Abu Dhabi is definitely the relaxed and cool emirate, which you might expect since it is the UAE capital, and the place to see some of the world’s most talked-about new architecture.
But even with all that in mind Abu Dhabi will probably still come as a surprise. Not least of all because Etihad Airways now fly there direct from the UK in under seven hours, year round. And if you’re already thinking winter sun and no long haul, you can add no jet lag into the mix as well.
But what’s most amazing about Abu Dhabi at the moment, is how many of its family attractions aren’t just phenomenal, they’re world-firsts too. Dozens are also piled high with international awards, and it sometimes seems as if new must-dos are turning up on a monthly basis.
It can be tricky to keep up with such fast-paced fun, so to help you out here are seven of the most exhilarating and exceptional family attractions as recommended by Visit Abu Dhabi, take a look and feel inspired.
1/6 Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Island
This Ferrari-branded theme park has no less than 37 incredible rides and is another world first for Abu Dhabi. It’s also a great fit for Yas Island, which hosts the F1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix each year at Yas Marina Circuit.
- 37 breathtaking rides including Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest rollercoaster: 250kmph in under five seconds.
- The new Flying Aces rollercoaster has the tallest loop in the world: 63m high with a fearsome 51˚ incline.
- Khalil’s Carwash playground brings the Ferrari fun for under- fives.
- Interactive experiences for young wannabe racers include a beat-the-clock Tyre Change Challenge; Junior Training Camp, and Driving with the Champion.
- Kids can learn all about Ferrari from concept to construction at Made in Maranello, and discover the history of the world’s most coveted cars in Galleria Ferrari.
- Six authentically Italian restaurants and cafés are perfect pit stops for refuelling.
- Entertainment comes live from La Piazza Show, on screen at Cinema Maranello, and all round the park in the shape of outsize, but cute and cuddly, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi characters.
Find out more about Ferrari World Abu Dhabi with Visit Abu Dhabi
Win a family holiday with Etihad Holidays at Rixos Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi
2/6 Warner Bros. World™ Abu Dhabi, Yas Island
The world’s largest indoor theme park covers a jaw-dropping 1.5 million square metres of entertaining Yas Island. It packs in every legendary character from Bugs Bunny and Batman to Scooby-Doo and Superman; comes good on 29 immense rides, and rounds out the only-in-Abu Dhabi experience with sensationally inventive family activities, dazzling live shows, eats all over the place and excellent shopping.
- Divided into six fantasy fulfilling lands: Warner Bros. Plaza; Dynamite Gulch; Bedrock; Gotham City; Metropolis and Cartoon Junction.
- 29 unique rides including The Riddler Revolution rollercoaster; Batman Knight Flight; Green Lantern Galactic Odyssey, and Fast and Furry-ous with Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote.
- Younger kids can test their nerve with Tweety’s Wild Wockets; Cartoon Junction Carousel and the Acme Factory.
- Trainee superheroes (and heroines) get to hone skills and pick up superpowers at Teen Titans Training Academy.
- Entertaining and interactive family shows, all-day-every-day, including Warner Bros. Cinema Spectacular and The Joker Surprise Party.
- 17 colourful and great fun family restaurants, food stalls and cafés.
- Character meet ‘n’ greets with favourites like Shaggy and Daffy Duck, plus dozens of kid-friendly shops.
Find out more about Warner Bros. World™ Abu Dhabi with Visit Abu Dhabi
3/6 Wadi Adventure, Al Ain
Right at the base of monumental Jebel Hafeet – Abu Dhabi’s highest peak – Wadi Adventure is the first manmade white-water rafting experience in the Middle East and features no less than three high-speed water channels where intrepid young rafters and kayakers can test their paddle power to extremes.
- Class 1 to Class 3+ water channels for all levels of rafting and kayaking.
- Rafting and kayaking lessons for beginners and skill builders.
- All rafts have an expert on-board guide and full safety equipment.
- Wave Pool for first-time surf lessons and experienced riders.
- 18-challenge aerial adventure course with 200m long zipline, vertical climbing wall and 14m high swing.
- Wild wakeboarding fun using advanced cable wakeboard technology.
- The fabulous Wadi Adventure surf pool calms down at certain points every day and goes beachy for swimming, splashing around in the waves and catching some sun.
