Dubai with Kids: 10 Family-Friendly Things to Do

by Paul Joseph  |  Published May 10, 2024

A playground for the rich and famous it may be, but Dubai is also a magical destination for kids, with its year-round sunshine, waterparks and desert landscape providing an almost endless choice of family fun.

Kids beam from ear to ear at Aquaventure Waterpark(Photo: Atlantis Aquaventure)

Located on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf, the city draws huge numbers of visitors every year. A relatively easy distance from Europe, it’s particularly popular with families from the continent seeking warmer climes during school holidays – and it’s easy to see why, with such a huge assortment of kid-friendly activities and attractions on offer. Here’s our pick of 10 amazing things to see and do with children in Dubai that are sure to leave them with memories to last a lifetime.

Get wet ‘n’ wild at a waterpark

As you drive onto the Palm Jumeirah,  the palm tree-shaped archipelago that’s home to some of Dubai’s top resorts, the distinctive arched entrance of the Atlantis hotel soon comes into view. Creep closer and the faint outline of multiple winding rides and slides also becomes visible. This is Aquaventure, Dubai’s largest waterpark that features a huge assortment of zip lines, exhilarating slides through shark-filled lagoons, and magical underwater dolphin experiences. Be warned, the park gets very busy, so a full day here is essential if you’re keen to have a go on everything – and express tickets that let you skip the lines certainly help, too, if you have the budget. Adjoined to Atlantis, you might also want to spare time to explore the hotel and in particular its world-renowned aquarium.

Atlantis The Palm, Crescent Road / Weds-Mon 9.45am-6.30pm Closed Tues

Marvel at exotic marine life

Another acclaimed aquarium can be found within the vast retail temple of Dubai Mall. Housing more than 33,000 aquatic animals spanning 140 species, the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo offers visitors a chance to get up close and personal with a dazzling array of marine life. Among the main highlights is a 48-metre tunnel, which visitors can walk along while the aquarium fully surrounds you, providing an entrancing fish-eye view of the sand tiger sharks, stingrays and other sea life swimming overhead.

Dubai Mall / Mon-Fri 10am-10.15pm Sat-Sun 10am-11.15pm

Visitors walk through a glass tunnel at Dubai Aquarium (Photo: Mohammed Jamal via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED)

Ascend the world’s tallest building

We all know kids love having a story to make their friends envious about in the playground, and what better than being able to say you went to the top of the world’s tallest building? Located downtown, the Burj Khalifa rises some 829 metres above ground, and has three floors that are accessible to visitors along the way to the summit. One of the most fun parts of the experience is the ride upward courtesy of a super-fast elevator that puts on a drama-building show for the albeit brief journey to the observation decks. After alighting, you can spend time enjoying the mesmerising panoramic views and for those who opted for a VIP option there are drinks and snacks served by roaming wait staff.

1 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard

Catch a breath-taking light show

Even if you choose not to ascend the Burj Khalifa itself, you should certainly stick around for one of the enthralling water, music and light spectacles that take place just a stone’s throw away. The world’s tallest performing fountain at over 900 feet in length, the Dubai Fountain is perched on Burj Lake where every 30 minutes it performs aquatic acrobatics to a selection of different songs ranging from classical to modern to Arabian. As its waters shoot high into the sky, dozens of colour projectors create a visual spectrum of over 1,000 different water expressions to the amazement of on-lookers. The light show can also be enjoyed from the vantage point of the water during a lake ride, as well as from a floating platform that lets visitors get thrillingly close to the fountain itself.

