Whether you are looking for a standalone destination with year-round sun or a stopover between Europe, Australia, Asia or Africa a visit to Dubai, is a great choice. In the following post I’ll detail what you can see and do in Dubai whether you have a 24-hour stopover or a week to explore the city.
For first timers I’ll detail a 5 day itinerary which will cover what to see in Dubai in 5 days.
Dubai is especially great for family travellers.
- The airport is close to the city meaning no hassles with getting to your hotel after a long flight
- Dubai has a well-run clean and cheap metro
- Plenty of regulated taxis make getting safe and easy
- Many hotels have airport pick up and shuttles to Dubai Mall
- A wide variety of food and family friendly restaurants means you can find something to please even the fussiest of eaters.
- Dubai is safe with low crime rates
- There is good medical care
- Restaurants cater well to those travelling with allergies
We had no problems travelling with my nut allergic son and fussy eating daughter and when I left my camera in a taxi it was quickly returned to me.
If you are transiting with Emirates choose one of their stopover packages where everything is taken care of down to the last detail.
Dubai has two seasons really, really hot and hot, I’ll call these summer and winter from now on.
Between June and September the hot temperatures can be extreme and this needs to be taken into account when planning your trip. For this reason I’ve split the post into two parts:
- the activities listed in summer are essentially indoor activities which can be done anytime of the year and
- Those listed in winter are predominantly outdoors and best done in the less hot months between November and March.
5 days in Dubai what to do
What to see in Dubai in Summer also known as what to see in Dubai when it is too hot to go outside!
During the hottest months of June to September, the hot temperatures can make it uncomfortable to venture outside. Dubai is well prepared for the hottest of days. If you are visiting during the summer look for a hotel or apartment with an indoor pool and plan you activities around the air-conditioned comfort of Dubai Mall.
Hang out at worlds best mall: Dubai Mall
Dubai Mall is the worlds largest and most visited retail complex in the world. Over 1200 retailers have their stores here. The mall is sectioned into different areas with the top clothing retailers found in Fashion Avenue. Shop for traditional gifts and homewares in the air-conditioned comfort of the Souk or stroll the tree-lined walks of the outdoor village which has a community feel with a number of restaurants and cafes.
Dubai mall is not only about shopping destination it is also top for entertainment
What attractions are in Dubai Mall?
You will find the Dubai Iceskating rink within the mall and open year round.
Adults that have always wanted to try flying can head to the Emirates A380 flight simulator.
For the little ones that want to be a pilot head to Kidzania. Described as edutainment this theme park within the mall is a children sized city where kids take on adult roles, opening a bank account, getting a job and earning money which they then can spend throughout the city. There are 80 role plays they can join. Fully supervised activities mean parents can relax in the parents lounge while the kids play.
Dubai Mall also sits at the foot of the worlds tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. The stalagmite looking structure is 828m and 160 stories tall. Take the elevator to the 145th floor to enjoy views over Dubai and out across the Arabian Gulf.
Dubai Aquarium is found inside Dubai Mall, the outer wall of the 2-story high aquarium tank is visible from within the mall making it worthwhile to take a walk past the aquarium even if you don’t plan on entering. Inside the aquarium, you can take various upgrades which include a ride on a glass bottom boat to even diving with sharks. Purchasing a ticket allows entry to the underwater zoo where enclosures hold marine life, lizards, penguins and giant crocodiles as well as a night creatures exhibit with bats and other nocturnal mammals. Purchase your ticket online to skip the queue which can get long at times. We saved 33% by purchasing our ticket on Groupon.
In the evening on every 30 mins you can catch the spectacle of the Dubai Fountain. A choreographed light and water display in the Burj Khalifa lake the show last 3-5 minutes depending on the piece of music.
VR Park Dubai
VR Park is an indoor virtual reality based theme park, the attraction is quite new and still has some teething issues but the overall opinion is that this is a must visit attraction, especially for those into gaming.
Ski Dubai in Summer
To really cool off why not head to Ski Dubai. The largest indoor snow park is found in the Mall of the Emirates. It is home to the worlds first indoor black run. Open for Skiing and Snowboarding year-round it is also home to the worlds first indoor black run, the most challenging ski run. Those that don’t want to ski or snowboard can still ride the chairlift and join sledding, zorbing and zip lining.
