The hot and humid UAE summer need not dampen spirits, as there is plenty of entertainment to seek out in air-conditioned environs.
Whether you're taking time off to coincide with the school holiday or looking for something fun to do at the weekend, here is a list of indoor activities across the Emirates to choose from.
Try a VR escape room
Nakheel Mall on the Palm Jumeirah is home to the new Game Over Escape Rooms and Board Game Cafe, which spans 11,000 square feet and features 12 escape rooms and 11 "meta-escape rooms" where virtual reality headsets make the experience far more immersive.
The 1001 Nights Room, Alice in Wonderland Room, Orient Express Room and Money Heist Room are available to try your hands at.
The board game cafe also has more than 50-plus titles, for people who prefer traditional entertainment.
From Dh140 per person; mall hours are Sunday-Thursday 10am-10pm, Friday-Saturday 10am-midnight; Nakheel Mall, the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai; www.dubai.escapegameover.ae
Master class at SushiSamba
Take the signature sushi-making masterclass at SushiSamba on Sunday, August 28, from 1pm to 3.30pm. It's led by the brand's culinary director chef Moon and teaches participants about the history and artistry behind one of the world's most popular dishes. It takes place in the private dining room at the Dubai restaurant and has a maximum capacity of 10 students, who will work with professional equipment and fresh ingredients, as well as learn about the different kinds of sushi. You will prepare a classic sushi roll and two signature SushiSamba rolls.
Sunday, August 28, 1pm-3.30pm; Dh689 per person; SushiSamba, The St Regis Dubai, The Palm; 04 278 4888; www.sushisamba.com
Run indoors at Yas Mall
The Yas Mall Indoor Run returns to Abu Dhabi’s largest shopping centre this Saturday, inviting anyone aged 5 and upwards to take part. Take a loop on the ground floor with various courses ranging from 2.5 kilometres, 5km and 10km.
From Dh65; Saturday, August 13, from 7am; Yas Mall, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi; www.gulfmultisport.com
Back-to-school activities at the malls
The Dubai Mall, Dubai Hills Mall and Dubai Marina Mall are hosting back-to-school activations for the next few weeks. At The Dubai Mall, in the Star Atrium, find activities such as science-themed workshops and shows from 4pm to 10pm until Sunday, August 28.
In Dubai Hills Mall, there are more science-inspired activities, workshops and weekend shows, with raffle draws open to shoppers.
Over at Dubai Marina Mall’s Dome Atrium, there are workshops as well as magic tricks, soap making and a giant memory game for children to put their brains to the test.
Various times and locations
Rethink Summer at Dubai Design District
Dubai Design District is playing host to its Rethink Summer programme that’s full of activities for children and adults. There are a variety of workshops to try, including a non-spray graffiti session this Sunday, as well as another on sustainable robotics on the same day. On Saturdays, there are street dance classes for children and anyone can pass by the community colouring wall to express themselves in this public project. These all take place at the d3 Summer Hub.
Until August 26; various timings; Dubai Design District; www.dubaidesigndistrict.com
Visit the region's biggest cinema screen
It only opens on Wednesday, August 31, but Roxy Cinemas is launching its new venue at Dubai Hills Mall and with it will come the region's biggest screen.
Dubai Holding Entertainment announced the unveiling of a 28-metre by 15.1-metre screen — twice the width of a tennis court — the experience of which is called Roxy Xtreme.
There will be 382 reclining seats available to book across three tiers: Standard, Premium and Director's Boxes, which are suites with 12 seats, each above the auditorium to offer the best view and most privacy. Guests in the boxes will also have access to an on-demand waiter service, a footrest and headrest, as well as wireless charging, heating in the seats and a personal swivel table.
The schedule will include the latest Hollywood, Bollywood and Arabic-language films.
Tickets will be available to book nearer to the opening date at www.theroxycinemas.com or via the Roxy Cinemas app.
