Guest blogger and mum of two boys aged three and 18 months, Tamsin McCahill recently went on a family holiday to Dubai.
With its luxury hotels, designer shopping and expensive bars, Dubai has become synonymous with all things glitzy and glamorous. Sadly, none of this impresses the kids all that much. Luckily there are plenty of things in Dubai for all the family to enjoy, and you don’t need a millionaire’s budget to do them, either. Here’s a round-up of some free (or at least very, very cheap!) things to do in Dubai with the kids.
Children like nothing more than a sandy stretch of beach and some water to paddle in. Thankfully, Dubai has both in abundance with some fine white sand for the most perfect of sandcastles and some beautifully warm turquoise waters. Many hotels have their own section of beach complete with loungers and umbrellas, but the public beaches, such as Russian Beach or Kite Beach are all equally lovely, although they do have fewer facilities (and virtually no shade).
Far better, particularly if you were thinking of spending the whole day there, is to go to a beach park. These have sunloungers, shades and even lifeguards for extra peace of mind. At Jumeirah Beach Park, a measly 5AED (about 80p) gets you access to a great stretch of beach backed by shady, landscaped gardens complete with a large children’s playground, barbecue areas and cafes. Just remember that Mondays are ladies day, when only women and children are welcome.
Visit the country in the cooler months and a walk outside is perfectly possible – and can be very pleasant, providing you avoid the fume-filled seven lane super highways. The Dubai Marina Walk is a completely car-free stretch which is mostly shaded by all the humongous buildings that surround it. The promenade takes you past lots of al fresco coffee shops where you can enjoy a drink while you covet all the luxury yachts moored there.
Then there’s The Walk at the Jumeirah Beach Residence, a 1.7km promenade which runs parallel to the sand, known for its boutique shops and outdoor restaurants. Whether in their large SUVs or just on foot, the locals come here to see and be seen, making it the perfect place for a spot of people-watching as you stroll, preferably while clutching a large ice cream. Souks – For a walk that’s a feast for all your senses, take a trip to the souks – there’s a gold, textile, spice souk and more. Here the whole family can shop for souvenirs to take home – and hopefully the presence of your cute kids will help increase your bargaining power.
Located outside the Dubai Mall, this is a must-see attraction, and it’s free. One of the kitschest things you’ll probably experience in your life, these jets shoot water 150 metres into the air and it’s all carefully choreographed with coloured lights and a great soundtrack which changes every day (when we went, it began with Michael Jackson’s Thriller). Here’s a tip – don’t even mention it to the kids. Just go for a meal at one of the outdoor restaurants that surround it and watch their faces as the display starts. Priceless! Aquarium – Also located at the Dubai Mall is the Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, which really is worth going to with its giant crabs and penguins. It costs just AED 50 to enter (which is only £8), but there are also some spectacular tanks at the entrance which you can gawp at (and take photos of) for free.
Ski Dubai Snow Park
A snow-filled ski park? Complete with ski runs and toboggan slides? In the middle of a Dubai Emirates Mall? This really is something you have to see with your own eyes. And as it’s completely glass covered, you can look all you like without it costing a penny. For the price of a hot chocolate at the Costa that overlooks it you can even watch the giant penguins being fed. However it would take some very strong parents not to let your kids have a go. Go on, you only live once! Entrance fee is AED 110 for children, 120 for adults (about £20).
Getting there: Virgin Atlantic offers frequent flights to Dubai from London.