The Arabian desert is truly beautiful and a sundowner desert safari, with dune bashing, Bedouin-style hospitality, camel rides, belly dancing and more, is a magical introduction. There are plenty of tour operators (including Arabian Adventures) who offer this type of safari along with a variety of other desert excursions.
Taking in the hustle and bustle of the creek is an unmissable attraction in Dubai and strolling along the banks gives you a real taste of the city’s centuries-old trading traditions. Nothing beats ploughing through the water on an abra (small water taxi), narrowly missing the other abras criss-crossing the creek. You can also take a dhow cruise (click here)
Read more at: Something out of the ordinary
Further information at: Dubai Travel Guide
At The Top
At almost one kilometre (0.6miles) high, the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building. Standing at the bottom, gazing up at the tapering, silvery tower, is impressive enough, but don’t miss taking the futuristic elevator to the outdoor observation deck about two-thirds of the way up. Called At The Top, you’re high enough to look down on Dubai’s other tall buildings and appreciate that everything else is dwarfed by the soaring skyscraper.
Read more at: Up the Burj Khalifa – A Tall Story
Further information at: Visit the Burj Khalifa
Wild Wadi water park
Located right next to the Burj Al Arab, the great thing about Wild Wadi is there’s something for everyone: a huge wave pool with lifejackets for little ones; surfing simulators; family rides; downhill free-fall slides; and rides in which you get blasted upwards so you don’t even have to climb the stairs.
Read more at: Wild Wadi at night
Further information at: www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/dubai/wild-wadi
Friday brunch at the Meydan racetrack
Think gastronomic marathon with buffet stations laden with lobster, crabs, roasted meats (even Yorkshire puddings!), sushi, salads and a smorgasboard of mouth-watering desserts. The mile-long building is a veritable landscraper and, even when racing isn’t taking place, you can almost hear the sound of pounding hooves echoing off the grandstand. Kids’ entertainment is laid on and the level of service is outstanding.
Read more at: Blowing the diet (spectacularly)
Further information at: www.meydanhotels.com/meydan
Sunset Mall beach
Lapped by the aquamarine waters of the Arabian Gulf, Sunset Mall beach is flanked by gorgeous Miami-style condos, with views of Dubai Offshore Sailing Club boats as well as ducking-and-diving kite surfers. If you tire of this driveable and surprisingly shrubby beach, you can walk to the adjacent glass-walled Sunset Mall to browse the newly opened high-end fashion boutiques inside.
Read more at: Middle East meets Miami
Further information at: www.sunsetmall.ae
Captain Jack’s dhow cruise
Possibly the best-value boat trip in town and conveniently located in the Dubai Marina is Captain Jack’s dhow, which takes passengers on a leisurely hour-long cruise around the coast of the Palm, JBR and back through the heart of the marina. Sit comfortably on enormous bean bags atop the deck of this beautifully varnished vessel.
Ski Dubai at Mall of the Emirates
Show shoppers a ski slope covered in real snow inside a mall and they tend to get quite excited. Skiers and snowboarders can choose from five runs of varying difficulty, and you can sign up for ski school. Or opt to go into the snow park and enjoy the tobogganing, bobsled ride, tubing and snow cavern. Tickets include ski pants, a jacket and boots, as well as equipment.
Read more at: Playing snowballs in the desert
Further information at: www.skidxb.com
Penguins at Ski Dubai
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Dubai goes and does it again, flying 20 penguins to the UAE from SeaWorld in San Antonio so desert dwellers can pay 175 dhs (£30) to get up close and personal with the lovable birds in a giant freezer. The interactive penguin colony lives in a fake Antarctica created inside Ski Dubai and enthrals guests with various peng-friend encounters, including a penguin march several times a day from 2pm (which you can see for free through the windows).
Read more at: Penguins in the desert
Further information at: www.skidubaipenguins.com
Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Ras Al Khaimah
An hour’s drive from Dubai in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, I found out while glamping at this resort that you haven’t sampled UAE hospitality until your accommodation is even nicer than it looks on the photos, and best of all, has its own private, crystal-clear pool outside.
Read more at: Glamping in the Middle East
Further information at: www.banyantree.com/en/al_wadi
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi (about an hour from Dubai)
When you’re given protective goggles to stop your eyeballs popping out, you know the ride you’re about to go on won’t be all about the view. Along with more than 20 other Ferrari-themed attractions, Ferrari World on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island is the home of the world’s fastest rollercoaster. Simulating driving a Formula One car, the ride accelerates from standstill to a gut-squashing 150mph in just 4.9 seconds.
Read more at: World’s fastest rollercoaster
Further information at: www.ferrariworldabudhabi
Dive-in movie (at venues across the city during summer. Polo Club Arabian Ranches pictured)
Move over multiplexes – nothing, not even lazy-boy chairs with all the frills of 3D, can be more chilled than pulling up your lilo and watching a movie from a cool pool. The climate in the Gulf is perfect for Cine-Splash, which takes place on Thursday and Friday nights during the hot months at the Polo Club in Arabian Ranches. There’s even popcorn, hotdogs and cocktails.
Further information at: www.poloclubdubai.com
Dubai Miracle Garden
Containing 45 million flowers, this garden grows on land that was previously parched desert. The 72,000-square-metre site is a mass of colour, with traditional flowerbeds and topiary-style displays fashioned into hearts, pyramids, maypoles, igloos, birds and stars. In true UAE-style, there are cars with petunias and marigolds growing out of them, as well as a huge falcon covered in red and white blooms. (Closed for a period during the summer.)
Read more at: Dubai Miracle Garden
Further information at: www.dubaimiraclegarden.com
Located at Dubai Mall, KidZania is a scaled-down city where children can play at being grown ups. They can take jobs such as doctor, mechanic, pilot; drive cars; earn money and spend it on petrol and pizza.
Further information at: www.kidzania.ae
Built on The Palm – land reclaimed from the sea and shaped into a colossal palm tree – guests not only stay in the most beautiful rooms and play around elegant pools and beach huts, they can also get up close and personal with dolphins. And to top it all, The Atlantis hosts Aquaventure, a magnificent aquatic theme park filled with so many different types of water slides and play areas it’s hard to cover them all in one day. You don’t have to stay at Atlantis to enjoy this magnificent hotel and water park – go for the afternoon to explore the Lost Chambers Aquarium, meet the dolphins and shop in the exclusive boutiques, and spend a day riding Aquaventure’s thrilling water-coasters and rapid rivers.
Further information at: www.atlantisthepalm.com
Seawings Dubai *Top recommendation*
Take to the skies in a seaplane for some awe-inspiring views of Dubai’s magnificent skyline and architectural marvels such as the Palm Jumeirah, Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa and Dubai Creek. When we did a 20-minute scenic aerial excursion a while ago, I snapped this photo (right) while flying low over the World Islands.
Further information: www.seawings.ae
Glow-in-the-dark crazy golf
Residents in Dubai who suffer through the hot months are always on the look out for new indoor things to do, and this is a fun idea. The nine-hole, neon-lit putting course is designed in the style of a deep-sea underwater garden filled with psychedelic florescent colours. Even the golf balls glow in the dark! Located at the retail level of Jewels Building in Dubai Marina.
Further information: Play A Round @ Some Place Nice