Best things to do in Abu Dhabi during the UAE National Day holiday 2021

Fireworks, cultural shows and special deals to mark the golden jubilee in the capital

Check out fireworks on Yas Island, the Middle East's largest aquarium or take in a circus-themed afternoon tea in Abu Dhabi during the National Day holiday 2021. Photo: Charles Crowell, Ruel Pableo, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers
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UAE’s National Day is celebrated on December 2 every year, and with this year being the country’s golden jubilee, it promises to be even more special. To mark the momentous occasion, here’s a look at some events taking place across the UAE capital, plus newly announced fireworks locations and concerts by Eidha Al Menhali, Majed Al Mohandis, Aseel Hameem, Hamad Al Ameri and Ahlam.

Fireworks galore

Firework displays will light up the skies each night at 9pm on Thursday, December 2, as confirmed by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi. See them at locations including: Abu Dhabi Corniche, Al Maryah Island, Al Ain and Al Dhafra, Bawabat Al Sharq Mall (this one at 8pm) and Yas Island, which has a line-up of other activities and deals (see below).

Yas Island

Yas Island will have fireworks and live entertainment for National Day. Charles Crowell / The National

The popular family destination is just the place to be during the National Day weekend. A spectacular fireworks show will take place at 9pm, as well as live entertainment from December 2 to 4, from 5pm to 10pm. The celebrations will mark the first in-person display since the beginning of the pandemic, although health and safety measures will still be in place.

To sweeten the deal, Yas Island has a Stay and Play package for family staycations. Prices begin at Dh402 per person for top hotels, including the recently opened WB Abu Dhabi, and include access to one of the three theme parks – Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi, or Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi – for every day booked. It also includes complimentary tickets to Qasr Al Watan, too.

Thursday to Saturday, December 2 to 4; 5pm-10pm;

Bawabat Al Sharq Mall

Fireworks aside, the mall will also host a National Day Flash Mob on Thursday, December 2, from 6pm to 8pm, and will host a Sheikh Zayed hologram interactive experience and screenings of Majlis the Story of the 50th, a film that recounts the UAE's journey over the past half-century using archival footage. Both attractions will be open from 10am to 10pm until December 4.

Thursday to Saturday, December 2 to 4; 10am to 10pm;

Umm Al Emarat Park

Umm Al Emarat Park is launching The Park Market, an alfresco experience, on December 2. Photo: Umm Al Emarat Park

One of Abu Dhabi's oldest parks is celebrating National Day with the launch of an alfresco market: The Park Market. On December 2, visitors can expect storytelling sessions about the UAE’s history, UAE themed paintings, food and more. The Park Market will continue to take place every weekend until end of March, and bring the community together with locally grown organic fruits and vegetables, a variety of food dining options, homemade retail (like hand-crafted jewellery and homeware) and family entertainment. As a tribute to the year of the 50th, visitors can also first visit Umm Al Emarat Park’s ‘Journey through Achievements’ maze that highlights 50 key milestones of the UAE in 50 years.

Thursday, December 2; 4pm-11pm; Dh10 entrance fee; Mushrif Area, Abu Dhabi;

Abu Dhabi Sports Aviation Club

While timings are yet to be announced, the Abu Dhabi Sports Aviation Club will put on a Skydive Show and Formation Jump on Thursday, December 2. This is set to feature 16 skydivers carrying the UAE flag and creating a formation of the number “50".

A second flyover, held in association with Al Jazira Club, will feature about 50 planes manned by local pilots, as well as paramotor and parasailing shows that display the UAE flag in all its glory. Spectators will also get a chance to win skydiving, parasailing and aviation vouchers.

The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi

Hammerhead sharks, great barracudas and puffins, visitors to The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi will be able to spot all these and more during a visit to the newly-opened attraction. The venue is home to 46,000 creatures and 300 species, so get ready for special sightings, like the giant python that weighs 115 kilograms and an Asian water monitor lizard dubbed “professor”. There are also interactive experiences including scuba diving, animal feedings and glass-bottom dhow tours that explain more about the animals and their natural habitats.

Thursday to Saturday, December 2 to 4; 10am-10pm; Dh105 for a general admission pass; Al Qana;

Yas Bay Waterfront

After months of anticipation, the leisure and entertainment complex on Yas Island will open to the public. Yas Bay Waterfront offers uninterrupted views of the Arabian Gulf, which has also inspired a series of bespoke artwork on display. The destination will bring new dining concepts to Abu Dhabi, including the Ibiza-style beach club, Cafe del Mar, known for its distinctive ambience, music and Mediterranean cuisine; Paradiso, a globally renowned Mediterranean restaurant helmed by Nicole Rubi, the woman behind La Petite Maison, and Michelin-lauded chef Pierre Gagnaire; and critically acclaimed Japanese street-food concept, Akiba Dori. Visitors can expect a line-up of daily entertainment, performances and events such as DJ nights, parades and firework displays set to take place every weekend throughout December, as well as golden jubilee celebrations.

