Our family did some great adventures in Dubai with kids during our 8 days in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in November 2021. When planning our trip around the world, Dubai was one of the few places we had predetermined to visit. Brandon is a huge fan of waterparks and had been saving his money for months in anticipation of the world-renowned parks. We arrived in Dubai from Hungary via plane, you can read about entering Dubai during COVID here.
Disclaimer: this post (and our trip) covers the 3 emirates that we stayed in: Sharjah, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. Yes, we know that they are all different. No, we (Ashley) didn’t necessarily make that distinction when booking our initial lodging in Sharjah!
Because we used Dubai (and Sharjah) as our home base and did an easy overnight in Abu Dhabi, we are using Dubai as the “umbrella” for this post. Here are our top 5 adventures in Dubai with kids:
- Visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi
Visiting a mosque with kids may not seem like a great adventure. However, we had a great time walking around the amazing grounds, followed by a great conversation with our kids. As Christians, we talked with our kids regarding admirable aspects of the pillars of Islam. We discussed what we could learn from their dedication to prayer, fasting, and seeking to remain grateful by helping those in need. It also gave us the chance to talk with our kids about people who have differing beliefs: how we can be respectful and caring while still seeking truth. To top it all off, we had the conversation while eating at Papa John’s in the mosque food court. Big win right there!
- Dinner at the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa fountain show at night
The Dubai Mall is huge (the largest in the world) and has a lot of American dining options. We hadn’t eaten any “American” restaurant food since our last night in Hungary, so we enjoyed diving back into good ole American cuisine. The mall has an aquarium, a waterfall, and every shop imaginable. After dinner, don’t miss the Burj Khalifa fountain show. It’s directly out from one of the (many) mall exits, signs make it easy to find.
- Wild Wadi Waterpark
Wild Wadi had a great discount for Visa cardholders. You could buy tickets for Sundays for only 99 AED (roughly $27)! We jumped at that deal and had a great time. Wild Wadi is much smaller than Atlantis Aquaventure, has significantly fewer slides, and several of the slides were closed during our visit.
However, the 2 family raft rides (Tantrum Alley and Burj Surge) were awesome! It is also very cool and unique that many of the slides all connect. You start just off the lazy river, ride a moving sidewalk up to the first slide, and take a sequence (vary your route as you’d like) of slides back down to finish in the lazy river. Overall, the slides at Wild Wadi were fun but not as good as Aquaventure.
The one area that Wild Wadi has Aquaventure beat: Flowrider. Wild Wadi has 2, Wipeout and Riptide, and each is better than the Wave House at Aquaventure. The barrel wave design of Riptide was new to our family, challenging, and awesome!
- Abu Dhabi Desert Safari with Xtreme Tourism
This was a definite bucket-list item for our family. Mario picked us up in Abu Dhabi, and we headed to the desert. Our first stop was to group up with the other vehicles at a camel farm; then we hit the dunes! Literally. The dune bashing was spectacular: much more fun than we expected. The first ridge that we sped over had everyone grabbing hold in preparation for Mario to flip the Land Cruiser. This is one primary reason to book with Xtreme: their drivers are all awesome. Mario trains each one extensively to be able to provide a wild, crazy, but safe ride.
Upon arriving at the camp, we had coffee, tea, and water readily available. We did our short camel ride and spent a large portion of the evening sandboarding the dune behind the camp. During our tour in early November 2021, much of the evening show was still on hold from COVID, so we stuck to sandboarding. The dinner was great, and after eating the camp turned off all the electricity for a few minutes of stargazing. It’s always amazing to see the true night sky without any light pollution… especially near a massive city like Abu Dhabi.
We had a private area of the tent with sleeping bags for the night and got the early wake-up call to watch the sunrise. After breakfast at camp, Mario drove us back to our hotel, capping an exciting adventure.
- Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark
This day had been anticipated by our family for a long time. Often, we see that a long build-up can lead to impossible expectations. That did not happen at Aquaventure! It is without a doubt the best waterpark we’ve ever visited. The first day (yes, it was so good we went back), we made a point to ride every slide, succeeded, and they are all awesome.
Several of the slides from Neptune’s Tower lead you directly into a series of rapids that are a lot of fun! Even if you wait a bit in a line, you can stay on your tube from the bottom of many slides and enjoy the rapids for as long as you wish. Aquaventure has a few iconic slides in Neptune’s Tower: don’t miss Leap of Faith and Shark Tank. However, the thrill of Poseidon’s Revenge might be the best in the park. The newer slides in Trident Tower were all exceptional. This is mainly where we chose to ride slides a second and third time after we had done everything once! It’s also right next to their private beach area which makes it a great choice to settle down for the afternoon.
Here are a few pro-tips: get to the park 30 minutes before scheduled opening. It was open both days for us upon arriving early. The first 2 hours of park opening had ZERO lines. We zoomed through the various towers and quickly hit every slide. Expect longer lines by lunchtime. For a full recap of each slide, ranked by Brandon, look out for our YouTube video (coming soon). In general, we found that the lines after lunch were always shortest for body slides, longest for multi-person raft rides (Odyssey of Terror was quite long), and regular tube slides were variable.
Our second day at Aquaventure was to celebrate Abigail’s birthday with a Dolphin Swim Experience. Jon and Abigail got to hug, kiss, train, and swim with dolphins. Booking the experience includes the daily admission to the waterpark. It was expensive, but a great memory and a great birthday present.
Our last BIG tip for Aquaventure is to take advantage of their amazing birthday program! Sign up, bring your I.D., and get in completely free the weeks surrounding your birthday! Family members also get in at 20% off. Because both Jon and Abigail had birthdays that week, we saved $182 (about 60% off)!!
A trip to the UAE should include all these adventures with kids. In general, we found the UAE to feel extremely safe and kid friendly. We walked where possible, used cabs quite a bit (after using 0 cabs our entire trip to date!) and felt fine to be out after sunset. The city is very large and spread out, so prioritize staying near the train station if you are planning to use it. Dubai was overall the most expensive city we’ve visited during our trip, but if you budget and plan for Dubai, it can be a memorable destination that you family will remember forever.
Dubai was one of our stops during a year-long trip around the world! To see all our travel adventures, head over to our Instagram page.
If you have questions or tips for traveling to Dubai with kids, let us know!
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