Matt Blackwell recommends Dubai, UAE
Lying a few hundred kilometres from Muscat – a five-hour drive or just an hour by plane – is Dubai, the largest city in the UAE. Drawn by the bright lights and fast pace of this desert metropolis, many of us flock to the emirate for weekend trips filled with shopping, partying and fine dining.
A city of superlatives – fastest, tallest, largest – you could call it an adult’s playground. But playgrounds are undeniably the domain of children and the same is true of Dubai. Scratch slightly below the extravagant exterior and there are a wealth of activities and opportunities for the youngest members of the family that will make for an unforgettable trip.
My favourite place
I’m a bit of a water baby at heart, which naturally made Wild Wadi Water Park the obvious choice for a day of wet and wonderful, adrenaline-fuelled fun.
With 30 rides and attractions, there is something to suit all ages and sizes, but the standout for me has to be the Jumeirah Sceirah. Standing 32 metres high, it’s the tallest free-fall slide outside of North America and will have you plummeting at speeds of up to 80kph – not for the faint hearted, but an amazing rush for thrill seekers.
It’s not all about getting the endorphins flowing, though. Juha’s Dhow and Lagoon was specially designed with little ones in mind, or try Juha’s Journey, a 360-metre lazy river where you can kick back and float around the park in tranquil solitude – and that’s just to name a few.
The park follows an Arabian folklore theme and some of the design is stunning. Entry fees are based on height, costing AED295 (RO30.92) for those above 1.1 metres and AED235 (RO24.63) for those below. Guests staying at selected Jumeirah hotels enjoy free admission.
Children are so well catered for in Dubai that it’s impossible to cram it all into just one weekend. If time is of the essence, don’t miss Kidzania, a large educational centre for children that helps them to develop as they play, and the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. Located on the ground floor of Dubai Mall, it is the largest suspended aquarium in the world, with 33,000 aquatic animals from more than 140 species. Snorkelling and shark-cage diving are on offer if you’re feeling brave!
If you find yourself craving some downtime, drop in at Kiddies Café in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, where the attentive staff will watch your child’s every move as they explore the playhouse, soft play area and art and craft room, giving you time to relax and enjoy a coffee.
Dubai is not the cheapest of places at the best of times. Add to this many hungry mouths and entrance fees to the various attractions and costs can soon escalate.
If you’re visiting the likes of theme parks, aquariums and zoos, then the chances are they will have their own gift shops filled with branded merchandise. The choice is yours, but I like to go for something a little more personal – a photo keyring, for example.
Where to stay
Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to hotels in Dubai. Obviously, there is the instantly recognisable Burj Al Arab, but when it comes to children’s facilities there really is nowhere better than Atlantis The Palm. Based on the mythical city of the same name, the hotel features its own water playground and an open-air marine habitat that is home to several hundred species of ocean life.