Daily, Wednesday, December 1 onwards; Yas Island;

Al Hosn Festival

Qasr Al Hosn will host film screenings, performances, art installations, culinary experiences, crafts and design as part of Al Hosn Festival. Khushnum Bhandari/ The National

One of Abu Dhabi’s most celebrated annual cultural events is returning this month with a 10-day programme that celebrates the UAE’s heritage, craftsmanship and art. The festival, which will take place at the historic Al Hosn site from Thursday, November 25 to Saturday, December 4, will feature film screenings, performances, art installations, culinary experiences, crafts and design.

The festival will open with a parade of 50 classic cars in celebration of the country’s Golden Jubilee. A thematic and chronological programme will then guide visitors across Al Hosn’s buildings and outdoor areas

On Friday, November 26, Emirati singer Eidha Al Menhali will perform at Qasr Al Hosn, followed by Emirati singer Hamad Al Ameri on Thursday, December 2.

Additionally, a series of activities revolving around Emirati heritage, storytelling and crafts will take place around Qasr Al Hosn and House of Artisans.

Thursday, November 25 to Saturday, December 4; 4pm-11pm; Dh15 for children aged 5 to 12, Dh30 for adults; Al Hosn;

Qasr Al Watan

One of Abu Dhabi’s top cultural landmarks, Qasr Al Watan gives visitors an in-depth look into the UAE’s history, traditions and journey – a great way to spend the National Day weekend. Complementing its existing attractions, visitors will now be able to take in a live performance by the Abu Dhabi Police Band, every Sunday and Thursday at 12.30pm for 30 minutes, a show dubbed Symphony of The Nation.

Open daily; 11am-7pm; Dh60 for adults, Dh30 for children;

Louvre Abu Dhabi

The museum has put together a public programme for Thursday, December 2, with the museum’s dome to be transformed into an audiovisual installation. The family-friendly event will consist of dynamic, digital wall-mapping, showcasing images and videos of the UAE over the past five decades, alongside a DJ playing nostalgic Emirati music. There will also be a roller-skating rink for an event in collaboration with Madrollers, open to children in the afternoon and to others in the evening.

The museum will also display artworks from each of the seven emirates, including loans from national museums and institutions.

Emirati singer Ahlam will close the weekend with a performance on Friday, December 3.

Thursday, December 2; Dh150 for the National Day event; Saadiyat Island;

Sheikh Zayed Festival

It’s one of UAE’s largest cultural events and since the festival celebrates the country’s culture and history while educating visitors about the legacy of the nation’s founder, there’s no better place to spend your National Day weekend. Check the international cultural pavilions and eclectic music performances or take the little ones on amusement park rides. Sheikh Zayed Festival will also be marking the Year of the 50th with special celebrations, details of which are to be announced soon.

Open daily; 4pm-1am; Dh5 for adults; Al Wathba;

Al Maryah Island

National Day celebrations will be taking place across the venue's Plaza Level on Thursday and Friday, December 2 and 3. Open to the public, the family-friendly event will give guests the chance to learn more about UAE's traditions and skills, with falcon-interactions and workshops on candle and fragrance making. There will also be roaming performers interacting and entertaining visitors, Al Rawnah (synchronised drums) and camel puppet walkers amongst others. Firework displays and drone shows will close each day of the festival, making this a great place to spend the weekend.

Thursday and Friday, December 2 and 3; 4.30pm-10.30pm; free entry; Plaza Level, Al Maryah Island,

Clymb Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - November 28th, 2019: Climber Sasha DiGiulian. Athletes and famous skydivers as well as climbers will be the first who experience the world's biggest indoor skydiving flight chamber and the world's tallest indoor climbing wall on the opening ceremony of the ultimate indoor adventure venue, Clymb. Thursday, November 28th, 2019. Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The venue is home to the world’s biggest indoor skydiving chamber and the region’s tallest indoor climbing wall – so there’s plenty of reasons to spend your weekend there. To make things better, Clymb Abu Dhabi has also just launched a sweet combo deal to celebrate its second anniversary. Adrenaline-seekers can get a First Time Flyer experience with full access to the three indoor climbing walls, as well as photos and videos to commemorate their visit. The package, priced at Dh260, is only available until Monday, November 29, but has is valid until Friday, December 31, 2021. Guests are required to present a valid Green Pass via the Al Hosn app upon entry.

