Okay, we admit it: in this city, there is an insurmountable number of mind-boggling adventures that belong on every bucket list. From skydiving over the manmade Palm Jumeirah to diving underwater with 300 sharks at feeding time, to sipping afternoon tea atop the world’s tallest building to munching golden (that’s real golden) chicken nuggets, there are literally hundreds of adrenaline-pumped activities and gorge-worthy treats you need to do to make your Dubai life unforgettable (and your Insta followers insanely jealous).
Complete this list and, while you’ll barely scratch the surface of Dubai, your journey of a lifetime will be in tip top shape. It also doubles as the ultimate lazy person’s guide for telling your visitors what to do.
Plus, why not let us know when you tick off each activity by tagging #TimeOutDubai or @TimeOutDubai in your holiday snaps.
Oh, and if you do get McDonald’s delivered at 4am and you need some assistance, we’re definitely available.
Food & drink
24/7 McDonald’s home delivery
Kicking off the bucket list in rather unorthodox fashion is fast food... This can be extrapolated to KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut et al but how many times have you called it a night, gone back to your hotel and regretted not stopping off at a McDonald’s at the way? Or, maybe you’re feeling a little tender after the night before and donning your “outside persona” is all a little too much. Well, now you can bring the Golden Arches directly to your friend’s/family’s/hotel door at 4am. We’re lovin’ it.
Afternoon tea at Burj Khalifa
Now you could summit the 828-metre megastructure like most people do, by heading to the 124th and 125th floors and taking slack-jawed selfies, we wouldn’t judge you. Or, you could crank up the class and head to Time Out Dubai’s Best Afternoon Tea 2018 on the 122nd floor at At.mosphere Restaurant and Lounge. The views are breath-taking and it should be on everyone’s Dubai bucket list.
Dhs440 (sparkling grape, non-window seat), Dhs515 (sparkling grape, window seat), Dhs680 (bubbly). Daily noon-4.30pm. Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3828).
Brunch at Marina Social
Where do we begin with the array of brunches in this city? Pool party brunches, family brunches, pizza and jazz brunches, fancy Italian à la carte brunches, Thursday evening brunches, brunches that actually start at “brunch time” brunches. Whichever you choose, choose at least one. Our recommendation for a one size fits all? Marina Social. This fun, good-value brunch at Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton’s Dubai Marina restaurant serves up dishes that are tasty and elegant. Plus, it’s good for families, couples, young weekend revellers, vegans, oldies and everyone in between.
Dhs290 (soft drinks), Dhs435 (house beverages), Dhs485 (bubbly). Fri 1pm-4pm. InterContinental Dubai Marina (04 446 6664).
Dine at Il Borro Tuscan Bistro
In a city brimming with exceptional, and we mean exceptional, restaurants you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad meal. But, this is a once in a lifetime list so only the best will do. With that in mind, book a table at Time Out Dubai’s current Restaurant of the Year Il Borro Tuscan Bistro, an unpretentious, classic Italian restaurant that ticks all the boxes. You’re guaranteed an excellent experience in the relaxed dining room.
Open daily noon-3.30pm, 7pm-1am. Jumeirah Al Naseem, Umm Suqeim (04 275 2555).
Dinner in the Sky at JBR
It can be a hard task for chefs in the 21st century to cater to every diners’ dietary requirement/phase. Vegetarian, vegan, vertigo… Okay, the last one is a little niche, but when you’re eating 50 metres up in the air it’s one thing to bare in mind. Luckily, there’s nothing that elevates your dinner experience than the comfort of a beaming smile from your cook while you’re strapped into a bucket seat as a crane lifts up the entire “restaurant”. Well, this is a bucket list after all and it’s time for doing the things you’ll never forget.
From Dhs499. Open daily 2pm-11.20pm. Near Skydive Dubai, Al Seyahi Street, Dubai Marina (050 925 6341).
Drink liquid gold at Gold on 27
The Burj Al Arab Jumeirah has been one of the most recognisable landmarks on the planet for almost 20 years, so don’t miss it when you’re here. The seven-star hotel is as exclusive as they come and you’ll need a reservation just to get inside. With that in mind, head to one of the iconic resort’s more accessible outlets Gold On 27 – there’s no minimum spend and you can book online. This is a place you’ll want to get dressed up for and make an occasion out of, but you’re in the middle of a holiday of a lifetime, so make the effort. Prices are steep, but no more so than other bars of this ilk, and a menu relays a huge variety of concoctions. Several containing – you guessed it – gold.
