Giant Snakes & ladders, The Beach at JBR
Could The Beach at JBR get any better? Roll the super-size dice and be human counters as you hop around the giant snakes and ladders board situated right behind the new play park at the southern end of the beach. Best of all, it's right opposite the uber-cool eatery, Pots, Pans and Boards, so you can revive yourselves with milkshakes and a sandwich in between games. Cool down after all that at Splash Pad.
Snakes & Ladders, free. Splash Pad, costs vary, thebeach.ae.
Al Fahidi District
Leave the car at home (parking can be a nightmare) and catch the Metro right into the bustling centre of Old Dubai. Ditch Google maps for getting your bearings when you get there, though. Start at the Dubai Museum and just flip a coin to head east or west and lose yourselves amongst the colourful squares, alleyways and heritage buildings that make up this vibrant part of the city, right by the Creek. Sit in an authentic Bedouin tent, let the kids barter for pocket-money trinkets in the material souk and admire the original art displayed in the courtyards of some seriously hip cafés. Then, venture up to the rooftops to see the skyline of wind-towers and minarets stretch out before you to imagine what life would have been like here less than 100 years ago.
Free, or book a 90-minute Heritage Tour. Visit www.dubaiculture.gov.ae (04 515 5000).
Ride the abras on the Creek
You can’t call yourself a local until you’ve ridden one of the famed abras on Dubai Creek. You can hop onto one of these gondola-style boats at various points along the water’s edge and use them zip across to the souks and other sights on each side of the Creek from just Dhs1. Or, if you’re feeling like a bit more of a tour, negotiate a rate with a driver for your family’s very own abra ride as far down the Creek as you’re willing to pay for. The kids will love seeing the old dhow boats riding the waves so close-up and there’s a never-ending stream of passengers on their own magical mystery tours to wave to as you pass by.
From Dhs1. You should be able to negotiate an hour’s tour up and down the Creek for around Dhs60 and one abra can seat up to 20 people, so you can always invite a few friends to join you.
Have your name written in Arabic calligraphy
Take a break from exploring the streets of Al Fahidi and pop into The Arabic Calligraphy House to watch master calligrapher Abdul Fattah at work. This ancient art can be found everywhere you look in this part of the world, from mosques and museums to malls, art and fashion, but one thing your kids have probably never seen is somebody actually scribing letters. Watch their faces as they give Abdul their names for him to draw out in mesmerising, methodical strokes to take home with you as unique souvenirs to cherish long after you’ve left Dubai.
The Arabic Calligraphy House even has plans to conduct classes but don’t worry, you won’t miss out when they do – you’ll hear it here first. The Arabic Calligraphy House, No. 24, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.
Scale a mountain
If your little ones love an adventure, it doesn’t get much better than Adventure HQ. Kids can scale a mountain, walk the high-wire and feel like they’ve become an experienced climber overnight. The adventure retail store also provides specialist equipment for a wide range of outdoor activities including fishing, kayaking, diving, camping, hiking, cycling, off-roading and more. If you fancy visiting the Adventure HQ next door in Abu Dhabi, they feature an indoor cave system where your mini-adventurers can squeeze, twist and crawl their way through a medley of tiny tunnels and crazy caverns. Now, won’t that be something cool to tell the teacher at school on Sunday morning? As soon as you pop on your very authentic mining helmet, you are ready to discover all the wonders of this underground experience and with lots of exciting routes to follow, it never gets old. Prepare to be amazed.
Picnic in the desert
Got an early riser in your family? Then this is the perfect time to make the most of the cooler temperatures and head out to the dunes for breakfast. Pack your picnic the night before, pre-load the car with mats, boogie boards for sand-boarding and a disposable barbecue (or, if you’re a bit posh, the mini-Webber) for a sizzling start to the day. The kids will love leaping off the highest dunes and we don’t think there’s a better way to come round than with a cup of tea and a sandwich before the rest of the world has even stirred.
Free. If you have a 4x4 vehicle, take your pick of stunning desert locations all over the UAE. If not, stay close to home and drive out past Al Qudra Lakes where you can park the car right at the start of the dunes, load up the troops and head in on foot until you find your
A nature-lover’s paradise, the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is home to tens of thousands of water birds including pink flamingos, grey herons, sandpipers, osprey and reef herons, basking in the shallow waters of the wetlands at the mouth of the Creek. The area covers 620 hectares of mangroves, lagoons, salt and mudflats and there are hundreds of different types of flora and fauna to spot here, too. Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture this area of outstanding natural beauty set against the stunning backdrop of the Burj Khalifa and Business Bay. And a set of binoculars for little people who are guaranteed to want a closer look.
