Free things to do in the UAE

They say the best things in life are free, and we have the proof. We uncover 22 activities from across the UAE that won’t cost you a single dirham

Free things to do in the UAE


Check out the emirate through a gigantic frame

Ready for that cool Instagram shot? The Dubai Frame is a stunning development and unique tourist attraction. It’s your go-to spot for a fascinating view of Dubai. You can capture the magnificent structure from the ground for free, but for a the real jaw-dropping snaps, spend Dhs50 – plus Dhs20 for your kid – and you’ll get unrivalled views of Downtown Dubai, Old Dubai and New Dubai from the top. Regardless of how you enjoy it, just know that your pictures will be awesome. So grab your cameras for a fun and original, day out.
Dhs50 (adults), Dhs20 (kids), free for kids under 3. Zabeel Park,

Free everything on Dubizzle
That’s right, the Classifieds section of the online marketplace has an entire page dedicated exclusively to free stuff. Next time you’re moving house, looking for baby gear, or shopping for home appliances, you could do a lot worse than heading to Dubizzle. At the time of writing, the site had more than 500 ads under the “Free Stuff” section, including books, a play mat (in flawless condition), plenty of fridges and much more.

Get a good workout

The MOE Active programme at Mall of the Emirates is helping Dubai parents stay fit while the kids are at school. It’s a great way to release all that morning school run traffic tension, so head to the mall on Sunday to Wednesday and enjoy one of four completely free classes, including FlyWheel, FlyBarre and weight training. Register from 8am, start classes at 8.30am, and you’re well on your way to a healthy day.
Sun-Wed from 8am. Ongoing. Mall of the Emirates,

Get green-fingered at the Garden Souq

The Garden Souq at Dubai Garden Centre in Al Quoz opened in time for the start of winter and will be open every Saturday until the end of March. It’s free to visit and you may find an utter bargain from a range of local vendors and artists all selling their wares. The market also has food stalls, live music, cooking demonstrations, yoga sessions, and a dedicated kids’ section, which offers free craft activities, plus a petting zoo, bouncy castle, face-painting and balloon twisting.
Sat 10am-2.30pm. Until Sat Mar 31. Dubai Garden Centre, Al Quoz (04 590 4333).

Head to a winter market in Business Bay
Now we’re talking! Get up early and make the most of your family Saturdays throughout winter by heading to Business Bay’s brand-new Sunrise Market. It’s hosted in part by friendly neighbourhood café The Sum Of Us, and dishes up fresh, artisanal breakfast dishes as well as hot-from-the-oven baked treats (provided by Rise&Dawn Bakehouse).
Sat 8am-11am (fitness classes at 7am). Ongoing. Burj Al Salam, Business Bay (no number).

IMAGINE at Dubai Festival City

There are lasers, lights, fountains, epic video displays and a huge sound system to go alongside it all. IMAGINE at Dubai Festival City is one of the top free attractions in the city running regularly throughout the week, and pops up with some pretty mega performances on special occasions, too. The original production, A Child’s Dream, is just that and more. It’s an opportunity for the family to witness something truly sensational.
Daily 7pm-midnight. Dubai Festival City,

Lie back and relax at JLT Park

When was the last time you laid back, faced the sky and just let the world pass you by? Watching clouds isn’t the easiest thing to do in Dubai (just spotting clouds can sometimes be tough enough), but there’s a lot to be said for deliberately slowing down the pace of life and just chilling out. In JLT, behind clusters O and P, sits JLT Park. To keep the kids happy, there are playgrounds with everything from sandpits to swings. It’s wholesome, it’s relaxing, and it’s totally worth whiling away a few hours on a weekend.
Clusters O-P, Jumeirah Lakes Towers.

Pop to The Beach
Are there many better ways of relaxing in the afternoon and watching the world go by than on the beach? Pack your towels, suncream and picnic basket and head to The Beach, opposite JBR, and enjoy the streetscape mall before heading to the sand. It’s a top place for the whole tribe for a free day out. Sit back and watch the camel riders head up and down the sandy stretch. Alternatively, just catch some rays on the shore and let time just drift away.
The Beach, opposite JBR.

