Have your kids got a half-term break coming up in the UAE and wondering how to keep them entertained and try something new? We have you covered!
The half-term break in February is always a little odd as not all UAE schools get this break, and not all school breaks seem to align – some get a whole week, some only 2/3 days depending on what school calendar has been agreed with the regulators… generally it occurs around the middle two weeks of February.
If you’re lucky enough to be granted this mini break for February mid-term, I think we can all agree that this is a simply awesome time to explore your own backyard! The UAE absolutely thrives in February with mild weather and opportunities to explore outdoors – something that can be impossible to do even with the longer spring break and Eid in March/April.
So let’s jump in the car and get out and about in the UAE this winter – we share some old favourites here, plus some new openings you may not have explored yet.
Climb a Mountain! Jebel Jais
The highest point of the UAE in the Hajar Mountains, Jebel Jais is (now!) easily accessible by road and jam-packed with exciting adventure activities. Some ideas to try:
Jais Adventure Park – Operating a special offer on 13/14 February 2024, buy-one-get-one-free – This includes the Jais Sky Tour, which includes 6 thrilling ziplines as you zigzag yourself around a 5km stretch high above the mountains. You can separately enjoy Jais Flight – the world’s longest zipline, or try Jais Sledder, the UAE’s longest mountain coaster.
Bear Grylls Adventure Camp – Offer Adventure Camps aimed at families. Together, you can learn basic survival skills, go hiking, climbing, abseiling or try archery from their extensive activity list (for kids aged 8+). You can even stay at their onsite camp cabins (we might be pushing our luck to call them glamping, but let’s say more comfort than a tent on the rocks!)
Sleep Under the Stars – Go Glamping!
If the idea of ‘roughing it’ out in the desert doesn’t appeal, don’t worry! There are now LOADS of locations across the UAE where new ‘glamping’ style camps have opened up. Some are a step above camping, others akin to a 5-star hotel room – pick your location and budget!
Some favourites to try this year include:
- Bab Al Nojoum Al Hudayriat Island, Abu Dhabi
- Jebel Hafit Desert Park, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi
- Nests at Sonara Camp, Dubai
- Sedr Trailers Resort, Hatta, Dubai
- Moon Retreat by Sharjah Collection, Sharjah
Keep Up With Cultural Openings in the Capital
If you thought Abu Dhabi was just a theme park for families, think again. There are so many new places to explore in Abu Dhabi – and many more new openings due to happen in 2024/25.
If you’ve not checked out any of these yet, February half term is an ideal town to get your local explorer hats on and get out and experience:
- Qasr Al Watan – this is the stunning white Presidential Palace, open daily for tours; you can self-guide or pay a little more to join a guided tour
- Louvre Abu Dhabi – including the kid’s gallery
- Qasr al Hosn – often referred to as the birthplace of the nation, explore the old fort (completely renovated), and cultural demonstrations in the House of Artisans.
- Abrahamic House – Explore how the religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam intertwine in this fascinating site focused on peaceful co-existence on Saadiyat Island.
- Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque – it goes without saying if you’ve not yet visited the country’s most beautiful building, get it on your bucket list! Entry is free, but make sure you’ve dressed appropriately (you can buy abayas and shalas there), as they no longer lend these items for free.
Theme Park Thrills on Yas Island
Now, it’s still not a bad idea to head down to the Abu Dhabi theme parks these school holidays! There are now four mega theme parks located on Yas Island, namely:
- Yas Waterworld – now re-opened after their annual winter maintenance, and yes, most of the water is temp-controlled!
- WB World Abu Dhabi – entirely indoors, awesome for a rainy day
- Ferrari World – many new rides now suitable for younger kids, but we’d recommend you’ll get the most out of this one with tweens and teens
- SeaWorld – The newest offering well worth checking out
Look out for ticket deals with the Yas Island hotels. WB Hotel adjacent to the theme parks is definitely a great choice – but it can be the priciest one, too. If you head to the Yas Plaza hotels, which the free Yas Hsuttle connects, you can often get a much better deal on your Yas theme park stay.
As well as the theme parks, there’s a tonne going on at Yas Island these days, and many great new restaurants are opening. Checking out Yas Bay Waterfront is a must; families will love colorful and welcoming Central with bowling and arcade games in the restaurant, so you can enjoy an al fresco refresher while they play.
Yas Marina has had new life breathed into recently too with some restaurant additions, there’s still the staple Stars & Bars for US-style pub grub you know the kids will eat, also try out Mika, with their pet-friendly policy and beautiful terrace is proving a hit.