Entrance is free, Sat–Thu, 9am- 4pm. Bird feeding between 9am and 9.30am. Binoculars Dhs119, Decathlon, www.decathlon.ae.
Feed the ducks
One of the rituals we assumed we’d have to leave back home once we headed off for life in the desert has been resurrected once again! A revelation to discover there are actual, real-life ducks to feed at locations all over the city. So start saving your crusts again and head down to one of the many man-made lakes around The Springs, Irish Village and even in our backyard at Media City. A smattering of rain, some grey skies and light winds and we could almost be back home. Almost!
The Beach play park, JBR
Finished splashing in the surf and building sandcastles but don’t want to go home yet? Head up the beach towards The Beach at JBR and let them loose on the newly extended play park right on the sand. Huge bucket swings for giggling gangs to enjoy, climbing frames and a super-fast zip-wire at the perfect height for little arms to reach with only a bit of a lift-up. The park is right in front of the giant snakes and ladders board (pictured overleaf) and surrounded by plenty of food and drinks options.
Ride a camel on Jumeirah Beach
Yes, you did read that correctly. No need to head into the desert for this particular treat. For Dhs50, you can take it in turns to clamber on to the Middle East’s favourite two-humped friend for a leisurely, five-minute meander along the sand. Add the pristine ocean and glittery backdrop of The The Beach’s many hotels into the mix and this activity provides that perfectly quirky ‘only in Dubai’ selfie, to post to everyone back home.
Dhs50 per ride. Head to the beach right behind The Hilton Hotel, JBR and flag one down.
Love the idea of the family strolling around one of Dubai’s immaculately-groomed golf courses together but the thought of your four-year-old wielding a large metal putting club fills you with horror? The Montgomerie Golf Club have just unleashed the answer in the form of foot-golf. Already embraced in the US, the UK and next-door in Abu Dhabi, the rules don’t really differ from golf itself; you’re just using your feet and a football to aim for much bigger holes around the course. It’s simple, encourages a bit of competitive spirit amongst the siblings and you can unwind with a coffee and soak up the marina view whilst they hit the playground at The Links restaurant afterwards. We’re in!
Dhs100 per person. Advance bookings essential and subject to availability of the par 3 course. The Address Montgomerie Dubai, Emirates Hills (04 363 1209).
The Arabian Tea House
There’s something distinctly fairytale about this little Arabic hideaway tucked behind Dubai’s heritage district, complete with a wishing well at the entrance and an Enid Blyton-esque magic faraway tree growing right in the middle of its courtyard. It’s the perfect pit-stop if you’ve haggled your way around the souks and your legs are done-in from a three-hour stint around the Dubai Museum – and we can’t recommend it enough. Choose from traditional Emirati dishes and more than 100 different types of teas from Australia, Canada, China, the Czech Republic and India. The kids’ menu includes all the usual favorites and a great choice of fresh juices.
www.arabianteahouse.com (04 353 5071).
Get on the radio
Everyone has a chatterbox in the family who seems to talk from the second they wake up to the second their head hits the pillow at night. Put these skills to good use by enrolling them on a professional voiceover artists’ course at Dubai’s School of Little Voice. They’ll learn about studio etiquette, sound, voice techniques, audio acting and performing. Once trained, the Little Voices record radio and TV adverts, corporate films, animations and phone systems. In fact, nine out of 10 children you now hear when you’re out and about in Dubai are Little Voices, so beware – if they’re any good, the sound of your chatty little miss or mister could follow you around all day long.
www.schooloflittlevoice.com (05 5372 4611).
There is a whole catalogue of coolness surrounding the sport of skateboarding, from the edgy outfits to the awesome tricks. Kite Beach provides a perfect backdrop for the largest skate park in the UAE which has fast become a super funky hangout spot for big and small. The 3,100 square metre park features 29 different elements for skaters of all levels, including a street course, a pro course, and a super-challenging bowl with a 3.2-metre drop. Younger skaters can enjoy learning the ropes at a gentler pace in the early morning skate sessions with the more experienced set showing off their skills from afternoon through to dark. Get down there, bring a few friends and perfect your lazer flip or kickflip. Most of all, it’s free.