Open daily 6pm-2am. Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 301 7600).
Eat (real) golden nuggets at Trophy Room
We’ve found some golden nuggets in Dubai, and not the kind you get from a mine. Chicken ones. This swanky snack is on the menu at new sports bar Trophy Room, and they are the shining star, literally. These treats are made of corn-fed chicken and double breaded – before being given a liberal sprinkling of gold dust. Coming in at Dhs180, they’re a little out of the price bracket of fast food chain regulars, too, but this is a list to create unforgettable memories. So, go eat some gold.
Dhs180. Open daily noon-2am, from Mon June 11. Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 3118316).
Munch manakish at Al Reef Lebanese Bakery
You have to eat manakish at least once before leaving. If you’ve never had one, or heard of one, it’s sort of the Middle East equivalent of a pizza, but better. Coming in many variations, it’s essentially dough topped with thyme, cheese, or ground meat. We prefer the classic cheese manakish: folded dough hugging a centre of ooey-gooey melting cheese.
Dhs4-16. Al Wasl Road, next to Choithrams, Jumeirah 2 (04 394 5200).
Shopping & culture
Bargain hunt at The Dubai Mall
If you’ve already ventured to the top of the Burj Khalifa you would have seen The Dubai Mall from there – well to be honest, you can almost see it from space as it’s the largest shopping centre on the planet. Standing at a mighty 502,000 sq m it was the world’s most visited building in 2011 – with 54 million bargain-hunters, cash splashers and window shoppers stopping by. It’s the perfect retail destination to stock up on last-minute presents before flying on – and it won’t just be a giant Toblerone from the airport.
Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Sat 10am-midnight. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 362 7500).
Become a history buff at Al Fahidi Fort and Dubai Museum
Officially opened in 1971 but built way back in 1787, Al Fahidi Fort is a great place to get to know a thing or two about Dubai’s past. Learn about the interactions between different people and civilisations through Dubai’s history, and see just how far our city has come over the years. It's only Dhs3, too.
Dhs3 (adults), Dhs1 (kids under six). Open Sat-Thu 8.30am-8.30pm, Fri 2.30pm-8.30pm. Bur Dubai, near Dubai Creek (04 353 1862).
Dive into La Perle
Whether or not you’re into your theatre, you absolutely have to – HAVE TO – check out this dramatic, spectacular, jaw-dropping and frankly ludicrously ambitious production from the creative mind Franco Dragone. La Perle is hosted in its very own, purpose-built theatre in Al Habtoor City, making it Dubai’s first permanent theatrical production. More than 2.5 million litres of water are used in every performance – it may well be the first time you’ve seen it rain and flood inside.
From Dhs420. Tue-Fri 7pm and 9.30pm, Sat 4pm and 7pm. The Atirum at Al Habtoor City, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 437 0001).
Haggle at Old Town souks
Wander over to the Dubai Creek area and the city will burst into buzzing, whizzing and whirling backstreets where wheeling and dealing finds home. Gone are the shiny skyscrapers, in are the old, dusty streets that are teaming with toothless, grinning traders and bargain-hunters. Be prepared to fight for a good price on gold, spices, textiles, perfumes and even fish. Our tip: ask for the price, offer half the trader’s asking price and meet somewhere in the middle. While bartering is essential, try not to be become fixated on pushing the trader all the way to the bottom – you’re probably only quibbling over US$1.
Timings vary: usually Sun-Sat 10am-10pm; Fri 1pm-4pm. Deira.
Take an abra ride at Dubai Creek
If you’re down to your last dirham after all that shopping fear not, you can still tick off some memorable activities. Take a traditional abra (long wooden boat that holds around 20 people) journey across the Creek from Deira to Bur Dubai. It’s a pleasant way to see the Old Town, and the soaring skyscrapers that rocket out of the skyline in the distance. Plus, it only costs Dhs1.
Dhs1. Open daily 5am-midnight. Abras leave from Deira and Bur Dubai.
Sports & outdoors
Charter a yacht
Whether you’re after a boat party, a chilled day spent fishing on the open waters or diving right in and doing a bit of swimming, Xclusive Yachts offers up a fleet and crew capable of making your day. The company calls itself Dubai’s only five-star luxury yacht charter company, and it owns its entire fleet, so there are fewer fees passed on to you when you’re ready to get out onto the water. And, its luxuriousness is obvious. Hire a yacht and enjoy VIP hostesses and security, photographers, plus special cakes, balloons and decorations, a red carpet for your arrival, transfers, catering and even your own DJ to make it a knock-out soirée.