Did you know you can get a FREE shuttle bus from Dubai to the theme parks on Yas Island – learn exactly how it works here
UAE Animal-Related Adventures
There are so many different animal experiences in the UAE you can try,
- Al Ain Zoo & Al Ain Safari – the largest open-air zoo experience in the UAE, worthy of a trip of itself to Al Ain!
- Dubai Safari Park – closer to the city in Dubai and still good for a several-hour activity outdoors as you explore over 3000 animals spread across four themed villages. Check out the feeding schedule in advance to plan your day.
- Emirates Park Zoo – a much smaller experience for little kids outside of Abu Dhabi, offers lots of hands-on feeding experiences, and even overnight stays to enjoy breakfast with the giraffes.
- National Aquarium (Abu Dhabi) – a good one to save up if you do get a rainy day, perfect for the under 10 crowd at the new Al Qana complex in Abu Dhabi.
- Sharjah Safari – another activity good for a half-day trip, found on the Sharjah-Khorfakkan Rd
The UAE may have come a long way in the animal welfare stakes, but many venues are still far from perfect in all regards. Research your animal-related experiences well before committing to a day out you may later regret.
More places to do your animal spotting in the ‘wild’ of the UAE:
- Al Qudra Lakes – lots of new paths have opened up here to explore the man-made lakes developed to preserve the region’s wildlife
- Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve – although you need to be on an organised tour to go deep into the park, the new DDCR Visitor Centre is free to visit with loads of educational displays
- Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary – incredibly close to the heart of the city of Dubai, this is a bird-spotters delight (if the kids are capable of sitting still) this is a fun, free experience fill an hour or two
Explore the Mangroves
The country is blessed with many unique mangroves that are fabulous to get out and experience in the cooler days of February. You can explore some by boardwalk, but the best way is to hire kayaks with the kids and get amongst the action on an eco-tour. Some suggested locations to try:
- Eastern Mangroves, Abu Dhabi
- Jubail Mangrove Park, Jubail Island, Abu Dhabi
- Umm Al Quwain Mangrove (Khor al Beidah) from Kite Beach Centre
- Al Zora nature Reserve, Ajman
- Khor Kalba Mangrove Centre, Kalba, Sharjah
NB – you’ll want to pay attention to tide times and chat with tour providers about the best time to visit. Some areas can’t be accessed at low tide, but from boardwalks, low tide can be the most fascinating time to see marine critter action!
Resort StayCay All The Way
If your team resorts all the way when it comes to school holidays, then you are utterly spoilt for choice! We have several resort round-up guides from across the UAE that you might find helpful, plus keep an eye out for these unique and new experiences that have opened in recent months:
- Luxury Villas at Bab Al Nojoum Hudayriyat – an extension of the existing glamping site in Abu Dhabi, but these are a significant step up from glamping! Includes overwater villages with infinity pools and beach villas with private pool.
- Bab Al Nojoum Bateen Liwa – luxury villas for families with private pool, deep in the Liwa desert
- Mövenpick Resort Al Marjan Island – joining the string of luxury resorts along Marjan Island in ARAK, this commendable newcomer offers a vast array of family-friendly facilities including an inflatable aqua park
- Anantara Mina Al Arab Ras Al Khaimah – incredible new luxury eco-resort opening on the RAK coast (near Cove Rotana). Enjoy private overwater pool villas and an extensive recreation program, including kids’ and teens’ clubs.
From the ultra-luxurious kid-free retreat to the most stunning desert landscapes and outdoor experiences, here’s where you will find the UAE’s most unique desert resorts. READ MORE>>
With so many beach resorts in the UAE, how can you pick a favourite? We’ve picked out our top family-friendly resorts across all 7 Emirates (and some highly commended runners-up). Do you agree with our selection? READ MORE>>
Looking for something super-secluded and exclusive for a family break? We’ve rounded up the 15 best hotels & resorts in the UAE with private pools (if you’re prepared to pay!) READ MORE>>
Sensational resorts in the UAE that go above and beyond for families with aqua parks and water slides included in your hotel swimming pool! These are bound to be at the top of your kids’ lists READ MORE>>
- Want to a deal on Legoland Hotel staycations? They are running an offer NOW for stays up until December this year at 50% off – you need to book before 29 Feb (including stays in February this year).
You’ll find our detailed UAE staycation guide for the Emirates over here – we have detailed guides to the best things to do in every Emirate.
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We’d love to know more of your favourite winter short getaways in the UAE. You can let us know in the comments below, or why not join our Family Travel in The Middle East chat group on Facebook