Sometimes it seems like Dubai is all malls and air-conditioning, but this sprawling desert city has a new and exciting influx of cultural institutions, galleries, and shopping complexes all focused at luring in a new generation of visitors. Whether your idea of an adrenaline rush is jumping out of a plane or watching the city’s dramatic fountains gush 500 feet in the air, almost anything is possible in this city, and we have the list to prove it. Here are our picks for some of the best things to do in this Middle Eastern hot spot.
See 140 different species at the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
Since the turn of the 21st century, Dubai has rocketed up the popularity rankings. The city has implemented an ambitious tourism strategy to attract 25 million visitors a year by 2025, and they’re already almost there.Thanks to its iconic skyscrapers, unrivaled adventure activities, world-class entertainment, and exclusive experiences (dinner in the sky, anyone?), Dubai has established itself as a global leader in innovation, technology, and tourism. But the City of Gold is also rich in vibrant history and culture, which exquisitely complements its modern flare.Need help planning your trip to this desert oasis? Looking for fun, unforgettable things to do in Dubai? Look no further.
At the Top,Burj Khalifa
The world’s tallest building is, unsurprisingly, visible from almost everywhere in Dubai. Taking in the site is thrilling enough from the street, but you can also visit the top of the 160-story behemoth—brace yourself for the thrill of the high-speed elevators, followed by complete awe the moment you step onto the observation deck. Buy tickets online in advance for a specific time slot. Most first-time visitors to Dubai go to the top.
Designed to represent a metaphorical connection between the old and new city, Dubai Frame is said to be the largest picture frame in the world. The giant, glistening gold frame stands nearly 500 feet tall and boasts panoramic glass lifts that shuttle guests to the top, where they can walk on a clear glass walkway along the entire 313-foot width. Tickets can be purchased online or at the venue and cost between $5 and $14 (children under 3 and visitors with special needs or disabilities can enter for free
Dubai’s massive Global Village is essentially a theme park for all ages, though it’s popular with families as the rides and attractions are kid-friendly. Open November through early May, it features concerts, rides, dining, and attractions from around the world. It’s on the outskirts of Dubai, so don’t think you can pack it into a city-centric day, but if you have time and are interested in some global shopping and entertainment, it’s worth a visit.
Xline Dubai Marina
Fly belly-down across highways, skyscrapers, and swimming pools through the city of Dubai with XLine Dubai, one of the longest, steepest, and fastest urban zip lines in the world. From a height of 560 feet with speeds up to 50 miles per hour, riders soar from the Jumeirah Beach Residence to Dubai Marina, passing once-in-a-lifetime views along the way. There’s even an option to ride tandem with friends.
Unleash your inner Tarzan at Aventura Parks
Swing from treetop to treetop at Aventura Parks, home to a wide selection of ziplines, high ropes courses, and giant swings. With 85 obstacles in the park to choose from, there’s something suitable for every interest and level of competence.
In the middle of a mall in the desert, the world’s third-largest indoor ski slope is a sight to behold. A daily lift ticket will run you about $138 (excluding equipment rentals), while a Snow Daycation pass, which primarily provides access to the non-skiing parts of the mountain like tubing, costs $68 per person, and you should plan to get there early. The place is filled with families with kids, most of whom are taking part in various rides and penguin visits instead of skiing. If you’re here to shred, there are two runs and a dedicated freestyle area (but Vail this is not).
Go camel riding in the desert
Dubai is a desert oasis, after all, so why not embrace the city’s roots? If you’ve never crossed sand dunes or taken the front hump of a camel, now’s your chance.Most tours combine camel riding with a combination of sandboarding, 4×4 adventuring, quad biking, and camping, making for an unforgettable day in the desert!
Enjoy dinner and a show at the Al Khayma desert camp
Forget about life’s stresses and ditch the obnoxious tourist crowds — instead, enjoy a relaxing, hospitable evening at the Al Khayma Desert Camp and spend a laidback night in the shoes of the local Bedouins.Besides the scrumptious BBQ dinner, the warm and welcoming hosts will treat you to henna tattooing, shisha, and unique belly dance shows. If you’re looking for authentic things to do in Dubai, this should be a priority.
Like a Miami beach with its wide stretch of sand, aquamarine water, beach chaises, and enough activities to make you feel like sunbathing isn’t quite enough, Kite Beach is for beach lovers. Join a game of volleyball, give kite-surfing a try, or take a run around the soft running track—when it’s not 106 degrees out.
Now considered the world’s largest waterpark thanks to its recent extension, the venue has expanded by a third. Trident Tower, its newest arm, features the largest kids-only waterparks in the Middle East—Splashers Lagoon and Splashers Cove. Aquaventure contains more than 30 slides and attractions, including the emirates’ longest lazy river, some thrilling rides (including the Leap of Faith and Poseidon’s Retreat), and a private beach. There are also record-breaking waterslides to get the adrenaline pumping; Splashers Park and the Lazy River for families; and opportunities that encourage up-close-and-personal interactions with stingrays, dolphins, and sea lions.
