Activities when it rains: 13 things to do in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Emirates

From theme parks to crafting, with a dose of culture thrown in, here's how to stay entertained when it's pouring in the Emirates

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After a long, dry summer, areas of the UAE have been hit with rain this week, with more wet weather forecast.

And whether you live in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or the Northern Emirates, there is plenty to keep you entertained, whatever the weather.

1. Go to a theme park

The Joker Funhouse at Gotham city in Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi. Reem Mohammed / The National

Around the world, theme parks tend to be an outdoors affair, with excursions called off when the clouds come rolling in. The same is not true of the UAE. Warner Bros World in Abu Dhabi and IMG Worlds of Adventure in Dubai are both expansive indoor theme parks, with rides and entertainment to thrill every member of the family.

Tickets for Warner Bros World start at Dh230 for children and Dh295 for adults at www.wbworldabudhabi.com. IMG Worlds of Adventure has a general park admission for Dh335 at www.imgworlds.com

2. Visit Green Planet or an aquarium

Like theme parks, internationally, zoos are al fresco spots, but in the UAE you can head to indoor tropical rainforest Green Planet as well as aquariums.

The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi opened last November, and hammerhead sharks, great barracudas and puffins are only some of the animals on view there. The attraction was the first to open in Al Qana, a new waterfront destination in the UAE capital, and is home to more than 46,000 creatures and 330 species. Spanning across 9,000 square metres, it is the largest aquarium in the Middle East.

In Dubai, you can find aquariums at Atlantis, The Palm and Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo at The Dubai Mall.

Above ground, there is Green Planet at City Walk Dubai. The indoor vertical rainforest is home to more than 3,000 flora and fauna, and recently welcomed a bearcat and cotton-top tamarin twins into its furry family.

3. Challenge yourself at an escape room

Set up within a cavernous edifice, the game is divided among 21 rooms, all designed to emulate the nooks and crannies of a concealed cave. Photo: Tepfactor 

Hit up an escape room for the day, and there are plenty around the UAE. In Abu Dhabi try Sharda at Dalma Mall. Sharda (an Emirati word for escape) offers challenges that will have you kidnapped, washed up on a desert island and more. You have 60 minutes to try and crack the code.

In Dubai, head to TEPfactor in Jumeirah Beach Residence, which offers a variety of different physical and mental challenges. Thrill seekers should go to Phobia, which has two locations in Dubai's Jumeirah Lakes Towers. The Dark Room, in the Red Diamond Building, is said to be a particularly terrifying experience.

Sharda is open daily, Saturday to Wednesday, 10am-10pm; Thursday and Friday, 10am-midnight; from Dh90 per person; www.sharda.ae. TEPfactor is open daily, Monday to Wednesday, noon-10pm; Friday to Sunday, noon to midnight; from Dh79 for children and Dh99 for adults; www.tepfactor.ae. Phobia outlets are open daily from 11am-midnight; from Dh115; www.phobia.ae

4. Head to a museum

The UAE certainly isn't short of museums. Louvre Abu Dhabi has some of the world's most valuable pieces of art on display; House of Cinema Museum in Barsha Heights displays a private collection of photography artefacts; Emirates National Auto Museum in Al Dhafra, Abu Dhabi, is a must-visit for car buffs; the interactive Sharjah Science Museum is a great place to brush up on all things scientific; and the Sharjah Art Foundation is a great space to check out guest exhibitions. The Sharjah Art Foundation is also home to the Rain Room – a place to escape the rain, in the rain, but without getting wet.

5. Visit Madame Tussauds Dubai

Madame Tussauds Dubai opened on Bluewaters Island in October last year, and if you still haven't had a chance to visit the waxwork museum, a rainy day is the perfect chance.

The museum is divided into seven zones in total: leaders; fashion; film; media; Bollywood; sports and music. In the fashion section you can walk a runway with Vogue's Anna Wintour judging your look, take a picture with Victoria Beckham or perch by a pearl swing next to Kylie Jenner. As you wander around the indoor attraction, you'll see the likeness of Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan, Lady Gaga and Maya Diab.

Adult tickets cost Dh135, Dh110 for children aged 3 to 11 and those under the age of 3 go free; www.madametussauds.com/dubai

6. Treat yourself to a spa day

The Away Spa Beauty Bar at W Dubai - The Palm. Photo: Marriott International Hotels

Whether you go all out and check in for a full-day package, or just treat yourself to the odd massage, there is no better reason to lock yourself away for some R&R than a rainy day.

