Dubai International Airport is now the third busiest in the world in terms of passenger numbers – so is there any wonder it’s also one of the hottest (figuratively and literally!) places in the world for a family stop-over?
If you are planning a stopover in Dubai with kids, our friend Keri at Our Globetrotters gives us the low down on all the best things to do over two days in Dubai with kids. Keri is not only an awesome family travel blogger but is also an expat mum of three living and working in the UAE, so she knows what she’s talking about!
Not just concrete and skyscrapers as many imagine, there are plenty of fun ways to explore the bustling city of Dubai that don’t involve just hanging around shopping malls all day. So, if you have 48 hours in Dubai with kids, let’s get out and explore the amazing Arabian city that (almost) never sleeps, with this two-day Dubai itinerary.
With such a short time frame it’s going to be action packed, but don’t worry, water fun and relaxation will come into it too. Let’s kick off your city tour though by getting your bearings.
Morning – Burj Khalifa and Dubai Downtown
Now you can hardly have a Dubai stopover and not visit the tallest building in the world, right? Affording some truly spectacular views over the vast expanses of Dubai, you can see just how large and sprawling the city really is from At The Top observation deck on the 124th floor of Burj Khalifa.
This is one part of your Dubai with kids itinerary you really must book in advance to ensure your spot (they can book out weeks in advance over peak periods). It does get busy and crowded as the day goes on so I recommend this attraction comes early in the day’s agenda before the kids start to complain about queuing! You will queue no matter what time of day, but those views are spectacular.
You can buy discounted tickets for Burj Khalifa online here at Klook Travel.
Lunchtime – Dubai Mall
While we’re in the Downtown area and Dubai Mall, lets stick around for Lunch. Timing your visit for lunchtime you will also allow you to see the fountain show (day time performances are only on at 1pm and 1.30pm – shows every 30 minutes in the evenings). A lot of the restaurants are purpose-built with views and terraces that spill out on to the waterfront – some family favourites include Carluccio’s, Social House and Five Guys.
When the kids have had enough – take a quick tour around the Mall (in fact you could spend the entire day entertaining the kids here between the full-sized ice rink, Sega World and the indoor aquarium), but in the cooler months, let’s do more outdoor exploration.
Afternoon – Dubai Parks & Resorts
There are literally dozens of options for a kid-friendly afternoon out, but the most engaging for the younger crowd is likely to be the newly opened Dubai Parks and Resorts.
This amazing new complex in Jebel Ali – about a 30-minute cab ride from Downtown Dubai is actually 4 action adventure parks in one including Legoland, Legoland Waterpark, Motiongate (think your favourite Dreamworks and film characters) and the world’s first Bollywood Parks!
You won’t have time in an afternoon for them all, but as a guide younger kids will probably prefer Legoland where as your 9+ kids may get more out of Motiongate.
Dinner at Madinat Jumierah
Madinet Jumeirah gives you a touch of Arabian architecture but in a luxurious modern setting. As well as Souk Madinet – a modern take on traditional Arabian Souks, you can take a traditional Abra along the waterways and enjoy plentiful dining options. You can also catch yourself some stunning views from here back to Burj al Arab (THAT iconic sail looking building!).
One thing you will notice is the Emirati’s have a very stay up late culture. Children can be seen out playing until quite late into the evening – perfect for when jet lag has hit as you won’t feel out of place dining with them late at night. Pretty much everywhere is equipped for families with the likes of high chairs available.
Overnight in Family Friendly Dubai Hotel
There is a plethora of choices when it comes to family-friendly accommodation in Dubai. Hotel rooms are generally large – booking a suite you can usually fit one or two children on sofa beds, or even hotel apartments are a popular choice and plentiful if you want separate bedrooms.
Some central Dubai hotels that we recommend you try include Novotel Suites (attached to Mall of the Emirates where you can check out the giant indoor ski slope!). Or if you’d like to stay attached to one of the waterparks and with spectacular views, try Atlantis the Palm or Jumeirah Beach Hotel for your Dubai stopover hotel.