Dine at Abu Dhabi's newest Cipriani
Cipriani has expanded its pasticceria at its first Cipriani Dolci branch in the capital, at Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall. The 3,800-square-foot venue can seat 100 guests and boast nautical interiors, taking design cues from Harry's Bar in Venice. It offers a peek at the Gilded Age, serving classics from baked taglioni to seabass alla carlina and carpaccio. Leave room for the myriad Italian pastries, including cakes, tarts, bomboloni and cannoli.
Open daily 10am-10.30pm; Marina Mall, Corniche; 050 903 9722; www.ciprianidubai.com
Deep Dive Dubai
Boasting the deepest pool in the world, complete with a sunken city ready to be explored, Deep Dive Dubai turned one in July.
Try scuba diving indoors this summer, as Deep Dive Dubai’s experiences and courses are priced from Dh800.
Open daily, 9am-6pm; Nad Al Sheba, Dubai; 04 501 9444; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mohammed bin Rashid Library, Dubai
There's nothing like immersing yourself in the cool, calm depths of a library to enjoy some respite from the heat. The bookstand-shaped Mohammed bin Rashid Library, which opened in Dubai in June, spans seven floors and features nine thematic libraries.
It houses more than one million physical and digital titles spanning 30 languages, and the centre also boasts an indoor and outdoor amphitheatre, a literary museum, a conference centre, a two-storey cafe and a gift shop.
Open Monday to Saturday, 9am-9pm (Fridays 2pm-9pm); free entry; Al Jaddaf, Dubai; www.mbrl.ae
Indoor summer sports programme at Adnec, Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi Summer Sports is under way at the at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, making it easy for people to stay fit and keep cool as the weather heats up. The event champions fitness and sport, and is open every day until the end of August. Participants can get involved in tennis, basketball and football or try out a purpose-built, one-kilometre walking track that's free of charge for everyone to access.
The venue spans 27,000 square metres and has 25 indoor tracks and courts, all with air-conditioning. Organised by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the programme is designed to encourage people to stay healthy even during the hotter months of the year.
Open daily until August 31; 8am-1pm; free access to the venue and CrossFit and running track, various prices for court bookings; Capital Centre, Abu Dhabi, www.adsummersports.ae
Ice Bar, Dubai
With temperatures creeping close to 50°C, a summertime pop-up at the London Project on Bluewaters Island is set to keep things cool this summer. The Ice Bar is the first licensed venue of its kind in the GCC, set as it is inside a simulated ice castle.
Guests are provided with fluffy faux-fur coats, while the decor includes tables, chairs and oversized thrones carved from ice, icicle-themed lights, and ice-sculpture photo frames. The London Project's new raw menu pairs well with the spot, with cold dishes on offer including Hokkaido scallops, oysters and Scottish king salmon.
Open daily until August 31; noon-midnight; entry is Dh99, including a complimentary beverage; Bluewaters Island, Dubai; 054 306 1822; thelondonproject.com
Summer camp at The WB Abu Dhabi
The world’s first Warner Bros-themed hotel promises a packed schedule at its Kids’ Summer Camp, for children between the ages of 4 and 14. Activities include arts and crafts (think face and hand painting, rock painting, mask making and origami); sports (from dodgeball, sack races and scavenger hunts, to musical chairs, mini golf and mini bowling); plus team-building board games, bingo and charades. Lunch is included.
Open Monday to Friday until August 28; 10am-6pm; half-day packages start from Dh200 per day or Dh900 for one week; full-day passes are Dh275 per day and Dh1,200 per week; Hilton Honor members get 20 per cent off and siblings get 10 per cent; Yas Island, Abu Dhabi; 02 692 7887; email@example.com
Boxed In — Think In escape room, Abu Dhabi
The new escape room adventure Boxed In — Think In at Abu Dhabi Mall has more than 80 challenges and puzzles, contained within 12 boxes, for curious minds to solve. Teams will compete against one another to complete as many cubes as possible in an hour. Every box that gets unlocked earns a token, and the team with the most tokens at the end wins. Tasks will require concentration, problem-solving skills and logical thinking. There is room for 10 teams of two to five people.