In Dubai, The Ritz-Carlton Spa, DIFC is offering holistic energy healing therapy sessions daily from 6.30pm. The 60-minute sessions include private guided meditation, reiki energy healing and Tibetan sound healing sessions.

At W Dubai – The Palm's Away Spa, treat yourself to a spa day-cation which includes a 60-minute massage, a one-course meal at the Away Spa Beauty Bar and access to the beach (if it's dry enough to enjoy), Wet pool, the indoor gym and squash courts. The spa day-cation costs Dh599 and is available daily, excluding Saturdays.

The Ritz-Carlton Spa; daily from 6.30pm; Dh540 per person; 04 372 2222. Away Spa, W Dubai –The Palm; Sunday to Friday, 10am-10pm; Dh599 per person; 04 245 5555

7. Head to the arcade

Make your way to an entertainment hub such as Atlantis, The Palm’s Wavehouse Dubai or Brass Monkey on Bluewaters Island.

Family-friendly venue Wavehouse has a bowling alley and plenty of arcade games, including virtual reality simulators, as well as a dining area with a bar and a wave machine, although you may want to give the latter a miss when the skies are grey.

Over at Brass Monkey you’ll find a bowling alley, VR racing simulators, plenty of retro arcade games, pool and snooker and two dining venues.

Wavehouse is open Saturday to Wednesday, 12pm-11pm; Thursday and Friday, 12pm-12am; 04 426 2626; www.atlantis.com. Brass Monkey is open on Sunday, noon-1am; Monday to Thursday, 4pm to past midnight; Fridays and Saturday, noon-3am; 04 582 7277; www.brassmonkeysocial.com

8. Go to a trampoline park

When it comes to indoor family fun, trampolining is a failsafe option. There are Bounce and Air Maniax venues across the UAE, where children and adults can all jump to their hearts’ content.

The newly opened Tr88house on Bluewaters Island offers trampolining, and much more. At the family-friendly space, children, teenagers and adults can also enjoy laser tag in a bioluminescent jungle, a soft-play area with 12-metre-high treetops and mini-golf.

9. Catch the Metro

Dubai Metro over Sheikh Zayed Road. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Stay with us! Take advantage of the spaces built for summer, with long covered walkways, like the Metro Link from Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall station to The Dubai Mall. So you will get your steps up and feel like you're out and about, with zero need for a rain coat. Then you can spend your day browsing the mall, if you're so inclined.

10. Smash things up

For an indoor workout with a twist, hit up The Smash Room in Dubai's Al Quoz. Whether you're flying solo or go in a group, it's a space where you can pick your weapon, don some protective gear and take all your frustration out on donated objects, just waiting to be smashed up. Alternatively, you can bring your own items to smash up, which could also prove to be pretty therapeutic. It's a totally indoor activity, that is guaranteed to get your heart rate up.

From Dh75 for 30 minutes, www.thesmashroom.ae

11. Head to the cinema

OK, so this one is a bit of a given, but there are so many good movies on at the moment, wouldn't you relish the chance to watch two or three movies back to back?

Movies out now include Black Panther : Wakanda Forever, Drishyam 2, The Menu, Bhediya and Black Adam. Select cinemas around the UAE, including Vox Cinemas and Reel Cinemas, are screening all World Cup matches live on beIN Sports.

12. Try a new craft

Children and adults alike can keep busy with some arts and crafts. Try a workshop at Abu Dhabi Art Hub; the centre offers sessions on drawing painting, calligraphy, jewellery making and more. For anyone who wants to get their hands dirty, make your way to Yadawei Ceramic Studio in Al Quoz. There you can learn sculpture, how to throw on a pottery wheel or hand-build pieces, and group or private sessions are available. If pre-made ceramics are more your bag, head to Cafe Ceramique, where both children and adults can paint their own pieces, which will then be glazed for them to keep forever.

Abu Dhabi Art Hub, Level 1, The Mall World Trade Center; sessions daily; www.adah.ae. Yadawei Ceramic Studio, Warehouse 30, 8A Street, Al Quoz 1; 04 379 1312; open daily; www.yadawei.net. Cafe Ceramique, floor B1, Golden Mile Building 4, Palm Jumeirah; 04 583 3834; @cafe.ce on Instagram

13. Stay at home and watch TV or Netflix

Get on the sofa and don't move; an ideal rainy day activity. Netflix shows and films out this month include Enola Holmes 2, season five of The Crown and Wednesday.

season two of The Witcher, season two of Emily in Paris, Don't Look Up, Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer and season six of Queer Eye.

This story was originally published on January 4, 2022

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