The Hartshorn Family
Dani (11), Elle (nine), Larry and Renee
We began with a visit to Pets Habitat in Al Barsha. They had cats and dogs, hamsters, birds, snakes and even a hedgehog. Dani and Elle wanted to hold the pug, but we were told ‘no’. We spent 30 minutes looking around and sticking our fingers in the cages so the dogs could lick them. FREE!
Next stop was Safa Park. The first thing we saw after paying our Dhs12 fee was a vendor selling candy floss – a big family favourite, so we splashed out Dhs10. We were already loving this park! Determined to explore as much as we could, we took in the gardens, waterfalls and maze. Every year for Halloween we visit a cornfield maze in Connecticut, so we were a bit disappointed by this one. The girls climbed up a cool rope structure and spotted a zip line in the distance, so we ran over and spent an hour zipping back and forth.
We finally managed to drag ourselves away and stopped for an ice cream – another Dhs10 gone – on our way over to the Al Wasl end of the park. We were faced with a dilemma: the boats on the pond or the inflatables? We flipped for it and the bouncers won (Dhs40). Dani and Elle had a blast going up and down the slide and helping other kids get up to the top. They jumped around for an hour before we went to check out the Ferris wheel and other attractions. They were closed, but we’ll go back again to try them out.
We popped home for lunch before heading out on our bikes to Umm Suqeim beach, our never-used-before kite in a backpack. This was the first time our girls had flown a kite and we had an amazing time. We all took turns, running up and down the beach. Dani and Elle couldn’t stop giggling. Who knew that kite flying could be so much fun?
After working up an appetite we decided to try a local restaurant. It was a bit unnerving because the only customers were men – a ton of taxi drivers. We decided to be brave – after all this was a challenge – and ordered four hot chicken sandwiches. They were to die for, and the whole lot, including the food and four bottles of water, only cost Dhs18. We’ll definitely be back!
We had such a great day, it was an excuse to try new things; it’s so easy to get stuck in a rut and only go to the places that you know. Total spent: Dhs90
Elle: ‘The kite flying was the funnest activity of the day and I liked it the most.’
Dani: ‘The sandwiches at the restaurant were great. You gotta be brave to walk up to a restaurant like that, and we were!’
Pets Habitat (04 341 8085, email@example.com); Safa Park (04 349 2111); Bel Jafel Cafeteria, in the sand, street 27, Umm Suqeim three (in the direction of the Madinat Jumeirah)
The Bourke Family
Anna (three), Gillian and Will (two). Dad Patrick was travelling and couldn’t make our photo shoot
We began our day with a lazy stroll up and down the wide, safe pavements at The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence. There were lots of interesting sights to keep Anna and Will amused. By mid-morning we were feeling slightly cocky because we were having a great time and we hadn’t spent any of our Dhs100 budget. FREE!
We stopped at Il Caffè de Roma for a quick drink and a snack, and even though we ordered just one fresh orange juice, one small chocolate milkshake and a mini chocolate croissant to share, we still ended up spending more than Dhs30. It took Anna and Will about three minutes to polish off the milkshake and tiny croissant then we were left staring enviously at the tables around us piled high with steaming coffees and pastries. We headed towards the funfair to ‘just take a look’ at the Ferris wheel, but two trips on the merry-go-round later, and we had spent another Dhs20. What had happened to our careful spending plan?
With half our budget blown by noon, we made our way to the public beach to find a good spot for lunch. Knowing how expensive it can be for families to eat out in Dubai, we’d prepared a packed lunch. Picnicking on the beach has got to be one of the best-value activities in Dubai, and our kids had an amazing time munching sandwiches, building sandcastles and splashing in the waves. We even saw someone enjoying a camel ride and, while we were tempted to have a go too, prudence prevailed and we packed up and headed on to our next activity. FREE!
