Dubai, UAE :
Dubai, UAE: The Ultimate Guide with Kids
Our Momaboard Mombassador Karishma can plan the perfect itinerary for your family's trip to Dubai.
My family visited Dubai a few years ago and had a fantastic time. If you don't believe me, see for yourselves:
Getting to Dubai:
One of the reasons for Dubai's international appeal is the fact that it is very accessible from most everywhere: 7 hours from London, 3 hours from India, 12 hours from New York, 9 hours from Cape Town and 14 hours from Brazil. You can fly direct to Dubai from most major cities in the world. Emirates, the national airlines is well heralded as one of the best in the world. If you are flying Emirates, you can find loaner strollers around the terminal (much needed because it's quite a walk to baggage claim). Dubai International Airport is easy to navigate with porters and taxis readily available. You can also get a free car seat at the taxi stand for your ride to the airport. Never seen that anywhere else in the world, and it's an accurate indication of how Dubai cares about its children.
Getting around Dubai:
In Dubai, distances are not far but traffic can be formidable. Taxis are easy to hail except at 4pm which is shift change time, and quite cheap. The Dubai Metro which opened recently is handy to get to major stops like the Burj Khalifa and the Mall of the Emirates but we found it very easy to hop into cabs everywhere we went.
Where to Stay in Dubai with Kids:
It's the largest hotel in Dubai so you can only imagine its scale. Located on the Palm Jumeirah, the Atlantis looks like Aladdin's castle and its first glimpse is enough to get the kids enraptured. Once you pull up into the main drive, the staff is friendly and efficient. Kids are greeted everywhere and by everyone which lets you know that they are very welcome. The Atlantis is great for a resort holiday because there is tons to do with kids: Aquaventure, The Lost Chamber, the three pools, the beach, the Dolphin Bay, the tennis clinic, and so much more. We spent four nights at the Atlantis and could have spent another couple of days more easily. The only disadvantage is that it is on the Palm which means that it's an extra 10-15 minutes to get anywhere else in Dubai and convenience stores do not exist in case you forget something. That being said, there is nothing you can't find at the Atlantis between a very accommodating guest services team and shopping arcade within the hotel.
Useful Tip: The Atlantis charges a whopper for high-speed internet, however, if you have an Emirates Skywards number your internet is complimentary!
Located on Jumeirah Beach, The Royal Meridien is the more subdued version of its neighbor and sister hotel, Le Meridien at Mina Seyahi. We stayed here and found it a popular choice with Europeans. The rooms are very comfortable with plush linens and views of the ocean if you are lucky. The hotel is small but with ample facilities so it's not as overwhelming as the Atlantis. The hotel has three pools, of which two are for kids and heated to 30 degrees celcius. There is also a kids' playground and tons of open space where hotel guests had set up soccer games or chess. There is an indoor and outdoor kids' club and a discotheque just for teens and finally, the beach, where you can enjoy a cocktail or go native by riding on a camel (much recommended!). The hotel is also a two-minute walk to the famous "JBR Walk", a promenade filled with restaurants, boutiques and even a little train perfect to soothe even the fussiest kid. The Royal Meridien got serious extra points with me because the bell captain knew how to close my ridiculously complicated Quinny pram.
If you want to be in the center of all the action, the Address Downtown is where you want to park it. Located a stone's throw from the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall and the Souk Al Bahar, you may well never need to take a taxi if you stay at the Address. If you prefer to do your own cooking while on holiday, the Address's one bedrooms have a fully stocked kitchen.
What to do with Kids in Dubai:
Only in Dubai will you find a ski resort in the middle of the desert. Ski Dubai, located in the Mall of the Emirates is open to kids 3 years and above and is completely worth the $30USD odd to ski, tobaggon, or simply frolic in this indoor playground. For the price of your ticket you will get everything you need except for gloves and hat which you can buy right by the ticket counter. You'd think that's where they get you with the prices but you can actually get a set for about $20. Helmets are provided and are compulsory for young children, in addition to snow suits and shoes. Karam had a blast at Ski Dubai on all the rides. You can even get ski lessons there, if you are so inclined. Only for ages three and above.
Sure, you can ice skate anywhere in the world but the Dubai Ice Rink offers little penguin pals to toddlers who are learning how to ski for an additional 30 dirhams (less than 10USD). They also have double blade skates that can be attached to your toddler's shoes for additional balance. I must warn though that the public sessions can be very crowded and the penguins are available on a first-come, first-served basis. But it's still a great family activity to try on vacation.
If your child is into pretend play, they will want to move into Kidzania at the Dubai Mall. A country exclusively for kids, Kidzania will allow your little one to ride a fire truck, pilot a plane, construct a building, drive a car, get a haircut, conduct a health check-up, and much more. Your ticket will include 50 Kidzos which can be used to pay for products and services such as a drivers license (10 kidzos). Karam and his three year old buddy loved driving around in the little cars, but I think Kidzania is best suited for kids 5 years and up who can actually enjoy the liberty of making their own decisions and running their own little world. A fabulous concept, definitely worth checking out.
