The emirate has become a top destination for family holidays, offering something for everyone. Neha Hiranandani gives you the low down in the August – September 2016 issue of Condé Nast Traveller India, out on stands now:
Dubai is synonymous with glamour and true to its reputation, it is built to impress. No one here would bat an eyelid passing by a Swarovski-encrusted Rolls casually parked at the mall or an ATM that dispenses solid gold bars. But the emirate has also established itself as an excellent destination for family holidays. From play areas to bungee jumping, this is a place that guarantees you as many wonderful experiences and memories as it does souvenirs. Here’s a guide on how to do Dubai with the family.
Where to Stay
Dubai Marina is easily one of the most family-friendly spots in the city. With access to the beach, water sports, several promenades and tram services, this is definitely a winner with the kids. Within the Marina, there are several options that offer world-class luxury as well as gold-standard kiddie adventures. The recently renovated Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort and Spa is a top pick, with a great kids’ club, several swimming pools, a variety of cuisines at the restaurants and a beautiful stretch of private beach with camel riding to boot. A number of downtown hotels, such as The St. Regis Dubai and the stylish Conrad Dubai, offer family packages with discounts on children’s rooms, dining and certain amenities, such as Wi-Fi access.
Where to Eat
With restaurants and cuisines to suit every palate, budget and mood, Dubai can rightfully brag about its world-class culinary landscape. Given its new avatar as a family-friendly destination, most restaurants—including fancy ﬁne-dining spots like the evergreen ZUMA—will generally allow children in their non-smoking areas. At the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, the Restaurant Village is a great choice, with options like COYA, which does some super Peruvian food. Dubai also has a thriving café culture, with Clinton Street Baking Company, Pantry Café and Jones the Grocer leading the pack. If you like your food with an arty ambience, check out Café Ceramique, where you and your little ones can do some pottery painting and grab a light bite.
Art & Culture
Head to Bur Dubai’s Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, also known as Bastakiya, for a glimpse of the city’s fascinating past. Don’t be fooled by appearances; this unassuming neighbourhood of traditional wind towers, serpentine alleyways and mysterious courtyards houses art galleries with some of the best collections in the region. Of these, the XVA is arguably the best-known. It showcases contemporary pieces by established as well as up-and-coming artists from across the Middle East. An extension of the gallery is the XVA ART HOTEL, a 10-room boutique stay, and the XVA Café, which serves a mean cheesecake.
If the kids have had enough of the beach (or if you have had enough of them on the beach), there are several other outdoor activities that you can all enjoy together. The Journey, just off Kite Beach, is a gorgeous outdoor play area surrounded by trees and waterfalls. Started by a local Dubai parent, this new entrant to the city’s ‘play scene’ seeks to create a natural environment for kids to explore and discover. It offers archery, wooden play structures, a lovely vegetable patch and wadis to splash around in. Kite Beach is home to the Dubai International Kite Festival, where kites of every size (think caterpillar kites with hundreds of legs or gigantic blue whale-shaped kites) take to the skies in an unforgettable display. Even when the festival is not on, this is a great spot to just lie back and watch kite surfers in action, the iconic Burj Al Arab in the distance.
If you need to escape the heat, head over to The Dubai Mall. In true Dubai style, there is a plethora of options within this one attraction. At the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, children can go cage snorkelling (8 years and above), shark diving (10 years and above) and put on a bubble-helmet to stay in the water with thousands of aquatic animals (12 years and above). For those with tamer tastes, tickets to the Underwater Zoo will let you watch the fish feeding, ride on a glass-bottomed boat and walk through the Aquarium Tunnel. The mall also houses an Olympic-sized Ice Rink, where beginners can take lessons and more advanced skaters can practice their technique.
Adventure for All
Dubai offers endless adrenaline-pumping options that will excite even the most angsty teenager. On land, go dune-bashing in a desert or, if you prefer driving on concrete, you can head to the Dubai Autodrome. Kids can rent go-karts while the grownups race Audis and McLarens. Above ground, go skydiving, hot-air ballooning, or bungee jumping. And if your kids like water sports, take them deep-sea fishing, kayaking or jet skiing, all of which can be arranged by the Park Hyatt Dubai.
Many airlines fly direct to Dubai from major Indian cities. Fly with Emirates (www.emirates.com), Flydubai (www.flydubai.com), Jet Airways (www.jetairways.com) or IndiGo (www.goindigo.in). Indian passport-holders can apply for a visa with VFS (www.vfsglobal.com). Visas cost 6,500 and take up to five working days to process.
To read more grab your copy of Condé Nast Traveller India’s August 2016 issue, out on stands