Occupying a delightfully breezy spot next to Dubai Creek, families can easily fill the day in this vast, 96-hectare park. The play areas are great for younger kids and the surrounding grassy knolls ideal for huge picnics with family and friends or an impromptu game of badminton or cricket. A hive of activity at weekends (good luck with parking) we’ve often witnessed the mass hilarity of entire families perched on the rentable four-wheel surreys careering round the park’s pavements. Various other bikes are available to hire from Dhs30-50 per hour. For a different perspective of the park, the creek and the Dubai skyline, try the cable car (Dhs25 for adults, Dhs10 for children). With a mini golf course and desert garden, there’s plenty to see and do before replenishing that lost energy with a freshly barbecued banger on one of the many barbecue pits, or a burger from one of the fast-food kiosks. If the outdoors no longer cuts it, nip across to Children’s City.
04 336 7633; www.dm.gov.ae. Near Wafi City, Dubai Creek. Open Sun-Wed 8am-11pm, Thu-Fri 8am-11.30pm, public holidays 8am-midnight. Entry Dhs5 per person
Jumeirah Beach Park
A bit of a Dubai institution this one, the beach park is extremely popular at weekends.With clean sands, shady palm areas and a cordoned-off swimming area, it’s safe for families and an easy place to while away the day. In January, even the Arabian Sea may be too chilly for anything more than a dip, but the weather is perfect for playing on the swings and slide. The park will particularly appeal to those under five, but there’s plenty of flat grassy space for a kickabout. Some barbecue pits and picnic tables are available, and there’s a central spot close to the play area, which is often used for parties. If you don’t bring your own picnic, there are fast-food kiosks serving the usual burgers, sandwiches and shawarmas dotted along the beach and next to the park’s main gate.
04 349 2555; www.dm.gov.ae. Jumeirah Beach Road, opposite Chilis restaurant. Open daily 8am-10.30pm, ladies and children only on Mondays. Entry Dhs5 per person, Dhs20 per car
Al Mamzar Park
This seaside park spans an area of 106 hectares and offers barbecue pits, private chalets for hire, a swimming pool, food kiosks, sheltered beaches, a scenic train and many children’s play areas. The pristine beaches are supervised and have changing rooms and shade, while there are three kids’ swimming pools with seats, shades,
changing rooms, showers and a snack bar. There’s also a roller-skating area, football pitches and basketball courts and bike rental, as well as an amphitheatre which hosts various musical performances.
050 858 9897; www.dm.gov.ae. North of Al Hamriya Port, Al Mumzar residential area. Open daily 8am-11pm. Dhs5 per person, Dhs30 per car; pool Dhs10 per
adult, Dhs5 per child.
Out beyond Mirdif, on the fringes of the city, lies Mushrif Park, an expansive desert recreational zone. Set within a natural ghaf forest, this is by far the biggest park in Dubai and makes for a great family-friendly escape from the city. At its core is a complex of lawns, playgrounds and fairground rides, including a small-gauge railway line, a mini zoo and aviary, trampolines and pony rides. Camel rides can also be arranged. There are segregated outdoor swimming pools too, and an ‘international village’ – a series of houses from across the world, scaled down to kiddie size. There are 13 in total, including a mock-Tudor house, a Dutch windmill, a barasti, a Minangkabau house from Indonesia and a wind-tower house (in the latter, crouch directly beneath the wind tower and see if you can feel the cool breeze). A network of roads snakes through the hilly terrain, with sandy tracks that peel off into the peaceful ghaf forest – an ideal spot to practise your off-roading skills.
04 288 3634; Airport Road, just beyond Mirdif. Open 8am-11pm. Entrance fee Dhs10 per car
This Jumeirah park is one of the most popular outdoor areas in Dubai. It’s surrounded by a bouncy running track, which older kids and fitness freaks will love. Inside, there’s a Ferris wheel (Dhs2) bikes for hire (Dhs20-30 for one hour), a carousel and an indoor games centre, as well as trampolining and bouncy castles. But don’t be fooled into thinking Safa is a theme park. Step away from the main entrance (gate 2) and you’ll find expanses of grass perfect for football, baseball, volleyball, kite-flying, picnics or general lazing around. Sporty types can hire one of the tennis courts, take a boat trip on the lake (Dhs40 for 20 minutes) or load up the kids’ bikes and explore on two wheels. You can take your own bike on weekdays when the park is less crowded, although this sometimes depends on the mood of the gate staff. To get rid of every last ounce of energy, take a run to the top of the hill for a stunning view of the Burj Dubai and Sheikh Zayed skyline. Try a bit of twitching while you catch your breath and see how many local and migratory birds you can spot around the waterfall and lake. There’s also a maze and a monthly flea market. Refreshments, including the popular London Dairy ice cream bikes, are available, or bring your own supplies and grab one of the barbecue pits. Safa Park is open to all with a special area for ladies and children only.
04 349 2111; www.dm.gov.ae. Between Al Wasl and Sheikh Zayed Road, interchange 2. Open daily 8am-11pm. Dhs3 per person
A bijou spot popular with the Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim crowd, especially those with young toddlers, Safa 2 has three separate play areas, which include mini slides, seesaws, rocking rides, relatively easy climbing areas, a grassy area and little hills for running and rolling. With the area being rather small, it can get crowded at weekends when dads are allowed in, but even when busy, it retains its affable vibe. A favourite birthday party location.
Off Al Wasl Road, street 8A, Al Safa 2. Open daily 8am-11pm for women and children. Men permitted on weekends and public holidays. Free entry
Umm Suqeim Park
Opposite the Burj Al Arab beach, this is a cute little park which suits younger children. Its refurbishment complete, it has plenty of sandy fun for kids, and great windy and bumpy pavements for scooter or tricycle riding. The little coffee shop in the centre sells drinks and ice-creams. Great during the week when it admits women and children only, it can get overly crowded at weekends.
Junction of Jumeirah Beach Road and Al Thanya Open Sun-Thu 8am-11pm (ladies and children only), Fri-Sat 8m-11.30pm (families), public holidays 8am-midnight (families). Free entry
One of Dubai’s newest parks (it opened in 2005) is also one of its best. In effect two parks connected by footbridges, Za’beel has tracks for running and cycling, a small lake with dinky pleasure craft for hire, and some really funky play area contraptions. Technology-themed, it offers gorgeous lakes and streams, a cricket pitch, mini-golf, refreshment kiosks and a lakeside restaurant – not to mention fabulous views of the Dubai skyline. See the lot via the mini-train (if it’s operating) or hire a bike for between Dhs30 and Dhs50 for half an hour. Work is underway on the StarGate project, a space-themed park-within-a-park where kids can learn about technology, and is due to be completed this year.
04 398 8888. Off World Trade Centre Roundabout. Open 8am-11pm. Entrance is Dhs5