27 Fun Activities to Do in Dubai and Abu Dhabi
The UAE is one of the most prosperous nations in the world, and a holiday to any one of its seven emirates warrants awe and wonder. The splendid architecture, jaw-dropping malls, and attractions deeply ingrained in the Arab culture are enough to leave you spellbound for your entire holiday. Of the seven ‘pillars’ or emirates of the UAE, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are two of the most visited. However, their appeal and personalities are totally different. Having said that, experiencing both is a must, especially since they are located only about an hour and a half away from each other, and you can easily make day trips to both locations depending on where you choose to stay. To experience the best of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, we’ve put together an extensive list of interesting activities to engage in, while on holiday in the UAE.
1. Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Admittedly the most popular sights in Dubai, if not the whole of the UAE, the Burj Khalifa currently holds the title of the world’s tallest building. A sight to behold as it rises skyward, , the tower has 160 floors with two observation decks offering unparalleled views of the Persian Gulf. You can take the elevator up to either one of the public decks, or the restaurant on the 122nd floor. An architectural marvel, the tower is brilliantly lit up at night and makes for amazing pictures, if you can manage to capture all of it within one frame!
Where: Downtown Dubai
2. Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
Laid out in the clear blue waters of Dubai and shaped like a palm are Dubai’s artificial islands of Palm Jumeirah. high-end hotels, restaurants, and residences dot the area of this vast island , which is connected to the mainland via a modern tram system. The island is often best viewed during skydiving, or on a boat tour around it.
3. Dubai Aquarium, Dubai
Housed within the upscale Dubai mall is a splendid attraction – the Dubai Aquarium. One of largest of its kind, this aquarium has hundreds of species of fish, sharks and stingrays contained in an underwater living environments and The design replicates an ocean bed and has some truly unique creatures that are well preserved in an aquatic setting.
Where: Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai
4. Dubai Fountain, Dubai
At the base of the Burj Khalifa, within the Dubai Mall, is the spectacular Dubai Fountain with its dancing spurts of water, dazzling lights and melodious music. This attraction keeps visitors enthralled every evening in an outdoor setting for almost half an hour and is regarded as the tallest performing fountain in the world. To get a close-up view, you can hop on a boat that puts you in the eye of the spectacle, or stroll along the newly added boardwalk .
Where: Dubai Mall
5. River Cruise, Dubai and Abu Dhabi
As you bob along the Dubai or Abu Dhabi river on a beautifully lit up cruise ship, you can set your sights on some of the city’s architectural landmarks and historic structures. The Dinner or Dhow Cruise as it’s locally referred to, is a relaxing 3-hour night time ride that weaves in and out of the city. You will have access to a lavish buffet dinner, along with live music and a great ambiance .
Where: Dubai Marina, Dubai Creek, Abu Dhabi Marina
6. Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai
One of the UAE’S most iconic landmarks, the Jumeirah Mosque looks straight out of a tale from the Arabian Nights. Think elegantly carved domes, slender minarets, royal arches and glistening white stone, which when lit up at night, seem to come alive. The building is simple and delicately designed, without overpowering its surroundings, especially the Dubai skyline in the distance. Culture lovers and history buffs find this attraction extremely interesting, as it offers a good understanding of the Islamic culture and local traditions.
Where: Jumeirah Beach Road
7. Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi
Bathed in historical glory is another cultural spot, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Every year, thousands of tourists throng this place of worship to witness its awe-inspiring architecture and pure white structure. The mosque is one of the few that welcomes non-Muslims to view its interiors, from its intricately carved pillars to its rich carpets, and its opulent chandeliers to its grand prayer hall.
Where: Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street
8. Louvre, Abu Dhabi
The newest addition to Abu Dhabi’s modern landscape, the Louvre has been garnering attention from across the globe for its brilliant architecture and unparalleled collection of artworks. Merely a year old, the museum is a sight to behold, not just for its structure but also the array of exhibitions held inside. The works of art are truly exquisite and whether you’re an art lover or not, you’ll find yourself enthralled by the display.