Free, Sun-Wed 10am-11pm, Thu 10am-midnight, Fri 8am-midnight, Kite Beach. www.xdubai.com.
If you are looking for a farm experience, with animals to pet and a homemade treat or two, then look no further than Posh Paws. A combination of Animal Sanctuary and Petting farm, Posh Paws looks after rescued animals from all sorts of interesting habitats. Lazy llamas, curious ostriches and friendly goats all live happily side-by-side. You can enjoy feeding cute baby deer, cuddling bouncy rabbits and be slightly scared by a mammoth snake. Freshly baked cakes and buns are on sale for humans to enjoy, plus you can also purchase handy little buckets of fruit and vegetables to feed your animal friends. Relying totally on donations for the care of these gorgeous furry creatures, you can enjoy a lovely day out while at the same time doing a kind deed. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Donations welcome, Sun-Sat 9am-6pm, School trips and pet parties also available. Al Khawaneej, www.poshpawsdubai.com.
The Beach Waterpark
What do you get when you combine trampolines with climbing walls and jumping cushions on water? Jumeirah’s biggest, bounciest ocean attraction – The Beach Water Park. If you’ve been down to JBR lately, this huge maze of connected inflatable platforms out on the sea,
just off the shoreline, is pretty hard to miss. Open every day, you can pay to jump and scramble together 'til your heart’s content or, if your kids are confident enough, settle back on a sun-lounger and watch from the sand while they go wild for a full-on 60 minutes. The Beach Water Park is supervised by trained lifeguards and operates a strict life-jacket policy.
Dhs50 (ages six–11), Dhs60 (ages 12–20), Dhs75 (ages 21 and above), for 60 minutes. Day pass available for Dhs195. Open daily 8.30am-6.30pm. The Beach Water Park, opposite Reel Cinemas, The Beach, JBR (04 551 6180).
When little legs get tired from trawling the delights of the Mall of the Emirates, we’ve got the perfect quiet corner to regroup and recoup. The Old Library is a well-stocked treasure trove of books and stories located on level 2 and has a cute kiddies' section, complete with large picture books and little tables to spread them on for a closer look. With Costa Coffee and the Dutac Theatre right next door you can immerse yourself in the mellow arty scene. Check out story hour for pre-schoolers on a Sunday morning which is sure to delight your little bookworms.
Sun-Thu 10am-6pm, Mall of the Emirates, www.theoldlibrary.ae.
Trampoline and Bungee jump at Kite Beach
With so much to do at Kite Beach, it is the perfect playground for the whole family. After a lazy morning building sandcastles, your little beachcombers can work up an appetite for lunch on the medley of trampolines and mini-bungee jumpers located right by the sea. There are even some comfy, colourful bean bags available to lounge on while you wait for your little ones to finish.
Costs vary, Kite Beach.
Hard Rock Café
Ever wanted to eat your lunch out of a guitar? At Hard Rock Café you (or at least your little ones) can. Kiddies will clamour for the tasty hotdogs, pastas and other delicious bites which come served in a guitar shaped plate, perfect for little rock stars. As well as enjoying the food, you can take in memorabilia from Elvis to Britney and bop along to the catchy tunes. At weekends, there is face painting and balloon bending for that added wow factor.
Noon-2am, Zone 8a, Next to Marks & Spencer, Dubai Festival City Mall. (Kids entertainment every Fri-Sat 1pm-3pm.)
Check out all that Dubai has to offer in style with the unique flying sea plane experience that is ‘Seawings’. Enjoy a water take-off from Dubai Creek where big and small will love soaring up into the bright blue yonder and will be amazed at how little the skyscrapers look from up high. With options available to cruise to Abu Dhabi, Fujairah and Oman, you and your little aviators are in for a super treat. The recently launched ‘Seawings Education Programme’ is also sure to be a winner with schools.
Special offers available for UAE residents where kids under 12 years can fly for free as part of a family group, www.seawings.ae.
Cable cars at Creek Park
After a fun day scampering amongst the playgrounds and greenery of Creek Park, take a little breather and settle into one of the cable cars which runs the length of the park. Your baby birds will love getting a real ‘bird's eye’ view of the city they call home. The treasures of Old Dubai are laid out to marvel at as you journey along the 2.3km ride. On a clear day you might even spot the shiny skyscrapers on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Dhs25, Park timings, Sat-Wed 8am-11pm Thu, Fri and public holidays 8am-noon.