From Dhs500 (per hour). Marina Plaza, Dubai Marina (04 432 7233).
Fall out of a plane at Skydive Dubai
Ah, skydiving: the art of falling out of a plane, hurtling towards earth at 190kph, cheeks flapping in the wind, throat working overtime from the screams… Fun, right? You betcha, and Dubai is one of the world’s top places to do it. Every day, dozens of brave bucket listers tick off this truly once in a lifetime experience. If you don’t have a photo of yourself skydiving 4,000 metres above Palm Jumeirah, you haven’t truly been introduced to Dubai.
Dhs1,999. Open daily 10am-6pm. Dubai Marina (04 377 8888).
Get up, up and away in a desert hot air balloon ride
For a gentler introduction to the UAE’s beautiful landscapes sign up for a sunrise hot air balloon ride. A tour with Amigos Balloons includes free transfers from Al Ain to and from the launch site. Setting off around 5am, you’ll fly at 2,500ft, with up to 11 other passengers, passing over Sweihan, Nahil, Al Faqaa and Dubai, giving you the chance to see bedouin villages, farms, sand dunes and Jebel Hafeet just as dawn is breaking – you might even spot desert foxes or deer. After landing around 9am, you can have breakfast and hot and cold drinks, which are included.
Dhs900 (per person, shared ride). Dhs5,500 (private basket). Daily. Bin Sougat Building, Nad Al Hamer Rd, Al Kheeran (04 289 9295).
Go on a desert safari
If you’ve never experienced the desert, there’s no better way to experience it for the first time than in Dubai. For something truly romantic and special, book a private desert dinner safari with Arabian Adventures, where trained safari guides driving 4x4 vehicles lead the thrilling journey – over the sand dunes, and through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve – deep into the heart of the desert. Then it’s a change of pace, in the form of a leisurely camel ride, to a secluded spot where your personal tent, lit by flaming torches, awaits for a festive dinner.
From Dhs230. Pick up from hotel in Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman (800 272 2426).
Tee off at the golf course
This is one of the best cities for golf on the planet thanks to luscious greens, world-class courses and a picture-perfect backdrop. Early birdies can keep teeing off as Emirates Golf Club opens just after sunrise, meaning you can squeeze in a quick round or driving range session before the temperature rises. Or go for something a tad cooler when the sun goes down with the Faldo Course, a fully floodlit 18 hole course for a spot of night golf.
Prices vary. Open daily 6am-9pm. Sheikh Zayed Road (04 417 9999).
Wakeboard across the sea
It’s exciting being dragged along by a speedboat while trying to keep your board underneath your feet. Want something even more exciting? Doing it with the peerless Dubai skyline in the background: Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah, the Burj Al Arab. Beats that non-descript lake you once did it in as a teenager. How about getting that sea breeze in your face with cool sprinkles of water splashing, too?
Dhs420 (15 minutes). Open daily 9am-9pm. Sky and Sea Adventure, Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, JBR (050 724 6184).
Meet the animals
Feed 300 sharks at The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
Feeding sharks is one of the more adventurous experiences you may have during your time in Dubai, and for anybody visiting The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, in The Dubai Mall, this is one of the most fun, possibly slightly scary, yet awe-inspiring days out you could possibly have. Don an astronaut-style helmet and wetsuit before heading into the ten million-litre water world in a large metal cage. Then watch as divers ignite the feeding frenzy (not your limbs, mind).
Dhs630. Sun-Wed 10am-11pm; Thu-Sat 10am-midnight. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 448 5200).
Kiss a sea lion at Atlantis The Palm
Experience a holiday romance that you won’t forget with a smacker from sea lions. You’ll also receive lessons on recycling and be treated to your very own unique performance of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”. And, as a bonus, you get free entry to Aquaventure Waterpark with every Sea Lion Point experience. Plus receive 25 percent off admission to The Lost Chambers Aquarium.
From Dhs475. Open daily 10am-sunset. Atlantis, The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2000).
Make pen pals at Ski Dubai
“Penguins? In the desert!” That’s right, there are, and if you don’t believe us, just hop on over to Ski Dubai and see.
There’s Pumpkin, there’s Pie. There’s Speedy, there’s Sneezy. In fact Ski Dubai is just bursting with VIPs – very important peng… you get the idea. And just like any true VIP, they live the life of luxury in one of the most sophisticated habitats in the UAE. The resort is perfect for kids, big and small, and guests can get up close to the penguins to enjoy a personal play and training session.
From Dhs510 per person. Daily, times vary. Ski Dubai, Mall of Emirates (800 386).