Find out more about Wadi Adventure with Visit Abu Dhabi
4/6 Yas Waterworld, Yas Island
Imagine 15 football pitches covered in the wildest waterpark fun and you’ve just a hint of how exciting kids will find Yas Waterworld. Out of its 40 plus rides, five are world firsts, including a six-person tornado slide that stretches for an astounding 235m.
- Named ‘World’s Leading Waterpark’ at the 2018 World Travel Awards.
- 43 rides and slides including: Liwa Loop straight drop waterslide; giant six-lane Sebag racing slide; Hamlool’s Humps airborne speed slide, and Slither’s Slide extreme tubing.
- Home to Bandit Bomber, the Middle East’s longest suspended rollercoaster and the only one with interactive, on-board water and laser effects.
- Bubbles Barrel is the world’s largest sheet wave for 365-day surf-perfect conditions.
- New Cinesplash is the region’s first ever water cinema.
- Miniature waterparks, playgrounds and splash-pad zones for under-fives.
- Seven family restaurants, cafés and snack shacks, a range of fun shops.
Find out more about Yas Waterworld with Visit Abu Dhabi
5/6 Al Ain Zoo, Al Ain
Immense Al Ain Zoo is not only the region’s largest, it’s the only place in Abu Dhabi where kids can have dinner with lions, meet giraffes and walk with lemurs, all in one day. The safari experience alone covers 217 hectares and promises close encounters with more than 250 animals, including rare Arabian Oryx: just one of the endangered species the zoo’s successful breeding programme has helped bring back from the edge of extinction over the past 40 years.
- Al Ain Zoo is home to several endangered and critically endangered mammals including Southern White Rhinos and Western Lowland Gorillas.
- The zoo’s thrilling safari experience is the largest of its type in the world, with over 250 African and Arabian animals across an area of 217 hectares.
- Guided tours in English are great fun for families, and the zoo has animal events throughout the day including feeding times and falconry displays.
- Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre lets families discover Abu Dhabi’s natural environment through a series of interactive galleries which explore everything from the changing lives of desert people to developing a sustainable future.
- As well as a choice of restaurants and cafés, Al Ain Zoo also provides peaceful, grassy spaces for family picnics – another great excuse to spend the day here.
- Al Ain Zoo is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) and works in partnership with many international conservation agencies including the Northern Range-Lands Trust of Kenya, the Sahara Conservation Fund and the World Conservation Union.
Find out more about Al Ain Zoo with Visit Abu Dhabi
6/6 A’L BAHAR Beachfront, Abu Dhabi Corniche
When is a beach not a beach? When it’s an entire beachfront complex on super-cool Abu Dhabi Corniche. This is one family attraction to win over kids from toddlers right through to teens. It incorporates fabulous and family-friendly Corniche Beach and does everything from amazing water sports to volleyball, beach yoga and brilliant shopping across its 80,000m² Arabian Gulf spread.
- 800m long Corniche Beach has two dedicated family-friendly zones.
- A’L BAHAR includes 48 restaurants, cafés and shops along its beachfront.
- The new AquaFun inflatable waterpark is now in permanent residence.
- The complex offers beach volleyball courts, football pitches, wellness centres, yoga classes, basketball courts and an outdoor gym.
- Water sports and water sport instruction cover everything from SUP to sea kayaking.
- The 500m A’L BAHAR promenade runs along the Arabian Gulf, and the surrounding area is networked with pedestrian walkways, boardwalks and cycle paths.
Find out more about A’L BAHAR Beachfront with Visit Abu Dhabi
Capital of the United Arab Emirates and the largest emirate of all, Abu Dhabi covers over 80% of the UAE, borders Rub Al-Khal (the Empty Quarter)
and incorporates the ancient city of Al Ain, as well as the desert region of Al Dhafra,
and more than 200 developed and undeveloped islands.
How to get there
Etihad Airways flies direct to Abu Dhabi from Manchester and London, year round.
Flights take from six hours, 50 minutes.
Where to stay
Abu Dhabi offers fabulous family resorts: beachfront, on islands and in desert oasis.
Take a look at Etihad Holidays for great offers on hotels and flights.