Tuesday to Saturday; 1pm-9pm; Dh260 for the combo pass; Yas Island;

Up in the Air afternoon tea

Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers has launched a circus-themed afternoon tea to celebrate UAE's Golden Jubilee. Photo: Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers

To celebrate UAE’s golden jubilee, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers has launched Up In The Air – an afternoon tea with a twist. During this circus-themed evening experience, talented dancers and acrobats take over the lobby lounge. From dances to complex acrobatic techniques performed on a hotel cart, there will be a lot to keep you entertained. All while enjoying a spread of warm scones with options of lemon curd, strawberry jam and clotted cream, sandwiches and sweet treats. The event also features a 50-layered cake inspired by 50 years of the UAE.

Every Thursday to Saturday; two shows take place at 1pm and 3.15pm respectively; until December 8; Dh325 per adult and Dh285 for children under 12; 02 811 5666;

Rosewood Hotel

Handout of Rosewood Abu Dhabi Sense Spa. Courtesy of Rosewood Hotel  *** Local Caption ***  al01ja-Todo-Rosewood.jpg

If you're looking to pamper yourself, you're in luck. Sense Spa is offering a 50 per cent discount on all its Journey treatments and facials from Wednesday to Saturday, December 1 to 4. Meanwhile, those opting for the popular afternoon tea at Majlis Lobby Lounge during the four days will find the sweet and savoury treats beautifully decorated to in the spirit of the 50th year celebration. Finally, you can head to any of the hotel's restaurants - Hidden Bar, Majlis Terrace, Wood & Fire, and Dai Pai Dong – to enjoy Abu Dhabi’s fireworks and drone shows which will take place at Al Maryah Island at 9pm on December 2 and 3.

Wednesday to Saturday; 50 per cent off spa treatments, specially-themed afternoon tea; prices vary; Al Maryah Island;

Zero Latency

If you’re looking for something offbeat, why not grab friends for some virtual reality fun? Zero Latency VR, a global leader in free-roam multiplayer entertainment, opened in The Galleria Al Maryah Island earlier this year. Up to eight people can play with or against each other in completely immersive virtual worlds – no cables or wires whatsoever. There are a number of games that can be chosen including the zombie apocalypse favourite Undead Arena, and puzzle adventure game Engineerium.

Open daily; 10am-10pm; Dh150-Dh200 per person depending on the game; Level 3 at The Galleria Al Maryah Island;

Circuit X

Perfect for adventure lovers, this hub, which features four parks within, is celebrating the UAE’s 50th National Day with a special discount. The first 50 people who book online can use the code UAE50 to get a 50 per cent discount on their bookings to any park of their choice on December 2.

December 2; 50 per cent off for first 50 guests; Hudayriyat Marvista, Abu Dhabi; 026910302;

Emirates Palace

The facade of Emirates Palace will light up for UAE's golden jubilee. Photo: Emirates Palace

The luxury hotel will light up in celebration of National Day, with mesmerising illuminations on the hotel’s facade displayed from Sunday, November 28. There will also be a range of festivities under the Grand Dome including a spread of 50 varieties of dates; and an array of fun-filled children’s activities from Monday, November 29 until Friday, December 3.

Iraqi artist Majed Al Mohandis and Iraqi singer-songwriter Aseel Hameem will take to the stage on Wednesday, December 1.

Expect performances of the traditional Ayala Dance on Thursday, December 2 and a photo opportunity with the resident falcon on December 2 and 3. Those looking for a great vantage point to capture the National Day Air Show on December 2, can also indulge in the hotel's National Day picnic, which includes gourmet treats in the palace's lush gardens for Dh400 per person.

Sunday to Friday; November 28 to December 3; prices vary according to activities; Corniche Road Abu Dhabi; 02 690 9000

Jubail Mangrove Park

For those wanting to make the most of the cool weather and enjoy the natural beauty of Abu Dhabi, Jubail Mangrove Park is the place to be. Learn more about the tides, spot some birds and natural life around, and just bask in the beauty of the mangroves from all angles while strolling on the boardwalk. The tranquil venue also has a number of water sports available, such as stand up paddle boarding and kayaking.

Open daily; 7am-8pm; Dh10 for children, Dh15 for adults, general admission; Jubail Island;

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This article was originally published on November 15, 2021.

Updated: November 30, 2021, 10:23 AM