A family affair
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and what better way to spend the holiday season than enjoying the UAE’s incredible attractions with friends and family.
/ Explore the outdoors
A scenic stroll through a park on a beautiful winter’s day is one of life’s simplest, yet most enjoyable pleasures. Fortunately for those in the UAE, a winter’s day is filled with plenty of sunshine and a cooling breeze. Despite the region’s iconic desert landscape, there’s lots of greenery across the city. Dubai Miracle Garden is a whimsical world of bright blooms boasting more than 100 million individual flowers of over 70 different variations. Wander through the grounds mesmerised by the many floral displays. Elsewhere, Al Barsha Pond Park caters perfectly to families and nearby communities. Encircling a large man-made lake, the picturesque park is dotted with quaint benches shaded under pretty floral canopies and lovely green banks that are ideal for hosting get-togethers. The park also features a basketball court, tennis courts, mini football pitch and outdoor gym equipment – not to mention three kids play areas to keep the little ones entertained. Head then to Creek Park, near the bustling banks of Dubai’s historic creek district, to try the cable car ride that runs the length of the grounds and is fantastic for taking in the neighbourhood sights.
Or, try Zabeel Park, the city’s largest park, and visit the weekly Ripe Market event. Ideal if you’re keen to leave the picnic basket behind, browse an array of fruits and vegetables, alongside trendy food trucks and market stalls from local artisans selling their wares. There’s also picturesque pathways and footbridges, you can cycle around on a rental bike, cruise along the lake in a pedal boat or hop on board the miniature train tour.
/ Take a walk on the wild side
The region is home to a remarkable array of wildlife. Fortunately, thanks to conservation efforts across the country, there are plenty of opportunities to see wild animals in their natural and specially made habitats. Al Ain Zoo is not only home to a vibrant population of exotic creatures, there are also a number of visitor experiences – think giraffe feeding and camel riding – that allow guests to get close to their favourite animals. Take a free 25-minute train trip through the zoo grounds, seeing some of the 4,000 animals that call Al Ain Zoo home along the way, including elephants, leopards, monkeys and even penguins. Al Ain Safari Park is the expanded addition to the zoo. Set over 217 hectares of desert landscape and overseen by a team of knowledgeable Emirati tour guides, it’s the largest man-made safari park in the world.
Be sure to also visit the Arabian Wildlife Park, a 1,400-hectare nature reserve that takes up more than half of Sir Bani Yas Island. Home to over 10,000 animals, visitors can enjoy the thrilling experience of seeing these animals including Arabian oryx, flamingoes and hyenas in the wild. The island is located off the coast of Abu Dhabi and is accessible via seaplane, while tours can be arranged through Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara.
/ Enjoy one-stop entertainment
If there’s one thing that’s sure to please the whole family, it’s a visit to a theme park. And visitors to Dubai and Abu Dhabi are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to these world-class attractions. For years, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi has been a firm favourite. Under its iconic red roof lies an exciting world of fast and furious adventures. Adrenaline seekers can try the world’s fastest roller coaster, the Formula Rossa, which reaches speeds of 250 kilometres per hour in 4.9 seconds. With several, scaled-down supercar experiences also on offer, including karting and the Junior Grand Prix, the attraction makes for a fun day out for all. Also in the capital, the newly opened Warner Bros. Abu Dhabi continues to generate plenty of buzz.
As the world’s first-ever Warner Bros. branded indoor theme park, the attraction promises an experience unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Spanning 1.65 million square feet on Yas Island, it offers 29 thrilling rides, attractions and unique live shows. Then for water lovers, head over to Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi for an action-packed day in the sun. With 45 rides and slides, there’s something for everyone. No visit would be complete without trying the Jebel Drop – the park’s steepest water slide – or the Bandit Bomber, an interactive roller coaster with cool water and laser effects.
/ Mix shopping and sunshine
Whether you’re looking for the perfect festive gift or a quirky souvenir of your time in the emirate, Dubai’s burgeoning al fresco shopping scene has you sorted. And if you get to do it all while enjoying a seaside stroll or tasty beachside refreshment, then everyone’s a winner. A veritable tourist hotspot, The Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residence combines the labels shoppers love with the stunning ocean views that Dubai is known for. Visitors can walk along the promenade, which is peppered with a mix of high-street shops and high-end boutiques, interspersed with chic cafés and restaurants. This is chilled-out shopping at its best. There’s also an outdoor cinema, play areas and sprawling sand for sunbathing.
City Walk is another retail destination that is so much more than simply a place to shop. Since the second phase of the development opened in 2016, it’s become one of Dubai’s most popular weekend spots, with family-friendly entertainment found alongside a mix of eclectic boutiques and luxury brands – from Michael Kors and Calvin Klein to chic French brand Maje and New York favourite Rag & Bone. Also located in the Jumeirah neighbourhood, BoxPark radiates a cool, urban energy thanks to its selection of stylish wares and trendy food haunts.