For more ideas of the best family hotels in Dubai, check out this list on Little City Trips.
Compare prices for Dubai Hotels here:
On day two of your Dubai stopover with kids, you are going to get more of a taste of traditional Emirati culture and get away from the concrete city.
Morning – Bur Dubai and the souqs
Those looking to understand the Emirati and Muslim culture better will want to check out the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) – twice a week they offer a traditional Emirati Breakfast, as well a daily program of events and educational experiences.
Next up, it’s time to take yourselves on a little tour of Bastakiya – also known as the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Located on the Bur Dubai side of Dubai Creek this is one of the most historic parts of Dubai and will really give you a feel for what the city was like mere decades ago.
A trip to the Dubai Museum should also easily fit into a morning – its only 3dhs to enter and gives you a guided tour of traditional Bedouin life.
Now if the kids are getting a little bored by this point, they are bound to be excited by taking a traditional dhow across Dubai creek to the Deira side.
Lunchtime – Visit JBR
After checking out the Gold & Spice Souqs in Deira (note around lunch time they are not as bustling as in the evenings, due largely to the midday heat most of the year), time to take a taxi across Dubai. We are heading to The Walk at JBR (Jumeriah Beach Resort). In steep contrast to old Dubai this is the very modern, very sleek new side of town. The Walk is home to many popular hotel chains, restaurants, shopping, cinema complex and family entertainment. You will be spoilt for choice!
Note with all this driving around – Taxi’s are very cheap and easy to locate. You will also get a fair feeling for the size and scale of the city just driving around and marvelling at the amazing architecture. Kids will be in awe at the size and scale of the city!
Afternoon – The Beach
After a busy morning of sightseeing, it’s time to cool off and head to one of the amazing Dubai beaches that hug the Arabian Gulf Coast. If you’ve just finished lunch at the Walk the easiest is to head straight to The Beach at JBR (very original names I know!). You can either simply play in the luscious white sands and adjacent playparks, or maybe even squeeze in a Yellow Boats tour or some water sports.
Alternatively, if you are staying adjacent to one of the family waterparks, this is a great way for the kids to let off some steam or take a float down a lazy river in a tube to get prepared for your evening ahead.
You can buy discounted tickets to the family waterparks in Dubai online here at Klook Travel.
Evening – Desert Safari & Dinner
Your Dubai stopover with kids cannot be complete without actually getting out in to the desert. There are many tour companies that offer hotel pick-up services from Dubai that come highly acclaimed, including Arabian Nights and Platinum Heritage.
Most desert safaris give you the opportunity to go 4wd dune bashing, sand boarding, camel riding, get traditional henna paint, traditional Arabic dinner and kids can even join in with some belly dancing!
Some tours offer overnight camping or glamping in the desert – if time permits definitely a worthwhile experience to see the uninterrupted night stars.
You can buy discounted tickets for a Desert Safari with BBQ Dinner online here at Klook Travel.
What a whirlwind tour! If you have longer than 48 Hours in Dubai with kids I strongly suggest you hop on over to the Globetrotters guide to 100+ family-friendly things to do in the UAE. Beyond just Dubai, this guide covers all 7 Emirates of the UAE in detail and more suggested itineraries.
An Important Note: Remember the UAE is in the desert so during the summer months particularly May through to October outside air temperatures can be extremely hot. Some of the activities listed here may be unbearable for children during the summer months – though during these times and particularly during the holy month of Ramadan you can get some superb flight & accommodation deals and there are plenty of indoor options to keep exploring.
I would substitute IMG Worlds of Adventure for Dubai Parks and instead of the desert safari take an evening cruise on Dubai Creek with air-conditioned Bateaux Dubai. You can buy discounted tickets for IMG Worlds of Adventure online at Klook Travel.
To save on a lot of the attractions and restaurants listed in this article, pick yourself up The Entertainer Dubai before you visit – a huge collection of 2 for 1 passes that will help you save.
For more on cultural understanding and etiquettes for all the family to be aware of in the Dubai, read these important facts to know before your go.
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