Downtown Dubai / Every 30 minutes

The Dubai Fountain set against a captivating light show (Photo: Domenico Convertini via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Visit a kid-friendly museum

For a fairly large chunk of the year, the oppressive heat makes being outside in Dubai almost impossible. Thankfully, the city-state offers a number of indoor attractions – many of which are designed with families in mind. Among them are several renowned museums, including the quirkily named woo-hoo!, featuring an assortment of interactive exhibits designed to fuel children’s innate enthusiasm and curiosity. Perennial hits include Toddler’s Treehouse, which lets toddlers test their walking skills and learn with sensory play activities; an interactive gallery that kids can transform with tools like giant foam blocks; and Cave Explorer, where little ones can unleash their inner geologist by discovering fossils and other natural wonders in a recreation of a cave.

1 6A Street, Al Quoz / Weds-Mon 10am-7pm Closed Tues

Anyone who’s driven along the multi-lane Sheikh Zayed Road is likely to have spotted one of Dubai’s most distinctive landmarks. Perched along the fringes of the bustling highway is a huge oval-shaped building that grabs the attention of all who see it. But this is far more than eye candy for passing motorists – inside the unique structure is Museum of the Future, another popular family attraction that explores the power of human potential to shape our future. Each visitor is charged with a specific role which involves them embarking on a journey to solve the world’s problems. Highlights include the ‘Future Heroes’ zone, where participants can collaborate with others to complete important missions.

Sheikh Zayed Road, Trade Centre / Mon-Sun 9.30am-8.30pm

The eye-catching oval-shaped building housing the Museum of the Future (Photo: JPG Media Production)

Go thrill-seeking in the desert

Dubai may be best known for its glistening skyscrapers and expansive theme parks, but venture out of the city centre and you can quickly find yourself in far more desolate surroundings. But don’t be fooled, there’s nothing dull about Dubai’s desert landscapes – indeed, the opportunity for fun and excitement matches anything that its more built-up districts can offer. Among the most popular desert activities are sandboarding, which sees adventure-seekers glide down the vast dunes on a board at heart-pumping speeds. You can also go dune bashing in a 4×4 vehicle and climb aboard a camel for a peaceful ride across the sand.

You can book a Dubai sandboarding tour at GetYourGuide

Swim with dolphins

There are few more memorable travel experiences than sharing a one-to-one moment with a dolphin. Situated at Atlantis resort, the palm-fringed Dolphin Bay lagoon invites visitors to take part in a variety of activities that involve interacting with a pod of friendly bottlenose dolphins, ranging from standing alongside them in shallow water to swimming with these mesmerising marine mammals to being propelled through the water on their fins, All experiences also include free same-day access to the adjoining Aquaventure waterpark, as well as an idyllic private beach.

Atlantis, The Palm, Crescent Road / Mon-Sun 9.15am-6pm 

A child swims with residents at Dolphin Bay (Photo: Atlantis Aquaventure)

Try your hand at indoor skiing

With its desert landscape, Duba isn’t an obvious skiing destination, but its capacity to surprise knows no bounds – extending all the way to it being home to one of the world’s largest indoor ski slopes. Located inside Dubai Mall, Ski Dubai draws skiing novices and skilled practitioners alike with its 6,000 tons of snow. A team of qualified instructors are on hand to help visitors learn the tricks of the trade on an assortment of practice jumps and ramps, and those who feel confident enough can even test their mettle by skiing off of a 10-foot ramp. There’s also the chance to enjoy an aerial view from a chairlift and to mingle with a colony of real-life snow penguins.

Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Barsha / Mon-Thurs 10am-11pm Fri 10am-12am Sat-Sun 9am-12am

Watch kite surfers strut their stuff

Peer along the sandy shoreline north of Jumeirah Public Beach at any given time of day and you’re likely to see a smattering of kite surfers soaring above the water, set against views of the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel. For on-lookers, it makes for a visual feast and helps attract throngs of visitors to this long, pristine stretch of white sand known as Kite Beach. This is one of Dubai’s most popular hotspots for water sports enthusiasts, thanks to the wide range of activities available, including kitesurfing, beach tennis, beach volleyball and kayaking. There’s also a jogging track, a shaded skatepark nearby, and a seaside market with crafts and gifts that takes place on Fridays and Saturdays.