Our kids are mad about horses, and had we been out and about on a Friday, we would have headed to watch the racing at Jebel Ali Racecourse. With free entry, it doesn’t get better than this for value, with plenty of kids’ entertainment – bouncy castles, stilt walkers, face painters – as well as the excitement of the racing action. But as it was Saturday, we decided to opt for a pony ride at the Jebel Ali Equestrian Centre. After paying Dhs40 for two pony rides, Anna and Will were fitted with helmets and introduced to their respective mounts.
Unfortunately, this was when Will lost his nerve and refused to sit on his pony, although his sister generously offered to take his turn. The pony ride is just a five-minute walk around the perimeter of the teaching fields but that’s about right for small children. Anna enjoyed this taste of riding so much she is now asking about riding lessons (a real budget blower).
There is no shortage of things to do in Dubai, and it is possible to enjoy a day out for less than Dhs100 – provided you bring your own food and drink.
Annie: ‘The horses were really good. I went on two times because Will didn’t want to. And we saw a horse made out of rubbish. I love horses!’
Covent Garden Market (050 244 5795) at The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence; Jebel Ali Racecourse (04 347 4914); Jebel Ali Equestrian Centre (04 884 4585)
The Burfield Family
Donna, Graham, Lauren (10) and five-year-old twins, Matthew and Sam
Being a family of five, we thought it would be near impossible to have a day out on Dhs100 unless we went to a free beach or park, but with a little bit of research we came up with two great places to visit.
We set off around 9.30am for Sharjah Aquarium, armed with a packed lunch full of goodies and a homemade activity book for the kids to colour and help them identify various fish. Parking was free and our family aquarium ticket cost Dhs50. At every fish tank there was a touch-screen display which offered interactive information and fun activities such as matching the shape of the fish in the tank to images on the screen. The kids thought it was great to discover different fishy facts. Halfway through there was a video that told us all about the importance of fishing to Sharjah, and how fish are used as camel feed or to fertilise the land.
The tour ended at the cafeteria and, after viewing the prices, we decided to splash out and buy two coffees, two muffins, one chocolate croissant and a fruit salad – all for Dhs26. The children happily munched away while colouring in their activity books. We were all very impressed with the aquarium. A lot of thought had gone into making it fun, educational and interactive for children young and old, and it was accessible for wheelchairs and prams.
As the aquarium is situated next to Sharjah Corniche we let the children have a runaround and take a peek at the boats – a great, and free, way to let off steam. FREE!
We then headed to Al Mahatta Museum, including Al Mahatta fort and the control tower of the original Sharjah airport, which in 1932 was apparently the first airport in the Gulf to operate commercial flights from Britain en route to India. Along the way, we drove down King Abdul Aziz Street, which used to be the old runway, and, although the route was disrupted by roadworks (Sharjah shares certain things in common with Dubai), we took a very interesting – seriously! – detour through the nooks and crannies of the industrial area.
Being typical boys, Matthew and Sam were excited about seeing aeroplanes, as was dad (an air traffic controller). After paying the Dhs1 parking fee and buying our Dhs10 family ticket, we received a personal escort around the museum (although maybe they just wanted to make sure my three didn’t poke or prod anything, or try to eject themselves from the cockpit).
The accommodation halls now exhibit all kinds of fascinating memorabilia from the last 70 years, including communication and navigation equipment, propellers, original furniture and photographs. There’s also an interactive education zone which teaches the principles of flight. Although there were only a few planes in the hanger, the children had a great time walking the steps of a Comet and viewing the cockpit.
After leaving the museum we sat out in front on a lovely grassy area and enjoyed our picnic lunch. While Lauren is at the age when she can question and reason, I was surprised at how much my five-year-old sons enjoyed the airport museum and how much they actually understood.
Lauren: ‘I really liked the fish at the aquarium, especially the clown fish that looked like Nemo.’
Matthew: ‘And we saw one that had spots on it and funny blue eyes, and some sharks.’
Message from the judging panel: We know what you’re thinking – the Burfields cheated because they enjoyed their family day in Sharjah, not Dubai. But, after much deliberation, we decided that as Sharjah is only down the road, we’re giving them points for ingenuity!