You might have to fight through the Dubai-Sharjah traffic to get there, but your road rage will diminish once you spot the empty, whitesand shores. There’s a fair bit of dredging going on in the distance, but the water is clean and you can plant your towel or picnic rug down with metres and metres to spare between you and fellow beachgoers. The fair-skinned can take cover under the bountiful palm trees, sports lovers will revel in the five-aside beach football pitches, while anglers can dangle their rods off the rocky jetty. With plentiful grounds, there are many pleasant spots to have a picnic, and more than enough barbecue areas. The serene setting and the acres of empty space will have you coming back here time and time again.
Best for… big groups; there is loads of space, particularly at Beach 5
From Garhoud Bridge, take the Sharjah Road until you reach the Al Mulla Plaza roundabout. Take a left, go straight over the next roundabout (ignore the sign for Al Mamzar as it takes you to a dead end) and take the next right after Century Mall. Go straight and follow the signs from here to Al Mamzar Beach Park. Open 8am- 11pm daily. Admission Dhs5.
Time Out’s favourite stretch of green, Creekside Park has everything you could possibly want from a day in the great outdoors. Explore it on foot, on a two or four person bike, or in a cable car that offers blissful views over the creek and expanding skyline. As for patches of grass to pitch up on, there are more picnic areas and barbecues than you could shake a rug at. You can even try your hand at catching your lunch by fishing from the pier. The only downside is the lack of parking spaces nearby, though this does mean it doesn’t get overly crowded. Wafi Gourmet (04 324 4433), at the nearby Wafi Mall, is one of the best delis in the city and does a good selection or Arabic and European picnic staples.
Best for… fishing on the creek (That’s right, work for your dinner)
Between Maktoum and Garhoud bridges, Umm Hurair (04 336 7633). Open 8am-11pm daily. Wed for ladies and children only. Admission Dhs5.
Dubai is not known for its Parisian lanbdscapes, but Safa Park, (through sunstroked eyes) is our own version of Seurat’s ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ (that’s the one made up of millions of tiny coloured dots, Ferris Bueller fans). Just swap the bustle-bottomed 19th century French women for families gathered around large curry pots or lounging on tartan rugs. There are dozens of barbecue pits and some sheltered picnic tables around the edge of the park, on the Al Wasl road side, but the proximity to the road means these come with plenty of noise.
But don’t forget to pack extra cold cuts and cheese, because the endless stretches of grassy lawns, waterfalls, and tweeting birdlife make it very easy to spend an entire day splayed out on a picnic rug with a good book. The space very much caters to families, with Creekside Park bumper cars, trampolines and a Ferris wheel, though you might want to make sure the fizzy pop has settled before letting the sprogs run wild. Those that can’t be doing with packing their own lunch could do worse than visit Dubai Mall for it’s new Waitrose, or nip next door to Souk Al Bahar to Dean & Deluca (04 420 0336) for some takeaway salads.
Best for… a romantic boat ride on an artificial lake
Sheikh Zayed Road, interchange 2 (04 349 2111). Open Fri-Tue 8am-11pm; Wed-Thu 8am-11.30pm. Admission Dhs3
Under the watchful eye of the Sheikh Zayed Road skyscrapers, this tiny patch of greenery behind Al Moosa towers provides a welcome relief from the otherwise bustling urban hub. Though it’s miniscule, the park is centrally located and has basketball and tennis courts, volleyball and a football pitch, should you feel the need to exert some energy after lunch. There’s even a rubberised jogging track and a play area for special needs children. One thing to keep in mind is single bachelors are not allowed, so if you’re a solo bloke, try not to wander in there alone and risk offending someone – best to have a picnic in a mixed group. Tony’s Deli (04 349 9034), at the nearby Village Mall on Jumeirah Beach Road is one of the few spots in town to sell bagels, along with some other New York-style staples. Dusit Delicatessen (04 343 3333) in the Dusit Hotel does great sandwiches to go.
Best for… a dose of green in a sea of grey
Behind Al Moosa Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road. Open 8am-11pm daily. Admission free
This modest park is perched in the heart of Karama, opposite the Lulu supermarket. It’s hugely popular among Indian and Filipino families, who flock there each weekend, some swinging their badminton racquets enthusiastically and others whiling away the afternoon with a picnic lunch. There isn’t a great deal of lawn space as most of the park is paved, but there are trees, flowerbeds and many park benches – making it a pleasant spot for a stroll and a natter with friends after a spicy thali at one of the many nearby Indian eateries.
