It is half term from February 14, which means children are off school for a week. Keeping them busy is no mean feat, but here, we have rounded up 13 family-friendly actives in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, with something to delight every age group.
From overnight stays in Hatta to days out on Bluewaters Island Dubai, exploring the underwater delights at the new National Aquarium in Abu Dhabi and a visit to Al Batha Nature Reserve, there is plenty to keep the whole family busy.
Things to do with children in the UAE during the half-term holidays:
- Visit the National Aquarium in Abu Dhabi – for children aged 2-plus
- Ride the Jais Sledder, Ras Al Khaimah – for children aged 3-plus
- Catch the final weeks of Expo 2020 Dubai – for the whole family
- Explore the Ras Al-K9 initiative, Ras Al Khaimah – for the whole family
- Visit Al Batha Nature Reserve, Al Ail, Abu Dhabi – for children aged 5-plus
- A trip to the cinema, across the UAE – for children aged 4-plus
- Try the Visit Bear Grylls Explorers Camp, Ras Al Khaimah – for children aged 8-plus
- Go trampolining, across the UAE – for children aged 4-plus
- Madame Tussauds Dubai, Dubai – for children aged 3-plus
- Stay at Hatta Dome Park, Dubai – for the whole family
- Arcade, including Wavehouse or Brass Monkey, in Dubai – for children aged 7-plus
- Sky Views Dubai, Address Sky View – for children aged 4-plus
- Virtual reality at The Arena Games, DIFC, Dubai – for children aged 12-plus
Visit the National Aquarium in Abu Dhabi
The aquatic attraction, which opened in November, is the largest aquarium in the Middle East. It 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.
Daily, 10am-10pm; tickets from Dh105; Al Qana, Al Maqta, Abu Dhabi; 02 418 6666; thenationalaquarium.ae
Ride the Jais Sledder, Ras Al Khaimah
Be among the first to ride the Jais Sledder, Ras Al Khaimah’s new 1,840-metre toboggan run that winds down through the Hajar mountain range, offering riders panoramic views as they go. The new attraction will officially open on February 15.
The alpine coaster is capable of reaching speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour, although each rider will be securely strapped in and have access to a braking system, allowing them to control their own speed.
Tickets prices and information will be available soon at www.visitjebeljais.com
Catch the final weeks of Expo 2020 Dubai
Ages: suitable for the whole family
With only a few weeks to go before the world's fair comes to a close, Expo 2020 Dubai organisers are ramping up activities and shows, with special offers such as discounted Season Pass prices of Dh50 for those 18 years and above for the final 50 days. Children between the ages of 6 and 17 can enter free. In addition to the season pass offer, between February 14 and 18, Expo’s “bring a friend” promotion gives Season Pass or Season Pass Finale holders a free one-day ticket for a guest, which is valid until February 28.
As for things to do at the fair, there's almost an infinite number of daily activities, celebrity visits and concerts, with acts such as Coldplay and John Newman announced recently.
Expo 2020 Dubai is open daily from 9am-midnight Saturday to Thursday and 9am-2am on Fridays and Saturdays. Pavilions open daily from 10am-10pm.
Explore the Ras Al-K9 initiative
Ages: suitable for the whole family, differs by activity
Ras Al Khaimah is about to get more pet-friendly with the introduction of a new programme called Ras Al-K9. From wadi walks and mountain hikes to beachside excursions, desert adventures and overnight stays, there are now plenty of experiences that guests can enjoy with their canine companions in the emirate. The initiative runs across 25 hotels, restaurants, outdoor parks and beaches.
Visit Al Batha Nature Reserve
Visit Al Batha Nature Reserve, located near Hili Archaeological Park in Al Ain. This recently renovated eco-tourism project showcases the UAE’s flora and fauna and has ducks, birds, ghaf trees and a playground for youngsters. It is the perfect place to go for a picnic on the undulating golden dunes now that the weather is cooler and the best part is that it’s entirely free to enter.
Daily, 8am-11pm; free; Al Nabbagh, Al Ain
Take a trip to the cinema
The cinema is a fail-safe way to keep children busy (and relatively quiet) for at least 90 minutes.
In cinemas across the UAE, there are a number of G-rated films currently playing, including Encanto, My Sweet Monster and Sing 2. For older children, the PG13 category has Japanese animation Belle, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Marry Me and Unchartered to choose from.
