Having lived in Abu Dhabi for five years, I have to confess that I’ve got a soft spot for the city. It’s easy to get around and the streets are based on a classic grid system so getting lost is difficult. For nearly a decade now, Abu Dhabi has been undergoing a wonderful transformation in a bid to put itself on the world stage of art, culture and entertainment – and so far, it’s been very successful.
Felicity Glover recommends Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
Yas Island is a huge part of this long-term vision and has become the city’s premier entertainment destination.
It helps that it’s also home to the Yas Marina Circuit, which roars to life every year in November for the F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. For some, namely hardcore F1 fans, this is reason enough to visit. But Yas Island isn’t just about the thrills and spills of an F1 race. Throughout the year, visitors can take part in a series of “track day” packages at Yas Marina Circuit, in which they can sample driver-and-passenger experiences or take part in private driving tuition. During the cooler months, you’ll also find cyclists pedalling their way around the circuit, which is a fun way to keep fit.
Meanwhile, Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi are fantastic places to take the kids – and big kids at heart – for an exciting day out. From the exhilaration of riding the Formula Rossa – the world’s fastest rollercoaster with a top speed of 239km/h – at Ferrari World to slipping and sliding your way down a 238-metre long tornado waterslide at Yas Waterworld, it’s guaranteed to be a fast and furious day of fun.
If you are up for a spot of retail therapy, Yas Mall – the UAE’s second-largest mall (after The Dubai Mall) – is nearby, as is the uber-cool Yas Beach and Yas Links Abu Dhabi, an award-winning golf course designed by Kyle Phillips.
My favourite place- Yas Waterworld was a huge hit with my family. It’s a manageable park and well-organised, with 43 rides, slides and a wave pool and the very popular Bubble’s Barrel, where you can body-board on the world’s largest surfable “sheet wave”. A couple of rides were closed when we were there but that didn’t detract from the fun. The Bandit Bomber rollercoaster is a thrilling ride while people on the ground can join in the fun and spray water as the thrill-seekers above pass over them.
Highlights- That depends. If you love the water then it’s a no brainer: Yas Waterworld is a must. But then there’s the lure of Ferrari World just across the way. But the good news is is that you can buy a special ticket that will allow you access to both theme parks, which means there shouldn’t be any arguments over who wants to do what. At the end of the day, you can head over to Yas Mall for dinner and shopping. Even better, you can head to IKEA, which is also close by, for your Swedish fix – definitely a highlight for me!
Lowlights- Weekends and holidays can see the theme parks heave with visitors. This means very long queues and even longer waits for rides – up to an hour or more – which can limit how much you experience. Try to stay patient, but for kids this might be difficult.
Souvenirs- There’s a tonne of paraphernalia you can buy to remind you of your visit to Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld – from branded T-shirts and other clothing, to hats, drink bottles and beach towels, to name a few. However, the prices are not cheap, especially coupled with the entry tickets and food and drinks, which you cannot take into the parks.
Where to stay- There’s a number of hotels on Yas Island if you want to stay close to the action, from the five-star Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi to the Crowne Plaza, Radisson Blu and Park Inn. Then again, Yas Island is just a 30-minute drive from the centre of the city, so you will find other options as well.