Where: Saadiyat Island
9. Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai
Watch the history of Dubai unfold before you as you step into the ancient halls of the Dubai Museum housed within the Al Fahidi Fort. One of the oldest buildings in the city, the fort represents a time of evolution, and the exhibits take visitors through old and new Dubai. You can draw out stories for Dubai’s rich oil deposits, souks, mosques, and date farms as well as the symbols of modern Dubai. A must-visit for history lovers.
Where: Al Fahidi area, Bur Dubai
10. The Corniche, Abu Dhabi
An 8km stretch with restaurants, cycling paths, walkways, play areas, fountains, parks and Corniche Beach, this public promenade is set against the stunning backdrop of the Abu Dhabi skyline. The area is buzzing during the day and night, but you can easily grab a bench facing the city and revel in the view as evening descends and the skyscrapers light up.
Where: Corniche Road
11. Al Jahili Fort, Abu Dhabi
A historic building that is now a tourist attraction as well as a concert and exhibition hall, the Al Jahili Fort has been constructed from traditional Arabic mud bricks. Countering its earthen appearance is a lush park that surrounds the grounds. The fort, one of the largest in the UAE, is situated quite close to the Palace Museum, which is also quite a popular historic spot.
Where: Al Ain
12. Desert Safari, Dubai and Abu Dhabi
A trip to the desert land is incomplete without a safari through the never-ending stretches of sand . This thrilling ride takes you over mounds of soft sand dunes with the horizon in the distance. A brilliant activity to do in the day or night, the ride usually culminates with a lavish Arabic dinner and belly dance performances within a desert setup.
Where: Dubai and Abu Dhabi desert. Tours can be booked with any agent within the city.
13. Skydiving, Dubai
Skydiving in Dubai has become extremely popular over the last decade, owing to the spellbinding views of Palm Jumeirah as well as the vast stretches of desert. This thrilling activity is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a free fall through the sky, as you float in the air with the city laid out beneath you.
Where: Skydive Dubai at the Palm or the Desert Campus
14. Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi
Roller coasters that whiz past you, street performance shows, 4D experiences, high-end automobile displays and Ferrari-inspired souvenirs – this adventure park is an automobile lover’s dream. Whether you’re a car aficionado or not, this amusement park will top your thrill list for its humongous red structure and fantastic rides. It is also home to Formula Rossa, the fastest roller coaster in the world.
Where: Yas Island
15. Ski Dubai, Dubai
In complete contrast to its desert land, Ski Dubai is an indoor ski amusement park that puts visitors in sub-zero temperatures to experience the thrill of snow slides, skiing, ski lifts, themed restaurants, and even penguin encounters. The attraction is great for families and friends looking to have some fun together, in complete snow gear whilst playing a competitive game of snowball-throwing.
Where: Mall of the Emirates
16. Wild Wadi Waterpark, Dubai
The unbeatable backdrop of the Burj Al Arab is what makes the Wild Wadi Waterpark one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UAE. The first large-scale water park to crop up in the Emirates, it has some exciting wave and surf pools, water rides and tall drop slides for all ages. You can easily spend a whole day here with family and friends.
Where: Jumeirah Road
17. Yas Waterworld, Abu Dhabi
Situated quite close to Ferrari World on Yas Island, this water park is unlike any other adventure attraction in the world. Besides the standard water rides, it is also home to roller coasters and a one-of-a-kind water cinema. The level of thrill oscillates between easy and extreme, and you can take your pick from about 45 varied water rides.
Where: Yas Island
18. Jumeirah Beach: Dubai
A long sandy stretch that appears to radiate from the Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach is a public beach and one of the most popular in the city. Locals as well as visitors enjoy the sun, sand, and sea in their free time, and the low tide is great for children to swim as well. It’s best to get there early and grab a spot before it gets crowded, but you’ll have to be careful on sunny days since there aren’t many shaded areas.
Where: Jumeirah Road
19. Kite Beach, Dubai
This beach is often buzzing with activity and is considered a hub for water and beach sports. You can try your hand at everything from kite surfing to parasailing, join a game of beach volleyball, or simply soak up the sun on a beach lounger. Once you’ve had your fill of the sea and sand, satiate those hunger pangs at a shoreline café while watching frothy waves crash onto the beach.
