If you’re staying in the UAE throughout December to enjoy the winter sun, there’s lots of festive fun to be had for all the family – particularly the youngest members.
After previous years of cancellations, winter markets and festivals are back in 2021, with the chance to chill out without getting chilly at street parades and stage shows, art installations and winter gardens.
This year there’s plenty on offer to keep children entertained, including gingerbread house decorating, an immersive art show that whisks them off to the North Pole, plus plenty of chances to meet Santa Claus across the emirate.
If you’re missing the cold, head to perennial favourites, Ski Dubai and Dubai Ice Rink to get your chill on, while the Madinat Jumeirah Festive Market, returning after last year’s absence, is the perfect place for the whole family to really get into the spirit of things.
Here are 11 places to visit, activities, shows and parades to entertain children this Christmas …
Winter Garden, Habtoor Palace Dubai
Back by popular demand, the Winter Garden at Al Habtoor City is packed with fun and entertainment for children this festive season.
Open until March 31, 2022 families can stroll around admiring the lights and decorations, and children and adults alike will enjoy the street entertainment, including artists, choirs and acrobats.
Food and beverage stalls offer an array of festive delights such as gingerbread men and hot chocolate, while children can enjoy spotting Santa as he makes regular appearances for photos opportunities.
Habtoor Palace Dubai; 5pm-midnight; alhabtoorcity.com
Winter Wonderland, Ski Dubai
If you’re not jetting off somewhere cold, Ski Dubai is the next best thing.
When they’re not busy throwing snowballs, children will be in their element with plenty of entertainment on offer, including the snow park, movies screened at the snow cinema, and activities such as building a snowman and a ride on the chairlifts. Not to mention the chance to meet the big man himself before enjoying a hot drink in Santa’s Alpine village.
Mall of the Emirates; December 1-25; Sunday-Thursday 10am-midnight, Friday and Saturday 9am-midnight; from Dh125; skidxb.com
Gingerbread house workshop, Raffles Dubai
Guaranteed to hold their attention for far longer than an episode of Paw Patrol, enrolling the children in a gingerbread house making workshop will not only keep them entertained, but they also get to bring home a yummy treat for the family.
The pastry chefs at Raffles Dubai will be on hand to teach children how to construct their own little house, complete with icing and sweets decoration.
December 12-18; 3pm-5pm; Dh85 per child or free for one child when accompanied by an adult who is having afternoon tea (Dh180); www.raffles.com/dubai
Christmas magic, Expo 2020 Dubai
Not content with being the world’s greatest show, Expo 2020 is also putting on a series of festive events for families with children.
Head to the Lebanon Pavilion on Saturday to experience a magical event aimed for children hosted by Michel Khairallah. There will be arts and crafts, painting and balloon animal making, as well as live entertainment and plenty of magic tricks.
December 11; 4pm-10pm; event included in Expo 2020 entry price; www.expo2020dubai.com
Theatre of Digital Art, Souk Madinat Jumeirah
Already a must-visit for art lovers of all ages, this festive season, ToDA is bringing Christmas to life for children.
The acclaimed digital team has put together an immersive 15-minute Christmas-themed digital multimedia show this winter for anyone hoping to experience a white Christmas without the need for hats and scarves.
Children will find themselves inside a realistic winter scene complete with snow-covered forests, ice palaces and trees made of lollipops, while live actors are on-hand to create the ideal North Pole atmosphere.
Festive workshops will be held at weekends.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah; until January 20, 2022; 11am-1.30pm; Dh60 per adult, Dh50 per child or Dh100 for a combo ticket for one adult and one child; www.toda.ae
Festive Ripe Market, Academy Park
Family favourite weekend destination Ripe Market isn’t just for shopping, as there are plenty of things for children to enjoy too .
As well as the usual array of stalls and food and beverage outlets, children can pay a visit to Santa’s grotto, join in wreath-making workshops, as well as decorate gingerbread houses, all to the soundtrack of festive music.
Umm Suqeim; until December 25; Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday 10am-9pm; ripeme.com
Floating Toy Factory, Times Square Centre
If you’re stuck for ideas to entertain, head to Times Square Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road to let children try their hand at toy making.
Also meet Santa at his grotto, before getting the chance to sit in a real sleigh (reindeers not included).
At the Floating Toy Factory, children can meet Mrs Claus in the arts and crafts space and take home a toy made from recycled materials.
Until January 2, 2022; 10am-6pm; timessquarecenter.ae
Winter Camp in the Rainforest, The Green Planet Dubai
Open for children aged 5 to 10, the Winter Camp in the Rainforest at The Green Planet Dubai gives them the chance to spend their December holiday learning about nature and the planet with an array of themed daily activities.
Animal encounters with birds, bats, sloths and sugar gliders, nature-inspired arts and crafts, games and treasure hunts, plus explorations into the heart of the bio-dome are all part of the camp.
Children can take along a packed lunch or dine at The Green Planet Cafe. Lunch is Dh35 per day or Dh140 per week.
December 12-29; Sunday-Wednesday, 9am-2pm; Dh250 per day or Dh750 for a week; thegreenplanetdubai.com
Dubai Ice Rink, The Dubai Mall
If you’re missing the cold weather, get a chilly fix at the Dubai Ice Rink.
Head to the mall with your children and let them loose on the ice as they twirl beneath the snow created by the snow machines which regularly pump out falling flakes.
And don’t worry if your child is new to skating as there is an array of aids to choose from, including seals, snowmen and penguins, which they can hold onto as they find their ice-legs.
Open daily; Sunday-Wednesday 10am-10pm, Thursday-Friday 10am-midnight; tickets from Dh85; dubaiicerink.com
Madinat Jumeirah Festive Market
The family favourite market returns to the popular destination with plenty of activities and entertainment for children.
Wander around the stalls, with many toys on offer, before hopping aboard the North Pole train ride for a chugga-chugga choo-choo around the market.
A live band is on hand playing seasonal tunes, and previous years have featured a faux snowball arena as well as a traditional carousel. There’s also the chance to win an abra ride with Santa.
Madinat Jumeirah; December 16-30; Sunday-Wednesday 3pm till late, Thursday-Saturday 12pm till late; jumeirah.com
Snow arena, festive parade and stage show, La Mer
If you thought La Mer beachfront was only about the sand and sea, think again. This festive season, La Mer Central is being transformed into a snow arena for children aged 3 to 12 to enjoy.
Head along with the family and children can enjoy 20 minutes in the arena (from December 12-28) making snowballs and snow angels to their heart’s content.
There will also be a daily festive parade involving acrobats, dancers and jugglers, and a festive elf stage show (twice daily from December 19-28), with the streets of La Mer decked out in Christmas lights.
Jumeirah 1; December 12-28; children's snow arena 2pm-10pm, entry free with a minimum spend of Dh100 at any La Mer outlet; festive parade, Sunday–Thursday 5pm and 7pm, Friday–Saturday, 7pm and 9pm; festive stage show, Sunday–Thursday 5.30pm and 7.30pm, Friday–Saturday, 7.30pm and 9.30pm