Shooting up out of the Arabian Desert like a massive game of Mousetrap is Dubai Parks and Resorts, a new 573-acre theme park and hotel complex 45-minutes’ drive south of Downtown Dubai.
A report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers in 2015 suggested Dubai could be in line to steal Florida’s crown as the theme park capital of the world. A projection, it seems, which could easily come true. In the last twelve months, no less than five major theme parks have opened in Dubai, including LEGOLAND Dubai, MOTIONGATE and Bollywood Parks in Dubai Parks and Resorts.
Lapita is currently the only hotel in the complex. A luxury Polynesian-themed family resort with two pools, kids’ clubs and a swish spa, it’s a short walk from all three theme parks. It’s also moments from Riverland Dubai, a buzzy waterside dining and entertainment district with over 57 restaurants, licensed bars and entertainment stages.
And it doesn’t stop there. LEGOLAND Dubai Resort and Six Flags Dubai are planned to open in 2019, the latter of which will boast three record-breaking rides, including the world’s biggest roller coaster. It’s all part of Dubai’s master plan to attract 20 million tourists by 2020.
1/5 We built this city
LEGOLAND Dubai opened in November 2016. The seventh park for the Danish brand, like the European parks, it’s made up of six themed lands. MINILAND, the brand’s signature attraction, is housed in a 25-metre-tall air-conditioned dome and features LEGO versions of Dubai’s iconic ultra-modern skyline, including the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
Largely aimed at 2-12 year olds, most of the rides at the park cater for younger kids. The fastest ride is Dragon Coaster in KINGDOM, the knights and dragons themed land. In LEGO City the whole family can ride pump-powered fire engines in Rescue Academy, or climb aboard a real submarine and glide through an underwater world filled with rainbow-coloured tropical fish, zebra sharks and rays.
2/5 May the odds be ever in your favour
Opened in December 2016, MOTIONGATE is Dubai’s Hollywood-inspired theme park. It’s split into five different lands; Smurf Village, Studio Central, Columbia Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, and Lionsgate (due to open this autumn). Unlike LEGOLAND, there are plenty of hair-raising rides for thrill-seekers to get their teeth into, including the Green Hornet and Madagascar’s Mad Pursuit roller coasters.
It also features the Kung Fu Panda Experience, and live-action shows, Ghostbusters Block Party, and Step Up, a high-energy music and dance show aimed at pre-teens. The long-anticipated Lionsgate area focuses on two Hunger Games-themed rides; the Capitol Bullet Train, a dizzyingly high roller coaster, and Panem Aerial Tour, a high tech 3D ride over the fictional city.
3/5 Hooray for Bollywood
Bollywood Parks is the first Bollywood-themed amusement park in the world. The five different zones are inspired by Bollywood movies and heroes, however, it doesn’t matter if you don’t recognise the films. Vibrant streets are crammed with colourful food stands, elaborate statues and gift stalls, while the glittering Rajmahal Theatre is like a mini Taj Mahal which features Bollywood-themed flashmob dances.
While there are no roller coasters in Bollywood Parks, there are several ultra hi-tech motion simulator rides, including Lagaan: The Thrill of Victory, and Krrish: Hero’s Flight, a wild caper themed around the handsome Bollywood superhero.
4/5 And so the adventure begins…
Dubai’s thrill scene is not just limited to Dubai Parks and Resorts. A 20-minute cab ride from downtown, IMG Worlds of Adventure, the world’s largest indoor theme park opened in August 2016. This temperature controlled mega-dome will come into its own during Dubai’s blazing hot summer months. It has four ‘epic zones’. The Lost Valley – Land of the Dinosaurs has two roller coasters, including the Velociraptor which races 0-100kph in 2.5 seconds.
The Cartoon Network zone has several rides including Powerpuff Girls, Adventure Time, and a 5D Ben 10 cinema experience. It also has the world’s first Marvel-themed land, where kids can become Ironman, fly a Quinjet or seek revenge in the Avengers Battle of Ultron motion simulator. One of the biggest draws is the Haunted Hotel, a live-action ghost experience for the over-15s.
Find out more about IMG Worlds of Adventure
5/5 Ridin’ and slip slidin’
But it’s not just roller coasters that are providing the screams in Dubai’s parks. Aquaventure at Atlantis, the Palm is widely regarded as the best water park in Dubai. Spread across 42 acres, you can hand feed rays, as well as test your nerves on the Tower of Neptune, an almost vertical slide which drops nine storeys before depositing you via a glass tube through a shark-infested pool.
Wild Wadi water park is also a popular choice. Overlooking the iconic sail of Burj Al Arab, the park is themed around Juha, a popular Arabian folk hero. It features dozens of slides and water attractions, including the 32-metre high twin drop slide, Jumeirah Sceirah, where sliders reach speeds of up to 80kph.
At the gentler end of the scale is LEGOLAND Dubai Water Park which is aimed at younger children. Situated next to LEGOLAND Dubai, it features a dozen or so water attractions, including Joker Soaker, a huge colourful playground with fountains and slides, Twist-N-Spin flumes, and a lazy river where kids can float on their own LEGO-built rafts.