Visit the turtle rehabilitation centre at Jumeirah Al Naseem
The global sea turtle population is in turmoil, with five of the seven species on the WWF’s endangered list. The hawksbill, the Middle East’s native turtle, is critically at risk of extinction. So, head to Jumeirah Al Naseem and see the brilliant rehab centre awhere 560 turtles have been rescued and released into the wild since the project began in 2004. Learn about the dangers this magnificent creatures face from over-fishing, pollution and global warming.
Free. Feeding session Wed 11am-onwards. Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeira Road, Umm Suqeim 3 (04 366 8888).
Attractions & activities
Chillout Ice Lounge at TimesSquare Centre
Tucked away on the first floor of Times Square Centre is an unexpected icy oasis that reaches temperatures of -6°C. Impossible you say? Clearly you haven’t made your way over to the Chillout Ice Lounge. Being the first venue of its kind in the Middle East, it’s become quite a popular place to sip on some rich hot chocolate in sub-zero temperatures.
Dhs80 (adults), Dhs40 (kids). Open Sat-Wed 10am-10pm; Thu-Fri 10am-midnight. Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Quoz (04 341 8020).
Get that picture perfect snap at Dubai Frame
A brilliant photo spot inside and out, the giant structure in Zabeel Park opened at the start of the year. It allows visitors to see the city’s past, present and future in a one-hour tour with unique views of Old and New Dubai from a 150-metre-high glass bridge. You can take in 360° views from the 25 sq m glass panel, too.
From Dhs50 (adults), Dhs20 (kids), free (kids under three, adults over 60 and people of determination). Open daily 10am-7pm. Zabeel Park (800 900).
Make like it’s real at VR Park
As our reality becomes more virtual, you’ll find the UAE is at the centre of the VR revolution. And, you can experience the mind-bending technology in a giant arcade-meets-fairground where every attraction (and there are more than 20 of them) is purpose-built for virtual reality. One of the most terrifying is a roller coaster ride where you’re in a malfunctioning bucket lift on the edge of the Burj Khalifa.
Free entry (games range from Dhs15-45). Open Sun-Wed 10am-11pm; Thu-Sat 10am-1am. The Dubai Mall (055 999 9999).
Ogle at The Dubai Mall Fountains
Designed by the same folks who brought us the famous Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas, this performance of water, lights and music is unmissable. Throngs of people, smartphones held aloft, line the edges of the water outside The Dubai Mall to record a segment of the performance (which takes place every 30 minutes in the evenings). And now you can get closer than ever before (just nine metres away in fact) on the floating platform in Burj Lake.
Free. Daily 1pm, 1.30pm (Fri 1.30pm, 2pm); every half an hour from 6pm-11pm; floating walkway: Dhs20 per person (visitors must be aged four and above). Downtown Dubai.
Poseidon’s revenge at Aquaventure Waterpark
Think you know scary? Think again. This adrenaline-pumping water ride is billed as one of the most petrifying on the planet, for good reason. Step into a plastic coffin (sounds ominous), onto a see-through bottom (yep, definitely ominous), quiver as the door shuts and tremble as a voice whispers a 3, 2, 1 countdown in your ear. SURPRISE. The trap door you’re standing on opens and you plummet a near 75ft straight drop down the slide before hurtling down at speeds of up to 60kph. Be sure to calm your nerves with multiple laps of the lazy river at this incredible waterpark afterwards.
Dhs355 (adults), Dhs295 (kids under 1.2metres). Open daily 10am-sunset. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2000).
Snow room at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray's spa
We’re dreaming of a white… room full of snow. If you’re missing out on waking up to a windowsill filled with icy flakes of joy, rather than beaming sun, The Talise Ottoman Spa at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray has got you covered. The room is beneficial for pain receptors as well as relaxing and brightening your mood, plus it’s always a fun novelty to see snow in a desert climate.
Prices vary. Open daily 10am-9.30pm. Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Palm Jumeirah (04 453 0000).
Zipline across the Dubai Marina
Take on the world’s longest urban zipline and scream, roar, cry your heart out in the process. Running 1km across the Marina, the XLine pings riders at up to 60kph a mere 2.5 seconds from launching and you can hear your screams reverberate off the skyscrapers. You’ll be treated to sweeping views over the Marina, too, as you fly down in a Superman position from the 170-metre high platform. Do this and you’ll really feel heroic.
Dhs650 (solo), Dhs1,200 (tandem). XLine, Dubai Marina Mall (04 457 3212).