The UAE capital and emirate of islands, Abu Dhabi has all the theme parks, waterparks and beaches kids could ever want.
It’s home to the first Louvre outside France and an impressive mosque that dazzles in the glittering cityscape.
Only two hours from Dubai, Abu Dhabi has been considerably more heritage savvy than its neighbour and that hasn’t gone unnoticed: the UAE’s only World Heritage site is here and Sir Bani Yas Island is designated a ‘World Leading Sustainable Tourism Destination’.
Al Ain is the UAE’s only World Heritage site and the world’s oldest permanently inhabited settlement – less than two hours’ drive from Abu Dhabi city.
The world’s largest expanse of sand, Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter), covers four Arab states and the historic oasis of Liwa in Abu Dhabi is one of the main gateways to this natural wonder.
Direct flights all year round from London with a flying time of just over 7 hours.
Year round sunshine with temperatures between 22 and 25˚C in December and January, rising to 35˚C in August.
Abu Dhabi’s built on 200 islands, so it’s the only emirate for natural island-hopping.
Sitting on the Arabian Gulf, Abu Dhabi has dozens of white sand beaches, mangrove forests, oases, wadis and the UAE’s only links golf course.
Abu Dhabi City
Abu Dhabi City
The dazzling city you see today has been around for less than 50 years and packed with modern architectural legends, as you’d expect. It’s the heartland of glossy, expensive shopping malls, big and beautiful beaches, modern plazas and the long, long Abu Dhabi Corniche for everything from kids’ playgrounds and cycle paths to ocean-front restaurants. There’s tradition here too in the magnificence of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, charming souks, ancient pearling boat cruises and the mesmerising view of the Arabian Gulf – always the city’s finest asset.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has over 80 domes, 1000 columns and the world’s largest handwoven carpet.
Don’t miss: Corniche Beach, Yas Water World, Ferrari World, Bawabat Al Sharq Mall, Al Mina souks, Al Raha Beach Plazas and Eastern Mangroves Prom.
The oldest inhabited settlement in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Al Ain is a brilliant combination of lively newness and the emirate’s most ancient history, less than two hours from the centre of Abu Dhabi city.
Visit for Al Ain National Museum, Al Jahili Fort and the traditional Al Ain oasis.
Drive (or cycle) to the top of Abu Dhabi’s tallest mountain, 1240m high Jebel Hafeet.
Don’t miss Al Qattara Fort arts centre, the historic camel market, Hili Fun-City theme park, Al Ain Zoo, Wadi Adventure for manmade white water rafting, Al Ain Raceway go-karting and Al Ain Palace Museum.
Covering over a third of Abu Dhabi, Al Gharbia is where vast Rub Al Khali meets the
Arabian Gulf and, you can’t walk two steps, without running into a view so awe-inspiring it leaves you speechless.
Liwa oasis is where to start your Al Gharbia adventure: gateway to the Empty Quarter and site of a 100,000 tree date-palm plantation.
Qasr Al Sarab AKA Mirage Palace looks like an authentic Arabian fort but is really a magnificent 5-star resort hotel specialising in desert-only activities like camel trekking and dune walks.
Al Gharbia combines endless sand with 100km of coast scattered with some of the emirate’s loveliest beaches.
Don’t miss: Al Dhafrah Festival for the Camel Beauty Contest, Al Gharbia Water Sports’ Festival, guided tours of the Empty Quarter, traditional desert falconry displays and Bedouin barbecues under the stars.
Less than half an hour from Abu Dhabi city, Yas could quite happily call itself ‘Entertainment Island’. Ferrari World theme park is here along with enormous Yas Waterworld and Yas Marina Circuit which hosts the annual F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. If you want sand and sea, Yas Beach is relaxed and easy-going for families and – unusually – has plenty of parking nearby.
Visit for the theme parks or to play golf at award winning Yas Links.
Don’t miss: Yas Mall, Driver Experiences at Yas Marina Circuit, the yachts at Yas Marina and pearl diving at Yas Waterworld.
What to do
Ferrari World, Yas Island The world’s first Ferrari themed park with over 20 high-octane rides and about as much information about luxury cars as you’re ever likely to need. Ferrari World
Yas Waterworld This vast waterpark has over 40 rides, several are unique and it adds heritage for good measure in the form of souks and pearl diving experiences. Yas Waterworld
Al Ain Zoo Abu Dhabi’s largest zoo has over 4000 animals in 900 hectares of parkland and is famous for giraffe feeding, camel rides and charming Elezba petting zoo. Al Ain Zoo
Arabian Wildlife Park, Sir Bani Yas Island An unforgettable safari for kids on this remarkable island where over 10,000 animals roam free in a completely protected environment. Arabian Wildlife Park
Abu Dhabi Corniche The United Arab Emirates almost invented the waterfront Corniche but Abu Dhabi’s 8km stretch of graceful elegance is the one to beat. Abu Dhabi Corniche
Hili-Fun City, Al Ain The UAE’s original theme park has been extensively upgraded and is even more fun for kids and a complete contrast to the cultural adventures in Al Ain. Hili-Fun City
Al Ain National Museum An impressive archaeological and cultural collection housed in the Sultan Bin Zayed Fort complex, the gifts given to Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan during his lifetime are fascinating. Al Ain National Museum
Murjan Splash Park Wild watery fun but scaled down for under 12s, a gentle alternative to more extreme Abu Dhabi theme parks. Murjan Splash Park
Wadi Adventure, Al Ain Abu Dhabi’s first manmade white water rafting, extreme kayaking and surfing park, set in the foothills of majestic Jebel Hafeet. Wadi Adventure
Bounce Abu Dhabi Visit fabulous Marina Mall to shop and kids can bounce around for hours on the emirates biggest and boldest trampolines – lots of other thrilling distractions too. Bounce Abu Dhabi
Educational value for kids
Abu Dhabi’s heritage is well-managed and very accessible for even the youngest kids.
Learning experiences are as plentiful as theme parks in the emirate from pearl fishing boat cruises to camel treks and traditional local festivals.
There are almost as many ancient souks as modern malls and kids are treated like honoured customers.
Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque with children over 10.
Abu Dhabi’s beaches are great for water sports and kids can learn everything from kite-surfing to diving.
Take advantage of Abu Dhabi’s huge natural playground to go on guided tours of the emirate’s islands and breathtaking Rub Al Khali.
Older kids can try Passenger Experiences at Yas Marina Circuit F1 racetrack.
Getting about with kids in Abu Dhabi
Everyone drives everywhere in the UAE and hiring a car is the best way to explore Abu Dhabi with kids and give yourself freedom to visit more of the islands and historic areas. If you want to avoid driving, resorts will arrange transport or tours to major sites and taxis are easy and inexpensive for getting around different city districts.