Monday to Friday, 4pm to 10pm, Saturday, 10am to 11pm, Sunday, 3pm to 9pm; Dh125 per adult; Dh105 for children aged 8 and under; Abu Dhabi Mall; firstname.lastname@example.org; 058 819 9176
Bowling, dining and arcade games at Central Yas Bay, Abu Dhabi
Bright neon signs, walls with graffiti art and mismatched, bright, funky decor fill the inside of the new Central at Yas Bay Waterfront. The venue is spread over 1,320 square metres with three sections: dining, bowling and an arcade.
There is also indoor and outdoor seating, which overlooks Al Raha skyline with waterfront views. Walk-ins only for bowling or the arcade, although availability will be based on a first-come, first-served basis. Bookings are recommended for the restaurant.
Open Monday to Thursday, 4pm-midnight, Friday to Saturday, noon-3am; Yas Bay Waterfront, Yas Island; 02 235 8756; central-uae.com
Dubai Sports World
Dubai Sports World is back for its 12th year, running until September 21 at Dubai World Trade Centre, for its longest event yet. The near six-month run, which gives fitness enthusiasts access to a range of indoor activities, is now at full capacity after it had been limited during the pandemic.
Facilities include those for football, padel tennis, cricket, tennis, badminton and more, spread across 20,000 square metres in Za’abeel Halls 3 to 6 at Dubai World Trade Centre. There are 42 courts, including three five-a-side and three seven-a-side football pitches, as well as a wicket with nets for cricket fans.
From Dh20; daily, 8am-midnight; Dubai World Trade Centre; dubaisportsworld.ae
Dubai Summer Surprises
Festivities, fireworks and family fun. That’s what the team behind Dubai Summer Surprises is promising UAE residents and visitors for the annual event’s 25th anniversary this year. DSS will include sales at most malls across the emirate, plus DSS 2022 Summer Restaurant Week, Share Millionaire and daily raffles.
Children can participate in a variety of edutainment activities, hosted by DSS mascots Modesh and Dana, from July 1 to August 28 at an indoor pop-up at Dubai World Trade Centre. The duo will also put in appearances, shows and interactive activities at malls across the emirate.
July 1-September 4; various locations across Dubai; www.mydss.ae
Kids go free at Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
Children below the age of 12 can stay, eat and kart for free on Yas Island this summer, as well as get complimentary access to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Warner Bros World (both of which have indoor arenas), plus Yas Waterworld.
Paying adults need to book a package at one of the hotels on Yas Island — hospitality brands include the W, Hilton, Crowne Plaza, Rotana, Radisson and the child-friendly WB hotel — to avail themselves of the offer, with one child going free per adult.
Until Sunday, September 4; from Dh478 per adult; various venues across Yas Island; www.yasisland.com
Discounts at Motiongate, Dubai
With more than 70 per cent of its rides, restaurants, retail stores and waiting areas located indoors, the Motiongate theme park has launched its Coolest Summer package as well as extending its hours until the end of August.
The offer requires visitors choose the “Coolest Summer” ticket option online, which will get them a 10 per cent discount, complimentary cap and free ice cream.
Make a beeline for the DreamWorks zone, which is entirely air-conditioned, and features theatre shows, play zones, rides and roller coasters based on movies such as Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon.
Sunday to Thursday, noon-10pm; Fridays and Saturdays, noon-11pm; Dh295; 800 262 9464; Dubai Parks and Resorts, Sheikh Zayed Road; www.motiongatedubai.com
Museum of the Future, Dubai
You'd have to plan a few weeks ahead to visit Dubai's newest attraction as visitor slots are still selling out days in advance. But once you're in, you are free to stay for as long as you want for the day.
Expect to immerse yourself in a futuristic world where technology is used to represent art and where visitors are encouraged to imagine what the future could be like in topics such as outer space, nature and wellness.
