, Al Fahidi Street (04 353 1862)
28 Book Shelter
This local initiative makes books available to everyone free of charge. Take the kids along to Circle Café to restock their bookshelf – and make sure you donate books you no longer need.
Open daily 8am-11pm. Circle Café, Dubai Healthcare City, Building No.64, Block C. www.thebookshelter.ae (04 362 1944)
29 Al Ahmadiya Museum
Established in 1912, Al Ahmadiya was the first school in Dubai and is now open to the public.
Free. Open Sat-Thu 7.30am-.7.30pm; Fri 3pm-7.30pm, School & Heritage House, Al Khor Street, near Gold House building, Al Ras, Deira. www.dubaitourism.ae (04 226 0286)
30 Jumeirah Mosque Tour
Teach them about Islam with a tour of Jumeirah Mosque.
Dhs10 (for adults and kids over 11) Free (kids under 11). Sat, Sun, Tues, and Thurs 10am-11.15am. Report to Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Bastikiya. www.cultures.ae (04 353 6666)
31 Dubai Heritage & Diving Village
This museum showcases Bedouin Traditions.
Free. Open Sat-Thu 7.30am-10pm; Fri 3pm-11pm, Al Shindagha, Bur Dubai, www.dubaitourism.ae (04 393 7151)
32 House of Prose
Give the kids a small budget to choose books at this second hand bookshop at Dubai Garden Centre.
Free. Open daily 8am-10pm. Sheikh Zayed Road. www.dubaigardencentre.ae (04 340 0006)
33 Book Munch Café
Treat yourself to a coffee or smoothie while the kids get stuck into one of the books lining the shelves.
Open daily 7.30am-10pm. Book Munch, Al Wasl Square (next to Safa Park). www.bookmunchcafe.com (04 388 4006)
Sand and Swim
34 Sandcastle Competition
We’re lucky to have so many beaches in Dubai with free access. Choose your favourite and challenge the kids to a sandcastle competition for good old-fashioned fun!
35 Synchonized Swimming
Dubai’s synchronized swimming club is offering a free trial lesson to first timers this term.
www.synquatics.com (05 544 85381).
36 Beach football
Burn off energy with a family match on the beach.
37 Jumeirah Open Beach Running Track
With 2.8km of springy running track, kids will love heading down Jumeirah Open Beach on a bike or scooter Start at Dubai Marine Beach Resort and turn left.
38 Hamdan Sports Complex
Try out the Olympic-sized 50m pool.
Dhs20 per person. Sat-Thurs 8am-8pm. Dubai Bypass Road. www.hamdansc.com (04 306 2666).
With its old wind towers and maze of secret alleyways providing shade, kids could spend a happy afternoon exploring the oldest part of Dubai.
Bastakiya, Bur Dubai.
40 Lake stroll
Fancy a stroll with the kids or pram? Look no further than the Springs and Meadows and its peaceful sanctuary of interlocked lakes.
Start at Meadows Village Mini Mall.
41 Landmark Tour
Why not drive around for an afternoon and give the kids a mini tour of Dubai, including Burj al Arab, Burj Khalifa, and Emirates Towers?
42 Watch the slope
Can’t afford the high entry rates at Ski Dubai? Grab a window seat at Costa Coffee in Mall of Emirates to watch the skiers and snowboarders descend the slope at speed.
Open daily 10am to midnight. www.malloftheemirates.com (04 409 9000).
43 The Dubai Fountain
Kids will love the Dubai Fountain show at the foot of Burj Khalifa. Free. Daily afternoon shows at 1pm and 1.30pm.
Evening shows every 30 minutes from 6pm-11pm (Sun-Wed) and 6pm-11.30pm (Thurs-Sat). Dubai Mall. www.thedubaimall.com (800 38224 6255)
44 Picnic at the Polo
Pack a picnic and head to Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club to spread out a blanket and watch the ‘Game of Kings’ every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 3:30pm.
Free. www.poloclubdubai.com (04 3618111)
45 Head to the Souks
Kids will feel like they’ve been transported to another land with a visit to the Gold and Spice Souks on the Deira side.
Open daily 9am-10pm.
By Land or Water
46 Abra on Creek
At just Dhs1 per person, there are few more affordable ways to entertain the kids than with a traditional abra ride.
Dhs1 per person. Open daily 5am-midnight. Dubai Creek, Deira/Bur Dubai, (800 9090).
47 Palm Monorail
Park your car in the car park next to One & Only Royal Mirage, before climbing aboard.
Dhs15 (for single). Dhs25 (for return). Open daily 10am-10pm.
48 Mini Express at Marina Mall
Jump aboard the mini train ride at Marina Mall, complete with authentic whistles.
Dhs15 (for adults), Dhs10 (for kids).
49 Dubai Metro
Dubai metro is air-conditioned, offers amazing views, and is free for children under five years.
From Dhs1.80 (for adults and children over 5). http://dubaimetro.eu (04 4361020)
50 Water Bus
Dubai Marina’s Water Bus shuttles between Marina Mall and The Walk and takes just 7-9 minutes – but at just Dhs2 per person, you can afford to go back and forth all afternoon!
Runs daily 10am-10pm every 15 minutes.