Best for… a post-curry snooze
Karama Park. Near Lulu supermarket, Karama. Open 24 hours daily. Admission free
Set over a gargantuan 47.5hectares in the heart of the city, Za’abeel Park is divided into three sections connected by pedestrian bridges, with long stretches of grass, peaceful lakes and Satwa Park. Safa Park water fountains. After a picnic under the shade of a date palm, rent a boat and paddle around the lake with friends, race around the 4km jogging track, or whack a few balls on the cricket pitch. The brilliant greenery is a welcome salvation from urban Dubai, but your great outdoors mood might be dampened by Za’abeel’s one downfall: the sound of traffic screaming down.
Best for… a day out with the kids (the playground is huge)
Sheikh Zayed Road. Sheikh Zayed Road (04 398 6888). Open Sat-Thu 9am- 11pm; Fri 9am-11.30pm. Admission Dhs5
Jumeirah Beach Park
The perfect spot to get your beach and park fix in one hit, Jumeirah Beach Park has been a favourite weekend destination for Dubai dwellers since 1989. Around 12hectares of maintained lawns and shady trees fringe the coastline between Jumeirah Beach Road next to the Hilton Beach Club, with numerous barbecues, lifeguards and swimming pools making it popular for picnicking families. You cannot barbie on the sand itself, but there are lots of pits in the green area behind the sand.
There’s even a beachfront kiosk serving up greasy burgers to supplement your picnic hamper. Its central location in the heart of Jumeirah means you might have to share the park with the masses on the weekends, but it’s a bargain at only Dhs2 per person or Dhs20 for a car. Mercato Mall on the beach road is the best bet for some fodder. You can pick up freshly prepared salads and sandwiches at Paul (04 349 9115), Italian biscuits at Dolce Antico (04 344 0028), and chocolates from Patchi (04 349 2555).
Best for… a post-prandial dip in the sea (after you’ve safely digested, of course)
Opposite Chili’s Restaurant on Beach Road, Jumeirah (04 349 2555). Open Sat- Wed 8am-10.30pm; Thu & Fri 8am-11pm. Sat & Sun for children and ladies only. Admission Dhs5 Park Facilities Creekside Jumeriah Mamzar Safa Za’abeel Satwa Karama Ball games BBQs Jogging track Football Bikes Cafes Za’abeel Park
While it’s Dubai’s largest park, Mushrif is also the city’s oldest – but the dust and cracks only add to its dilapidated charm. The 500- hectare park is populated with long sand plains, and blasts of colour popping up now and then in the form of islands of electric green grass. World Village, a collection of mini models of houses that reflect the architecture from all over the world, straddles a brace of these islands. Nearby is a small aviary, complete with a moody turkey, next to a wooden jungle gym (featuring a tennis-cum-basketball court). A fairground offers merry-go-rounds, flying camels (a grounded authentic beast is also available for rides) and a swinging pirate ship. But if it’s getting a little warm to explore, you can use one of the 26 shaded picnic areas, including barbecue grills, or take a dip in one of its 1950s-style swimming pools.
Best for... shade lovers
Uptown Mirdiff (04 288 3624). Open 8am-11pm daily. Admission Dhs10 for cars. Swimming fee is Dhs10 (adults) and Dhs5 (children). No ladies’ day.
Nad Shamma Park
Nad Shamma in Rashidiya is a bit of an oddity. There’s not a scrap of grass here, and the horseshoeshaped park is sculpted around an imposing windowless DEWA building that wouldn’t look out of place in 1984. But the park is in fact the closest thing Dubai has to Venice Beach. Don’t laugh. For a start, most of the people who come here use the concrete running track that snakes around the park. And then there are the sand volleyball courts (although you have to bring your own net). But the best part of Nad Shamma is the two beach football pitches – complete with goals and nets – that bookend the park. It's a hectic spot but a fun place for a picnic if you like to people-watch.
Best for... none grass fans
Rashidiya, behind the Coca-Cola factory. Open 8am-11pm daily. Admission free. No ladies’ day.
Named after the kitesurfing that takes place there – the craze drawing crowds of dedicated (and slightly unhinged) sports enthusiasts – these beaches offer strong winds and expanses of ocean: ideal conditions for anyone wishing to fly free of gravity – plus plenty of space for sunbathing and picnic-fancying spectators to watch in amazement from the safety of the shore. The stretch is also locally known as Wollongong Beach.
Best for... games fans
Umm Suqeim 4, behind Wollongong University. Open 24 hours daily (no swimming at night). Admission free. No ladies’ day.