See what Ripe Market has in store for kids

There’s something so very chill about picking out fresh fruit and veggies on a relaxing Friday morning, but you won’t get to do it. Why? Because the kids will be dragging you everywhere at Ripe. From science workshops and petting zoos to LEGO robots, the ever-popular market always knows how to keep the kids entertained. Every week this winter, you’ll be able to head along to Ripe Outdoor Market at Zabeel Park and Al Barsha Pond Park, where there’ll be fresh, organic, locally sourced fruit and vegetables, local businesses showcasing their latest and a range of fun activities. Everything is geared towards healthy living, so expect bootcamps and parent and child sports classes, too.
Fri timings vary. Until Apr 2018. Various locations including Zabeel Park and Al Barsha Pond Park,

Trek along The Boardwalk

In late 2016, which in Dubai years is ages ago, an 11km-long boardwalk opened up, circumnavigating the Palm’s crescent and providing a pedestrianised path leading from the eastern side to the west. The Boardwalk has transformed Palm Jumeirah’s crescent into a vibrant destination for, well, basically a fun family day out. The perfect spot for cycling, jogging or a relaxed waterfront stroll, there are new food trucks popping up every month, too. There will be 300 of them in total, so keep your eyes peeled.

Visit the camel racetrack at Al Marmoum
You’re in the desert, why not try something different and watch some camel racing? And best of all, you can experience this traditional sport for free with the whole family. Head to Al Marmoum to see these animals take to the track, complete with robot jockeys.
Call for times. Dubai-Al Ain Road, (04 832 6526).

Watch The Dubai Fountain dance

An oldie, but goodie. The Dubai Fountain never ceases to evoke some “oohs” and “aahs”. Kids still love it, and so do adults (even if they pretend not to). And with the addition of the brand-new boardwalk, that gets you closer to the fountain than ever before – though you’ll have to stump up Dhs20 per person for that priviledge – this is one of our favourite family-friendly activities. That along with the Dubai Dino in the heart of The Souk. It’s a free attraction that you can visit any time during mall opening hours.
Open Sun-Wed 10am-midnight; Thu-Sat 10am-1am. Downtown Dubai,

Spend the day at Kite Beach

Does your family really need any more reason to visit a beach? Yes. If you head to Kite Beach, one of the city’s top public sandy spots, you might need to take your wallet… While soaking up the general vibe is free, you also need to check out Dubai institution and first-of-its-kind food truck, SALT. The burgers there are so good, the only drawback may be that the kids will keep hassling you for more. Secondly, the beach is home to a Wire World adventure park. It’s costs from Dhs40 for little ones, but at Wire World’s Accrobranche Junior, kids can explore the low ropes course featuring giant caterpillar nets, bridges, ropes and barrels, in a safe and controlled environment, ensuring hours of fun for all.
Off Jumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqeim.


Check out a camel market

Okay, so this might sound a little bit “out there”, but camels are slow and funny, and kids are always super-excited when they see them up close. Visiting a camel souk, however, is more than just an opportunity to see the livestock up close and take some incredible snaps. Yes, it’s that, too, but it’s also a fun, cost-free way to spend your day and something every resident should experience. It’s certainly one for the bucket list.
Daily 6am-7pm. Cattle Market, Zayed Bin Sultan Road (800 555).

Count the dolphins

Saving a species and money in one simple step sounds quite alright to us. The UAE Dolphin Project is a non-profit initiative that aims to take a scientific approach to tracking the species in our waters. Their kids’ activities include school visits, but you may volunteer and go dolphin-spotting any time. Don’t forget to send them the video. (050 955 1742).

