If you’re staying in the UAE throughout December to enjoy the winter sun, there’s lots of fun to be had for all the family – even for teenagers.
As more things begin to open in Abu Dhabi, there are more chances to discover something new. Whether it's a visit to the Middle East's biggest aquarium or simply a chance to attend the Mother of the Nation (MOTN) festival after a two-year absence, there's plenty to do. There are also some old favourites that are worth a visit as the temperatures drop.
Here are 11 places teenagers can visit to keep busy this holiday season…
Plan a visit to the biggest aquarium in the Middle East. The National Aquarium is the first project to open its doors at Al Qana, a new destination in the capital that stretches across 2.4 kilometres of waterfront. The aquatic attraction, which was launched in November, is spread across 10 zones and is home to 46,000 creatures and 300 species. The wildlife is cared for by a team of 80 marine experts. In addition to the zones, there's also the chance to enjoy a more interactive experience that includes animal feedings.
Ticket start from Dh105; thenationalaquarium.ae
Zero Latency VR
A free-roam multiplayer virtual reality entertainment space, Zero Latency VR opened its first UAE branch in August at The Galleria Al Maryah Island. Up to eight people (aged 13 or older) can play with or against each other in a variety of immersive virtual worlds. The library includes more than half a dozen games such as Zombie Survival, Undead Arena and Far Cry VR.
Ticket start from Dh150; zerolatencyvr.com
The popular family-friendly event returns to the Abu Dhabi corniche after a two-year hiatus owing to the pandemic. The event will be divided into six sections, with sub-themes reflected in structures, activities and installations. This includes the Inspire Space, which will house a Dessert Museum, MOTN Funhouse and an area dedicated to cosplayers. There’s also the Thrill Zone which has a skate and parkour park, VR gaming hub and Rick and Morty-themed laser tag. There will also be live entertainment and a food hub.
Until December 18; 4pm to midnight Sunday to Wednesday, 2pm to midnight Thursday to Saturday; tickets start from Dh25 online and Dh30 at the door; motn.ae
Fina World Swimming Championship
See some of the most elite swimmers in the world at Etihad Arena on Yas Island as they descend on the capital for the Fina World Swimming Championship. A host of Olympic medallists have been confirmed including six-time Olympic medallist and world champion Kyle Chalmers from Australia, Tokyo 2020 double gold medallist Tom Dean from Britain; world champion Daiya Seto from Japan; South Africa’s Matthew Sates, overall winner of the Swimming World Cup 2021; and Olympic breakout star Lydia Jacoby from the USA.
December 16 to 21; tickets start from Dh10 for heats and Dh25 for finals; etihadarena.ae
The leisure and entertainment district has myriad things to do including a bike park that offers different trails and Circuit X, an outdoor adventure hub, home to a BMX, Splash, High Ropes and Skate Park. There’s also cycling and joggling tracks as well as OCR Park, the largest permanent obstacle course site in the UAE. It has an adult and children’s course. But that's not all, there are also plenty of dining options that include a 24-hour cupcake ATM and Chips Oman ice cream.
Sheikha Fatima Park
Visit the newly opened Sheikha Fatima Park in Khalidiya. The 46,000-square-metre family-friendly space comes with cafes, a dog park, a basketball court, a skatepark and splash pad zone. Boutique cycling studio Crank is also located next to the park. Some of the cafes and restaurants on offer include Sola Cafe, Seven Dawgs, Le Patchouli Cafe, Acai Ko Cafe, Starbucks, Teela House, Chocolate Republic, Coal Steakhouse, Social Restaurant and Crunch and Munch.
Kayaking in the mangroves
As the temperature drops, it’s an ideal time to get in touch with nature. Head over to the Eastern Mangroves and enjoy lunch at one of the outlets on the boardwalk before renting a kayak and exploring the mangroves with or without a guide. For the more adventurous, stand-up paddle boarding is also available. Make sure you don’t forget the sunscreen.
Dh168 for stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking; sea-hawk.ae
Jubilee Cultural Pass
In celebration of the UAE’s 50th birthday, the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi has launched the Jubilee Cultural Pass, granting free or discounted access to a number of cultural sites and museums across the emirate. Each pass is valid for the holder as well as one adult. Those under 18 will be granted free entry.
The pass grants access to more than 13 cultural sites across Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, including Louvre Abu Dhabi, Bait Mohammed bin Khalifa, Qasr Al Hosn and the House of Artisans. The Jubilee Cultural Pass will also offer discounts at restaurants and cafes at cultural sites, including Larte Restaurant at Manarat Al Saadiyat and Barzet Yadoh Restaurant at Al Ain Oasis.
Sheikh Zayed Festival
Learn more about the history of the UAE by taking a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Festival which takes place in Al Wathba. The event celebrates the UAE’s cultural history, and showcases the diversity of its traditions while educating visitors about the legacy of the nation’s founder and the country’s arts, crafts, customs and food. Resembling a fort, the site will host international cultural pavilions, eclectic music performances and amusement park rides.
Until April 1; Dh5 for entry; zayedfestival.ae
Jubail Mangrove Park
Put on comfortable trainers and take a stroll through the park. The one million-square-metre area features a winding boardwalk that allows for views of the mangroves spread out on all sides. The longest route is two kilometres, the mid-range option is 1.6km and the shortest route is one kilometre.
Along the way, spot local bird, fish and crustacean species. The walkway also has six educational nodes, or areas, including a floating platform with a see-through net to catch a glimpse of the marine life underfoot, a viewing tower, and a salt collector installation that emphasises the changing tides.
Open daily, 7am to 9pm; Dh15 for adults, Dh10 for those aged 18 and below; park.jubailisland.ae
If you’re looking to expend some energy, head over to Bounce in Marina Mall. In addition to a free-jump area, there’s also three new slacklines as well as a zip-line that reaches speeds of more than 30kmph and a speed slide that spans 40 metres in length. Get enough friends together and you can also book a game of Dodgeball.
Tickets start from Dh85; Saturday to Wednesday 10am-10pm, Thursday and Friday 10am to midnight; bounce.ae