Chill out with ice cream
Do memories of carefree childhood days, licking a melty ice cream cone on an endless summer day make you smile? Renew your faith in the happy ice cream man with Desert Chills colourful ice cream van which can come right to your home. Get your squad together and listen out for that tingling tune as it rocks up to your door. Little ice cream lovers will love standing in line and ordering their favourite flavour. The perfect way to celebrate a birthday, special event or just for fun.
Desert Chill Ice cream, www.desertchill.ae (050 612 2108).
Are you harbouring a little Coco Chanel who loves all things fashion? Fashion Designer Kidz might be just the ticket to help harness their creative talent while having lots of glamourous fun. Kids get to create their very own mood boards and design their own garments and accessories.
Classes run across Dubai. www.fashiondesignerkidz.com.
Splash 'N' Party
On a hot sunny day there's nothing nicer than a splash and a play especially if you add on a pirate ship, a twirly slide and a mini-bungee jump. Even better when you are met by a beautiful mermaid at the entrance. Splash 'N' Party is the newest kid on the block for all things wet and wild. Located in the garden of a huge converted villa, it’s almost like having a big pool party in your backyard. There is a cute little cabana serving snacks and juices as well as a bouncy castle and plenty of shaded seating for onlookers.
Sun-Wed 9am-8pm, Thu, Fri, Sat and Public Holidays 9am-10pm, Al Safa 2, Street 8A, Villa 1, Jumeirah, www.splashnparty.ae.
International houses, Mushrif Park
Pack a picnic and your scooters and make for Mushrif Park to explore the medley of miniature houses from around the world. Your little munchkins will love exploring the intricate details of each little homestead, there is even a Thai-style one on stilts complete with its very own little pond. Endless hours of hide and seek for the whole family. The park is packed with playgrounds, trails and exciting features including a train, a swimming pool, excellent climbing frames, ice cream kiosks and much more. Definitely a Time Out Kids favourite day out with family and friends.
Mushrif Park, Al Khawaneej Road (04 288 3624).
And one to watch…
Set to become one of the city’s most exciting family destinations, City Walk is rapidly unveiling its long-awaited kids’ entertainment options, starting with Mattel Play! Town, a magical interactive indoor ‘eduplay’ attraction for children aged between two and 10, themed around five of the most popular children’s characters. Hub Zero is set to open later this year as the region’s first immersive gaming entertainment park aimed at the over 10s, and we cannot wait for the doors to open at The Green Planet, a bio-dome inviting visitors to explore the planet’s fascinating flora and fauna through an immersive expedition into the tropics. The Green Planet will recreate the world of a tropical forest with over 3,000 plants and animals and the world’s largest indoor man-made and life-sustaining tree.
Box Park round-up
A playdate, dinner & a movie
For an uber-trendy and chilled out afternoon, this area ticks all the boxes. Situated on Al Wasl Road, Box Park has plenty of activities to while away a lazy couple of hours. The bright colours and laid back vibe will appeal to all members of your tribe.
Box of fun
Little ones will love the playground complete with climbing frames, seesaws and brightly coloured snails. Enjoy a coffee while watching them crawl, climb and jump to their hearts' content. The giant game of snakes and ladders will have the whole family howling in delight as you try your luck to roll a six with the oversized squeezy dice.
Tasty bites and sweet delights
There is a fusion of food to choose from amongst the brightly coloured boxes. From brownies to gelatos, pizza to pastas and everything in between, there is something to suit every grumbly tummy. The neon pink lights of The Brownie Box drew us in and we went crazy for the ‘crazy crispy brownie’.
Dome Box is a 360 degrees cinema sensation that has to be seen to be believed. After you’ve lingered in the foyer to marvel at the giant bronzed cogs spinning above you, you find yourself immersed in the 360-degree screen, where you can travel through space and jungles in a wink. Each movie is just 10 to 30 minutes long, so perfect for little filmgoers. A really unique cinematic experience you'll want to come back for again and again.
Dhs45 (two movies), Dhs75 (four movies), Thu-Sat Noon-midnight, www.thedomeboxdubai.ae.