The Starlight Camp
This pop-up desert camp is magical, reminiscent of something out of Arabian Nights. Unlike an ordinary camp site, Starlight boasts a domed-shaped tents that allow guests to fall asleep with views of the starlit open skies. There’s something about waking up in the middle of the desert with rolling sand dunes all around. The dome-shaped bubble tent is a glamper’s delilght with a queen-sized bed, a wooden camp-style shower and toilet, as well as kid-friendly camp mattresses and a telescope for late-night desert sky-gazing session. It’s a refreshing escape from the constant bustle and lights of Dubai itself, and only 45-minutes away.
If free-falling over Dubai at 120 miles per hour sounds like your idea of a good time, Skydive Dubai has you covered. Beginners are welcome to jump in tandem with the company’s experienced guides, but licensed divers can take the plunge solo. A tandem flight from Skydive Dubai’s location on The Palm costs nearly $600—but it’s worth it if you’re a thrill-seeker who’s not afraid of heights.
Dinner in the Sky
Dinner in the Sky Dubai is no ordinary restaurant—even pulling up a seat at the table requires that you clip a seatbelt. The experience takes place nearly 165 feet in the air, at a table that rotates ever so slowly over the course of an hour. If you can stomach the altitude, you’re in for impressive views of the Gulf—and maybe one of the most unusual dining experiences on the planet. Artful Dining by Le Meridien Mina Seyahi and The Westin Dubai are responsible for the menu, which ranges from burrata salads to Middle Eastern mezzes. It’s ideal for a romantic evening or surprise celebration with a first date, long-time partner, or best friend.
Party it up at the Nikki Beach Resort & Spa
Situated on the glistening waterfront of Pearl Jumeira, the Nikki Beach Resort boasts 117 rooms and suites and 15 private pool villas. But you don’t need to have a room key to enjoy the luxury resort; the good vibes, flowing drinks, and live DJs are available to anyone with a beach club ticket.
For lavish parties and some exciting social things to do in Dubai, look no further.
Abra Ride Across Dubai Creek
Riding an abra, or traditional wooden boat, is one of the most low-key ways to get a feel for life in Dubai. The boats gather on either side of Dubai Creek—in Deira or Bur Dubai—and can carry about 20 people. Many locals use the boats to get across the creek quickly and to avoid traffic, but you’ll also see lots of tourists, especially at dusk. Given that it’s quick and cheap, an abra ride is a must if you plan on spending any time at all in Old Dubai or visiting the QE2.
Flying with Falcons by Balloon Adventures Dubai
In this private adventure experience, the only other person in your balloon is the pilot, who is an expert balloonist and falcon handler. Guests are picked up from their hotels and driven out into the desert. The aerial views of the desert are some of the most spectacular you’ll see. Not only is the rolling landscape incredible but it is possible to see Oryx and camels strolling the desert below. This tour is ideal for a special occasion with a loved one or for those looking to experience the culture in a totally different way. Bookings are required.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood
This quaint neighborhood offers a glimpse into what Dubai was like before the Emirates were formed in 1971. Traditional buildings crafted from stone, palm wood, gypsum, and teak line the twisted alleys and pathways—history and architecture buffs will love getting lost here. The neighborhood is a quiet retreat from the traffic and skyscrapers of the city, and the labyrinth of lanes make this place feel like you’re in a secluded village.
Take a day trip to Abu Dhabi
While Dubai takes center stage in the UAE tourism show, the nation’s capital is not to be overlooked! Just an hour and a half southwest from Dubai, Abu Dhabi is overflowing with worthy attractions.Make sure to check out the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, and feel the insane adrenaline on Ferrari World’s roller coasters!
The Dubai Mall
As the largest mall in the world, the Dubai Mall draws in almost 100 million visitors a year. It’s easy to get lost—there are more than 1,200 shops, after all—but a great place to beat the Dubai heat and ogle at the luxury stores. The place draws in more tourists from around the world than both New York City and Los Angeles so it’s safe to say, everyone comes here
As the only mosque in Dubai that’s open to non-Muslim visitors, the Jumeirah Mosque is popular with a range of travelers—it’s also the most photographed. The mosque is easily one of the most beautiful in the Emirate, crafted entirely from white stone in the medieval Fatimid style. It’s particularly breathtaking at dusk. Visitors are allowed in six days a week, and tours are led by knowledgable guides who make the experience.
The Dubai Fountain
The world’s tallest fountain puts the ones in Vegas to shame. Multiple fountain shows are scheduled every day, shooting 22,000 gallons of water up 500 feet in the air within the 30-acre Burj Lake. Plus, a new floating viewing platform means you can get much closer to the action than before. Even better, it’s free. If you visit the Dubai Mall, you’ll likely see the fountains while you’re there, so pause for a moment and enjoy the show.
From its location within the emirate’s cultural epicenter, Al Seef marries the city’s heritage with contemporary offerings. The 1.1-mile precinct that hugs the Dubai Creek is split into two areas: one dedicated to the past and another to the future. Meander through the charming laneways, stop and have a coffee or a meal at one of the many restaurants and cafes, or simply sit and watch the activity on the creek from one of the tranquil public spaces
Dubai Opera House
Dubai’s state-of-the-art opera house receives rave reviews for its futuristic design and breathtaking location in front of the Burj Khalifa and the city’s famous fountains. The multipurpose theater hosts a variety of programming aside from opera. Throughout the year, you can catch musicals, ballet, comedy, concerts, and family shows. Don’t forget to grab a drink from the rooftop bar before your performance.
Do you know any other fun activities to do in Dubai? Do not hesitate to comment below!