One of the outer space-themed exhibitions is called New Moon and shows how the Moon could be transformed into a source of renewable energy for the entire planet. Visitors can also explore the space station and learn about the pioneers who live and work there, while a nature-themed exhibition shows a mixed reality recreation of the Amazon rainforest.
There's also a wellness-themed exhibition that takes visitors to a sanctuary that is away from digital life, where they are encouraged to reconnect with mind, body and spirit.
Open daily from 10am-6pm; Dh145 with free entry for children under the age of 3, people of determination and Emiratis aged 60 and older; Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai; museumofthefuture.ae
Indoor greens at My Golf Dubai
The UAE is full of golf enthusiasts who aren't quite diehard enough to hit the greens in the swing of summer. Thankfully, there are indoor options to take you through the season. Relatively new spot My Golf Dubai is a “luxury indoor golf and entertainment lounge” that allows punters to keep up their play with a simulator. Various packages are available for up to six players.
From Dh139 per hour; Sunday to Thursday, 10am-10pm, Friday and Saturday, 10am-midnight; Dragon Mart 2, Dubai; 058 160 1983; mygolfdubai.com
Air-conditioned Ripe Market, Dubai
Support home-grown vendors at Ripe Market, which offers fresh food, handmade jewellery and locally produced clothing, skincare products and art in air-conditioned environs this summer.
Head to the Golden Mile Galleria community mall on Saturdays or Circle Mall every other Sunday for a spot of shopping and plenty of family entertainment. If you’d like to participate in the market, contact email@example.com.
Saturday; 9am-7pm; buildings 7 to 10, Golden Mile Galleria, Palm Jumeirah; August 14 and 28, and September 11 and 25; Circle Mall, JVC
Summer offers at Saray Spa, Abu Dhabi
The spa at Marriott Al Forsan has launched two pocket-friendly summer offers for guests and visitors looking to unwind on hot days.
Fridays are ladies’ nights, when women can enjoy a two-for-one discount on all treatments, including facials, massages and (if you dare to try it in the heat) the hammam, and the offer is redeemable with a friend or individually. If you’re heading to the spa midweek, get 40 per cent off a treatment of your choice.
The spa uses products from the Dead Sea and Elemis, and has separate men and women’s lounges, a fully equipped gym, studio room and an Olympic-size lap pool (although the pool is outdoors).
Monday to Thursday, 10am-4pm; Fridays, 4pm-10pm; from Dh250; 02 201 4031; Marriott Hotel Al Forsan, Abu Dhabi, Khalifa City; firstname.lastname@example.org
Excavations at Sharjah Archaeology Museum
Get a hands-on experience of what it would have been like to be an archaeologist excavating the site of a village once inhabited by artists who built the tombs of the Egypt's pharaohs in the second millennium BC.
Organised by Sharjah Museums Authority and the Egyptian Museum in Turin, the Deir el-Medina: Village of the Pharaohs’ Artists exhibition will introduce visitors to the techniques used in archaeological excavations of the Italian Mission in Luxor in Egypt at the beginning of the 20th century. These excavations resulted in the discovery of a large village that was once inhabited by builders painters and sculptors who built the tombs.
Interactive activities include a replica of an excavation site where children can work with mock-up tools and learn about ancient Egyptian costumes as well as visit an ancient Egyptian writing corner which will teach them about the papyrus industry. The exhibition ends with a detailed presentation on the techniques used to preserve the artefacts, highlighting the restoration work done by the museum in Turin.
Open Saturday to Thursday 8am-8pm; Friday, 4pm-8pm; Dh5 for children up to 12 years and Dh10 for everyone else; until August 31, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saqr Al Qasimi street, Dasman; 06 566 5466
Summer exhibitions at Alserkal Avenue, Dubai
The home-grown arts and culture destination has a number of ongoing not-to-be-missed exhibitions that are running over the summer. Highlights include Eyes Wide Shut, a collective exhibition featuring 10 female artists from the UAE, Iran, Armenia, Ukraine, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Kuwait. Exploring a widerange of sociopolitical issues through several mediums, the artists belong to three different generations, and each shed light on various burning issues of their day. It's on view until August 12.
