Planning a family day out in the city can be a real logistical challenge. There are so many things to consider. ‘Will my child have fun? Will the grown-ups be entertained too?’ And perhaps most importantly, ‘where will we eat?’
Fortunately, Dubai caters really well for visitors of all ages. For a lot of people, the emirate is their go-to destination for family getaways, because there’s so much to do that the kids never get bored.
If you only go to one place as a family, make sure that it’s The Dubai Mall. There’s a reason that it’s the most visited destination in the emirate. For one thing, it’s the biggest mall in the world, with around 1,200 stores on offer, but it’s so much more than just a place to shop. The Dubai Mall is home to loads of family-friendly attractions. There’s the award-winning Kidzania, an entertainment centre where children can play at being different occupations, from pilot to fireman. Then there’s the Dubai Ice Rink, an Olympic-sized skating rink that you’ll really appreciate as a place to chill out with the family during the hotter months of the year.
My favourite place in The Dubai Mall to take the kids is definitely the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. You can get a glimpse of just how cool it is without even stepping foot inside, because there’s a huge viewing panel inside the mall. You’ll often see shoppers stopping to watch, mesmerised, as all types of sea creatures swim past, from tropical fish to sea turtles, manta rays and sharks. I find that even if the kids are having a mid-mall trawl tantrum, simply taking a moment to gaze at the underwater world calms them down immediately.
It’s worth visiting inside the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo properly though, because there are some incredible animal encounters that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. For example, you can watch the aquarium staff feed the manta rays and the resident King Croc, an enormous crocodile. You can even take part in a cage diving experience and get up close to the magnificent sharks - for this activity, you’ll use special breathing equipment so that you don’t even need to have any diving experience, making it a perfect activity for adventurous young ones.
The Dubai Mall is also your gateway to the rest of Downtown Dubai - don’t miss the chance to take the family to see Burj Khalifa, just a few steps away, and if you’re visiting in the evening, be sure to catch The Dubai Fountain, a spectacle of music, water and light that takes place every half an hour from 6 to 11pm.
While a trip to the mall will keep you entertained at any time of the year, be sure to make the most of the UAE sunshine will some outdoor activities too. Whenever we have a free weekend and want to do something special, I take the family to the Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club. My kids love seeing the horses in their stables, and sometimes even take part in riding lessons. The staff are friendly, the animals are well-trained and the lessons are suitable for everyone, even complete beginners. Afterwards, we like to grab lunch at Epona restaurant, where you can sit and watch the riders in the arenas putting their horses through their paces.
Jen C. is a Dubai resident and ‘mom blogger’ with a keen interest in travel and culture