My family and I will miss Expo 2020 Dubai when it ends - here's why

The world's fair has kept young and old entertained tirelessly for six months straight

Katy Gillett, right, with her husband and daughter, aged 20 months, under Al Wasl Plaza's dome. Katy Gillett / The National
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It's not so much the pavilions, copious events, restaurants or even the water feature, as it is the vibe of Expo 2020 Dubai that my family and I will sorely miss once the world's fair ends on Thursday.

For six months, we've had this whole world practically on our doorstep, like a theme park on steroids, where entire days get sucked away as we immerse ourselves in everything going on around us.

My family's Expo journey started relatively late, as my husband, toddler daughter and I only made our inaugural visit in December, cautious as we were about crowds and Covid-19.

But since then, we've been there several times, mostly first thing in the morning as soon as the gates open, trying as we might to get inside the coveted Germany and Japan Pavilions without having to queue for hours with a hungry/grumpy/bored/hot 20-month-old (we never managed it — and now I'll forever have fomo).

Scroll through the gallery below to see inside the Germany Pavilion:

We actually haven't perused as many pavilions as we perhaps should have done, because time simply slips away as we walk from district to district, attraction to attraction and meal to meal. Before we know it, it's time to head home before we miss our sleep-deprived daughter's bedtime; usually coinciding with swarms of visitors flooding in.

Every so often, I'll turn to my husband and say, "We should take Ivy to every Expo in the future", to which he scoffs and adds a dose of realism to my daydreaming by saying, "Unlikely".

I've had to placate myself by picking up a few souvenirs along the way; we have a reusable water bottle and some T-shirts. I didn't quite stretch to the Monopoly board.

The first time we went to the water feature, my daughter loved it so much she threw a full-on tantrum when we tried to move on

Admittedly, much of our time at Expo 2020 has revolved around food. Traipsing from one restaurant to the next, coinciding our pavilion visits with nearby eateries, trying not to eat too much at one, so we still have stomach room left for the other.

For a quick snack, we've enjoyed picking up an acai bowl at Tropicool, just outside Terra — The Sustainability Pavilion, where Veg'd, Mudra and Xyst restaurants by Matthew Kenney are housed, and we've feasted at each. The breakfast sandwich at Veg'd has been a personal favourite, but the vegan afternoon tea in Xyst is a real highlight, too.

We've particularly loved hanging out at Festival Garden, where food trucks are parked around the periphery catering to every taste (mine, you may have guessed, being vegan, while my husband's is decidedly not).

Hours and hours have been wasted as we lounge around the picnic tables with friends, children playing with the ice buckets or at the inflatable park, while we try dish after dish from each of the trucks, the music from sound checks or performances going on in Jubilee Park wafting over.

Expo is simply a great place for a play date, where everyone from small babies to grandparents can find something to enjoy, and perfect for days out with new families, since there's plenty to keep you occupied if it doesn't work out.

While meandering around, you can make a pit stop at one of the several playgrounds dotted about the site, with Latifa's Adventures playground among our favourites (we haven't had time to check out the indoor Family Place, which only opened recently).

And then there's the water feature. I know I said the vibe was more important, but Surreal has also been a very, very important attraction for us. The first time we went, my daughter loved it so much she threw a full-on tantrum when we tried to move on (potentially marred our introduction, but it didn't stop us from going back time and again).

Thankfully that, and Al Wasl Plaza (my daughter shrieks "wow" every time she looks up at it), are staying put in what's being called the UAE's first "15-minute city" or District 2020, the legacy site of Expo.

But whether or not that buzzing vibe that makes you feel like you're at the centre of the world will also stay put, remains to be seen.

10 attractions that will remain at the Expo 2020 Dubai site — in pictures:

Updated: March 29, 2022, 12:32 PM