Where: Off Jumeirah Beach Road
20. Saadiyat Beach, Abu Dhabi
Situated on the pristine Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, this beach has shimmering golden sands and azure waters guaranteed to put you in the holiday mood. The shoreline looks practically untouched, and since it’s located a little far away from central Abu Dhabi, the crowds are usually less. You can indulge in dolphin and turtle watching at a wildlife conservation centre nearby, or dance the night away at the Saadiyat Beach Club.
Where: Saadiyat Island
21. Yas Beach, Abu Dhabi
The fabulous stretch of Yas Beach is one of the trendiest in the city, with the who’s who of Abu Dhabi making their way there every so often. Residents of Yas Island’s hotels and residential quarters have free access to the beach, while outsiders can spend a few hours here at a nominal fee. You can get yourself a lounger and sun-bathe , or have an energizing workout in the outdoor gym.
Where: Yas Island
22. Dubai Mall, Dubai
Shopping, food, entertainment, and sightseeing – the Dubai Mall envelops some of the best holiday experiences within one gigantic space. It’s quite impossible to cover the entire mall in one go, with its 1000+ retail brands, including some of the best clothing and accessories that money can buy, but you can definitely try! You’ll spot the trendiest fashions as well as some of Dubai’s top brass strolling along its corridors, as you put your shopping skills to the test in the second largest mall in the world.
Where: Financial Centre Road
23. Mall of the Emirates, Dubai
Closely following the Dubai Mall in terms of splendor and attractions, Mall of the Emirates offers everything from a cinema complex to high-end boutiques. Locals flit in an out of the lines of stores, expansive dining options and entertainment arenas like Ski Dubai and Magic Planet flanking its richly designed corridors. The lavish mall is worth a visit to see the true lifestyle wealth of the UAE.
Where: Sheikh Zayed Road
24. Souks, Dubai and Abu Dhabi
Perfectly balancing out the modernity of the UAE are the traditional Arabic souks or markets, replete with heady spices, delectable sweetmeats, and glinting gold jewelry . The souks offer a shopping experience of a different kind, with an elaborate mix of Dubai’s culture and history. Gold and spice souks are the most popular, but smaller textile, carpet and perfume souks also garner a lot of interest among tourists.
Where: Gold Souk and Spice Souk in Deira Dubai, Abu Dhabi Gold Souk and Abu Dhabi Central Market
25. Burj Al Arab, Dubai
No mention of Dubai is complete without the Burj Al Arab. A boat sail-like structure perched in the middle of the water around Jumeirah Beach, the hotel holds numerous accolades – one of the tallest in the world, built entirely on an artificial island, a signature honeycomb pattern and a humongous atrium. The structure has become a city landmark, while the inside boasts new standards of luxury that include exquisite rooms, a helipad and an underwater aquarium restaurant.
Where: Jumeirah Street
26. Atlantis the Palm, Dubai
Get your dose of VIP treatment at Atlantis the Palm, a luxury hospitality property touted as one of the best in the world. A night here will set you back a few thousand AED, but the experience is worth it. The underwater-themed resort is replete with lavish rooms, the Aquaventure Waterpark, and multiple other amenities. You can catch sight of the hotel from the surrounding beach area, which is great for walking around the property against a backdrop of the horizon.
Where: Palm Jumeirah
27. Emirates Palace Hotel: Abu Dhabi
Luxury takes on a whole new meaning at the Emirates Palace Hotel, an award-winning property that gives visitors a peek into traditional Arabian hospitality and architecture. The hotel has magnificent domes, mosaic tile motifs, glinting marble and gold leaf finishing – which only adds to its luxurious facilities and rooms. It has a private beach stretch along with a multitude of pools, eateries and bars, and recreation centres.
Where: West Corniche Road
No matter what you choose to do on your holiday, you can explore the best of Dubai and Abu Dhabi with its world-class infrastructure and transportation facilities. The cities have been welcoming tourists for years now, with delicious food, shopping, luxurious hospitality, and modern-day architecture and technological wonders. Whether you choose to visit both cities or only one, you’ll definitely find something of interest.