As the weather starts to cool, all attention in the United Arab Emirates turns to the great outdoors and making the most of those precious mild days in the winter months. But with so many ideas, so many unexplored places, how do you fit it all in?
Family Travel in the Middle East is here to the rescue!
We’ve got a great downloadable guide for you here on all the top things to do in the UAE with kids over the winter months. Near and far from home; short activities to weekends away – let’s not waste a minute of this cooler weather!
You can download your PDF here, or read on below for a bit more information about some of our favourites.2019-20 UAE Outdoors Winter Checklist
You can also check out these detailed “things to do” guides – more of the Emirates coming soon!
- Abu Dhabi top cultural attractions
- Al Ain historic & family things to do
- Dubai with a baby
- Dubai with a toddler
- Eco-tourism experience across the Emirates
- Ras al Khaimah exciting things to do
- 8 Short Getaways from Dubai & the UAE
- Yas Island Theme Parks Guide
Outdoor Family Activities in the UAE – Our Top 5 Picks for 2019-20
There are many old classics on our checklist that have been around for a few years, but here we pick out our top 5 for the coming winter to give a try:
1. A’l Bahar and Aqua Fun on the Abu Dhabi Corniche
This is a new section of the Corniche beachfront in Abu Dhabi. A multi-purpose community space both in and out of the water, it’s home to new inflatable water park Aquafun. This is a serious physical challenge if you are up for it, but absolutely loads of family fun – see a full review here by our Editor Keri when her family took on the challenge!
Back on shore, you will find a giant kids playground, fitness facilities, a restaurant area as well as change rooms and evening entertainment. It’s really livened up this section of the Corniche and made it into a go-to entertainment area.
Cost: Entry to the beach itself is free as well as the playground. Additional activities such as Aqua Fun, ropes courses and arcade-style games cost extra. Prices across the eateries quite variable.
The Corniche Beach is open for swimming with a lifeguard during daylight hours only.
Stay: There are lots of great nearby hotels along the Corniche beachfront or only a block away. We love The St. Regis Abu Dhabi.
2. Al Ain Zoo & the Sheikh Zayed Learning Center
The Al Ain Zoo has been a great family feature of the Oasis City for many years, but if you haven’t been for a while, now is the time to get it back on your agenda. It has more than doubled in size in the past couple of years and had many new enclosures, buildings and play areas added, as well as a mini oasis with a traditional falaj exhibition.
At the centre of the zoo, you with find the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Center. A truly magnificent building brimming with interactive, educational displays and galleries covering geology, local history and of course animal facts and conservation. There are hands-on activities for the kids in here too, a welcome break from the peak daytime heat.
Cost: The entry fee is what continues to impress. Standard entry is 31.50AED for an adult, 10.50AED for children over 4 years. You can add a cart ticket at 42AED per person – there is a lot of walking so recommended for the elderly and disabled. The Safari is a more expensive add on extra. You can learn more about the Al Ain Zoo here.
Stay: Try these great Al Ain Resort options for a complete weekend away.
3. The Musandam Peninsula, Oman
Ok, this one technically isn’t in the UAE – it’s an Omani enclave – but should be a must for every resident to visit at least once while they live in the UAE! Sailing through the fjords of Musandam is one of life’s truly magical experiences.
The drive alone around the end of the Hajar Mountains from Ras al Khaimah to the regional capital Khasab is truly spectacular (take your motion sickness pills though!).
Once you are in Khasab, organise yourself a captain or join a cruise to take you out to the waters. There are tours designed specifically for dolphin spotting, or you might prefer to go snorkelling or find yourself a secluded beach for camping.
Cost: You need to cross the border from the UAE to Oman so formal border crossing procedures are required both there and back. You can now get your Oman Visa online, but there will still be some lining up and rules are constantly changing (latest is you can do either eVisa or visa at the border – either way there will be some queuing).
At present, the Oman entry fee for most passport holders is 5OR for a 10-day visit visa (correct November 2019) and departure tax from the UAE is 35AED per person. Don’t forget to check your vehicle is insured for Oman and you have permission to cross the border with that vehicle.
Stay: Check out this guide to Musandam hotels and other camping options
4. Al Dhafra Festival – Abu Dhabi Western Region
Ever been to a camel beauty contest? Well then what are you waiting for, you MUST get this on your agenda for December if you have not visited before. Held annually in December just outside of the Western Region city of Madinat Zayed this is a huge cultural celebration for the Bedouin people.
Events centre around traditions such as date packing, falconry, Saluki racing, camel racing and the centrepiece event – the Camel Mazayna.
Even if you are utterly clueless as to what is going on, they roll out the carpet to foreign visitors and it’s a superb immersive experience. There are permanent buildings on site now so you can stroll the traditional souq, enjoy the children’s village and try traditional teas.
Get out of your comfort zone and I promise you won’t be disappointed! Stick around until the evening if you would like to see the excitement around Avenue of the Millions – were camels are traded often for huge sums of money!
Cost: Totally free to come and have a look.
Learn More: Information online can be a little scant and an actual program each year remains rather elusive – but you can try here.
Although the Mazayna is now held most days of the Festival, some days its over early in the morning in a matter of hours so you may miss it coming after lunch; other days it’s a full day of judging with huge noise and excitement.
5. Aventura Parks, Dubai
Found nestled away in Dubai’s Mushrif Park, Aventura is where you can let your little thrill-seekers loose for some high adrenaline action. A mixture of rope course, climbing and ziplining, Aventura has 5 different levels of adventure courses for kids from 6-years-old through to adults.
Mushrif Park is one of the country’s great green spaces only a stone’s throw away from the city centre, providing lots of picnicking space, bike paths and a proper nature’s playground of native species.
Cost: Adults are 189AED and children 6 to 12-years-old 149AED. Advance purchase tickets here.
Stay: You are not far at all from DXB and Mirdif City Centre. Why not try Grand Hyatt Dubai in Bur Dubai for a full staycation weekend.
New UAE Attractions – watch in 2020 for….
- Al Jubail Island Mangrove Park – get up and close to the unique coastal wildlife of the UAE with this new mangrove boardwalk in the protected area of Jubail Park. Near Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi.
- The Camel Farm – Guided tours of the farm through to camel treks and hug therapy – another unique new opportunity to get to know the UAE’s favourite furry creatures! Located in Al Lesaily, near the camel racing track Sheikh Hamdan Heritage Centre, Dubai.
- Jebel Jais Sky Maze – an addition to Jebel Jais flight, navigate swings an obstacles suspended 10 metres above the ground! Located in Ras Al Khaimah.
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**Opening times and costs correct at time of republishing November 2019 but please check facts with the place before you visit**