Chuck E Cheese
There are loads of games here: hockey, soccer, horse riding and more are all represented in some shape or CGI form. There’s also bowling and a mini ice rink, ideal for tots making their skating debut.
We say: A big thumbs up for the mini ice rink but very little for young tots
Dubai Outlet Mall (04 425 3430). Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm; Thu-Sat 10am-12 midnight. Free entry, rides cost from Dhs3 to Dhs20 for ice skating and bowling.
Dark, dingy and slightly whiffy. Divided into age-appropriate areas, there’s a swing, see-saw, ball pit, foreboding jungle gym, space hoppers and soft play steps, but it’s still not enough to keep your average tot amused for more than five seconds. The face-painting area was unstaffed on our visit but the art shop lets kids loose with paint with no risk of it ruining your carpet.
We say: Don’t bother. There’s better value in IKEA or Toys R Us
Festival Centre (04 344 9020). Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm; Thu-Sat 10am-12 midnight. Dhs40 for one hour, Dhs20 thereafter.
Teenagers will enjoy the Galactica area for its network of games, skate park, House of Horror, 3D cinema and the Crystal Maze. Younger visitors will prefer the huge soft areas of Lunarland.
We say: Fabulous fun for all ages, and there’s a food court too
Wafi Mall (04 324 7747). Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm; Thu-Sat 10am-12 midnight. Dhs35 for two hours. Some games require a Dhs2 card that you top up with credit.
Certainly one of our favourite things, this members-only club boasts a café and boutique so it’s worth a visit even minus kids. All ages are catered for with a large soft play area, books, toys, fancy dress room, sandy beach and a slide. There’s a mini-race track plus an art/cooking/science room. The jungle gym is great for older tots while the tweens’ lounge includes PlayStations, air hockey and karaoke.
We say: Immaculate and lots of fun, but you pay for it
Dubai Marina Mall (04 434 1984). Open 9am-9pm daily. Annual membership costs Dhs300, discounts for siblings. Dhs30 per hour for kids under 19 months, Dhs10 thereafter. For 19 months plus, Dhs45 and Dhs15 thereafter.
Has a Fun & Learn section with slides, climbing frames, balls, ride-on toys and a reading area. The Play Zone is for over-fours, with longer, bumpier slides and a more challenging soft play area, plus arcade games, a river ride, kids’ hairdressers, party room and art studio.
We say: Great value for little ones
Ibn Battuta Mall (04 366 9819). Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm; Thu-Sat 10am-12 midnight. Entry to the Fun & Learn section Dhs18 per hour (Sun-Wed), Dhs20 (Thu-Sat), the Play Zone Dhs20 (Sun-Wed), Dhs24 (Thu-Sat). Buy a Fun City Card for Dhs2 on first visit. Games and rides Dhs6-10. Other locations: Arabian Centre (04 284 5679), BurJuman (04 359 3336), Mercato (04 349 9976), Reef Mall (04 222 2405).
Fun Corner will get the kids’ blood pumping – and yours when you see the entry fee. Popular for parties and balloon stpos, the soft-play section and near-vertical slide are big hits, but there are better play areas around.
We say: Fine for a quick pitstop – if junior needs to let off Dhs50 worth of steam
Spinneys Centre, Umm Suqeim (04 394 0315). Open 9am-10pm daily. Dhs50 for two hours. Other locations: Bin Sougat Centre (04 286 2848), Jumeirah Plaza (04 349 9119), Al Ghurair (04 227 6620).
Ideal for young kids, this clean, tidy jungle gym is perfect for expelling energy, with a mini climbing wall, soft cubes and colouring corner. It’s supposed to cater to kids up to 10 years but your average four-year-old could find this babyish.
We say: Small, clean, quiet and perfect for toddlers. We likey
Times Square Centre (04 341 8020). Open 10am-10pm weekdays, 10am-12 midnight weekends. Dhs30 for kids three and under, Dhs40 for ages four and above.
An indoor amusement park with all manner of beeping, flashing, twirling arcade games, as well as table tennis and air hockey. Suitable for over-fours whose eardrums and nervous systems can stand it.