IMG Worlds of adventure a year-round indoor theme park
For more indoor action head to one of Dubai’s newest attractions, IMG Worlds of adventure, one of the worlds largest indoor theme parks, with Marvel and Dinosaur themed attractions it a great way to keep the whole family entertained when it is too hot to play outside. https://www.imgworlds.com/language/en/#
What to see in Dubai in 5 days in Winter
Dubai can be very hot for a lot of the year so visitors to Dubai between November and February are in luck. Daytime temperatures are mild meaning it is much more comfortable to venture outside.
With tropical temperatures year-round, a trip to Dubai in the winter is perfect for getting outdoors. Spend your days swimming, playing golf, cycling, playing tennis or making sand castles on the beach.
Stay near the Marina or at a resort on one of the man-made Palm Islands. We stayed at Anantara on the Palm in late October. Our room was on the ground floor with a balcony that had direct access into the lagoon-like pool. The resort has its own beach as well as 5 restaurants* and a welcoming kids club for children over 4. You can read more about our time at Anantara Resort here.
If you would like to spend most of your 5 day itinerary relaxing pool side and sipping cocktails while the kids play in the kids club the consider staying on one of the resorts one of the man-made palm islands. For a beach side vacation without compromising on distance to the city then staying at the Marina.
Explore Dubai Creek
Take an Abra boat along Dubai Creek to see the heart of historic Dubai. Visit the souks and shop for spices and cashmere scarves. See the traditional Dhow boats being loaded with cargo bound for India and China.
Enjoy the beauty of Miracle Garden
Between November and May, Dubai Miracle Garden is open. Rebuilt each year the garden is home to 100 million flowers in 70 varieties. Flower cover sculptures are installed each year. The final design not revealed until the gates open for visitors. Previous years have included an Airbus A380:
Slip and slide at a waterpark
Thrill seekers can take a waterslide through a tank of sharks at Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis, a large water park and resort on one of the Palms. Other waterparks in Dubai include Wild Wadi Waterpark, it’s location near the city makes it perfect for those staying centrally, Ice Land and Lego Land waterpark which are great for yournger children.
Grab some thrills at a theme park
When we visited in early October we found the daytime temperatures too hot to consider going to a theme park, though many do have airconditioned areas and water misting in the hotter months. Winter is a perfect time to head to the theme parks, you can find more about the best family-friendly theme parks from Our Globetrotters.
Go dune bashing on a desert safari
Our desert adventure with Arabian Adventures was one of the highlights of our Dubai trip. We were collected from our hotel and then taken out to the desert. Dune bashing in a four-wheel-drive vehicle was as thrilling as any rollercoaster, a stop to see an example of falconry (hunting with birds) which has been an important part of the indigenous culture for thousands of years, viewing the sunset over the rolling sand hills all followed by a middle eastern dinner set under the star with the opportunities to ride a camel, sand-board down the dunes, be decorated with henna and watch skilled belly dancers.
Dubai Garden Glow
When the weather cools Zabeel park comes alive with Dubai Garden Glow. Dramatic Glowing installations light up the night sky. Arrive before sunset to check out the Dinosaur displays and after dark head to the illuminated glow garden and frozen ice park. http://www.dubaigardenglow.com/index.php
Dubai 5 day Itinerary for families
Day 1: Arrive and transfer to Hotel
Day 2: Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and then head to Dubai Mall, head up the Burj Kalifa to take in the full scale of the city. Have lunch in the mall either stay in the mall for ice skating, VR Park or the aquarium or head back to the hotel to spend the afternoon relaxing and recovering from jet lag. Before you leave the mall grab some snacks, bottled water and stronger drinks to save on those minibar costs.
Day 3: Head to Dubai Creek to explore the souks and take an Abra along the river. Head back to the hotel to relax before you get picked up for your desert safari. If you are not up for the adventure of a desert safari then spend the evening at Dubai Garden Glow.
Day 4: Relax in the morning, you’ll be tired from your adventure last night. Choose an activity for the day Miracle Gardens, theme park or water park or do some shopping or just spend the day by the pool. Head to Dubai Mall to see the fountain show before heading out for dinner.
Day 5: Prepare for your departure with some last-minute shopping or if you have a bit more time choose another activity to fill in the day before your flight. Ask for a late checkout when you are booking if you have a late flight, some hotels will hold your bag and have shower facilities you can use after check out.
Dubai was much more than I expected, and I hope you will enjoy your visit as much as we did. If you are planning a trip what are on your must-do list? Have you travelled anywhere else in the Middle East?
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