There's also a self-titled exhibition by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, known for his subversive works that span drawings, sculptures and installations. One of Delvoye's works, a towering metallic sculpture, was one of the star attractions at this year's Art Dubai. The exhibition is on until September 15.
Open daily, 10am-7pm; entry to the exhibitions is free; Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai; alserkal.online
Splatter Rooms, Abu Dhabi
Express yourself through art at new concept Spatter Rooms, which has just opened at Al Seef Village Mall in Abu Dhabi. No prior art experience is necessary as the activity invites guests to splatter, throw, mix and explore paints and materials to create unique works. There are different techniques to be tried including freestyle art, pendulum, spinning art and fluid art for one-of-a-kind creations. The activity is suitable for adults and children. All supplies including disposable clothing and canvases are included.
From Dh139 per person; The Walk at Al Seef Village Mall, email email@example.com or visit splatterrooms.com
Studio 14, Dubai
If you’re looking to replace your outdoor fitness regimen, consider booking a session at Studio 14, which opened in May and offers boxing sessions for adults and children, as well deep stretch and mindfulness sessions.
The eco-friendly fitness studio is done up in recycled woods and green walls, and has electricity-free machines, bamboo mats and sustainable products on sale, from recyclable bags to bottled water with plant-based and 100 per cent biodegradable packaging.
The Himalayan salt wall is another cool element. Not only can a salt wall improve the mood and cleanse the skin, but it also purifies the air and reduces allergies — a bonus when you’re working out alongside others indoors.
Open daily; 7am-9pm; from Dh140 per class; Umm Al Sheif; 04 252 8018; studio14.ae
Glow-in-the-dark padel at The Alley DXB, Dubai
Padel has taken the UAE by storm in recent years, with several new courts opening across the country in the past few months alone. Among these is the first and only glow-in-the-dark version. The Alley DXB bills itself as “Dubai's trendiest experience”.
It’s certainly novel, as it gives you a workout with a nightlife vibe. The day is split into two: until 4pm it's lights on, and post-4pm the pitch goes black, while the racquets, balls and court lines glow in orange, green, pink and red. You can bring your own racquet or rent one for Dh30.
Dh200 for one hour (four people or more) before 4pm, Dh250 after 4pm; 7am-1am; Umm Suqeim Road, Al Quoz; 050 600 0767; instagram.com/thealleydxb
Let's Walk at The Galleria Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
The mall has launched a new free fitness programme called Let’s Walk. The initiative will run year-round and rewards participants with discounts and offers from brands in the mall. The walks, which will be about three kilometres, will be led by a certified trainer on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8.30am in Central Kitchens on level three. Every month, there will be special challenges via STEPPI, an app that rewards fitness. The first challenge is for 5,000 steps a day and will begin on June 15. Participants who complete the daily task can win prizes from Huawei.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 8.30am; free; Al Maryah Island, www.thegalleria.ae; 02 493 7400
Overnight camping at The Green Planet, Dubai
Dubai's indoor rainforest, The Green Planet, has relaunched its overnight camping experience. Visitors are able to sleep among more than 3,000 animals and plants that call the biodome home.
Tents are pitched and activities planned, with games and experiences catering to families. Staff lead rainforest tours, so guests can learn more about the nocturnal animals living there, and movie screenings or story time also take place.
The experience includes dinner and breakfast at the Green Planet Cafe, and visitors also get the chance to feed the animals. Places need to be booked at least 24 hours in advance and spots are limited.
Until August 27; from 7pm; from Dh700 for two; City Walk, Al Wasl; www.thegreenplanetdubai.com
Hands-on experiences at The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi
Learn more about aquatic life at The National Aquarium in Al Qana, a new destination in the capital that stretches across 2.4 kilometres of waterfront. The attraction, which opened in 2021, is spread across 10 zones and is home to 46,000 creatures and 300 species.
