Nobody enjoys dragging the kids round the shops, especially when that shop is IKEA. The great news is that the Swedish home hypermarket, located in Dubai Festival City, offers a free supervised play area so you can drop the kids before you head inside.
Sun-Wed 10am-11pm, Thurs-Sat 10am-midnight. IKEA, Dubai Festival City, Al Rabat Road (04 2037555) www.ikea.com/ae
Spending the day in Dubai Mall? Let the kids run off some steam at the free play area located within Hamleys on the second floor. With slides, swings and playhouses, it will keep toddlers very happy.
Sun-Wed 10am-11pm, Thurs-Sat 10am-midnight. Hamleys, Second Floor, Dubai Mall (04 3398889) www.thedubaimall.com.
JLT Play park
There are lots of free community play areas in Dubai, but the park in JLT stands out. With two play areas catering to toddlers and older children, plenty of grass for kicking a ball around, a safe and secure position away from the road, and parking alongside, it’s the perfect play date on cooler days.
JLT Park, Next to Cluster P (behind Armada Tower 2), Jumeriah Lake Towers.
Meet The Animals
Turtles at Mina Al Salam
Head to Mina al Salam Hotel on a Wednesday morning to meet the resident turtles. After an educational talk, little ones will get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to feed the incredible creatures.
Every Wednesday at 11am. Mina Al Salam, Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 3668888) www.jumeirah.com.
Visit Posh Paws Animal Sanctuary and Petting Farm to meet animals including ponies, deer, llamas, rabbits, goats, cows, baboon, ducks and much more. There’s no entry charge but donations are welcome.
Every day 9am-6pm. Posh Paws, The Desert Equestrian Club, near Municipality Vet Clinic, Al Khawaneej (050 2730973) www.poshpawsdubai.com.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
The bright pink flamingos are the main event at the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, located at the mouth of Dubai Creek, but there are 270 other species of birds at the nature reserve. Stand at the Flamingo Roost to watch the pink birds against a spectacular cityscape.
Sat-Thurs 9am-4pm. Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, off junction of Al Wasl and Oud Metha Roads (04 6066822). www.wildlife.ae.
The Great Outdoors
The Beach at JBR
With a stretch of soft white sand, turquoise sea to paddle in, free play areas for kids, and ample changing facilities, the newly developed beach at JBR is the perfect destination for families on a budget.
The Beach at JBR, JBR Walk (enter by Hilton Hotel), Dubai Marina.
Al Barsha Pond park
There are lots of parks in Dubai with low entry rates, but Al Barsha Pond Park stands out for the fact it is completely free. Take bikes or scooters for a ride around the lake, spread out a blanket for a picnic, or head to the play areas for kids.
Sun-Thu 8am-11pm. Fri-Sat. 8am-11.30pm. Al Barsha Pond Park, Al Barsha 2, near Emirates NBD Bank.
Fountains at Marina Walk
Take the kids to Dubai Marina Walk to splash in the walk-through fountains. Pack an extra set of clothes and allow little ones free reign to run through the fountains, while you enjoy the views of yachts bobbing on the water and palm trees swaying the breeze.
Dubai Marina Walk, near to Spinneys and Starbucks, Dubai Marina.
Heritage and Diving Village
Step back in time at this traditional heritage village, located near the mouth of Dubai Creek. Watch potters and weavers practicing traditional crafts and demonstrations in pearl diving. It’s the perfect way to discover Dubai’s heritage – and it’s completely free.
Sat-Thurs 8.30am-10pm, Fri 3.30-10pm. Heritage and Diving Village, Al Shindagha Area (next to Sheikh Saeed’s House), Dubai Creek (04 3937139)
Al Ahmadiya School
Also known as the ‘Museum of Education’, Al Ahmadiya School was the very first school in Dubai and it is now open for visitors to discover more about how education developed and changed in the city. It’s fascinating and free of charge.
Sun-Thurs 8.30-8.30pm, Fri 2pm-8.30pm Al Ahmadiya School, behind Dubai Public Libraries, Al Ras Area, Deira (04 226 0286)
With races taking place regularly between December and March, experiences don’t get more unique than a day watching Camel Racing. Kids will watch wide-eyed as the animals speed round the track, followed by an entourage of supporters in their cars. Call for race timings. Al Marmoom Camel Racetrack, Dubai-Al Aim E66 (Reach the Al Lisali exit and take the first right off the highway. Take first right again after the exit. Drive until you see what looks like an official building (the first grandstand).
Take a right, then a left, and follow the road until you reach the second grandstand) (04 832 6526).