Our local staffer shares some musts in her adopted city, Dubai.
The Gold City has so much to see and do, that it’s difficult to fit it into a few days if you’re stopping over…but you can try. If you’re staying for a proper vacation, then even better.. We spoke with Michela Dioguardi, our Dubai-based Middle East account manager, and here are 33 things she suggests travelers see and do in the vibrant emirate.
1. You’d be remiss if you saw the world’s tallest skyscraper from the outside only. Admire the view of Dubai and beyond from the top of the Burj Khalifa.
2. The world’s largest shopping mall, the Dubai Mall is worth hitting up whether or not you’re planning to shop. The mall is also home to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, which holds 10 million liters of water
3. Time your visit to the mall so that you can experience the Dubai Fountain show. The water jets shimmy to an array of tunes ranging from Andrea Bocelli to Lady Gaga nightly, starting at 6pm, every 30 minutes until 11pm (plus two day-time performances). For an up-close and personal glimpse, watch the spectacle from a boat.
5. The Dubai Desert is a destination in and of itself. Head to this sandy golden expanse for a desert safari. Go dune bashing, savor dinner and more…perhaps even stay overnight!
6. Only in Dubai could you hit the slopes in the middle of the desert. Located in the Mall of the Emirates, Ski Dubai boasts five ski trails, one of which is the world’s first indoor black diamond run.
7. With its prime seaside location on the Arabian Gulf, it should come as no surprise that Dubai’s coastline is studded with resplendent beaches, which include JBR, La Mer and Kite Beach, among others.
8. Take an abra ride along Dubai Creek. These traditional motorized boats are a lovely way to see the creek and its surroundings, and the fare is just 1 AED.
9. The Dubai Marina is quite easy on the eyes. This upscale residential neighborhood stretches from Madinat Jumeirah all the way to the Jebel Ali Port and Industrial Area. See it both by day and by night — the latter preferably during a dinner cruise.
10. A visit to Dubai would not be complete without browsing the souks, traditional Arab bazaars. From the aromatic spice souk to the blinged-out gold souk to the contemporary set-up at the Madinat Jumeirah, there are plenty of places to get your souk on.
11. An emblem of Dubai are the palm-tree-shaped Palm islands. Take a ride to the tip of the island to see the Pointe. Facing the unmistakeable Atlantis resort, the Pointe, though still in development, will be an incredible destination with a 3/4 mile promenade, shops, restaurants and a dancing fountain of its own.
12. The Dubai Opera house is a mammoth performing arts venue in Downtown Dubai that is shaped like a dhow, a traditional boat. If you can’t make it to a live performance, book tickets for a tour.
13. The Burj al Arab is the unmistakeable sail-shaped structure jutting out of the sea. It’s home to the world’s only seven-star hotel, but you don’t have to be a guest goo inside. Book lunch, dinner, drinks or splurge on a lavish afternoon tea spread.
14. The various ethnicities of Dubai’s inhabitants make for a fascinating culinary hodgepodge. Sample the emirate’s myriad flavors during a food tour.
15. Whether you have the kids in tow or you want to just feel like a kid again, Dubai Parks and Resorts is a 16-million-square-foot theme park paradise: the Hollywood-themed Motiongate, Bollywood Parks, Legoland and Legoland Water Park.
16. For an unforgettable evening, La Perle by Dragone is a magical extravaganza complete with acrobat, aquatic and aerial stunts. Pure magic!
17. For jaw-dropping flora, head to the Miracle Gardens to see dreamy ethereal landscaping — don’t forget to stop in the Butterfly Park, home to 15,000 butterflies of around 26 different species. The Garden Glow, an exciting spectacle of illumination and imagination, is also a must.
18. For one of the world’s most atypical dining experiences, book at the Flying Cup for dinner at 130-feet in the air complete with a view of Ain Dubai, slated to be the world’s largest observation wheel when it opens in 2020.
20. Speaking of Old Dubai, Dubai isn’t all-new. The old quarter, home to the aforementioned spice and gold souks, offers a taste of what Dubai was like before it became the towering metropolis it is today. The district is home to two incredible museums: Al Shandagha, which showcases the history of Dubai, and Etihad, which displays the heritage of the UAE.
21. Located at the far tip of the pond is the Atlantis the Palm resort is home to pristine beaches, a lagoon, delicious restaurants and incredible shops as well as several action-packed attractions Aquaventure Waterpark and Lost Chambers Aquarium.
23. Al Quoz and Al Serkal Avenue, the new design district, is a must for anyone looking for cool objects to take home as a souvenir or gift to loved ones. In addition, culture vultures will love all the quarter’s edgy art galleries.
24. Daredevils won’t want to miss the opportunity to jump out of a plane over the Palm islands or the desert with SkyDive Dubai. Book in advance!
25. If you’re looking to experience an elevated level of nightlife, book the Burj Khalifa At the Top tickets complete with the lounge experience to enjoy cocktails in a completely singular environment.
26. One of the best ways to see Dubai isn’t so much from the top of one of the skyscrapers as it is from a distance to admire he sweeping city skyline. And a speed boat ride is one of the best ways to achieve this perspective.
27. The ever-evolving City Walk neighborhood is a must. From art painted by the hands of some of the world’s top street artists to cocktail bars to restaurants and everything in between, this bustling quarter has something for everyone.
28. Since Friday marks the start of the weekend in Dubai, Friday brunch is a tradition! Enjoy the experience coupled with a lovely day of swimming or one of these great restaurants in Dubai, where you’ll find a brunch suited to every taste.
29. Blue Waters Island is a pleasant destination for beaches, restaurants, shopping and Caesars Palace. The island is also home to the said Ain Dubai, soon-to-be the world’s largest observation wheel opening in 2020.
30. Take a dinner cruise along the Dubai Water Canal, a waterway connecting the Arabian Gulf to the Dubai Creek.
31. The Dubai Frame, which beckons your Instagram feed, coined “the biggest picture frame on the planet” is a landmark and observation point that literally frames both the old and new sides of the emirate, depending on which side you’re glancing through.
32. Dubai isn’t theme park heaven for nothing: IMG Worlds of Adventure have five adventure zones, including Marvel and dinosaurs. Endless fun!
33. The Al Seef district nestled into the side streets of the Dubai Creek is filled with historical sites, yet its newest addition is also worth a visit: the Museum of Illusions is an interactive and educational experience that’s fun for the whole family!