It is the biggest aquarium in the Middle East and its wildlife is cared for by a team of 80 marine experts. For a more hands-on experience, animal encounters can be purchased. These include swimming and feeding freshwater rays, hanging out with Puffins and hand-feeding marine species.
Daily, 10am to 10pm; from Dh105; Al Qana; www.thenationalaquarium.ae
The Storm Coaster, Dubai
Many of the best roller coasters in the UAE are outdoors, so it’s worth heading to the recently opened Dubai Hills Mall to check out The Storm Coaster, which is said to be the fastest indoor one in the world.
The mall is also home to hundreds of shops and restaurants, as well as the biggest Geant hypermarket in the UAE and Adventure Park, an indoor play zone for children aged 3 and over. A Roxy Cinema is opening this summer, too.
From Dh65; Sunday to Thursday, 10am-10pm, Friday to Saturday, 10am-midnight; Dubai Hills Mall, Dubai Hills Estate; entertainment.emaar.com
Futuristic exhibition at Theatre of Digital Art, Dubai
The Souk Madinat Jumeirah attraction aims to welcome the future with its Digital Extravaganza exhibition, running daily until August 31. The show invites audiences to become travellers on a near-psychedelic journey through the senses, moving from planet Earth all the way to the metaverse in a “new media wonderland”.
Six international media artists have been commissioned for this exhibition, each sharing their vision of what the future could look like. There is an augmented reality element where users can fly off into space with VR, engage in philosophical dialogue with artificial intelligence and explore the endless possibilities of the metaverse.
Dh50 for children up to 12 years and Dh100 for everyone else; open daily, 11am-11pm, until August 31; Madinat Jumeirah; 04 277 4044
Thunder Road, Umm Al Quwain
Dubai is often spoken about as the country’s gastro hub, but the new Thunder Road restaurant is a hidden gem worth visiting if you’re driving north this summer. Run by Italians, the restaurant offers flavours that will transport you to the Mediterranean country, with dozens of home-made cheeses (the burrata is a must-have), mouth-watering pizza and beautiful views of the ocean from floor-to-ceiling windows.
Located at the Barracuda Beach Resort, the restaurant has a children’s playground (outdoors), pool table and grocery store within to pick up some authentic Italian goodies, making it well worth a day trip up the coast.
Monday to Friday, 11am-10pm; Saturday and Sunday, 9am-10pm; Barracuda Beach Resort, Al Shebeakah, Umm Al Quwain; 06 768 1175; thunder-road.ae/barracuda-branch
Viking restaurant, Ajman
While the UAE’s smallest emirate has plenty by way of outdoor activities, the summer does not have to render it a write-off. Not only does Ajman have some gorgeous hotels, it is also home to one of the quirkiest restaurants in the country.
Viking is designed to take customers back in time; think medieval-themed interiors, customised tableware and cutlery, including tankards and goblets, plus staff dressed in authentic attire. The food is named after popular Norse warriors and themes, and includes Ready for the Sea (a soup); Leif Erikson T-bone meal (a steak dish); and a King Ragnar-themed drinks menu.
Open daily except Tuesdays; 7pm-midnight; 06 744 4431; Shop No 4, Liwara 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Animal Welfare Centre, Ras Al Khaimah
During the summer, animal shelters experience an influx of pets as owners move back home or go abroad. Visit the centre, which is supported by the government of Ras Al Khaimah, to see the dogs and cats that are looking for their forever homes.
Currently, the shelter contains an air-conditioned dog building with 25 indoor and outdoor kennels as well as a cattery with 22 rooms. There's also a pet shop with supplies and an adoption room. Appointments must be made to view the pets for adoption.
Thursday to Tuesday, 9am-6pm; Landfill road, Al Jazeera; 056 357 6029; www.rakawc.com
A version of this article was first publish in July 2022