Experience UAE culture in all its glory

A campfire with coffee pots and a goat’s hair tent? These are only some of the things you’ll see at Heritage Village. What did people do before on-demand video services, streaming music libraries and video games? Well, make their own fun of course. This cultural attraction gives a realistic look back to the times of pearl diving and traditional crafts in the UAE. You may even get a chance to try some of these bygone activities with your family. It’s free and should be on every resident and visitor’s must-see list.
Sat-Thu 9am-4pm; Fri 3.30pm-9pm. Heritage Village, Near Marina Mall, Corniche Breakwater (02 681 4455).

Run around in Zayed Sports City

The facilities in the UAE’s sportiest corner are world-class. While you’re not likely to get on courts and pitches or in pools without having to hand over a few notes, you can soak up the general athleticism with wallet stuffed firmly in tracksuit bottoms pocket. Sample some free fitness, whether it be cycling, running or roller-skating – all are encouraged. If you’re willing to shell out a few dirhams, though, you can also try Wet ’N’ Wild, the complex’ kid-friendly version of Paintball, or head to the Khalifa Bowling Centre for a classic arcade and, well, some bowling.
Zayed Sports City, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street (403 4200).

See how things used to be at Qasr Al Hosn
Abu Dhabi’s oldest building has been around since 1761 and, despite starring on the Dhs1,000 note, it’s a free and fun favourite. You may have heard of a Dhs710 million revamp, which will see the fort and surrounding areas – seen as the symbolic birthplace of the UAE – transformed into a major tourist attraction and education site. Even before it’s complete, though, it’s a living monument to the story of the city with many historic artefacts, photographs and memories of the rise of the city to peruse. Looking for the perfect opportunity to teach kids more about the UAE? This may just be it.
Daily 9am-8pm. Qasr Al Hosn, Sheikh Zayed the First Street (800 724).

Stroll along the Abu Dhabi Corniche

A long walk along the Corniche means the kids will get some time for free play, making new friends, riding their bikes or enjoying the play areas, cafés and restaurants. See what one of the most beautiful Abu Dhabi spots has to offer in the way of people-watching, sunset splendour and dining options.

Take in the splendour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
When TripAdvisor released its readers’ choice of the best landmarks in the world last year, this stunning Abu Dhabi landmark was ranked as number two on the planet. Ahead of the Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China and Machu Picchu, the breathtaking mosque was only bettered by Angkor Wat in Cambodia. While it may be challenging to visit with kids under six, as many places will be off limits, older kids and teenagers will certainly enjoy the majestic architecture. Dress conservatively for your visit here. Non-Muslims are invited to marvel at the 82 domes and 24-karat-gold-gilded chandeliers, and learn more about Islamic culture in the UAE.
Sat-Thu 9am-10pm; Fri 4.30pm-10pm. Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street (02 419 1919).

Take the family to a flea market
Head to the Baby & Kids Flea Market, which takes place at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi on Saturday February 3, where you’ll get to meet other parents and keep the kids entertained with free activities. Fun stuff for the kids includes a bouncy castle, free kids’ movie on a large screen, and lots more. And if you’re tempted to take out the wallet, there dozens of tables offering all kinds of little treasures in the form of toys, clothes and shoes for both adults and kids, books, strollers and a whole load of other essentials.
Feb 3, 9am-3pm. Sheraton Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road,

Watch classic flicks
If you don’t feel like splashing out on seeing the latest Hollywood blockbuster (the cost of popcorn alone can be eye-popping), Cinema Space is the place for you. The independent, volunteer-led initiative shares beautifully restored classics and contemporary world cinema favourites on the big screen for free. And fear not, there’s a dedicated Family Programme, too.
Manarat Al Saadiyat Auditorium, Saadiyat Island,

Enjoy an outdoor family Saturday at Ripe Market

This one’s made the list because it’s one of the greatest ways to spend a Saturday afternoon. Yes, there’s a Dhs5 entrance fee to get into Umm Al Emarat Park itself, but saunter over to the Ripe Market, and that part is free. When there, you’ll find a mixture of live music, pop-up foodie outlets, kids’ activity corners, handicraft stalls, and baby, kids’ and adults’ boutique fashion.
Sat. 3pm-9pm. Umm Al Emarat Park (04 315 7000).

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