The largest water park in Dubai, Aquaventure is conveniently located in the Atlantis hotel and will give you access to the water rides as well as its own beach. The multi-level Splasher's children's area for young kids is a full day entertainer with small slides, fountains and levers, and buckets that douse you with gallons of water every four minutes. The water is heated as well so the little ones can sit comfortably if they are not feeling particularly adventurous. For young ones with a thirst for thrills, they can enjoy the rapids, in a double float with a seat (so they won't fall through) with mum or dad's legs wrapped around them for additional security. Because this is Dubai and labor is plentiful, lifeguards are stationed every 20 feet and complimentary life jackets are issued for children.
For kids that are not into the water sports, entertain them with temporary tattoos and braiding their hair and simply taking in the scene. And for the daredevil adult, the Ziggurat slides are a must. We took turns to watch the kids so the other could experience some of the fun!
If you are staying at the Atlantis, your entrance to Aquaventure is free and unlimited. It's a good way to go with the kids so that you can head to your room if needed, and soon after!
Located in the Dubai Mall, the Dubai Aquarium has the largest viewing gallery in the world, and in true Dubai style, is all a little over the top. Witness a shark dive, take a ride on a glass bottom boat, or check out the night safari at the underwater zoo. Bonus points if the kids are old enough for you to leave them at the Aquarium while you shop!
You may be turned off by the prices at Dolphin Bay at first glance, but a walk down to the facility to view the activity will convince you otherwise. At Dolphin Bay, you really get what you pay for: a song and dance with a dolphin. Highly skilled instructors partner with perfectly trained mammals to create a seamless and utterly delightful experience particularly if you are in the pool! (It's not bad for viewers either). I wouldn't recommend this for kids under five but for those who do participate it will be the experience of a lifetime.
The Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountains:
The tallest tower in the world is a sight to be seen and it's even more fun when it shares a complex with the Dubai Mall and the dancing Dubai Fountains. You must pre-book to make it to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa (or pay four times as much on the day of and risk it being sold out). After that, enjoy a show of the dancing fountains from 6:00pm on every half hour from one of the many restaurants overlooking them.
Where to Eat in Dubai with Kids:
Dubai is an extremely international city in terms of its population, location and of course its cuisine. Which means that you can find everything from Chinese to french to American, and at all price points. Many international chains are present in Dubai which may be a comforting sight if you are feeling particularly homesick or the kids fussy. A traditional lebanese meal consists of grilled meats, pita, yogurt and some salad. You can also get a side of rice and the kids may enjoy hummous and halloumi as well.
For a wonderful experience and great Middle Eastern food, head to Levantine at the Atlantis. Levantine has the distinction of being one of the few restaurants in the world I have been to that combine upscale and kid-friendly at the same time. The food is delectable (they have a kids' menu), the atmosphere is enticing and they even have a belly dancer performing at 8pm and 11pm every evening. This is an expensive restaurant but we thought it totally worth it.
If you are stumped for ideas, take a stroll over the JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) Walk, where you will be presented by hundreds of restaurants, sure to appeal to even the fussiest eater.
Where to Shop in Dubai with Kids:
Kids rule in Dubai, and that means in the shopping too. The local one-stop shop for all things kids is Babyshop, present in many of the malls you will visit. In addition, you will find brands like Mamas & Papas, Pumpkin Patch, and Mothercare well dispersed around the city as well. Finally, we love the kids' corridor on the top floor of the Dubai Mall for super high-end boutiques as well as world--famous toy store Hamley's!
Things to Know about Dubai with Kids:
- Drink: You are in the middle of the desert, so it's critical to keep hydrated. Five-star hotels will give you complimentary bottles of water so don't be afraid to use them.
- Clothing: Walking around a Dubai resort you may forget that you are in an Islamic country, but indeed you are. With the exception of the hotels and malls, visitors are expected to be modestly clad around the city. There are signs about appropriate clothing all over but they are not universally enforced. My tip: always carry a shawl or a sweater just in case.
- Breastfeeding: Dubai can be very out there and then all of a sudden feel very conservative. There are nursing rooms in all the big malls that you can avail of. I nursed everywhere in public, but made sure that I had a blanket or a shawl so as not to offend anyone. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Service : Dubai is a great place to visit because labor is cheap and plentiful but it is also well-educated and English speaking, which means that you can get great customer service wherever you are.
- Weather: The best time to go to Dubai is between November and February to avoid high extreme temperatures in the summer. While the days in the winter can be pleasant, watch out for that ever present desert wind that can really cause a chill.
- The Gold Souk and Spice Souk in Deirah are fun to visit but being part of old Dubai are not equipped with the same facilities and are therefore not as kid-friendly. Take the baby bjorn if you decide to visit these sites.
Our Momaboard Mombassador Karishma can plan the perfect itinerary for your family's trip to Dubai.
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