We say: Noisy, expensive and chaotic – just how they like it
BurJuman (04 352 2922). Open Sun-Tue 9.30am-10pm; Wed-Sat 9.30am-11.30pm. Buy a rechargeable card for Dhs3, games cost Dhs3-7.5.
Lou Lou Al Dugongs
A large, quiet play area bursting with fun educational activities. We love the mini supermarket and dress-up room, but the costumes have seen better days. Arts and crafts, soft play area, a studio for kids’ classes, a café and, best of all, an on-site toilet, mean Lou Lou gets the thumbs up from us, particularly as the noisy arcade games are in a separate section.
We say: Great sections, but it could do with an upgrade
Lamcy Plaza (04 335 2700). Open Sun-Wed 9am-11pm; Thu-Sat 9am-12 midnight. Dhs35 for ages two and over, Dhs25 for under-twos. No time limit. Free entry to arcade section with swipe card system.
It’s hard to tear the kids away from the arcade games and fairground rides at this huge, fun-filled centre. It’s popular with teens and tweens thanks to its pool tables, air hockey and bowling alleys. It can be pricey, though. Tots can escape to the relative serenity of Peekaboo! too.
We say: Where the ‘in’ crowd hang out, but too much racket for old fogies
Mall of the Emirates (04 341 4444). Open 10am-11.30pm daily. Free entry – attractions require you to put money on a swipe card. Other location: Deira City Centre (04 295 4333).
Children aged up to seven can learn through role play in the kitchen and book corner, or mess around with the toys and soft play apparatus. Supervised activities such as ‘groove time’, colouring, puzzles and even cooking (we donned our chef’s hats and made cupcakes) are great fun.
We say: Worth it for the activities; play area is standard stuff
Open 10am-9pm daily. Dhs40 for the first hour, Dhs10 thereafter, membership available. Other location: The Village Mall (04 344 7122). Mall of the Emirates (04 347 0622).
Toby’s Adventure Land
Under-fours can romp around in the ball pit, complete with rope swing and ladder. Bigger kids can frolic on slides, punch bags, space hoppers and inflatables.
We say: Lots of fun for under-sixes
BurJuman food court (04 355 2868). Open Sat-Wed 10.30am-10pm; Thu 10.30am-11pm; Fri 2pm-11pm. Two hours cost Dhs30 for under-twos, Dhs40 for twos to fours, Dhs45 for fours plus.
Watch this space…
KidZania & Sega Republic
According to the Dubai Mall powers-that-be, the kids’ entertainment centres will maybe, very possibly, be opening this summer. If so, they promise to provide a veritable haven for little people. KidZania is a mini-city, complete with buildings and streets, where children can dress as doctors, chefs and car mechanics and sample life in their desired roles. Sega Republic, for older bods, is an indoor theme park with a Sports Zone, Speed Zone, Redemption Zone (a games arcade, not a place to confess sins), plus a rollercoaster and other high-adrenaline rides. Watch this space for our review.
Drag yourselves away from the malls and check out these entertainment options.
This Creek Park stalwart is like a little mini Natural History Museum. It’s an educational centre for kids aged three to 15 where they can investigate, explore, play, discover, and learn about the world they live in. Divided into different edutainment areas such as nature, discovery space, computers and communication, the way we live, culture, science and the human body, there’s ample opportunity for fun, hands-on experiments and fun learning. There’s also a planetarium with shows throughout the day, a play area for under-fives and, of course, the Dolphinarium is just around the corner. Entry is Dhs15 for adults, Dhs10 for kids, or you can get an annual membership.
04 334 0808, www.dubaichildrencity.ae.
A space craft on a quest for fun has crash landed in Dubai’s Za’abeel Park. At least that’s the concept behind Dubai’s latest thrill-packed zone for kids, due to open over the summer. Unique, educational and packed with excitement, the mammoth Dhs400-million project has been four years in the making. Spread over five space-themed domes – Earth, Lunar, Saturn, UFO and Mars – and connected with tunnels on three floors, Stargate will be packed with rides and adventure for kids aged four to 16. Young ones can test their nerves on the indoor-outdoor rollercoaster, bounce around in the biggest soft play area, enter a new dimension in the world of 3D interaction, drive themselves round the bend in the go-kart/dodgem area and skate like an Olympian on the ice rink. Entrance will be free, with charges for individual rides.