Visit Bear Grylls Explorers Camp
Get out in the great outdoors and learn some vital survival skills while you’re at it. The Bear Grylls Explorers Camp offers visitors of all ages and abilities the chance to learn some of the British adventurer's top tips and techniques, via a selection of courses set on the Jebel Jais mountain.
The courses are run by experts trained at the Bear Grylls Survival Academy in the UK, and include half-day options, lasting three to four hours, as well as eight and 24-hour options. If you fancy staying the night in one of the camp’s overnight cabins, you can also try your hand at one of the 48-hour courses. On the Family Primal Survival Course, the minimum age is 8.
From Dh450 for adults and Dh325 for children; www.beargryllscamp.ae
When it comes to indoor family fun, trampolining is a fail-safe 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 Dubai 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.
Marvel at 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 waxworks museum, half term is an ideal time.
The space is divided into seven zones: 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. Children will be delighted as they get up-close to some of the most recognisable characters on the planet.
Adult tickets cost Dh135, Dh110 for children aged 3 to 11 and those under the age of 3 go free; www.madametussauds.com/dubai
Take a trip to Hatta Dome Park
Ages: suitable for the whole family
The park, which opened in April, features 15 dome-shaped luxury tents with panoramic views of the Hajar Mountains. The tents on-site are all identical in layout and offer the same views. They are 40 square metres and come with a full range of amenities, including a television, Wi-Fi and a mini fridge.
The rooms are designed to accommodate up to two adults and two children by offering a king-size bed, as well as two single sofa beds. Each dome tent also comes with its own barbecue and fire pit within a large terrace space.
Located a short walk from Hatta Wadi Hub, there are plenty of activities to try, including kayaking, mountain biking, trampoline jumping, zip-lining, wall-climbing, paragliding and more. There are also food and beverage options on-site, as well as a variety of food trucks.
Hatta Wadi Hub; www.visithatta.com
Check out an 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. 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, noon-11pm; Thursday and Friday, noon-12am; 04 426 2626; www.atlantis.com. Brass Monkey is open on Sunday, noon-1am; Monday to Thursday, 4pm until after midnight; Fridays and Saturday, noon-3am; 04 582 7277; www.brassmonkeysocial.com
Head to Sky Views Dubai, Address Sky View
The three-part attraction, which comprises an observatory, glass slide and edge-walk experience, will be a great adrenalin-filled activity for older children. The new attraction at Address Sky View hotel in Downtown Dubai opened in November.
The observatory transports visitors via a panoramic glass lift to level 52. From there, they walk up a spiral staircase to level 53 to take in impressive views of Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai and Sheikh Zayed Road. The hotel's twin towers are connected at level 53 via a 46-metre glass walkway providing a number of vantage points for photos.
The Sky Views Glass Slide propels visitors from level 53 to 52. It The slide is also transparent below and on the sides, offering 360-degree views.
Then there's the Sky Views Edge Walk experience. Strictly for the brave, visitors can stroll hands-free along the ledge of the 53rd floor. It also leads them outside the building, for a barrier-free view.
Visitors will be equipped with a safety harness and must complete a briefing before stepping out on the ridge, which is located 219.5 metres above the ground. Sky Views Dubai is best visited at sunset and is open to thrill seekers of all ages.
Daily, 10am-10pm; Dh65 for adults (Dh85 around sunset), Dh55 for children (Dh65 around sunset), Dh699 for the Sky Views Edge Walk experience; Address Sky Views Tower 1, Downtown Dubai; skyviewsdubai.com
Get lost in virtual reality at The Arena Games
This gaming attraction vows to take virtual reality to the next level. With 13 games, up to eight players can take part as a team, whether it's trying to survive a zombie attack or becoming assassin John Wick, a character made famous by Keanu Reeves on the big screen. There are also interactive versions of Fruit Ninja, the popular fruit-slicing mobile game, as well as Beat Saber, a virtual-reality rhythm game.
Players need to be at least 12 years old to participate. Rooms are 128 square metres, but the virtual space is larger. There will be in-game safety mechanisms in place to prevent players from walking into walls.
Open daily, noon-9pm; from Dh50; Gate Avenue, Zone D, ground level, the Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai; thearenagames.com