Whilst Dubai is a great family destination in its own right, it’s also a popular stopover on lengthy flights from the UK to Asia and Australia. Compact enough to get a real feel for the emirate in 48 hours, but equally, Dubai’s abundant attractions can keep families happy for a week or even two. Try our suggested itineraries for short and long breaks.
1/3 A 48-hour stopover in Dubai
As Dubai Airport is a short cab ride or metro journey from Downtown, it makes sense to break up a long flight with a short stopover in the UAE. To get the most out of the city in 48 hours, book a family hotel (with a pool) in the heart of Downtown Dubai.
Get your bearings on the city from the 125th floor viewing platform of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on the planet. Book in advance for tickets to the SKYLounge, the world’s highest outdoor observation deck on the 148th floor, where you can enjoy a falcon’s eye view of the city’s major landmarks and out over the vast plains of the Arabian Desert.
Back on earth, enter the Dubai Mall, one of Downtown’s premier attractions with over a million square meters of retail, dining and entertainment space. Aside from legendary shopping, kids will love to meet the Dubai Dino in the Souk Dome, or wave at the sharks in the Dubai Aquarium and Underground Zoo. Don’t miss the nightly performance of the Dubai Fountains on Burj Khalifa Lake, a dazzling 5-minute water display choreographed to music and a real highlight of a visit to the city.
Discover a Dubai away from the futuristic skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls and head to the historic Bastakiya, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. Lined with dusty sandstone buildings, ornate mosques and wind towers, it’s an atmospheric insight into Dubai’s heritage. Explore the ancient artefacts in the Dubai Museum housed in the 17th-century Al Fahidi Fort, visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding or just kick back with a traditional mint tea and date cake at the charming Arabian Tea House.
2/3 Do Dubai in four days
A 7-hour flight from the UK and only four hours time difference, Dubai is a surprisingly accessible destination for a long weekend.
Load up on winter sun and book a family resort overlooking the aquamarine sweep of the Arabian Gulf. Many Dubai resorts have private beaches, luxe spas and infinity pools, and several even have on-site waterparks. Take a camel ride along the beach, try your hand at waterskiing or paddleboarding, or opt for a leisurely family lunch in one of beachfront restaurants along Jumeirah Beach or the Palm. And don’t miss a sunset stroll along The Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk, an 11-kilometre pathway with views of the city’s futuristic skyline, Dubai Marina and the Arabian Sea.
After breakfast, head to Downtown for a selfie with the UAE’s most famous sight, the Burj Khalifa, followed by a spot of retail therapy in the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall. After lunch, take the metro to Bur Dubai station and hop on a wooden abra over the Dubai Creek and spend the afternoon in Deira. A maze of dusty alleyways, onion-domed mosques and bustling old souks, it’s the complete antithesis to the shiny streets of Downtown. In the late afternoon, wind back to the creek’s waterfront and board a sunset dinner cruise on an old dhow.
After an early breakfast, book a cab and head south to Dubai Parks and Resorts, a new 573-acre theme park and hotel complex. If the kids are aged up to 10, spend the day at LEGOLAND Dubai and LEGOLAND Dubai Waterpark. If they’re slightly older, they’ll appreciate the many roller coasters and thrill rides at the Hollywood-themed MOTIONGATE theme park. If you’ve booked an all park ticket, catch a flashmob dance at the colourful Bollywood Park, before dinner at Riverland Dubai, a lively waterfront dining and entertainment district.
For the final day, treat the kids to a day at one of Dubai’s many water parks. Overlooking the iconic sail of the Burj Al Arab, the Wild Wadi water park is famous for Jumeirah Sceirah, the park’s twin drop slides which can reach speeds of 80 kph. Another popular choice is Aquaventure Waterpark
3/3 Suggestions for a week or more in Dubai
Days one and two
Spend the first couple of days of your trip ticking off Dubai’s iconic sights, the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and Old Dubai. Don’t forget to squeeze in an afternoon at one of the emirate’s brilliant waterparks, like Wild Wadi or Aquaventure.
If the desert heat gets a little too much, cool off with an afternoon of skiing in the Mall of the Emirates. Little ones can come face to face with the penguins at the Penguin Encounter, while teenagers can carve up the slopes on a snowboard at Ski Dubai, the Middle East’s first and largest indoor ski slope.
Go fast and furious in the world’s largest indoor theme park. A 20-minute cab ride south of Downtown is IMG Worlds of Adventure, the world’s largest indoor theme park. Split into four zones, don’t miss the dinosaur-themed Lost Valley, which has two mega indoor roller coasters, including the Velociraptor which goes 0-100kph in 2.5 seconds. It also boasts the world’s first Marvel-themed land, where Dad can become an actual Ironman.
For nature enthusiasts a Nature Safari is a great family day out. You’ll be collected from your hotel and driven towards the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to spot Arabian wildlife and learn about the natural habitat and fragile ecosystem that exists in Dubai.
Day six and seven
If you’re staying for a week or longer in Dubai, it’s well worth escaping the city for a night or two on an Arabian desert safari. Kids will love dune-bashing in a 4X4, riding a camel at sunset, and camping out Lawrence of Arabia-style in Bedouin tents under a blanket of stars. The joy of spending longer in Dubai is also the chance to live like a local. Friday brunch is a Dubai institution. So celebrate the start of the weekend by visiting one of the many hotels or restaurants who all put on lavish spreads.